Gene Upshaw, the Hall of Fame offensive lineman who, during a quarter century as head of the players union, helped get NFL players free agency and the riches that came with it, has died at 63, the AP reports. Upshaw died last night at his home in Lake Tahoe, Calif., of pancreatic cancer, which was diagnosed only last Sunday, the NFL Players Association said today.
"He was a giant in the NFL," New York Jets owner Woody Johnson said. "He played a colossal role in the success the NFL enjoys today, even more than many people realize." Upshaw played 15 seasons with Oakland; he became executive director of the players union in 1983, and had been described as one of the most powerful men in US sports.