Darryl Stingley

American football player (1951–2007)

American football player
Darryl Stingley
refer to caption
Stingley in 1985
No. 84
Position:Wide receiver
Personal information
Born:(1951-09-18)September 18, 1951
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died:April 5, 2007(2007-04-05) (aged 55)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Height:6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight:194 lb (88 kg)
Career information
High school:John Marshall (Chicago)
College:Purdue (1970–1972)
NFL draft:1973 / Round: 1 / Pick: 19
Career history
Career highlights and awards
  • 1973 North–South Shrine Game selection
  • 1973 Coaches All-American Game selection
  • 1973 College All-Star Game
  • 1972 All-American (HM), All-Big Ten
  • Chicago Sports Hall of Fame (2004)
  • Purdue Athletic Hall of Fame (2004)
  • Jaycees' Ten Outstanding Young Men of America Award
Career NFL statistics
Receiving yards:1,883
Receiving touchdowns:14

Darryl Floyd Stingley (September 18, 1951 – April 5, 2007) was an American professional football player who was a wide receiver for five seasons with the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). His career was ended at age 26 by an on-field spinal cord injury. He died from heart disease and pneumonia complicated by quadriplegia.[1]

Early life

Stingley was born to Hilda M. Stingley & Harold E. Stingley, Sr. and raised on Chicago's West Side. He was a standout running back and honor student at John Marshall High School, and graduated in 1969.[2][3] Stingley accepted a football scholarship to Purdue University,[4] where he was converted into a wide receiver under head coach Bob DeMoss.

Selected nineteenth overall in the 1973 NFL draft,[3] he was the third player taken by the Patriots in the first round, along with offensive lineman John Hannah (4) of Alabama and fullback Sam Cunningham (11) of Southern California.

Professional career

Stingley had 110 receptions for 1,883 yards and 14 touchdowns in 60 regular season games for the Patriots. He also had 28 carries for 244 yards and two touchdowns, 19 punt returns for 136 yards and eight kickoff returns for 187 yards. He had over 500 combined yards rushing, receiving and returning both punt and kickoffs in 1973 and 1975. He finished his career with 2,450 combined yards rushing, receiving, and returning both punts and kickoffs. He ran for a 23-yard touchdown in 1974 during the Pats' 42–3 win over the Baltimore Colts on October 6. Stingley both ran for a 34-yard touchdown and caught a 21-yard touchdown pass in their 21–17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on September 18, 1977, his 26th birthday. He is one of only three Patriots players to catch a touchdown pass on his birthday, and is the only wide receiver to run for a touchdown and have a touchdown reception on his birthday.[citation needed]


In a 1978 preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum on August 12, Stingley was hit by Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum. As Stingley stretched for an errant pass, he and Tatum collided.[2] Stingley's helmet made contact with Tatum's shoulder pad, compressing his spinal cord and breaking his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae.[5] He eventually regained limited movement in his right arm but spent the rest of his life as a quadriplegic.[6] The injury came just after Stingley had finished negotiating a contract extension that would have made him one of the highest paid receivers in the NFL. The new contract was to be announced when the Patriots returned from the West Coast. Instead, it was never signed.[7]

Although controversial, the hit was not against NFL rules at the time since it was not helmet-to-helmet contact (it was a shoulder-to-helmet contact). No penalty was called on the play.[8] Today, however, the NFL has banned all blows to the head or neck of a defenseless player and has disallowed players to launch themselves in tackling defenseless players.[9]

The incident became a symbol of violence in football. Stingley reportedly described it as a "freak accident."[10] Because Stingley was a young player at the height of his career, his injuries attracted significant public attention. Partly in response to Stingley's injuries, the NFL changed its rules and conventions to curtail aggressive plays.[11] Stingley told the Chicago Tribune that he approved of more restrictive officiating, saying "It has opened the game up to allow receivers to get downfield. And it has made the game more exciting."[12]

The Raiders coach, John Madden, and many of his teammates extended their sympathies to Stingley.[3] Madden's post-game rush to the hospital was the beginning of a close friendship.[13] During his visit, Madden found himself the lone visitor in the hospital. No one from the Patriots was there until Madden called their team and the team's charter plane, in takeoff mode, finally returned to the gate.[14] Raiders offensive guard Gene Upshaw also befriended Stingley and later was instrumental in securing benefits for disabled players through the NFL Players' Association.[3]

A settlement was reached with the NFL, with the Patriots agreeing to pay for all of Stingley's medical expenses for the rest of his life as well as his and his children's education.[15]

NFL career statistics

Bold Career high

Regular season

Year Team Games Receiving Rushing
GP GS Rec Yds Avg Lng TD Att. Yds Avg. Lng TD
1973 NWE 14 10 23 339 14.7 25 2 6 64 10.7 19 0
1974 NWE 5 2 10 139 13.9 20 1 5 63 12.6 23 1
1975 NWE 14 14 21 378 18.0 45 2 6 39 6.5 21 0
1976 NWE 13 13 17 370 21.8 58 4 8 45 5.6 27 0
1977 NWE 14 14 39 657 16.8 68 5 3 33 11.0 34 1
60 53 110 1,883 17.1 68 14 28 244 8.7 34 2


Year Team Games Receiving Rushing
GP GS Rec Yds Avg Lng TD Att. Yds Avg. Lng TD
1976 NWE 1 1 2 36 18.0 24 0 0 0 0.0 0 0
1 1 2 36 18.0 24 0 0 0 0.0 0 0

Post-football activities

On May 9, 1992, having completed his remaining 24 credit hours through a correspondence course program, Darryl Stingley received his bachelor of physical education from Purdue University.[15][16][17]

Even though Stingley said he forgave Tatum,[15] the pair never reconciled.[18][19] Tatum reached out to Stingley several times, including while promoting his own autobiography. HBO invited both men to appear on the 25th anniversary of the incident but Stingley refused after he learned of the title of Tatum's 1996 biography, Final Confessions of NFL Assassin Jack Tatum,[1] the third with that term in its title.[20] Stingley worried Tatum's efforts to contact him were profit-motivated.[21] However, in a 1992 article in Jet, Stingley said that while he had forgiven Tatum a long time ago, Tatum had opportunities to contact him any time after the injury but did not make an effort.[15]

Stingley later served as executive director of player personnel for the Patriots.[4] Stingley co-authored a 1983 memoir, Happy to Be Alive, with Mark Mulvoy.[22] In 1993, he started a nonprofit organization to help troubled youth in west Chicago. Darryl has three sons – Darryl Stingley Jr.; John Smith-Stingley, a Chicago police detective,[3] and Derek Stingley, who played defensive back in the Arena Football League.[3] Stingley's grandson Derek Stingley Jr. was the #1 rated player for the class of 2019 by Rivals.com and was selected third overall in the 2022 NFL draft by the Houston Texans.[23]


On April 5, 2007, Stingley died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago after being discovered unresponsive in his home. His death was attributed to heart disease and pneumonia complicated by quadriplegia.[1] The Cook County medical examiner, Kendall Von Crowns, MD, listed Stingley's manner of death as an accident.


  1. ^ a b c Kreidler, Mark (April 5, 2007). "Mourning Stingley, but the game goes on". ESPN.com. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  2. ^ a b "Stingley paralyzed after tackle". Chicago Tribune. August 13, 1978. p. 1, sec. 3.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Darryl Stingley". Boston Herald. Associated Press. April 6, 2007. Retrieved April 7, 2007.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b Sophia Tureen (April 6, 2007). "Darryl Stingley dies at 55". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved April 7, 2007. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Stingley able to move arm". Chicago Tribune. August 14, 1978. p. 1, sec. 6.
  6. ^ Larry Schwartz (August 12, 1978). "Stingley paralyzed after being clocked by Tatum". ESPN Classic. Archived from the original on April 20, 2007. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  7. ^ Ron Borges (August 12, 2003). "The Healer: No Sting of Bitterness". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on April 28, 2007. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  8. ^ "NFL rules and fact no penalty was called on play, second to last Paragraph". May 4, 2007. Archived from the original on May 9, 2007.
  9. ^ "League's Official Player Safety Rules". NFL.com. November 30, 2010.
  10. ^ Ron Pollack. "The Amazing Courage of Derek Stingley". Pro Football Weekly. Archived from the original on April 10, 2007. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  11. ^ Gorner, Jeremy (April 5, 2007). "Paralyzed NFL player Darryl Stingley dead at 55". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 7, 2007.[dead link]
  12. ^ Jeremy Gorner (April 5, 2007). "Darryl Stingley Dead at 55". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 5, 2007.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ New England Patriots, National Football League – CBSSports.com Archived December 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ A Madden in Full, Pat Toomay, Special to Page 2, ESPN. " . . . During one visit, Madden discovered a malfunction in Stingley's ventilator. In summoning a nurse to fix the problem, Madden might have saved Stingley's life. . . "
  15. ^ a b c d Darryl Stingley: Ex-Football Star Tells Why He Has Forgiven Football Player Who Left Him Paralyzed, Jet Magazine, Clarence Waldron, June 8, 1992, pages 34-37.
  16. ^ Stingley Will Get Degree, Sarasota Herald-Tribute, page 3C, April 21, 1992.
  17. ^ Stingley, in Cap and Gown, Hears Cheers Again, New York Times, TIMOTHY W. SMITH, May 10, 1992.
  18. ^ AP (April 5, 2007). "Former NFL player Stingley dies at 55". USA Today. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  19. ^ Jason Cole (April 6, 2007). "Sorrow not guilt". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved April 6, 2007.
  20. ^ Following They Call Me Assassin (1980) and They Still Call Me Assassin (1989)
  21. ^ "Ex-Patriots WR Stingley dies at 55". ESPN.com. April 5, 2007. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  22. ^ Stingley, Darryl; Mulvoy, Mark (April 2007). Darryl Stingley: Happy to Be Alive (Hardcover). Beaufort Books. ISBN 978-0825301575.
  23. ^ "Derek Stingley Jr". sportsreference.com. Retrieved October 26, 2019.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Darryl Stingley.
  • Biography portal
  • Video of Tatum's hit on YouTube
  • Darryl Stingley at IMDb
  • Darryl Stingley at Find a Grave
  • Career statistics and player information from NFL.com · Pro Football Reference
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