The Oldest NFL Player Ever Retired at 48 Years Old

Two of the oldest players in the NFL right now include Drew Brees and Tom Brady, who are 40 years old and 42 years old, respectively. Both men are playing at a high level despite their age. But did you know that neither even comes close to being the oldest NFL player of all time?

That honor falls to a player who was drafted nearly 70 years ago and is currently enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame. He retired when he was 48 years old. So who was the NFL’s oldest player of all time? 

Who was the oldest NFL player ever?

The oldest NFL player ever, George Blanda, attempting a field goal.
Quarterback/Kicker George Blanda of the Oakland Raiders attempts a field goal | Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The oldest NFL player ever was George Blanda. On January 4, 1976, 48-year-old George Blanda became the oldest player to ever play in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders. As impressive as it is for players like Brady or Brees to play into their early 40s, Blanda took it to another level. He was nearly 50 when he retired from the NFL. He also played multiple positions, including quarterback and kicker. 

Blanda wrote about playing at an advanced age for Sports Illustrated

“Personally, I think it’s a shame, all the star football players who retired in the prime of life. Lou Groza, washed up at 43. Ben Agajanian, prematurely retired at 45. Y. A. Tittle, gone when he was 38 and Bob Waterfield at 33. Norm Van Brocklin hung them up at 35 as did Otto Graham, the finest quarterback I’ve ever seen.

Why, that’s a tragedy. Does anybody really think Otto Graham couldn’t have played six or eight more seasons? Of course he could. Even now, at 49, Otto handles himself better than most of the young bucks right out of college. But like all the others, he fell victim to one of pro football’s many unreasoning prejudices: that you’re no longer capable of playing when you reach 30 or 35. Baloney!”

The funniest part about Blanda’s comments? At the time he made them, he still had five years remaining in his career. As far as Blanda’s special tricks for a long-lasting career? He didn’t really have any. According to Blanda, his diet consisted of steak, potatoes, and green vegetables. He also claimed to smoke and drink often. 

George Blanda career achievements

Blanda was the 119th overall pick of the Chicago Bears in the 12th round of the 1949 NFL Draft. He played for the Bears, Houston Oilers, and Oakland Raiders. He won two NFL championships. Here’s what he was able to accomplish statistically during his career: 

  • 340 games played
  • Record as a quarterback: 53-50-1
  • Completed 47.7% of his passes
  • 26,920 passing yards
  • 236 touchdowns
  • 6.7 yards per attempt
  • 277 interceptions
  • 335 field goals made out of 639 attempted
  • 943 extra points made out of 959 attempted 
  • 22 punts for 809 yards

Blanda was inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame in 1981. When he retired, he was the NFL’s all-time leading scorer. 

How did George Blanda perform in his final season? 

Here’s a recap of how George Blanda performed during the season in which he turned 48: 

  • Completed one pass on three attempts for 11 yards
  • One interception 
  • Sacked three times 
  • Made 13 field goals on 21 attempts 
  • Made 44 extra points on 48 attempts

Blanda was a true throwback — a player who played two positions well into middle age. There’s not likely to be another player like him any time soon, although Tom Brady seems like he may challenge him in the age department. 

The bottom line is that Blanda represents a bygone era in which players could play much later than they can now. Players now are faster, training regimens are more intense, and rates of injury are higher.

We’ll probably never see a player make it to the age of 48, and that may not be a bad thing. But Blanda’s consistency and longevity should be honored, and it’s good that he’s a Hall of Famer. He accomplished something that likely will never be accomplished again.