Today in Detroit Sports History – 1971 – Detroit Lions’ Chuck Hughes dies on field

It still stands as the only time a player has died on the field of play in the NFL. Chuck Hughes, a Detroit Lion, fell to coronary thrombosis in a 28-23 loss to the Chicago Bears on October 24, 1971.

Hughes, who was only 28, was a backup end (WR) and special teams player throughout his 5 year NFL career. He was a standout in college at Texas Western (Now Texas El-Paso). He still holds the record at that school for most offensive yards in a game (401) and receptions (17).

1 of 12 children, Hughes was drafted in the 4th round (#99 Overall) in the 1967 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Detroit Lions acquired Hughes in 1970 for a draft pick.

Hughes entered the game in the 4th quarter as a replacement for starter Larry Walton who left the game due to an injury. Promptly, Hughes caught his 1st pass of the season from QB Greg Landry. Gaining 32 yards, the Lions had a first down in Bears territory, reaching the 37-yard line. Three incomplete passes later, Hughes collapsed on his way back to the huddle.

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Team medical personnel and doctors rushed to Hughes on the field and immediately started life-saving efforts. Hughes lifeless body was removed from the field and rushed from Tiger Stadium and transported to Henry Ford Hospital.

Following the game, Lions’ players were informed that Hughes was pronounced dead at 5:34 PM. Chuck Hughes was survived by his wife Sharon and 1 year and 11-month-old son, Brandon.

A sad day in NFL and Detroit Sports History. One that will never be forgotten by any fan that was in attendance.



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