The popular Hawks backup center and Georgia Tech grad died in an ambulance on Oct. 15 after having difficulty breathing while he was sleeping. He had had no previous health problems, but an autopsy showed that his heart was 70% larger than normal.
The trash-talking defensive back earned rings in two pivotal games in NFL history: as a Colt in the 1958 championship game and as a Jet in Super Bowl III. In his 1970 book, Confessions of a Dirty Ballplayer, Sample alleged that the league mistreated blacks.
One of the most influential figures in NFL history, the longtime Giants owner championed small-market franchises and revenue sharing among teams, helping to make the NFL the country's best-run sports league. Giants co-owner Bob Tisch, 79, died three weeks after Mara.
He gave the best heavyweights of his generation all they could handle. His greatest win was a 12-round decision over George Foreman in 1977. That victory was sandwiched between narrow losses to the champion, Muhammad Ali, and to Ken Norton.