His Stats Were Hard-Core. The Football He Invented Was Soft

Ex-Vikings kicker Fred Cox, inventor of Nerf football, dies at age 80
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2019 11:34 AM CST
His Stats Were Hard-Core. The Football He Invented Was Soft
In this September 1997 file photo, former Minnesota Vikings kicker Fred Cox holds his original Nerf football, among other souvenir balls, in Monticello, Minn.   (Jean Pieri/Pioneer Press via AP)

"The weight was right. When you threw it, it flew like a football." That's what former Minnesota Viking Fred Cox told Vikings.com a few years back about the invention he came up with that became just as well-known as his stellar football career. In 1972, the team's all-time leading scorer and his partner, John Mattox, came up with an idea to keep kids from getting injured while playing the game: a mold shaped like a football and filled with foam. The pair brought their brainchild to Parker Brothers, and a new toy was born: the Nerf football. Yahoo Sports notes it became "one of the most popular toys of all time." The Vikings announced that Cox died Wednesday at the age of 80, after Cox's wife, Bonnie, informed the Vikings' alumni office of his passing, per Fox News.

Cox was said to have had kidney and heart problems and was receiving hospice care in his Monticello, Minn., home. ESPN gives proper due to Cox's football career as well, noting that he never missed a game in 15 seasons with the Vikings. He led the team in scoring for 11 seasons in a row, and by the time he retired in 1977, he'd banked 282 field goals and was second in league history for scoring. "The Vikings mourn the loss of Fred Cox, one of our proudest legends and a member of the 50 greatest Vikings," the team says in a statement. After his days on the field ended, Cox didn't do any more inventing, instead becoming a chiropractor in Minnesota. He's survived by his wife and four kids. (More obituary stories.)

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