Elijah Eugene Pitts (February 3, 1938 – July 10, 1998) was an American football player, a halfback in the National Football League for eleven seasons, ten with the Green Bay Packers. Late in his career, he briefly played for the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints. Pitts was an assistant coach in the league for over two decades, most notably as the assistant head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
|Born:||February 3, 1938|
|Died:||July 10, 1998 (aged 60)|
Buffalo, New York
|Height:||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Weight:||204 lb (93 kg)|
|High school:||Conway (AR) Pine Street|
|NFL Draft:||1961 / Round: 13 / Pick: 180|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Born in Mayflower, Arkansas, Pitts' father was a sharecropper. He played high school football at segregated Pine Street High School in Conway, and also in the marching band at halftime. Pitts had offers from Big Ten programs and notable black colleges, but chose to stay close to home and played college football at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, where his older brother and former coach were. His cousin, Eugene Pitt, was the leader of The Jive Five
Pitts was selected by the Packers in the thirteenth round of the 1961 NFL draft, 180th overall. He turned down a higher offer from the Boston Patriots of the AFL to play for a better team in the more established league. A reserve for much of his early career behind hall of famer Paul Hornung, he saw his most action for the Packers in 1966, and scored two touchdowns in the first Super Bowl.
In January 1970, after Lombardi's departure from the team, Pitts, Lee Roy Caffey, and Bob Hyland were traded to the Chicago Bears for the second overall pick in the 1970 NFL draft. At age 32, he was cut by the Bears and played for the Rams and Saints in 1970, then returned to Green Bay for a final season in 1971 with first-year head coach Dan Devine.
After his playing career ended, Pitts was a scout for two seasons in Green Bay under Devine. He became an assistant coach for the Rams under head coach Chuck Knox in 1974, filling a running backs vacancy left by Dick Vermeil's departure to UCLA. Pitts went with Knox to the Buffalo Bills in 1978, then left for the Houston Oilers in 1981, on first-year head coach Ed Biles' staff, coaching hall of fame back Earl Campbell. After Biles was fired in 1983, Pitts spent a season in Canada with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1984 with head coach Al Bruno.
Pitts returned to the Bills in 1985 under head coach Kay Stephenson and was retained by new coaches Hank Bullough and Marv Levy in 1986. He became assistant head coach in 1992, coached in all four of the Bills' Super Bowl appearances in the early 1990s, and substituted as head coach for Levy for three games in the 1995 season.
In October 1997, Pitts was diagnosed with stomach cancer while he was still the Bills' assistant head coach. The disease claimed his life nine months later; he was 60 years old. Pitts was survived by his wife, two sons, and a daughter.
- Goldstein, Richard (July 11, 1998). "Elijah Pitts, 60, star back for storied Packers". New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- "Bills coach Elijah Pitts dies battling cancer". Bangor Daily News. Maine. Associated Press. July 11, 1998. p. C6.
- Hendricks, Martin (October 24, 2014). "Elijah Pitts a versatile player". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Bailey, Jim (February 11, 2016). "Elijah Pitts: from Conway's "Pine Street Pony" to Super Bowl pioneer". Best of Arkansas Sports. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette). Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Musicguy247, "Eugene Pitts," Robert von Bernewitz (interviewer)
- Lea, Bud (September 9, 1965). "Pitts ready to step in". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 3, part 2.
- Couch, Dick (October 31, 1966). "Elijah Pitts goes great". Florence Times. Alabama. Associated Press. p. 10.
- Johnson, Chuck (November 15, 1966). "Packers' Pitts speaks softly but carries a big statistic". Milwaukee Journal. p. 16, part 2.
- Lea, Bud (January 16, 1967). "Packers 'Super' in routing Chiefs". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 1, part 2.
- Johnson, Chuck (January 16, 1967). "Packer old pros win in Super Bowl". Milwaukee Journal. p. 15, part 2.
- "Jerry Kramer blocks for Elijah Pitts". Los Angeles Times. (color photo). January 15, 1967. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Lea, Bud (January 22, 1970). "Packers get Bears' no. 1 pick". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 1, part 2.
- Pierson, Don (January 22, 1970). "Bears deal 2 - Mayes, No. 1 draft pick". Chicago Tribune. p. 1, part 3.
- "Pitts activated by Los Angeles". Milwaukee Journal. UPI. September 26, 1970. p. 16.
- "Pitts is waived". Milwaukee Journal. December 5, 1970. p. 19.
- "Pitts named coach of backs by Rams". Milwaukee Journal. press dispatches. February 14, 1974. p. 21, part 2.
- "Pitts will scout for Packers". Milwaukee Sentinel. December 29, 1971. p. 2, part 2.
- "Oilers welcome Pitts as aide". Baltimore Afro-American. February 10, 1981. p. 11.
- "Former Packer joins Hamilton". Ottawa Citizen. Canada. UPC. February 28, 1984. p. 14.
- "Bills hire Elijah Pitts". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida. Associated Press. February 20, 1985. p. 3C.
- "Former Packers star, Bills coach dies". Eugene Register-Guard,. Oregon. Associated Press. July 11, 1998. p. 6D.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
- Sauerberg, George (September 16, 1988). "Elijah Pitts' son signs with Pack". Milwaukee Journal. p. 1, part 2.