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Jerry Sturm, an offensive lineman who had a 15-year career in pro football, was named by the Broncos last year as one of the Top 100 players in franchise history, and once thwarted an attempt by gamblers to fix an NFL game, has died at the age of 83.
Sturm’s death was announced today by The South Restaurant, the Colorado establishment Sturm owned.
“Words can’t describe how much our hearts ache over the loss of Jerry,” the restaurant’s statement said. “We all knew him as our friend and cherished his intelligent and witty personality. He was strong and tough. Yet he was also one of the sweetest, most genuine, generous and outgoing men any of us will ever have the privilege of knowing. Jerry adored all of his friends and he was always excited to share a smile or beer, steal a kiss, or offer that unforgettable solid hand shake.”
Sturm played his college football at Illinois and began his professional career in Canada with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1958 and then the Calgary Stampeders in 1959 and 1960. In 1961 Sturm signed with the Broncos, where he was a two-time AFL All-Star. After leaving the Broncos in 1967, Sturm spent time with the Saints, Oilers and Eagles.
A starting center, guard and tackle at various points in his career, Sturm’s greatest moment may have come in Houston in 1971, when a friend and former teammate approached him with an offer of $10,000 to throw a game. Sturm, who made a salary of $30,000 that season, refused and informed the FBI.
“The guy and a gambler from L.A. offered me a bribe to snap the ball badly on extra points and field goals, and maybe blow a snap to the quarterback — stuff like that,” Sturm told the Houston Chronicle. “So I turned ’em in. I was really shocked. The guy was one of my best buddies when I played with him.”
The NFL later said that was one of just two instances in the history of the league when a player was known to have been approached about fixing a game for gamblers. (The other was the 1946 NFL Championship Game, in a plot that was exposed the day before the game.)
Those two attempts to fix NFL games are now largely forgotten, but by refusing the money, Sturm prevented what could have been a major scandal. Quietly doing the right thing is Sturm’s lasting legacy.