CINCINNATI — John Stofa, the Cincinnati Bengals' first player, died over the weekend at age 79. Known as "The Original Bengal," the team said Stofa recently battled Parkinson's.
known as 'The Original Bengal,' died over the weekend at age 79.
Paul Brown traded for the University of Buffalo grad before Cincinnati's inaugural season in 1968, sending the Miami Dolphins his bonus picks at the end of the first and second rounds for the man who spent his offseason working as an elementary school teacher.
"He was more than (the first Bengals player) to a lot of us. Just a really good guy we've known for a long time," Bengals president Mike Brown said in a press release via Bengals.com. "He had a lot of values we cherish. We admired the way he lived his life."
Stofa threw the first touchdown pass in Bengals history, completing a 58-yard pass to Bob Trumpy in Cincinnati's first franchise win.
Though he only spent one season with the Bengals, Stofa spoke at length about his close relationship with the Brown family. Mike Brown said the two threw together as the team formed.
"It was a fond memory of mine," Brown said. "He used to kid me about that. Because I would tell him, 'Hell, I can throw the ball better than you can throw the ball.' He used to pretend. To say that might be true just to get me talking so I could make a fool of myself. We had fun with it."
Stofa's family remained in the Cincinnati area after his tenure with the Bengals, returning to Ohio during the football offseason and remaining there once he started a career in insurance.