John Stofa, first player in Bengals history, dies at 79

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John Stofa, a quarterback who has the distinction of being the first player acquired by the Cincinnati Bengals, has died at the age of 79.

The Bengals didn’t start to play until the 1968 season, but team founder Paul Brown acquired the rights to Stofa in a trade with the Dolphins at the end of the 1967 season. Brown had always thought highly of Stofa as an intelligent player and believed having a quarterback who could learn the offense quickly enough to have it figured out by the time the Bengals started practice was essential.

“He was more than that to a lot of us. Just a really good guy we’ve known for a long time,” Bengals owner Mike Brown said in a statement. “He had a lot of values we cherish. We admired the way he lived his life.”

Stofa would play only one season in Cincinnati, but he was their starting quarterback as they got off to an exciting 2-1 start as a franchise team, before falling back to the bottom of the standings late in the season.

Originally an undrafted rookie with the Steelers out of the University at Buffalo, Stofa also spent time with the Dolphins both before and after his year with the Bengals, then finished his pro football career with the Jacksonville Sharks of the World Football League. But he will always be remembered primarily for the accomplishment that he always celebrated on the license plate of his cars: 1ST BNGL.