Former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Fuzzy Thurston, a member of Vince Lombardi’s great football teams of the 1960s, has died. He was 80.
Thurston died Sunday after several years of health issues, the team said.
A pulling left guard, Thurston was best known for his blocking on the Packers’ famed power sweep. He helped Green Bay win five NFL championships and also won a title with the Baltimore Colts in 1958.
Despite weighing less than 250 pounds, Thurston was a powerful force for the Packers, playing in 112 games. He retired in 1967 and was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in 1975.
He was born Frederick Charles Thurston on Dec. 29, 1933, in Altoona, Wis. A sister nicknamed him “Fuzzy” when he was a baby because of his dark, curly locks, and it stuck.
Thurston played basketball because his high school didn’t have a football team and won a scholarship to Valparaiso University in Indiana. He didn’t join the football team until his junior year, yet he was drafted in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1956.
After a stint in the armed forces, he caught on with the Colts and was a backup guard on the team that beat the New York Giants in the first sudden-death overtime title game in NFL history. The Giants’ offensive coordinator was Vince Lombardi.
Shortly after Lombardi was hired as head coach in Green Bay in 1959, he traded for Thurston, a tenacious blocker on the field and a gregarious, fun-loving character in the locker room.
“We came to Green Bay together and we went out together [after Super Bowl II],” Thurston said of Lombardi in a 1996 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That’s always my claim to fame. Every day, I thank God that I’ve had the opportunity to be a Wisconsin native, a former Packer and a Packers fan.
“I mean, how many great things can you have in one life?”
Thurston is one of only three men who played on six NFL championship teams. Former Packers teammates Herb Adderley and Forrest Gregg also won a title with the Dallas Cowboys.
After Thurston’s retirement from football, a series of missteps as a businessman led to his owing the government $1.7 million in back taxes. In 2011, his assets and memorabilia were seized and sold at auction.
He also battled health problems. Cancer of the larynx claimed his voice in the early ‘80s, then he was diagnosed with colon cancer three years ago, His family said the cancer metastasized to his liver this year. He also suffered from dementia.