By BOB LABRIOLA
Steelers.com The Pittsburgh Steelers have been in the football business for 77 seasons now, since 1933, and one of the constants of the franchise has been its legacy at linebacker. The NFL started its annual all-star game, the Pro Bowl, after the 1950 season, and in the 60 games that have been played since then, the Steelers have been represented by at least one linebacker in 41 of them.
Jerry Shipkey was the first.
Shipkey died Nov. 28, 2009 in Dana Point, Calif., following a long illness. He was 84.
Born on Oct. 31, 1925 in Fullerton, Calif., Shipkey graduated from high school in Anaheim and first went to college at USC, where in 1940 he was a member of the Trojans' team that defeated Tennessee, 14-0, in the Rose Bowl.
But like so many other young men of that era, Shipkey's life was interrupted by World War II. He served as an ensign in the Navy from 1942-44. Upon returning from service, Shipkey continued his college education and football career at UCLA, where he built the resume that would get him drafted in the sixth round of the 1947 NFL Draft by Pittsburgh.
Shipkey was a halfback on UCLA's first undefeated team, in 1946, and clinched the Bruins' unblemished record by rushing for over 100 yards and scoring the game-winning touchdown in a 13-6 win over Cal. He graduated from UCLA in 1948, and in 1995 he was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame.
After being drafted by the Steelers, Shipkey played five seasons for the team and then added a sixth with the Chicago Bears. Known for running the football in college, Shipkey came to the NFL and eventually made a name for himself because of his ability to stop the guy with the ball.
A fullback as a rookie in 1948, Shipkey rushed for 199 yards and caught 10 passes for 106 more, but after his offensive statistics dwindled during the 1949 season, he was moved to linebacker in 1950, and he flourished.
Shipkey played in three Pro Bowls and was a first-team selection to the Associated Press All-Pro Team twice. He finished with 13 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries over four seasons (46 games) as a Steelers linebacker.
In 2007 as part of the Steelers 75th Season Celebration, Shipkey was one of three linebackers selected to the Legends Team, which honored those who played for the franchise before 1970. The other linebackers on the Legends Team along with Shipkey were Dale Dodril and Myron Pottios.
Following his NFL career, Shipkey settled in Orange County where he built a successful business and real estate career.
Shipkey was preceded in death by his first wife, the former Jane Homan, and is survived by his current wife Carolyn. He is also survived by sons Carl and Mark, daughters Julie, Louise and Lisa, plus many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on Friday, Jan. 15 at 1 p.m. at South Shores Church, 32712 Crown Valley Parkway, Dana Point, Calif., 92629-3599.
Former LB Jerry Shipkey, 84
By BOB LABRIOLA