John Mackey (September 24, 1941 – July 6, 2011) was a former American Football Tight End who played for the Baltimore Colts (1963-1971) and the San Diego Chargers (1972). He played collegiately at Syracuse University.
Mackey joined the Colts in 1963. By 1966, he revolutionized the position of Tight End in the NFL. That season, he compiled nine touchdowns, six of them were scores of more than 50 yards. Of the nine touchdowns he compiled, six were scores of more than 50 yards. As one of Johnny Unitas’ primary receivers, Mackey twice compiled season averages of more than 20 yards a catch. His 10-year career average of 15.8 yards per catch is one of the highest ever for a Tight End.
Mackey also displayed impressive speed for a tight end. During one season, the Colts decided to use him as a kick returner. He returned 9 kickoffs for 271 yards, averaging an impressive 30.1 yards per return.
Though injuries forced Mackey into early retirement, Mackey proved to be an extremely durable player, missing only one game in his 10-season career.
In Super Bowl V, played in 1971, Mackey was a key factor in one the most famous plays in NFL championship history, catching a pass from quarterback Johnny Unitas after the ball first bounced off the hands of receiver Eddie Hinton and then grazed the fingertips of Cowboys All-Pro defensive back Mel Renfro. The ball caromed further downfield into the waiting arms of Mackey, who ran untouched for a (then) Super Bowl-record 75-yard touchdown reception. Baltimore won the game, 16-13.
In 1992, Mackey became the second pure Tight End to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mike Ditka of the Bears had been the first one four years earlier. In 1999, Mackey was ranked number 48 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, the highest-ranking Tight End. On an October 2008 airing of the NFL Network’s ‘Top 10 Tight Ends,’ Mackey received a near unanimous vote for the #1 Tight End in NFL history.
On September 15, 2007, Syracuse University retired #88 in Mackey’s honor.