Vito “Babe” Parilli, a member of the Patriots’ Hall of Fame and one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the American Football League, has died at the age of 87.
An All-American and two-time Heisman Trophy finalist while playing for Bear Bryant at Kentucky in 1950 and 1951, Parilli was one of the greatest players ever to play for the Wildcats and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
The Packers made Parilli the fourth overall pick of the 1952 NFL draft, but he lasted just two seasons in Green Bay before heading north and playing for the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League. He then became a football wanderer, going from Ottawa to Cleveland, back to the Packers, then back to Ottawa and never really finding the right fit.
But when the AFL launched in 1960, he found the right fit. He joined the Raiders in the AFL’s inaugural season, then was traded to the Boston Patriots and had an outstanding career there, being chosen to three AFL All-Star games. His 31 touchdown passes in 1964 stood as the Patriots’ record until Tom Brady broke it in 2007. Parilli’s playing career ended with the Jets, where he won a ring as Joe Namath’s backup in Super Bowl III. When he finally announced his retirement as a player in 1970, he was 40 years old.
After that, Parilli got to work as a coach, spending a year as an assistant with the Steelers before becoming head coach of the New York Stars and later the Chicago Winds of the World Football League. He later coached six different Arena Football League teams.
Parilli’s love of football never waned, and after watching this year’s national championship game between Alabama and Clemson, Parilli said, “Best game I ever saw in the college playoffs. Watched it all the way to the end.”
Few people saw more in the game of football than Babe Parilli.