Mike Stratton, a former Tennessee football player who became a legend with the Buffalo Bills, died on Wednesday after heart complications following a recent fall, according to the Bills. He was 78 years old.
Stratton was a letterman for the Vols from 1959 to 1961 after a career in high school in Tellico Plains.
He starred in attack for Tennessee and racked up 11 passes with three touchdowns during his college career before becoming a thirteenth round for the Bills in the 1962 Football League Draft.
Stratton converted to defense after college and played 12 professional seasons, including 11 with the Bills.
Stratton is the author of one of the most famous games in the history of Bills during the 1964 AFL Championship Game. It was called “the hit felt all over the world”, his perfect image of San Diego that ran behind Keith Lincoln, who did not he only broke a couple of Lincoln’s ribs and threw him out of the game, but he changed the trend that day at War Memorial Stadium.
The Bills, 7-0 behind, recovered after Stratton’s tackle to win their first title, 20-7, on the Chargers.
“You could see the emotions and credibility of the Buffalo Bills coming together at that point,” said the late Jack Kemp. “That hit and that win put Buffalo on the Major League sports map.”
Stratton never tired of talking about it.
“You can always say when you get a good lick; I didn’t know it would have that kind of effect, “said Stratton in 1994.” Thirty-five years later, I am proud that people remember him. They have a better memory of me. “
Legendary San Diego coach Sid Gillman also had to admire the game. “This was one of the most beautiful equipment I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said after the game.
– Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) March 25, 2020
Stratton helped lead the bills in two AFL championships and played six times in the AFL star game. He ended his career with 21 interceptions, 18 as Bill, before making three in his last season while playing for the San Diego Chargers in 1973.
Few linebackers at that time had the ability to step aside to play the game like Stratton.
“Mike Stratton was a big supporter of the line for us,” said Billy Shaw, the guard of the Buffalo Pro Football Hall of Fame in those AFL teams. “He was one of our most dedicated players. He had the physical ability and could run with any back. “
This article originally appeared in Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Mike Stratton, a former Tennessee Vols football player who became a legend of Buffalo Bills dies