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Charles Frederick "Chuck" Hughes (March 2, 1943 – October 24, 1971) was an American football player, a wide receiver in the National Football League from 1967 to 1971. He is, to date, the only NFL player to die on the field during a game.[1]

Chuck Hughes
refer to caption
Hughes in 1971
No. 13, 85
Position:Wide Receiver
Personal information
Born:(1943-03-02)March 2, 1943
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died:October 24, 1971(1971-10-24) (aged 28)
Detroit, Michigan
Height:5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight:175 lb (79 kg)
Career information
High school:Abilene (TX)
College:Texas Western
NFL Draft:1967 / Round: 4 / Pick: 99
Career history
Career NFL statistics
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR


Early yearsEdit

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,[2] Hughes moved with his family to Texas when he was young, along with his twelve siblings.[3] Hughes attended high school in Abilene at Abilene High School.[4]

College careerEdit

Hughes played college football at Texas Western College, now the University of Texas at El Paso,[2] where he is still listed in the all-time football records; his accomplishments include:

  • The most all-purpose yards in a single game, 401 in 1965 against North Texas State (he is also second with 360 the same year against Arizona State)
  • The most yards per reception for a single game, 34.9, also in 1965 against North Texas—this is also an NCAA record
  • The most receptions in a single game, 17, also against Arizona State in 1965
  • Second in all-purpose yards for a season, with 2044 in 1966
  • First in all-purpose yards per game for a season, 204 in 1965
  • Second in all-purpose yards per game for his career with 132
  • Fifth in all-purpose yards all-time with 3,989
  • Second in career receiving touchdowns with 19 and yardage with 2,882

He was inducted into the UTEP Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.[5]

Professional careerEdit

Hughes was selected in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1967 NFL/AFL draft and played three seasons with the Eagles before he was traded to the Detroit Lions prior to the start of the 1970 season. Although listed as a wide receiver he saw most action on special teams, being a backup at wide receiver. In his five-year career he caught only 15 passes.


During week six of the 1971 season on October 24, the Lions hosted the Chicago Bears at Tiger Stadium. Late in the game, with Detroit trailing 28–23, the Lions were driving into Chicago territory and Hughes, who entered the game as an injury replacement, caught a pass from quarterback Greg Landry for thirty-two yards and a first down at the Bears' 37-yard line.

Three plays later, Landry threw a pass that tight end Charlie Sanders dropped near the end zone. Hughes, a decoy on the play, began running back to the huddle with 1:02 showing on the clock. Suddenly, he dropped to the turf clutching his chest around the 20-yard line.[3] Hughes collapsed near Bears linebacker Dick Butkus, who saw him begin to convulse violently on the field. Butkus motioned to the sideline frantically to get Hughes assistance.[6]

Both teams' doctors and trainers, along with a physician who happened to be attending the game, ran to Hughes to try and save him. An ambulance was called for and arrived to take Hughes to Henry Ford Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:34 pm that afternoon. He was 28 years old. The game was played to its conclusion in front of a now-stunned silent crowd in Tiger Stadium, with the Bears' lead holding. The Lions awaited word of Hughes' condition after the game and the players were informed once word had broken that he was dead.

A postmortem examination revealed that Hughes was suffering from undiagnosed and advanced arteriosclerosis (one of his coronary arteries was 75% blocked) and that he had a family history of heart disease. The direct cause of death was a coronary thrombosis, which caused a massive myocardial infarction that cut off the blood flow to his heart.[7][8] Hughes was buried in San Antonio, Texas, and all 40 of his Lions teammates attended his funeral, including head coach Joe Schmidt.[4] He is survived by his widow, Sharon Leah, and his son, who was 1 year and 11 months old at the time, Brandon Shane.[3] A $10,000 trust fund was set up for his son Brandon by an insurance company.[9] His widow filed a $21.5 million malpractice lawsuit against Henry Ford Hospital in 1972 for not diagnosing his condition when he was hospitalized after complaining of chest pains. The lawsuit was settled on October 3, 1974 for an undisclosed amount of money.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Add loss of Corey Smith to list of Lions' tragedies
  2. ^ a b "Hughes Collapses, Dies After Game". Herald-Journal. October 23, 1971.
  3. ^ a b c "Chuck Hughes Tragic Death Stuns Players, Fans". Sarasota Journal. October 25, 1971.
  4. ^ a b "Lion Teammates At Hughes' Rites". Victoria Advocate. October 28, 1971.
  5. ^ "2006 Inductees". UTEP Athletics. Retrieved March 21, 2010.
  6. ^ "Shocking moments in NFL history". Retrieved March 21, 2010. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  7. ^ "Hughes Had Bad Arteries". Star-Banner. October 26, 1971.
  8. ^ "Hughes Family Had History of Heart Trouble". Times-News. October 25, 1971.
  9. ^ "Heart Disease Ran In Family". St. Petersburg Times. October 27, 1971.
  10. ^ "Hughes Suit Is Settled". Argus-Press. October 4, 1974.

External linksEdit