Beyond the photograph: Remembering Y.A. Tittle

Y.A. Tittle photo courtesy of San Francisco 49ers

Hall-of-Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle died Sunday at 90, and, while his name stirs memories of standout performances for those of us who watched him play, far too few know much … if anything … beyond a photo of the f0rmer 49ers’ and New York Giants’ star.

It’s what Tittle used to call “The Blood Picture,” a black-and-white shot of him kneeling in the end zone in Pittsburgh in his last NFL season — 1964 — with blood dripping down a helmetless head. It is a photo of a broken warrior, and it is everything Y.A. Tittle was not.

Because he seldom gave into anything. He played through pain. He was tough. He was charismatic. He was bold. And, above all, he was good. Damned good.

He was the first NFL player featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, a seven-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro and league MVP who once threw seven touchdown passes in a game and three times led the league in touchdown passes.

He’s in the Giants’ Ring of Honor. He’s in the 49ers’ Hall of Fame. And his number 14 was retired by the Giants. Yet it is that black-and-white photo that most people today associate with Y.A. Tittle, and that’s a shame. Because there was so much more to the man and to the player that was Yelberton Abraham Tittle, Jr.

Fortunately for everyone, ESPN the Magazine’s Seth Wickersham defined what that something was in a wonderful epitaph that is must-reading for anyone interested in knowing what was behind the initials, Y.A. And it is right here, right now:

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  1. Rasputin
    October 9, 2017

    Well said.

  2. Tom K
    October 9, 2017

    One of the greatest players ever. His 1962 performance against the Redskins is still one of the best ever. His dominance in the early 1960’s with the Giants is some of the best QB play in NFL history. While his success in the playoffs wasn’t good, it should be noted that he played 2 dynasties in them plus George Halas. Neither of which is an easy task. All in all, Tittle is arguably a Top 10-15 QB ever and should stand the test of time.

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