Jim Tyrer is arguably the most accomplished player not to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 6’6″, 280-pounder was an All-American with the Ohio State Buckeyes and then became one of the best offensive linemen at the professional level with the Kansas City Chiefs, earning multiple Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections while also helping the team to a Super Bowl victory.
However, life after football wasn’t overly kind to Jim Tyrer, at least not financially, and his life took a drastic turn. Just five years after announcing his retirement, Tyrer fatally shot his wife before turning the gun on himself, leaving their four children without both parents.
Here’s a look back on the tragic story of Jim Tyrer.
Jim Tyrer was an All-American at Ohio State and won a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs
Born in Newark, Ohio, in 1939, Jim Tyrer was a star football player in high school and chose to stay close to home to play his college ball at Ohio State under legendary head coach Woody Hayes. During his time in Columbus, Tyrer helped the Buckeyes to a Rose Bowl victory, was named a co-captain, and was also a two-time All-American.
In 1961, Tyrer was taken with the 14th overall pick of the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears but was also selected with the 22nd pick of the AFL draft by the Dallas Texans. He chose to sign with the Texans and started 13 of 14 games at offensive tackle as a rookie for legendary coach Hank Stram. In his second season, he earned the first of eight consecutive All-AFL selections and helped the Texans to an AFL title.
Unhappy with attendance and competing with the Dallas Cowboys, team owner Lamar Hunt moved the franchise to Missouri the following season, at which point the team became known as the Kansas City Chiefs. Tyrer continued to set the standard at his position and in 1966, the Chiefs won the AFL Championship and earned the right to face the Green Bay Packers in the very first Super Bowl, a game the Packers won, 35-10.
In the final NFL-AFL matchup before the two leagues merged in 1970, Tyrer and the Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7, in Super Bowl 4. Upon the Chiefs’ move to the NFL, Tyrer continued his stellar play and was named a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in 1970 and 1971. He played two more seasons with the franchise and, overall, played in 189 consecutive games for the franchise, including the postseason.
Jim Tyrer was traded by the Kansas City Chiefs ahead of the 1974 season and spent his final year in the NFL with the Washington Redskins before retiring from the game in the summer of 1975.
He struggled after retiring from the NFL
Upon retiring from the NFL, Jim Tyrer was offered a job with the Kansas City Chiefs as a scout but turned it down. According to the Lawrence Journal-World, he’d made approximately $80,000 a year during his peak years as a player but the scouting job only paid about $25,000, which apparently wasn’t enough to support his wife and four children. He did, however, regularly attend Chiefs games as he and his family had become fixtures in the Kansas City community and decided to stay there after he retired from the NFL.
Tyrer attempted four different business ventures but all of them failed for one reason or another. According to a friend, he’d racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and the last business he attempted, a tire business, went under due to a mild winter in Missouri in 1979-1980 and he began working for Amway, which apparently didn’t work out either.
Jim Tyrer killed his wife and then himself in 1980
On the morning of September 15, 1980, as reported by the Toledo Blade, Jim Tyrer shot and killed his wife, Martha, before turning the gun on himself. His 17-year-old son told authorities he heard three shots and then found the bodies of his parents. Two of the other Tyrer children, aged 13 and 11, were asleep at the time while their 10-year-old, with whom Jim Tyrer had attended a Chiefs game just one day earlier, wasn’t home. Family members told police that Tyrer had shown no signs of depression but that he’d been out of work.
In 1981, Jim Tyrer was named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame but he didn’t receive the votes necessary for induction and hasn’t been on the ballot since. To this day, many believe that Tyrer suffered from CTE, which wasn’t discovered until a quarter-century after his death.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference