Mike Stratton, a star linebacker for the Buffalo Bills in the 1960s, died Wednesday at age 78, the team announced.
Multiple media outlets reported that he experienced heart complications after a recent fall.
Stratton was a three-time all-American Football League selection who made it to the AFL All-Star Game six times. He helped the Bills earn AFL titles in 1964 and 1965.
Stratton produced one of the most memorable plays in Bills history during the 1964 AFL championship game at Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium.
The visiting Chargers led 7-0 when Stratton put a perfect hit on San Diego running back Keith Lincoln, breaking up the pass and breaking Lincoln’s ribs. The game’s momentum abruptly changed, and the Bills went on to win 20-7.
“You could just see the emotions and the credibility of the Buffalo Bills come together at that point,” Bills quarterback Jack Kemp later said, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “That hit and that win put Buffalo on the major league sports map.”
Stratton told the Democrat and Chronicle in 1994, “You can always tell when you get a good lick; I just didn’t know it would have that kind of effect. Thirty-five years later, I’m proud that people remember it. They’ve got a better memory than I do.”
Speaking to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Stratton said, “I never wanted to be known as a one-hit wonder. But when people asked about that tackle, I always smiled.”
A native of Vonore, Tenn., Stratton played college ball at the University of Tennessee before joining the Bills in 1962 as a 13th-round draft choice.
He played 11 years in Buffalo before finishing his career in 1973 with the Chargers.