Marlin McKeever, 66; former USC All-American, L.A. Rams linebacker

Times Staff Writer

Marlin McKeever, a former USC All-American defensive end and Los Angeles Rams linebacker whose life was interspersed with tragedy, died Friday at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach. He was 66.

A hospital spokeswoman declined to give the cause of death, but McKeever had fallen and hit his head in his Long Beach home earlier this week and was found by his wife, Judy. McKeever initially indicated he was all right but was later unresponsive, and paramedics were called. McKeever slipped into a coma, and later a blood clot was removed from his brain.

A two-time All-American who played offensive and defensive end as well as fullback and punter for USC from 1958-60, McKeever was selected in the first round of the 1961 NFL draft by the Rams. He fashioned a 13-year pro career as a tight end and linebacker with the Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.

McKeever and his twin brother, Mike, had been standouts at Mt. Carmel High in Los Angeles who were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. But Mike's career as an All-American left guard at USC was curtailed by a head injury suffered against Stanford his senior year that resulted in two blood clots in his brain.

Despite being drafted by the Rams in the 13th round, Mike never played pro football and died at age 27 in 1967 after spending 22 months in a coma after an automobile accident.

"I've learned to live with the death of Mike, but I've never gotten over it," McKeever told the Long Beach Press-Telegram in 2003. "There's not a day that passes that I don't think of him. He was part of me. He will always be part of me."

Marlin McKeever also was involved in a serious automobile accident in 1966 with Rams teammate Roman Gabriel in which McKeever's right ring finger was severed.

McKeever was in charge of the Trojan Football Alumni Club and had been one of a handful of former Trojan greats issued a sideline credential for the 2006 Rose Bowl against Texas.

USC's leading receiver in 1959 and 1960, he caught a 21-yard touchdown pass during an eventual 17-6 upset victory over No. 11 UCLA in 1960, earning him honors as the Trojans' player of the game. Legendary USC Coach John McKay, then in his first year with the Trojans, would later say that the victory saved his job.

Both McKeevers also competed in the discus throw and shot put for the USC track team.

They also had brief acting careers, appearing together in "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" (1962) and as football players in the 1961 Disney film "The Absent-Minded Professor."

USC Coach Pete Carroll said McKeever and Marv Goux, the former Trojan football player and coach who died in 2002, had provided insight into the rich history of the Trojans football program after Carroll was hired before the 2001 season.

"He was a great friend," Carroll said of McKeever, who in 1993 had asked the school to consider him for the athletic director post that went to Mike Garrett. "He was obviously a big factor just being around, just introducing me to the program and the people and what the Trojan family is all about."

McKeever, who was born Jan. 1, 1940, in Cheyenne, Wyo., was an honors finance student at USC and had worked as a stockbroker and insurance executive after his football career ended. In 1974, he lost his election bid as a Republican candidate in the 72nd Assembly District, which at the time encompassed all of Santa Ana and most of Garden Grove.

McKeever also served as director of player relations for the short-lived World Football League in 1974 and was vice president for player administration for the Southern California Sun of the WFL.

Among McKeever's survivors, besides his wife, are four children, Marlin Jr., Kellee, David and Michelle, and niece Teri McKeever, the women's swim coach at UC Berkeley.

Services are pending. Instead of flowers, donations in McKeever's memory may be sent to any of the following organizations: High Hopes Head Trauma Center, 2953 Edinger, Tustin, CA 92780; Crespi Carmelite High School, 5030 Alonzo Ave., Encino, CA 91316; St. Mary Medical Center Foundation, Marlin McKeever Head Trauma Fund, 1050 Linden Ave., Long Beach, CA 90813; Marv Goux, USC Athletics, University Park Center, Los Angeles, CA 90089.

Times staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.

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