Longtime NFL QB John Hadl, who starred for his hometown Kansas Jayhawks before embarking on a professional career that included six Pro Bowl appearances and an All-Pro selection, died Wednesday. He was 82.
Hadl had been a standout at the University of Kansas, where he played offense, defense and also punted. The school retired Hadl’s number 21, one of only three football players to have their uniform retired by the Jayhawks, alongside running backs Gale Sayers and Ray Evans.
‘John Hadl had a generational impact on Kansas football,’ Jayhawks athletic director Travis Goff said. ‘He was a once-in-a-lifetime Jayhawk student-athlete, a coach and mentor, a prolific fundraiser who developed profound relationships with countless, and the ultimate ambassador for KU. In short, our university and athletic program has been transformed by John and his legacy will forever be cemented. Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with (wife) Diana and the Hadl family.’
A statue honoring Hadl was unveiled in 2020 and stands outside the Anderson Family Football Complex, the Jayhawks’ football stadium.
Hadl played with the Chargers from 1962-1972 and set an AFL record with a touchdown pass in 19 consecutive games. He led the AFL twice in passing yards in head coach Sid Gillman’s high-powered offense and led the NFL in passing yards (3,075) in 1971, after the leagues merged.
Hadl, four-time AFL All-Star, was traded to the Rams, where he led the team to the NFC playoffs during a Pro Bowl 1973 season. He later played for the Packers and Oilers, retiring after the 1977 season.
The Jayhawks star returned to Kansas as an assistant coach and later as an administrator, serving as associate athletics director. Hadl was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
John Hadl playing for the San Diego Chargers in 1971. Photo courtsey of The New York Times