CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Hall of Fame offensive lineman Mike McCormack died Friday in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 83.
During his nearly 50 years in professional football, McCormack played, coached and held several executive positions, including president of the Carolina Panthers.
Panthers spokesman Charlie Dayton said he spoke with McCormack's wife, Ann, and was informed of McCormack's death from natural causes.
McCormack spent 12 seasons with the Cleveland Browns, helping the franchise win NFL championships in 1954 and 1955. He played with Otto Graham and blocked for running back Jim Brown.
"The Cleveland Browns were saddened to learn of the passing of Mike McCormack," the Browns said in a statement. "His contributions to our history are profound, not only on an individual level, but also with regard to the tremendous success we enjoyed as a team during his career. Both the Browns and the NFL are most fortunate to have shared part of his amazing life. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife, Ann, and his family."
McCormack later coached the Philadelphia Eagles (1973-75), Baltimore Colts (1980-81) and Seattle Seahawks (1982). He served as president and general manager of the Seahawks.
McCormack was instrumental in helping the Panthers land an NFL franchise in 1993 and is the first person selected into the team's Hall of Honor.
"It is safe to say that we would probably not have a team in the Carolinas if it were not for Mike McCormack," Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said in a release. "He had the contacts in the National Football League and was universally respected by everyone associated with professional football."
Richardson and McCormack have remained close friends.
"He was a wonderful man and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Ann, and the entire McCormack family," Richardson said.
A native of Chicago, McCormack made his mark in the NFL long before joining the Panthers in 1989.
McCormack was a dominant offensive lineman for the Browns. At McCormack's Hall of Fame induction ceremony, coach Paul Brown called McCormack "the finest offensive lineman I have ever coached."
USA Today named McCormack to its 75th anniversary all-NFL team, listing him as one of the best three tackles in league history.
McCormack's coaching career began as an assistant in 1965 with the Washington Redskins, learning under coaching legends Vince Lombardi and George Allen.
But he never experienced the same success he had as a player. McCormack was a combined 29-51-1 during his career as a head coach.
Still, he was respected enough that the Seahawks hired him to work on the personnel side as president and general manager. McCormack left the Seahawks in 1989 and Richardson hired him as an adviser in an effort to help bring professional football to the Carolinas.
He later served as team president, but left the Panthers after two seasons so he could spend more time with his grandchildren.
Richardson named McCormack to Carolina's Hall of Honor in 1997. He is one of only two people in the Hall of Honor; the other is former linebacker Sam Mills, who is also deceased.
Dayton said the Panthers plan to hold a moment of silence prior to Monday night's game against the New England Patriots.
STEVE REED, AP Sports Writer
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