STAMFORD, Conn. -- Pro Football Hall of Famer Andy Robustelli, who played for the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams during a 14-year NFL career, has died. He was 85.
"He was one of the greatest players in franchise history, and one of the finest, most dignified gentlemen you could ever meet," Giants president John Mara said. "Andy was a man's man in every respect."
It wasn't immediately clear where and when Robustelli died. His death was first reported by The Stamford Advocate.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound defensive end played for the Rams from 1951-55 and the Giants from 1956-64, but his arrival in New York ushered in one of the greatest eras in Giants football.
New York won the 1956 NFL championship in Robustelli's first season. They won five more conference championships during his tenure, in 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 and 1963. Robustelli played on a winning team in 13 of his 14 pro seasons and played in eight NFL championship games.
"Andy was a great leader. When he came to us from the Rams, it turned everything around defensively," fellow Hall of Famer Frank Gifford said. "He fit perfectly into Tom Landry's defense. Tom Landry was such a leader in putting defense into pro football and Andy was one of the key components of that."
Robustelli was selected to seven Pro Bowls and was named first team All-NFL seven times, two with the Rams and five with the Giants. He was also a three-time second-team All-Pro choice. In 1962, the Maxwell Club selected Robustelli as the NFL's top player, an honor then usually given to an offensive player.
"He was far and away above the other defensive ends of his era," Gifford said. "Andy was not all that big, but he was very quick. With Andy and Tom Landry, it was almost scary the anticipation that they had of what was going to be run. He and Tom were very, very close. Whereas Tom was the overall defensive coach, Andy basically ran the defensive line along with the linebackers. He was the leader. Everyone knew that. He was the leader in the clubhouse. He was quiet. But when Andy talked, everyone listened."
Robustelli played in 175 regular-season games in his 14-year career, missing only one because of injury. In his last three years with the Giants, he was a player-coach.
Robustelli was the Giants' director of operations -- what is now called general manager -- from 1974-78, prior to George Young's arrival. During his tenure, the Giants drafted Hall of Famer Harry Carson, as well as such standout players as George Martin, Gary Jeter and Gordon King.
"Andy is someone I looked up to fiercely," said Martin, who played for the Giants from 1975-88 and is now the executive director and president of the NFL Alumni Association. "I think he was legendary among all ballplayers, but especially within the illustrious Giants' history."
Martin said Robustelli never stopped coaching, even when he was working in the front office.
"Andy was always giving you tips about the game -- here's your general manager coming out to give you some words of advice," Martin said. "For a young man, particularly a rookie, those were like words from heaven. Although our styles were different and the eras in which we played in were completely different, one of the things I know I tried hard to copy was the tenacity that Andy had, because it's transferable no matter what era you played in."
After leaving the Giants, Robustelli was a successful businessman in his native Connecticut.
Born in Stamford, he played football and baseball at Stamford High before enlisting in the U.S. Navy at age 18. During World War II, Robustelli served on the USS William C. Cole in the Pacific Theater. When he returned from war, Robustelli attended Arnold College in nearby Bridgeport. He made his family home in Stamford, where he ran a successful travel agency.
Robustelli's wife, Jeanne, died in April. She was 84. The couple had nine children, 29 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Robustelli's funeral is scheduled for Saturday in Stamford.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.