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Sunday, July 28, 2002
Updated: August 5, 2:01 PM ET
Shocking moments in NFL history

Page 2 staff

Last week, we presented the most shocking moments in baseball history, so now Page 2 turns its attention to the 10 most shocking moments in the history of the NFL.

After taking a look at our list below, check out our readers' top 10 and then vote in the poll to crown the most stunning NFL moment of them all.

O.J. Simpson
O.J. Simpson's jury ruled to acquit after the glove didn't fit.
1. O.J. Simpson charged with double murder (June 17, 1994)
"It's like the president died," said one Bills fan after the legendary Buffalo running back was charged with murdering his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, in the driveway of her house the night of June 12.

He had won the Heisman Trophy, set the NFL's single-season rushing record, and was a Hall of Famer, despite playing most of his pro career with the hapless Bills. He'd been a "Monday Night Football" regular, a popular Hertz pitchman, and a B-movie star. Simpson was, undeniably, incredibly well-liked.

The charges weren't the beginning of the bizarre story, and the criminal trial, which ended with Simpson's acquittal, wasn't the end. After he was officially charged, Simpson didn't surrender and was declared a fugitive, leading to a bizarre, live, televised low-speed pursuit -- in the infamous white Bronco -- that hypnotized the U.S. viewing public.

When Simpson finally surrendered, he was arrested and held without bail. He went on to hire his "dream team" of pricey lawyers, and on Oct. 3, 1995, after the lengthy, circuslike "trial of the century," Simpson was acquitted. Later, in a civil suit filed by the families of Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, Simpson was found to have "willingly and wrongfully" caused the deaths. He was ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages.

Paul Hornung
Green Bay halfback Paul Hornung's image as the Golden Boy took a hit after his suspension for gambling.
2. Karras and Hornung suspended for gambling (April 17, 1963)
Paul Hornung, the Green Bay Packers running back who had scored an NFL record 176 points in 1960 and been named MVP in 1961, and Alex Karras, the Detroit Lions All-Pro defensive tackle, were suspended by Pete Rozelle for betting on NFL games and associating with gamblers. Hornung, said Rozelle, had bet up to $500 on NFL games, and Karras, he said, had placed at least a half dozen $50-$100 bets.

Both players sat out for a full season, before being reinstated. Five other Detroit players were fined for betting on the 1962 championship game. Hornung apologized. "I made a terrible mistake," he said. "I am truly sorry." Still, he was later inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

3. Detroit Lions receiver Chuck Hughes dies of heart attack during game (Oct. 24, 1971)
The Lions trailed the Bears 28-23 late in the fourth quarter, and had the ball. With the Lions running a two-minute drill, wide receiver Chuck Hughes came into the game, and went deep over the middle on a play that ended with an incomplete pass intended for another receiver. As he headed back to the huddle, he collapsed. Bears middle linebacker Dick Butkus got to him first and alerted the Lions bench. Team doctor Richard Thompson came onto the field and tried to resuscitate Hughes, unsuccessfully. The game was finished in silence.

4. Colts steal away (March 29, 1984)
The Colts, who had been in Baltimore since 1953, reached a tentative agreement to play in Indianapolis and began moving overnight. A fleet of moving vans cleaned out the team's training facility in Owings Mill, Md., in the middle of the night and headed for Indianapolis. The sudden departure stunned Baltimore. "It's unbelievable, the callousness of this man," said fan Brian Yaniger of owner Robert Irsay. "Just because he has a couple of bucks, he can tear a whole city down on his whims."

5. "Heidi" (Nov. 17, 1968)
With 65 seconds left in the Jets-Raiders game and the Jets up 32-29, NBC followed its schedule and cut off its broadcast, lest those waiting for the movie "Heidi" be kept waiting. The Raiders rallied for two touchdowns and won 43-32, and NBC received thousands of angry calls, causing its switchboard to break down.

Joe Namath
All sports guarantees are compared with Joe Namath's declaration that the Jets would win Super Bowl III.
6. Jets make good on Namath's guarantee in Super Bowl III (Jan. 12, 1969)
Three days before the AFL's Jets faced the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in Miami, Namath uttered what might be the most repeated quote in football history. He said, simply, "We're going to win Sunday. I guarantee it." Quite a statement, considering the Jets were 17-point underdogs. But, as the world now knows, Namath and the Jets lived up to his word in style, dominating the Earl Morrall-led Colts from the opening kickoff. Even the insertion of the injured Johnny Unitas into the QB slot couldn't lift Baltimore, and the Colts went down to a 16-7 defeat in front of 75,389 fans at the Orange Bowl. Namath, the game's MVP, was 17-for-28 for 206 yards.

7. The Immaculate Reception (Dec. 23, 1972)
With only 73 seconds remaining in the AFC semifinal playoff game at Three Rivers Stadium, the Steelers trailed the Raiders 7-6. But they had the ball, on their own 40 when Terry Bradshaw threw to Frenchy Fuqua. The ball bounced off DB Jack Tatum, Fuqua or both, and right into the outstretched hands of Franco Harris, who dashed into the end zone for a game-winning TD with only five seconds left on the clock.

8. Patriots win Super Bowl XXXVI as time expires (Feb. 3, 2002)
Adam Vinatieri
Vinatieri's kick capped an amazing season for the 2001-02 Patriots.
Nobody thought much of the Pats coming into the 2001 season -- they had been 5-11 in 2000 and oddsmakers said they had only a 50-1 chance to win it all.

Even in the topsy-turvy world of the NFL, those odds seemed low. But New England won the AFC East division title with an 11-5 record, led by soph QB Tom Brady. They won the AFC Championship over Pittsburgh, but still came into the Superdome as two-TD underdogs to the mighty Rams. You know the rest of the story -- with the score tied at 17-17, Brady drove the Pats 53 yards to set up a 48-yard field goal attempt by Adam Vinatieri, who nailed it just before the clock ticked to 0:00.

9. Vikings' Korey Stringer dies from heatstroke (Aug. 1, 2001)
On a sweltering hot day early in Vikings training camp last summer, All-Pro offensive tackle Korey Stringer collapsed of heatstroke after morning workout drills, and lost consciousness. He was taken to the hospital with a body temperature of 108.8 degrees, and died about 15 hours later. Stringer, just 27, became only the second NFL player to die at summer training camp.

10. The Replacement Football League (Oct. 4, 1987)
Less than two weeks after NFL players went on strike, NFL stadiums were open for business, but the real pros were outside the stadium, picketing. Who was inside? Not too many fans (there was record-low attendance at almost every game), and a bunch of guys who not too long ago were tending bar, selling stocks or cashing unemployment checks. A few "real" pros also crossed the picket lines to play.

Mercifully, the strike ended after 24 days; one of the replacement games was stricken from the record, though the other three counted in the final standings.

Also receiving votes:
  • Chiefs' Derrick Thomas dies after auto accident (2000)
  • Frank Reich leads Bills back from 35-3 deficit to defeat Oilers in AFC playoffs (Jan. 3, 1993)
  • Rae Carruth charged, found guilty of conspiring to murder (1999-2001)
  • Darryl Stingley, Mike Utley, Dennis Byrd paralyzed (1978, 1991, 1992)
  • "Big Daddy" Lipscomb dies of heroin overdose (1963)
  • Art Modell betrays Cleveland, announces Browns' move to Baltimore (1995)
  • Colts, Rams traded by owners (1972)
  • Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield jump to WFL (1974)
  • Keith Jackson's pants catch on fire during "MNF" broadcast (1970)
  • Packers' coach Dan Devine breaks leg during game (1971)