Kentucky Team News

Kentucky’s Babe Parilli, College Hall of Fame QB under Bear Bryant, dies at 87

Babe Parilli
COURTESY OF KENTUCKY ATHLETICS

Kentucky College Football Hall of Famer Babe Parilli, the Wildcats’ Sugar Bowl-winning quarterback of the Bear Bryant era, has died at age 87.

The cause of death was complications of multiple myeloma, a form of cancer.

The university announced Parilli’s death in a press release Saturday. Parilli still ranks eighth in school history in passing yards (4,351) and fourth in TD passes (50).

Parilli started for the Wildcats from 1949-51 under Bryant, taking the Wildcats to the Orange, Sugar and Cotton Bowls during his time in Lexington. During his three seasons with Kentucky, the team was 28-8, including an 11-1 record and an SEC title in 1950.

Parilli was honored as SEC player of the year in 1950; he was an All-America selection in 1950 and 1951, and placed fourth in Heisman Trophy balloting as a junior and third as a senior.

He also had an 18-year pro career, playing all 10 of the seasons of the old American Football League. In the next-to-last season on the field, he served as the backup quarterback to Joe Namath as the New York Jets stunned the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

Parilli was best known as the quarterback for the Boston Patriots (now New England Patriots) from 1961-67. Patriots coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft paid tribute to Parilli on Twitter.

Parilli is one of just five former Kentucky players enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame, along with tackle Bob Gain, defensive lineman Steve Meilinger, tackle Lou Michaels and defensive end Art Still.

He was drafted fourth overall in 1952 by the Green Bay Packers. In the 65 years since, only two Kentucky players (Still at No. 2 to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1978 and quarterback Tim Couch at No. 1 to the Cleveland Browns in 1999) have been selected earlier in an NFL draft.

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