Add to Calendar
Skip to main content Skip to footer

Former All-American Earl Morrall Passes Away At Age 79

Earl Morrall earned All-America honors as a senior in 1955 after leading the Spartans to a win in the Rose Bowl over UCLA.

April 25, 2014

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Former Michigan State All-American quarterback Earl Morrall, who was a member of the 1954 and 1956 Rose Bowl-winning football teams, died Friday, April 25. He was 79.

Morrall was one of the country's premier signal callers during his collegiate career, earning consensus All-America honors his senior year in 1955 while leading Michigan State to a 9-1 record and a No. 2 national ranking by The Associated Press. Morrall completed 42-of-68 passes for 941 yards, then tying the school record, and ranked among the top 10 in the nation in total offense with 1,047 yards. He averaged a nation-best 9.1 yards per play and passed for a school-record 274 yards against Marquette, a mark that stood until 1969. Morrall, who finished No. 4 in the voting for the Heisman Trophy, also ranked No. 2 in the nation in punting with a 42.9 average.

Morrall concluded his MSU stint in the top spot in passing yards (2,015) and pass completion percentage, and closed his Spartan career with a win in the 1956 Rose Bowl over UCLA. In 1996, he was chosen as a member of MSU's Centennial Super Squad.

Morrall also was an infielder on the 1954 Big Ten Championship Spartan team that advanced to the College World Series. He lettered for three seasons (1954-56) under MSU Hall of Fame Coach John Kobs and batted a career-high .312 in 1955 while playing third base. Over his 76-game career, Morrall compiled a .270 batting average with five home runs, five triples, 10 doubles and 34 RBIs. He was named the Michigan State Baseball Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 2012.

Morrall was a charter member of the Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame Class in 1992.

Chosen by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the 1956 NFL Draft, Morrall enjoyed a successful 21-year pro career and was a member of three Super Bowl championship teams (Baltimore: 1970; Miami: 1972, 1973). He played for the San Francisco 49ers (1956), Pittsburgh Steelers (1957-58), Detroit Lions (1958-1964), New York Giants (1965-67), Baltimore Colts (1968-1971) and Miami Dolphins (1972-76).



Morrall was named the Associated Press NFL Player of the Year in 1968 while leading the Colts to Super Bowl III. In Super Bowl V, Morrall helped Baltimore to a 16-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, completing 7-of-15 passes for 167 yards. In 1972, he was a vital part of the undefeated Dolphins season, starting 11 of Miami's 17 games that season. For his efforts, he earned the inaugural NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award and was also named the AFC Player of the Year.

A two-time Pro Bowl selection (1957, 1968) and two-time first-team All-Pro (1968, 1972), Morrall threw for 20,809 yards and 161 touchdowns in his career.

Remembering Earl Morrall...
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio
"Earl Morrall was one of the top multi-sport athletes in Michigan State history. Earl had a remarkable career at MSU, winning two Rose Bowls, quarterbacking the 1955 team to the National Championship and playing as an infielder in the 1954 College World Series. He went on to have a long and productive career in the National Football League.

"On the field, Earl was respected for his toughness. In the community, he was best known for his generosity and kindness. He was a great Spartan. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Jane, his five children and all of his former teammates at this time of sorrow."

Former Michigan State All-American and teammate Walt Kowalczyk:
"Earl was one hell of a quarterback and one hell of a good guy. He bent over backwards for many of us snotty-nosed sophomores when the freshmen couldn't play. He did an excellent job. I really thank him for a lot of things that happened to me because he was somewhat of a silent coach to me.

"With me, he got in my face a little bit. I really don't blame him, because he was looking for a winner, and you couldn't get a winner if you had someone like me on the team not knowing what the heck I was doing. I thanked him so many times for being Earl Morrall and for being such a great guy to me.

"When thinking about Earl, the first thing that comes to mind was that he was the first quarterback that called his own plays. Duffy (Daugherty) or Sonny (Grandelius) would call the play in, and if he didn't like it, he would call his own play.

"The power of winning is what he (Earl) had. He had the ability to motivate many of us and he taught me what winning was all about."

Partners & Sponsors