Today in Patriots History
Happy birthday to Babe Parilli, who would have been 91 today
Born May 7, 1930 in Rochester, Pennsylvania
Patriot QB, 1961-1967; uniform #15
Died July 15, 2017 at the age of 87
Acquired in a trade with the Oakland Raiders on April 4, 1961
After playing for Bear Bryant at the University of Kentucky, Parilli was the 4th overall pick in the 1952 draft by Green Bay. During the fifties he bounced back and forth between the Packers, Air Force, Browns and Ottawa in the CFL, and then was a backup for the Raiders in 1960.
With an over-the-hill Butch Songin as their starting quarterback, the Patriots were at minimum in need of depth, and preferably a viable alternative at the position. On April 4, 1961 the Pats traded FB Alan Miller, HB Dick Christy and DT Hal Smith to Oakland in exchange for Parilli and FB Billy Lott. Granted it was early in the history of the AFL, but it was the biggest trade in the first half of the league's existence. To say that the Patriots got the better end of that deal would be a vast understatement.
Team Hall of Famer is fourth on the club’s all-time career list in passing yards and touchdown passes.
Before the Boston Patriots took the field against the Denver Broncos in the early days of the American Football League, someone broke into the Patriots’ locker room and stole the team’s playbook. That didn’t faze veteran quarterback Babe Parilli, according to his teammate Larry Garron, a running back.
“Babe restructured the entire offense on the fly and we won the game,” Garron recalled. “Babe was our leader. He always had a great read of the defense and I know he made me a better player.”
At the age of 31 the journeyman quarterback's career took off with the Patriots. Parilli became a three-time AFL All-Star, and the Pats became one of the best teams in the league. His 31 touchdown passes in 1965 was a team record that would stand for an amazing 42 years. 42 years!!! In seven seasons with the Pats, Parilli threw 132 touchdown passes, and also ran for 14 more TDs. He led the AFL in completion percentage in 1961, passing yards in 1964, touchdowns in 1964, and was Comeback Player of the Year in 1966. Parilli was durable in an era that was unforgiving, missing just four games during his seven seasons with the Patriots.
“He was a true pioneer and an important part of an era that helped establish the Patriots and the AFL,” said Patriots legend Gino Cappelletti, a receiver and placekicker and later game announcer. “I was real happy he showed up. He had a quick release and delivered the ball to us in the right place at the right time, and he would do anything and everything to win.
Babe Parilli was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1982, and the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1993. He is a member of the Patriots All-Decade Team of the 1960s, the All-AFL 10-Year Team, Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame and also the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. After retiring as a player, he was an assistant coach for several NFL teams and a head coach in the World Football League and Arena Football League. Parilli was also a real estate broker and media relations director for the mayor and city council in Commerce City, Colorado.
Babe Parilli | Fenway Park Diaries
Known as the “Rochester Rifle” after his home steel country, Parilli set four NCAA passing records – for touchdown passes in a season and a career, most passes completed and passing yards in three varsity seasons. He was twice a first team All-America selection and finished third and fourth in Heisman Trophy balloting.
In 1960, the American Football League was born, and Parilli went to Oakland where he and Tom Flores divided the qb duties. Traded from Oakland to Boston after the 1960 season along with Billy Lott for Dick Christy and Hal Smith, Babe shared the quarterbacking duties with Butch Songin in 1961. The Pats sent Butch to the New York Titans in 1962, and Babe took over the number one slot. Ably backed up by Tom Yewcic, Babe at last had a team he could call entirely his own.
For the next six seasons, Parilli’s schooling under Bryant paid back all the accrued dividends that Babe’s previous coaches in Green Bay, Cleveland, Oakland, and Ottawa might have collected for their respective teams. With a talented receiving corps that included Gino Cappelletti, Jim Colclough, Artie Graham, Tony Romeo, and Larry Garron out of the backfield, Babe directed an exciting offensive show in virtually every game.
Parilli set every passing record in the young club’s history over seven seasons, and his stats have endured in the Pats’ record books to where he is still now fourth all-time behind Drew Bledsoe, Steve Grogan, and Tom Brady. Babe threw 2,410 times as a Patriot and completed 1,140 passes for 16,747 yards and 132 touchdowns.
The Patriots had a winning record in five of Parilli’s seven seasons and posted an overall mark of went 50-39-9. Babe was a three-time league all-star and the comeback player of the year in 1966 when he led the team to a record of 8-4-2 after a 4-8-2 campaign the previous season.
Over the course of the 2018 off-season, the New England Patriots office at Last Word on Pro Football will be highlighting a different historical Patriot great every week. This week, we will be taking a look at Babe Parilli's impact on the football world.
Patriots Hall-of-Famer and Member of the 1960s All-Decade Team Vito 'Babe' Parilli dies at the age of 87.
Parilli bounced around the NFL and even the Canadian Football League before finally finding a home in the American Football League with the Boston Patriots. A three-time AFL All-Star, Parilli had 31 touchdown passes in 1965 which remained a Patriots record until Tom Brady broke it in 2007. Many of those throws went into the hands of Gino Cappelletti, a fellow NIASHF inductee. The flashy duo became known as the “Grand Opera”.
Parilli wasn’t just a pocket passer, he used his legs to amass four yards per rush on 383 career attempts. With a total of 201 career touchdowns including 23 on the ground, Parilli was one of the most successful players in AFL history.
Vito "Babe" Parilli, the quarterback who helped coach Paul "Bear" Bryant capture the first of his 14 SEC championships, died on Saturday.
Parilli was the quarterback for the only Kentucky team that has won an outright SEC football championship. The 1950 Wildcats went 5-1 in league play and posted an 11-1 overall record that included a 13-7 victory over previously undefeated Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
Parilli broke the SEC single-season record for passing yards when he threw for 1,627 in 1950, and he broke it again in 1951 when he threw for 1,643.
Parilli was the SEC Player of the Year in 1950, when he finished fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy. In 1951, Parilli finished third in the Heisman voting.
Vito 'Babe' Parilli | Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame
Vito (Babe) Parilli ranks as one of the all time star passing quarterbacks in pro football with 1552 completions in 3330 attempts for 22681 yards and 178 touchdowns. What most fans outside the Pittsburgh area don’t realize is that Babe served as quarterback coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers for four seasons (1970-1973) and played a key role in developing the talents of Terry Bradshaw, Terry Hanratty, and Joe Gilliam.