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Rocket-armed quarterback Rudy Bukich dies at 85

Rudy-Bukich Getty Images

When Rudy Bukich entered in the NFL in 1953, football was still a run-first, pass-second game, and a quarterback’s primary job was to hand off.

But Bukich, who died Monday at the age of 85, had an arm that could put even today’s best passers to shame.

In his book Greatest Quarterbacks, Peter King wrote that Bukich had the strongest arm in NFL history, and quoted multiple witnesses who said they saw Bukich do something that sounds impossible: Throw a football 100 yards.

“It’s true,” Bukich’s former teammate Mike Ditka told King. “I saw Rudy do it. I was on the field that day. Now, I’d seen him try it before, and it’d go maybe 95. But he did throw it 100 that one time.”

Bukich was named Player of the Game in the 1953 Rose Bowl after quarterbacking USC to a 7-0 win over Wisconsin, and the Los Angeles Rams chose him in the second round of the 1953 NFL draft. After his rookie season Bukich spent two years in the military, and after that he bounced around the NFL, from L.A. to Washington to Chicago to Pittsburgh, without ever making a major impact in the league.

But when Bukich returned to Chicago for his second stint with the Bears in 1962, coach George Halas saw something he liked in Bukich’s strong arm. Bukich’s best season came in 1965, when he led the Bears to a 9-3 record while throwing for 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions, extremely impressive stats for the time. That year Bukich was named a second-team All-Pro.

Bukich had only one more season as a starter, however, and retired in 1968. He won’t be remembered as one of the great quarterbacks of his era, but those who saw him throw will always remember the rocket arm that may have been the strongest the game of football has ever seen.

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36 Responses to “Rocket-armed quarterback Rudy Bukich dies at 85”
  1. slayer1224 says: Mar 1, 2016 1:47 PM

    It is hard to believe that someone could throw the ball a 100 yards.

  2. patsdynastylives says: Mar 1, 2016 1:50 PM

    That’s too bad….the Bears could of used him this year.

  3. chinahand11 says: Mar 1, 2016 1:51 PM

    I saw Vinny T throw some bombs when they used to have QB competitions, but 100 yards? Wow, just wow.

  4. thevza says: Mar 1, 2016 1:53 PM

    Back then 100 yards was a lot smaller than it is today.

  5. granadafan says: Mar 1, 2016 2:00 PM

    I’d hate to have been a receiver 10 yards away.

  6. iowahbr says: Mar 1, 2016 2:01 PM

    Hope that he and Papa Bear can have a drink together tonight.

  7. surfinbird1 says: Mar 1, 2016 2:05 PM

    Unfortunately, Rudy’s 100 yard throws went sideways into the stands, and not down the field, but still quite a feat. RIP Rudy.

  8. 87hollywoodhorn says: Mar 1, 2016 2:08 PM

    no! these kinda stories are true! my pawpaw could throw a rock a country mile

  9. possumsauce says: Mar 1, 2016 2:13 PM

    Yeah, ok Ditka, but where were you when Uncle Rico was throwing a football over them mountains?

  10. arktikman says: Mar 1, 2016 2:17 PM

    Insert the Uncle Rico lines here.

  11. smokehouse56 says: Mar 1, 2016 3:01 PM

    thevza says:
    Mar 1, 2016 1:53 PM

    Back then 100 yards was a lot smaller than it is today.
    ———————————————-
    That was funny because it reminded of Yogi.

  12. smokehouse56 says: Mar 1, 2016 3:05 PM

    Well here goes again. From the Chicago Bears website.
    “His NFL career was interrupted from 1954-56 when he served in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Ord as a machine gun instructor.” With an arm like that he had to be a machine gun instructor. LOL

  13. highdimension2015 says: Mar 1, 2016 3:08 PM

    Remember seeing his team dagger Y.A. Tittle and the Giants in the ’63 Championship Game. That was right after JFK in Dallas.

  14. bassplucker says: Mar 1, 2016 3:13 PM

    That’s too bad….the Bears could of used him this year.
    ——————
    Not really. When none of your healthy WRs can run better than a 4.7 it doesn’t really matter how far a QB can throw.

  15. xxbarklikeadogxx says: Mar 1, 2016 3:14 PM

    Years ago in the made-for-tv QB Challenge, Elway chucked one 73 yards. He was beaten by Jay Schroeder who hit 77 yards. Those guys had guns but Rudy? Wow!

  16. kd75 says: Mar 1, 2016 3:17 PM

    Sounds like the original Jeff George.

  17. stevejjones says: Mar 1, 2016 3:26 PM

    One time in Chicago, on a single pass, Rex Grossman had 110 yards, a touchdown, four pregnancies, and two fire-borne dragons.

  18. whatjusthapped says: Mar 1, 2016 3:39 PM

    He always beat the Vikings, not that its any great feat, but he has that going for him.

  19. psubeerman21 says: Mar 1, 2016 3:58 PM

    Shame. The redskins just tried to franchise him too

  20. bryonneufeld says: Mar 1, 2016 3:59 PM

    100 yards would mean take the strongest QB in the NFL today and then add about 30-40% more strength in his arm. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? I wish we had video evidence to support it.

  21. dwarftosser says: Mar 1, 2016 4:19 PM

    I remember in the old QB skill competitions Brett Favre was throwing the ball over 90 yds.. (although I think the farthest he got with staying inbounds was 87 or something). He was ahead of everyone else by about 10 yards.. If this guy could really throw it 100 yards, that would be amazing. (or maybe some crazy wind)

  22. boyso3 says: Mar 1, 2016 4:31 PM

    20 TDs and 9 INTs. Sounds like the 49ers, Rams, Broncos, Vikings, Bears, Browns, Ravens, Texans, Colts, Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins and Bills all could have used him this season.

  23. cajunsammich says: Mar 1, 2016 4:40 PM

    highdimension2015:
    Bill Wade was the QB for the Bears in the 1963
    Championship Game, not Rudy Bukich.

  24. djvh2 says: Mar 1, 2016 5:10 PM

    100 yards is amazing.
    But the Packers Jeff Janis had 101 yards receiving on one drive vs AZ in the playoffs this year!

  25. mackcarrington says: Mar 1, 2016 5:25 PM

    In the 1960’s you could have bought a Rudy Bukich autographed football.

  26. ahzroc says: Mar 1, 2016 5:41 PM

    I went to junior high with his son Steve Bukich…always wondered how he lost the job to Jack Concannon…
    If anyone else in the NFL could throw 100 yards it was Bobby Douglas

  27. tedmurph says: Mar 1, 2016 6:35 PM

    Jerry Glanville, clown that he was, used to bet opposing coaches and fans, when Farve was 3rd string(Falcons) and never saw the field, that Farve could throw the ball into the 3rd deck. No lie.

  28. nyneal says: Mar 1, 2016 6:40 PM

    Goodell is launching an investigation into Bukich’s alleged ability to throw the football 100 yards.
    Goodell has hired Jim Rockford to investigate whether Bukich had someone deflate the ball before he threw it.

    Only problem is, no one told Goodell Jim Rockford was a fictional detective on tv and the guy who played him, James Garner, is dead.

  29. selfpromotingqb says: Mar 1, 2016 6:54 PM

    Olivia Munn hahahahahaha

  30. vikingf0rlife says: Mar 1, 2016 7:21 PM

    I immediately realized this article wasn’t about Teddy Bridgewater when I saw “rocket-arm” in the title

    RIP dude. You were lucky to play for such a storied franchise like Chicago. My Vikes have no history, no championships and have never had a QB except for sloppy seconds on a has been Historical Packer QB.

  31. eagles512 says: Mar 1, 2016 8:12 PM

    I remember reading that Randall Cunningham threw it something like 90 yards while at UNLV.

  32. nwhmpshr says: Mar 1, 2016 10:03 PM

    Bledsoe had a cannon too.

  33. dreemeagle says: Mar 1, 2016 10:24 PM

    by all accounts, I believe Bukich did throw it 100 yards;

    my question is whether the ball was different then, more pointed and projectile shaped;

    what was said about Bobby Douglass was that he could knock down the side of a barn…if, that is, if he could hit it…

  34. gredw6733 says: Mar 1, 2016 11:43 PM

    One of the networks sponsored a quarterbacks competition during the off-season in the 70s or 80s.

    Terry Bradshaw threw the ball 65 yds in the air, and Dante Pastorini of the Houston Oilers threw it 70. I’d have to witness a 100-yd throw with my own eyes.

  35. 2ruefan says: Mar 2, 2016 7:12 AM

    patsdynastylives says:
    Mar 1, 2016 1:50 PM

    That’s too bad….the Bears could of used him this year.

    ***********************************
    Yeah. Or could have used him….

  36. breadmeatcheese says: Mar 2, 2016 8:03 AM

    RIP Rudy Bukkake.

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