Arizona Cardinals’ George Izo, team’s first draft pick from St.Louis era dies at 84

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images) /

George Izo had his Arizona Cardinals career cut short by the “Sports Illustrated” curse.

George Izo, the Cardinals’ first-ever draft pick of the St.Louis era, died at the age of 84 on June 11th. Izo played his college ball at Notre Dame, where he had racked up 2,095 passing yards and 18 passing touchdowns.

Izo was a Heisman candidate and even got on the cover of Sports Illustrated. But that same week he made the cover, he got a nasty knee injury which cost him the chance at the Heisman.

Some say that this is the origin of the “Sports Illustrated” curse- similar to the “Madden Curse.”

Regardless of the injury, his college career was good enough to get him to go second overall in the 1960 NFL Draft. He was also selected by the New York Titans (today’s Jets), but he chose the Cardinals over the Titans/Jets.

The Cardinals would move to St.Louis a month after Izo was drafted.

Arizona Cardinals’ first-ever St.Louis era draft pick, George Izo, Dies at 84

That decision to sign with the Cardinals was the fact that Chicago was closer, and a lot of Chicagoans had supported Notre Dame. He could take the South Shore Line train from South Bend into Millenium Station in Chicago.

Izo appeared in two games, starting one. That one start would be his lone victory in a Cardinals uniform, as he re-aggravated that knee injury he’d suffered in college.

He was traded to Washington at the end of the 1961 training camp, where he was traded for another quarterback, Ralph Guglielmi (who was also, ironically, another Notre Dame product). Former Washington quarterback legend Joe Theismann shared his condolences on Twitter (see above).

Izo would be a backup for most of his career, but he was the second quarterback ever to throw a 99-yard touchdown pass. Izo went on to retire after the 1966 season, spent a few years in the Bahamas, and eventually lived in Arizona. Izo coached football at a Navajo Nation high school.

Izo died from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. Rest easy, Mr.Izo.

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