Oldest Living Football Player

10 Oldest Living Football Players

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Although we have already paid tribute to the oldest active NFL players, those who came before them are equally as important to the culture and history of the sport. Some of the sport’s earliest figures were around to even take a break in their professional career to serve in the military during World War II. This diverse group of people listed below has experienced much in their long lifetimes, and they are still breathing to this day. 

Each of the following players below either played in the National Football League (NFL) or one of its predecessors. Before the American Football League (AFL) merged with the NFL in 1970 there was no AFC, NFC, Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, or any of the modern traditions that fans enjoy today. However, those who played professional football before this merger are just as worth mentioning as the professional athletes today.  

If you are interested in hearing who the oldest football player is, this article will list all of the oldest professional football players that are still alive. None of the players below ever had a chance to play in the Super Bowl, since it didn’t even exist yet. They were regardless professional football players.  

10. Ken Casanega 

Age:  Born February 18, 1921 (96)
Team(s):  San Francisco 49ers 
Position(s): Quarterback
 Years Active: 1946 and 1948

Ken Casanegaphoto source: Wikipedia

Ken Casanega has been around since the beginning of the NFL as we know it, well before the Super Bowl or widespread fanfare of the sport. Playing professionally in both 1946 and 1948, Casanega never even intended on playing professional football. 

Since he was only 5’ 11” during his professional career, he likely would have had a hard time being a starter in today’s sport which requires that you are considerably tall to be successful at quarterback. Of course, there have always been exceptions to this rule.  

Interesting Facts: 

  • Served in the US Navy during WWII.
  • Played college football at Santa Clara University before going pro.
  • Became a school administrator after his retirement from professional football.
  • Had no intention of playing pro football until a friend asked him to.

9. Jesse Freitas 

Age:  Born February 7, 1921 (96)
Team(s):  San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Rockets, Buffalo Bills  
Position(s): Quarterback
 Years Active: 1946 to 1949 

Jesse Freitasphoto source: Wikipedia

Jesse Freitas played three seasons professionally as a quarterback. He attended Santa Clara University before being drafted by the Chicago-Pittsburgh Cardinals-Steelers 1944. However, he did not actually play until the 1946 season.  

Freitas is a veteran who received a Bronze Star for his bravery in the war. After returning from his service, he became part of the original San Francisco 49ers team. He is also the father of another NFL quarterback, Jesse Freitas Jr.  

Interesting Facts: 

  • His son Jesse Freitas Jr. also played professional football for the San Diego Chargers.
  • Served in the European Theatre of WWII.
  • Was an Army Artillery Commander at the Battle of the Bulge.
  • Received a Bronze Star in the war.

8. Cecil Souders 

Age:  Born January 3, 1921 (96)
Team(s):  Detroit Lions 
Position(s): Defensive End, Tackle 
 Years Active: 1947 to 1949

Cecil Soudersphoto source: Wikimedia

Also a veteran of World War II, Cecil Souders was a three-time All American before he played professionally. Although being drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1945, he did not begin his professional career until 1947, when he played for the Detroit Lions.  

Although his college career was a tad more prolific than his professional career, he is both a hero on the field and off of the field. Being in All-Star in college and having served in the US Navy during WWII, Souders is still around sharing his experience and stories.  

Interesting Facts: 

  • Served in the US Navy during WWII.
  • Was a three-time All American at Ohio State University.
  • Member of the Ohio State Hall of Fame.
  • Played in two East – West games.

7. Donald C. Johnson 

Age:  Born September 14, 1920 (97) 
Team(s):  Cleveland Rams  
Position(s): Center, Linebacker 
 Years Active: Only 1942 

There are few professional football players who can say that they played both center and linebacker during their career. Donald C. Johnson is the oldest person who is capable of saying this. Johnson also served in the Marines, notably during the Battle of Iwo Jima. During his service, he received both a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.  

Interesting Facts: 

  • The second oldest player of the former Cleveland Rams team.
  • Played center and linebacker during his one-year career.
  • Served in the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the most dangerous WWII battles.
  • Earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star during his service in the Marines.

6. Richard “Dick” Danehe 

Age:  Born September 10, 1920 (97) 
Team(s):  Los Angeles Dons 
Position(s): Defensive End, Tackle 
 Years Active: 1947 to 1948

Richard “Dick” Danehe photo source: Wikimedia

Richard “Dick” Danehe played on both sides of the field during his two-year career with the Los Angeles Dons. Before playing professionally, Danehe played college ball for USC. Dick Danehe has seen the lowest of lows during the Great Depression, and the highest of highs during his time as a professional football player and announcer.  

Interesting Facts: 

  • Served in the Army Air Corps during WWII.
  • Accepted a scholarship to USC at the tail-end of the Great Depression.
  • Became a popular football announcer after his career.

5. Warren Plunkett 

Age:  Born August 4, 1920 (97)  
Team(s):  Cleveland Rams 
Position(s): Fullback 
 Years Active: Only 1942 

Warren Plunkett” Danehe photo source: Wikipedia

Warren Plunkett is one of the oldest football players with very little information to go off of. Seemingly keeping a low profile after his brief career with the Cleveland Rams in 1942, Plunkett’s Rams went 5-6 during his year with them. During this time, you could find him serving as a blocking back (or fullback) creating holes for the runner.   

During his college years, Plunket was an All-American at Minnesota and has since been remembered as one of their great players.  

Interesting Facts: 

  • The oldest player of the former Cleveland Rams team.
  • Played college at Minnesota.
  • Received an All-American award in college.

4. Benjamin Agajanian 

Age:  Born August 28, 1919 (98)  
Team(s):  Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Dons, New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Texans, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers 
Position(s): Kicker 
 Years Active:  1945 to 1964  

Benjamin Agajanian” Danehe photo source: Wikimedia

Benjamin Agajanian is one of the most unlikely kickers to be successful in professional football history. Even though he didn’t have four toes on his kicking foot, he was still able to consistently kick field goals for a living. This is comparable to a boxer missing 4 of his fingers on his dominant punching hand.  

Teams would have to get two separate shoes to fit on Benjamin “The Toeless Wonder” Agajanian’s feet. One can only imagine how much he endured to make it as a professional kicker against all odds.   

Interesting Facts: 

  • Nicknamed “The Toeless Wonder”
  • Is missing four toes in his kicking foot from an industrial accident.
  • Won two NFL championships before the first ever Super Bowl.
  • His right shoe size was 7 ½ and his left was size 11.

3. Fred Gloden 

Age: Born December 21, 1918 (98) 
Team(s):  Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Seahawks 
Position(s): Halfback 
 Years Active: 1941 and 1946   

Fred Gloden” Danehe photo source: Wikimedia

Gloden is another one of the oldest football players who was both a hero on and off the field. Playing professional in 1941 and 1946, Gloden’s years as a professional player were cut short due to his service in the US Navy in WWII. During his time as a professional football player, he played for both the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Seahawks.  

Interesting Facts: 

  • Gloden took a break from his professional career to serve in the US Navy during WWII
  • Never played for a winning professional team.

2. Nick Drahos 

Age: Born August 11, 1917 (98) 
Team(s):  New York Americans 
Position(s): Tackle, End 
 Years Active: Only 1941   

Perhaps better known for his college years where he received two All American honors and helped lead the team to an 8-0 season, Nick Drahos was selected 94th overall in the 1941 NFL draft by the Cleveland Rams. Since he played for a professional team that only existed one year, not much is known about his professional career other than that his team finished second in the AFL at 5-2-1.  

Interesting Facts: 

  • Elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
  • Is a legend at his alma mater, Cornell University.
  • Was a member of the Sphinx Head Society at Cornell.
  • Also played as a kicker in college

1. Jack Bullas Smith 

Age: Born August 11, 1917 (100) 
Team(s):  Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins  
Position(s): Defensive End 
 Years Active: 1942 to 1943    

Having recently turned 100, Jack Bulas Smith is officially the oldest football player that is still alive. Playing two seasons professionally, one for the Eagles and one for the Redskins, Smith had a two-year professional career that was during WWII.  

Since his career was so long ago, and statistics weren’t taken as religiously as they are today, little is known about his professional career. However, we do know that he returned a kick for 13 yards during one of his games with the Eagles.  

Interesting Facts: 

  • Jack Bulas Smith is the oldest professional football player that is still alive.

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