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Fred Biletnikoff

Fred Biletnikoff
refer to caption
Biletnikoff (in white) catching a pass in the 1965 Gator Bowl
No. 14, 25
Position:Wide receiver
Personal information
Born: (1943-02-23) February 23, 1943 (age 81)
Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:190 lb (86 kg)
Career information
High school:Technical Memorial
(Erie, Pennsylvania)
College:Florida State (1962–1964)
NFL draft:1965 / Round: 3 / Pick: 39
AFL draft:1965 / Round: 2 / Pick: 11
Career history
As a player:
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards
As a player
Career AFL/NFL statistics
Receiving yards:8,974
Receiving touchdowns:76
Player stats at PFR

Frederick Biletnikoff (born February 23, 1943), nicknamed "Scarecrow", is an American former football player and coach. He played as a wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders in the American Football League (AFL) and National Football League (NFL) for fourteen seasons and later was an assistant coach with the team. He retired as an NFL player after the 1978 season, and then played one additional season in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for the Montreal Alouettes in 1980. While he lacked the breakaway speed to be a deep-play threat, Biletnikoff was one of the most sure-handed and consistent receivers of his day, with a propensity for making spectacular catches. He was also known for running smooth, precise pass routes. He is a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1988) and College Football Hall of Fame (1991).

Biletnikoff attended Florida State University, where he played college football for the Florida State Seminoles football team and earned consensus All-American honors after leading the country in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns as a senior. The Fred Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the most outstanding receiver in NCAA Division I FBS, is named in his honor.

Through his AFL and NFL career, Biletnikoff had 589 receptions for 8,974 yards and 76 touchdowns, and had a then-league-record 10 straight seasons of 40 or more receptions, during a time when teams emphasized running over passing. With the Raiders, Biletnikoff played in the second AFL-NFL World Championship game—retroactively known as Super Bowl II—and in Super Bowl XI, in which he was named the game's MVP in a victory over the Minnesota Vikings. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, he also played two AFL All-Star games, three AFL title games, and five AFC championship games.

Early life

Biletnikoff was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania,[1] the son of Natalie (Karuba) and Ephriam Biletnikoff. All four of his grandparents were Russian immigrants.[2][3] In Erie, Biletnikoff attended what was then Technical Memorial High School, now Erie High School, whose athletic field now bears his name. In high school, Biletnikoff excelled in football, basketball, baseball, and track.[4] He was a champion high jumper and earned All-City honors in basketball and baseball.[5] His younger brother Bob was a starting quarterback for the Miami Hurricanes in the mid-1960s.[6]


Biletnikoff turned down other notable offers to attend Florida State University in Tallahassee. He missed several games during his first varsity season in 1962 with a broken foot. He played on both sides of the ball his junior season, leading the team in receptions and interceptions. That year, he returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown off a pass thrown by George Mira of the Miami Hurricanes, a record which stood until 1987, when Deion Sanders broke it by one yard.[7] As a senior in 1964, Biletnikoff led the nation with 1,179 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns, and finished second in receptions (70) and scoring (90).[8] One of his touchdowns came in the first quarter against the Florida Gators, which helped the Seminoles earn their first victory in the in-state rivalry, 16–7.[9] The Seminoles finished the year with a 36–19 victory over Oklahoma in the Gator Bowl, in which Biletnikoff set school records with 13 receptions for 194 yards and four touchdowns.[10] He was a consensus pick for the 1964 College Football All-America Team, receiving first-team honors from four official selectors: the Associated Press,[11] Central Press Association,[12] Football Writers Association of America,[13] and Newspaper Enterprise Association.[14] He was Florida State's first consensus All-American in football.[10] Biletnikoff compiled 100 receptions for 1,655 yards and 20 touchdowns in his career with the Seminoles, which at the time were all school records.[8] While in college Fred also joined the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.[15]

Professional career

After graduating from FSU, he was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the 1965 AFL Draft, 11th overall and by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the 1965 NFL draft, the 39th overall selection. Biletnikoff signed with the Raiders, where he played for fourteen seasons. With Oakland, he was nicknamed "Coyote", and "Doctor Zhivago" because of his Russian heritage.[16] In 1966, he caught his first touchdown pass, thrown by quarterback Tom Flores, who later became the Raiders' head coach the season after Biletnikoff was released by the team.[17]

Although he lacked the breakaway speed to be a deep threat, Biletnikoff's precise pass routes and sure hands made him one of the most consistent receivers of his day,[18] and a favorite target of Raiders quarterbacks Daryle Lamonica and Ken Stabler. "I like catching passes", he explained. "And I like playing outside. I would be lost if I were ever told to do anything on a football field except catch passes."[19] Through his career he recorded 589 receptions, and had a league record 10 straight seasons of 40 or more receptions from 1967 to 1976,[20] since surpassed by many players. Following the retirement of Charley Taylor, Biletnikoff spent the 1978 season (his last) as the NFL's active leader in career receiving yards, and retired ranked 5th all-time.[21]

Biletnikoff popularized the use of Stickum,[22] an adhesive that many players applied to their hands to assist with catching and gripping the ball. He would apply the substance all over his body and uniform prior to a game, a practice that was later picked up by Raiders cornerback Lester Hayes after Biletnikoff introduced him to it.[23][24] The use of Stickum was banned by the NFL in 1981.[25]

In his rookie season, Biletnikoff played primarily on special teams. He did not see playing time on offense until the seventh game of the year, against the Boston Patriots, in which he caught seven passes for 118 yards.[26][27] His production increased significantly with Oakland's acquisition of quarterback Daryle Lamonica in 1967. That year, he caught 40 passes for 876 yards and five touchdowns and led the league with an average of 21.9 yards per reception. He was invited to play in the 1967 AFL All-Star Game.[28] In that year's AFL championship game, Biletnikoff had two receptions for 19 yards in the Raiders' 40–7 blow-out win over the Houston Oilers.[29] In Super Bowl II against the Green Bay Packers, he caught two passes for 10 yards as the Raiders were defeated 33–14.[30]

Biletnikoff recorded his only 1,000-yard receiving season in 1968, when he caught 61 passes for 1,037 yards and six touchdowns. The following season, in 1969 he caught a career-high 12 receiving touchdowns. He was an AFL All-Star for the second time and earned first-team All-AFL honors from the Associated Press, the Newspaper Enterprise Association, Pro Football Writers of America, The Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly, and the New York Daily News.[28] The AFL merged into the National Football League in 1970. In his first five seasons in the NFL, Biletnikoff was invited to four Pro Bowls.[31]

A highly productive receiver in the postseason, Biletnikoff left the NFL as the all-time leader in postseason receptions (70), receiving yards (1,167), and receiving touchdowns (10) accumulated over 19 postseason games.[26] He recorded over 100 receiving yards in a postseason five times.[28] In the 1968 American Football League playoffs, he had 14 receptions for 370 yards and four touchdowns through two games. In the 1976–77 NFL playoffs, Biletnikoff recorded 13 receptions for 216 yards and a touchdown. This included four catches for 79 yards to set up three Oakland scores in the Raiders' 32–14 victory in Super Bowl XI, for which he was named Super Bowl MVP.[32] Until Super Bowl LVI, Biletnikoff was the only receiver ever to win Super Bowl MVP without gaining 100 receiving yards or scoring a touchdown.

Biletnikoff was released by the Raiders prior to the 1979 season.[17] After a year off, he played one season in the Canadian Football League for the Montreal Alouettes in 1980. In his lone CFL season, Biletnikoff caught 38 passes, second-most on the team, for 470 yards and four touchdowns.[33]

NFL career statistics

Super Bowl MVP
Won the Super Bowl
Led the league
Bold Career high

Regular season

Year Team Games Receiving Fum
GP GS Rec Yds Y/R Lng TD
1965 OAK 14 8 24 331 13.8 53 0 0
1966 OAK 10 7 17 272 16.0 78 3 2
1967 OAK 14 9 40 876 21.9 72 5 1
1968 OAK 14 14 61 1,037 17.0 82 6 0
1969 OAK 14 14 54 837 15.5 53 12 1
1970 OAK 14 14 45 768 17.1 51 7 0
1971 OAK 14 14 61 929 15.2 49 9 1
1972 OAK 14 14 58 802 13.8 39 7 0
1973 OAK 14 14 48 660 13.8 32 4 0
1974 OAK 14 14 42 593 14.1 46 7 0
1975 OAK 11 10 43 587 13.7 26 2 0
1976 OAK 13 13 43 551 12.8 32 7 0
1977 OAK 14 14 33 446 13.5 44 5 1
1978 OAK 16 2 20 285 14.3 49 2 0
Career 190 161 589 8,974 15.2 82 76 6


Year Team Games Receiving
GP GS Rec Yds Y/R Lng TD
1967 OAK 2 2 4 29 7.3 10 0
1968 OAK 2 2 14 370 26.4 57 4
1969 OAK 2 2 3 70 23.3 31 2
1970 OAK 2 2 8 138 17.3 38 2
1972 OAK 1 1 3 28 9.3 12 0
1973 OAK 2 2 3 23 7.7 8 0
1974 OAK 2 2 11 167 15.2 27 1
1975 OAK 1 0 0 0 0 0
1976 OAK 3 3 13 216 16.6 48 1
1977 OAK 2 2 11 126 11.5 18 0
Career 19 18 70 1,167 16.7 57 10

Coaching career and later life

Biletnikoff began his career in coaching soon after his retirement from playing. He served on the coaching staff of Orange Glen High School (1982), Palomar College (1983), Diablo Valley College (1984), Oakland Invaders (1985), Arizona Wranglers (1986), and Calgary Stampeders (1987–88). In 1989 Biletnikoff became the wide receivers coach for the Oakland Raiders, a position he held until 2007.[34]

In February 1999, Biletnikoff's daughter Tracey was found strangled to death at age 20 in Redwood City, California.[35] Tracey's boyfriend, Mohammed Haroon Ali, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2012 after admitting he strangled her with a T-shirt at a drug and alcohol treatment center during an argument over whether he had relapsed.[36] He was sentenced to 55 years to life imprisonment. Biletnikoff called Ali an "animal" after the sentencing, and said his hatred for him would never go away.[37] In 2015, Biletnikoff founded Tracey's Place of Hope in Loomis, California, a shelter for domestic violence victims and substance abuse treatment for females ages 14 to 18.[38][39]


Biletnikoff was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.[26] In 1999, Biletnikoff was ranked number 94 on The Sporting News' list of the "100 Greatest Football Players".[40] He was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1991. The Fred Biletnikoff Award, awarded annually by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation to the nation's outstanding receiver in NCAA Division I FBS since 1994, is named in his honor.[41] In 2016, Biletnikoff was named the Walter Camp Man of the Year by the Walter Camp Football Foundation in recognition of his public service and his contributions to football.[39]

See also


  1. ^ "Fred Biletnikoff". Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Archived from the original on November 22, 2016. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  2. ^ Birchfield, Jeff (February 21, 2014). "At 70, Biletnikoff relishes his past". Johnson City Press. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  3. ^ 1920 United States Federal Census, 1930 United States Federal Census
  4. ^ Hoffman, Frank; Gerhard, Falk; Manning, Martin J. (2013). Football and American Identity. Routledge. p. 94. ISBN 978-1135427146. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  5. ^ Tafur, Vic (September 26, 2012). "Biletnikoff, honored at high school, praises Mark Davis". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  6. ^ "Bob Biletnikoff Leads Florida's Back Selection". Ocala Star-Banner. Associated Press. November 10, 1964. p. 10. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  7. ^ "Record Books Rewritten As Florida State Rips TU". The Oklahoman. Associated Press. October 20, 1985. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Fred Biletnikoff College Stats". Sports-Reference. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  9. ^ Martin, Buddy (November 22, 1964). "Eager FSU Bombs Gators". Ocala Star-Banner. AFN. p. 25. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Nohe, Patrik (July 19, 2013). "FSU All-Time Countdown – No. 14 – Fred Biletnikoff". Miami Herald. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  11. ^ "Butkus Again All-American". Eugene Register-Guard. December 4, 1964. p. 1B. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  12. ^ Johns, Walter (November 30, 1964). "Captains' All-America Honors 2 Irish Stars". Evening Independent.
  13. ^ Gangi, Ted. "FWAA All-America" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on December 27, 2015.
  14. ^ "Tide's Wayne Freeman Wins All-America Honors". The Tuscaloosa News. November 17, 1964. p. 9. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  15. ^ "Notable Lambda Chis". 2018. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  16. ^ Toomay, Pat. "Part 2: The wild and the innocent". ESPN. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  17. ^ a b "Raiders waive Biletnikoff". Lawrence Journal-World. Associated Press. June 12, 1979. p. 13. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  18. ^ Smith, Don (1996). "Fred Biletnikoff: "I like catching passes."" (PDF). The Coffin Corner. Vol. 18, no. 5. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  19. ^ "(Not So) Fast Freddy". Pro Football Hall of Fame. February 23, 2010. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  20. ^ "Raiders in the Hall of Fame – Fred Biletnikoff". Oakland Raiders. Archived from the original on December 12, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  21. ^ Career receiving yards, 1978 leaderboard
  22. ^ Plaschke, Bill (January 14, 2001). "Stickum Up!". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  23. ^ "Stickum: They Both Use It". Reading Eagle. Associated Press. December 26, 1974. p. 44. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  24. ^ Kaplan, Emily (July 14, 2015). "History of the NFL in 95 Objects: Stickum". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  25. ^ Chadiha, Jeffri (August 9, 2007). "Notorious image sticks with these Raiders". ESPN. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  26. ^ a b c Miller, Rusty (February 2, 1988). "Ditka, trio 1988 picks for Hall". Kentucky New Era. Associated Press. p. 2B. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  27. ^ "Boston Patriots at Oakland Raiders - October 24th, 1965". Pro-Football-Reference. Sports Reference. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  28. ^ a b c "Fred Biletnikoff Stats". Sports Reference. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  29. ^ Bock, Hal (January 1, 1968). "Oakland romps past Houston, 40-7; meets Packers in Super Bowl Jan. 14". Youngstown Vindicator. Associated Press. p. 55. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  30. ^ "Super Bowl II - Oakland Raiders vs. Green Bay Packers - January 14th, 1968". Sports Reference. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  31. ^ Rollow, Cooper (July 28, 1988). "Catching On To Fame". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  32. ^ "Fred Biletnikoff Bio". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  33. ^ "Fred Biletnikoff". CFLapedia. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  34. ^ Dubow, Josh (January 31, 2007). "Hall of Famer Biletnikoff Retires". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  35. ^ Lynem, Julie; Finz, Stacy; Wilson, Marshall (February 17, 1999). "Ex-Raider's Daughter Slain / Boyfriend of Tracey Biletnikoff arrested at Mexico border". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  36. ^ "Man guilty of killing Tracey Biletnikoff". ESPN. Associated Press. March 15, 2012. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  37. ^ "Killer of ex-Raider Fred Biletnikoff's daughter sentenced". Associated Press. June 16, 2012. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  38. ^ "A Legend and his Daughter's Legacy". Sports Illustrated. February 24, 2016. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  39. ^ a b Morelli, Joe (January 10, 2016). "Fred Biletnikoff proud to be receiving Walter Camp Man of Year honor". New Haven Register. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  40. ^ "Sporting News Top 100 Football Players". Democrat and Chronicle. August 15, 1999. p. 3D. Retrieved November 21, 2016 – via Open access icon
  41. ^ Pino, Mark (April 17, 1994). "A Raiders move would hurt Bucs". Ocala Star-Banner. p. 1C. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
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Fred Biletnikoff
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