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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,587

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This is the grave of Billy Lothridge.

Born in Cleveland, Georgia in 1942, Lothridge grew up in Gainesville, Georgia and was a big high school football star. He and his teammate Billy Martin were absolutely dominant at the high school level and both got scholarships to play at Georgia Tech, where they would remain great. Lothridge played mostly quarterback and in 1962 took over the starting job. By the standards of our times, Lothridge had terrible statistics, but you can’t really compare quarterbacking then and now. That year, he threw for just over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns, while throwing eight interceptions. He was however a very good runner too, with nearly 500 yards and nine rushing touchdowns.

By 1963, Lothridge was one of the biggest stars in college football. He again threw for just over 1,000 yards, this time with ten touchdowns and seven interceptions. He wasn’t quite as effective as a runner that year, with 223 yards and three touchdowns. He was also the team’s punter and was tenth in the nation in punting average, booting it 40.8 yards per kick. For this, Lothridge was second in the Heisman Trophy race that year, losing out to Navy quarterback Roger Staubach, who you may have heard of.

Interesting, the Dallas Cowboys drafted both Staubach and Lothridge. Neither were high picks. In fact, Staubach went in the 10th round. Lothridge was picked in the 6th round, but with no intention to play him as QB. He was to be the team’s punter and place kicker. The Oakland Raiders selected him in the 11th round of the AFL draft, but he signed with Dallas.

Lothridge was a pretty marginal pro outside of a couple of years, but had a longish career. He tore his knee up his first year, which is not good for a kicker. But he returned to become a fairly decent punter for a bit. His came back that rookie year and had a good enough year to be the Cowboys single season net punting leader until 2006, when Mat McBride beat it. It should be noted that the quality of punting has gotten absolutely amazing in the last 20 years. Some of it is the Australians, but still, it’s amazing.

The Cowboys moved on Lothridge pretty quickly though. They moved him to the Colts after his rookie season as part of a package to get Ralph Neely, which was a great choice for Dallas. The Colts immediately moved Lothridge to the Rams for cash, who cut him during training camp. But he signed with the expansion Atlanta Falcons and kicked there through 1971. He was the All-Pro Punter in 1968. He even started playing safety for the Falcons in 1968 and picked off three passes that year. He initially retired before the 1971 season, but the team convinced him to come back when its punter got hurt. His last year was 1972, when he again came back to the league as a short-term injury replacement, this time for the legendary undefeated Miami Dolphins. He only played in two games, but hey, he was part of the team.

Lothridge retired to Florida. I don’t know what he did–the few obituaries to note his death at the time were very brief and didn’t go into his post-playing career. He died in 2000, of a heart attack. He was 54 years old.

Billy Lothridge is buried in Alta Vista Cemetery, Gainesville, Georgia.

If you would like this series to visit other members of the 1968 All Pro Team, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Gale Sayers is in Omaha, Nebraska and Merlin Olsen is in San Gabriel, California. Previous posts in this series are archived here and here.

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