Mackey was one of the most dominant tight ends in NFL history, overpowering defenses on his way to his Hall of Fame induction in 1992. The Baltimore Colt player was the team’s No. 2 overall pick in the 1963 NFL draft and led them to a Superbowl victory and three conference championships. Mackey had 38 touchdown receptions, 13 of which were for 50 yards or more.
“[Mackey] didn’t have the best of hands,” Johnny Unitas once said. “But his running ability was second to none. “
Mackey was the first president of the NFL Players Association and a model for all other NFL players. After being elected to the Hall of Fame, Mackey refused to accept his ceremonial ring in Indianapolis, where the Colts moved in 1984. He said that he would accept it in Baltimore where he played with the team and ended up having his wish granted in Memorial Stadium at a game between Miami and New Orleans.
“Previous to John, tight ends were big strong guys like [Mike] Ditka and [Ron] Kramer who would block and catch short passes over the middle,” Hall of Famer and Mackey’s coach in Baltimore Don Shula said. “Mackey gave us a tight end who weighed 230, ran a 4.6 and could catch the bomb. It was a weapon other teams didn’t have. “
Mackey died at the Keswick Multi-Care Center in Baltimore.