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Thursday, August 29, 2002
Popular Giant Rote dies at 73
Kyle Rote, one of the most popular players in New York Giants history, has died at 73.
Rote's son said his father was 74. A Giants yearbook from 1961 and "Total Football, the official encyclopedia of the National Football League,'' list his date of birth as Oct. 27, 1927. Nina Rote, his third wife, insisted that he was born in 1928.
Rote, an All-American at Southern Methodist and the No. 1 pick in the 1951 NFL draft, later was the first president of the NFL Players Association.
"I think what made his career so remarkable wasn't so much being the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft ... or being captain of the Giants for 10 of 11 years, or going to the Pro Bowl three or four times, or becoming a great receiver after being hurt and coming back from so many knee surgeries,'' Kyle Rote Jr. said.
"To me the most remarkable thing about him from football standpoint was that he had 14 teammates who named sons after him.''
The Giants won the right to select Rote in a special lottery in 1951. He joined the team as a quick halfback, but was moved to receiver after tearing a ligament in his knee during a preseason practice.
"He was so good at everything, whether it was pingpong, pool or kicking off,'' Giants owner Wellington Mara said Thursday. "The outstanding backs of that era were Alex Webster and Frank Gifford. Before Kyle hurt his knee, he was as powerful a runner as Webster was and as smooth a runner and as good a receiver as Gifford was. He just had so much ability.''
Rote caught 300 passes for 4,797 yards, a 16-yard average, and 48 touchdowns. He was the team's career receiving leader when he retired. He is currently fifth among Giants. His 312 points are 10th best in Giants history.
"Kyle Rote was one of the smartest football men of that era,'' former Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle said. "He had a great offensive mind regarding the passing game, and football in general. Plus the fact there has probably never been a nicer person to ever play the game. Everybody liked Kyle Rote. Fans liked him, sportswriters liked him, players liked him. He was just a good person and an outstanding football player.''
Rote played at SMU from 1948-50. The first two seasons he shared the same backfield with Doak Walker, the Heisman Trophy winner as a junior in 1948 who also was an All-American and the school's only four-time All-Southwest Conference pick.
Led by Walker and Rote, SMU used a combination of hard running and tricky reverse and gadget plays on offense. Both were All-SWC picks in 1949.
In SMU's 1949 season finale against Notre Dame, Rote rushed for 115 yards and also completed 10 passes for 146 yards, scoring all the Mustangs' points in a 27-20 loss.
As a senior in 1950 and finally SMU's feature back, Rote ran for 762 yards, passed for 490 and scored 13 touchdowns. He was an All-American, and played in three postseason All-Star games.
His 2,049 yards rushing rank eighth on the SMU career list.
"I am saddened to hear of Kyle's passing,'' said SMU athletic director Jim Copeland. "Over the past few years I had the chance to get close to Kyle and his wife, Nina, and that makes this even more difficult for me.
"But having talked to many of Kyle's contemporaries, I can say that Kyle was one of the greatest players to ever step on the football field. He will be missed.''
Before SMU, Rote led San Antonio's Jefferson High School to the state finals in both football and basketball, earning all-state honors in both sports.
Besides his third wife and Kyle Rote Jr., he is survived by three other children from his first marriage: Gary, Chris and Elizabeth.
A wake will be held on Tuesday at the Frank Campbell Funeral Home in New York City. A private burial will be held at the National Memorial Cemetery in Arlington, Va. on either Wednesday or Thursday.
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