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Jim Duncan (August 3, 1946 – October 21, 1972), nicknamed "Butch", was a professional American football player. He played defensive back for the Baltimore Colts and New Orleans Saints between 1969 and 1972. He started in Super Bowl V for the Colts. He was found to have committed suicide with a policeman's revolver in 1972.

Jim Duncan
No. 35
Born:August 3, 1946
Lancaster, South Carolina, United States
Died:October 21, 1972 (age 26)
Lancaster, South Carolina
Career information
CollegeMaryland Eastern Shore
NFL draft1968 / Round: 4 / Pick: 107
Career history
As player
(19691971)Baltimore Colts
(1972)New Orleans Saints
Career highlights and awards
  • 1× Super Bowl Champion (V)
  • 1× AFC Champion (1970)
Career stats
Kick returns42
Kick return yards1,369
Kick return TDs2
Games played38


Early lifeEdit

Duncan was born in Lancaster, South Carolina in 1946. He grew up with future professional football player Bill Belk. Duncan attended Barr Street High School in Lancaster. Duncan attended Maryland State College (MSC). He played quarterback and safety at MSC, in addition to playing on the school's baseball and basketball teams. He earned all-conference honors in football in 1967 and appeared in the 1968 Chicago College All-Star Game.[1]


Duncan was selected by the Colts in the fourth round of the 1968 NFL Draft. In 1970, Duncan won a starting position during the season and he intercepted two passes in the team's last four games. On special teams that year, he averaged 35.4 yards per return on 20 kick returns. He was a starter for the Colts in their Super Bowl V victory that year.[2]

In 1971, Duncan began the season with a starting position, but he experienced injury problems for much of the year.[2] At one point in November, he sustained a head injury. Though X-rays were negative, his mother later said that he began to complain of memory problems after the injury.[3] During that season, team officials began to notice a change in Duncan's personality. His affable disposition had turned sullen and Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom was concerned enough to hold some private conversations with Duncan about whether he was having personal problems.[2]

Duncan was traded to the New Orleans Saints in 1972. He joined the Miami Dolphins later that season, but he was cut from the team. His marriage ended, he lost between $22,000 and $58,000 in a wig business, and he received treatment for mental health problems and a bleeding ulcer. Police officers said that he was under surveillance for drug-related activities.[4]


On October 21, 1972, Duncan walked into a police station in his hometown of Lancaster. Police officials said that he grabbed a pistol from one of the officers and shot himself in the head.[2] An inquest later supported this account of Duncan's death, but the ruling angered his family members, who cited inconsistencies in some of the events surrounding Duncan's death.[5]


  1. ^ "James "Butch" Duncan" (PDF). University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d "Jim Duncan's troubled world end in courthouse suicide". The Afro-American. October 28, 1972. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  3. ^ Kisner, Ronald (December 21, 1972). "A small town's mystery: The death of Jim Duncan". Jet. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  4. ^ Berkow, Ira; Smith, Red (2008). Beyond the Dream: Occasional Heroes of Sports. University of Nebraska Press. p. 120. ISBN 0803215959. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  5. ^ "Sharp conflicts found in Duncan death story". Baltimore Afro-American. November 7, 1972. Retrieved August 8, 2014.