SAD NEWS: Lion Tragedy, Detroit Lions player died during an…


It was 50 years ago that something unprecedented occurred on an NFL field and has not occurred since.

On that Sunday in October, a dark overcast lingered over Detroit, possibly foreshadowing the horror that would unfold.

Altoona’s Ed Flanagan, the Lions’ all-pro center, was joined in his annual battle with Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus.

With less than two minutes remaining, the Lions trailed by five points. Detroit marched into Bears territory when wide receiver Chuck Hughes caught a 32-yard throw from Greg Landry, moving the ball to the Chicago 37.

Hughes had just replaced Johnstown’s Larry Walton, who had hurt his ankle. Three plays later, Flanagan gasped as he saw a Landry pass slide through Hall of Famer Charlie Sanders’ fingers in the end zone.

As he collected his teammates on fourth down, Flanagan noticed that someone was missing from the huddle. He looked downfield and noticed Hughes laying face down and lifeless in the muck of Tiger Stadium at the 20-yard line.

Butkus leaned over him, gesturing to the Detroit bench for medical assistance.

“We knew Chuck was hurt,” Flanagan explained. “No one realized how horrible it was. When they phoned for an ambulance, we knew it was serious.”

Hughes suffered a heart attack.

After being tackled on his final catch of his career, a blood clot dislodged and landed in the major artery leading to his heart, obstructing blood flow.

Medical professionals banged wildly on his chest, attempting to revive him.

His wife, Sharon, accompanied him in the ambulance that transported him to Henry Ford Hospital. She watched his limp body become blue before physicians confirmed what she already knew.

An autopsy found that Hughes had extensive arteriosclerosis.

He is the only player to have died on the field during an NFL game.

The loud clamor of Tiger Stadium had subsided to a faint murmur. The game’s outcome no longer mattered.

As in a war, a fallen soldier sacrificed his life for his companions. It was one of the NFL’s worst days.

Later that week, the entire Detroit squad traveled to San Antonio for the funeral.

Flanagan was a pall bearer.

“I never really knew Sharon that well,” Flanagan, who lives in Altoona, admitted. “I spoke to her briefly at the burial. Neither of us could bear the sudden death of such a wonderful colleague, loving husband, and father.”

Sharon Hughes currently lives alone in the Texas countryside, midway between Houston and San Antonio.

After her second marriage failed, she worked as an elementary school librarian and is now retired. Her kid, Shane, was two years old when his father died. He decided not to play football.

He currently works as a retirement specialist with American Funds.

“Love never dies,” she said with a crisp Texas twang. “Sometimes I look at Shane and see Chuck’s crooked smile. It brings up a lot of memories.

Bum Phillips, a Texas legend, dragged Hughes out of Abilene High School and sent him to Texas Western, where he once caught 17 passes for 349 yards in a single game.

Philadelphia picked him in 1967, and he came to the

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