The New York Giants have had many legendary defensive players over the decades. At any given time over the last 30-40 years, the Giants have had at least one legend striking fear in the hearts of a opposing lineman, running back and quarterback. Brad Van Pelt was one of those legends, though NFL fans may have better memories of Harry Carson, Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan than Van Pelt.
However, memories of Brad Van Pelt are spreading throughout the Giants’ community, after Brad Van Pelt’s sudden death today at the age of 57. A cause of death has not been officially confirmed, but reports are that Van Pelt suffered several heart attacks at his Michigan home.
Before Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson came around, Brad Van Pelt was the leader of the Giants’ defense. Van Pelt was with the Giants from 1973 to 1983, and got to play with Carson and Taylor just as they became feared by the NFL.
Van Pelt, Carson, Taylor and Brian Kelly made up the Giants’ “Crunch Bunch” at the start of the 1980’s, which returned the Giants to respectability and soon made them an NFL power.
However, Van Pelt may not be as remembered by causal NFL fans, since he largely played for Giants’ teams that did little in the 70’s. Though Van Pelt made five Pro Bowls and was voted the Giants Player of the Decade in the 1970’s, the Giants were rarely contenders in that decade.
Once the Giants finally became Super Bowl contenders, Van Pelt finished his career with the Raiders and the Browns for three years. Van Pelt retired with the Browns in 1986, where he could have faced the Giants in the Super Bowl if not for John Elway’s “Drive” against the Browns in the AFC title game.
Van Pelt is also remembered for being a great at Michigan State. In 1971 and 72, Van Pelt was an All-American, and was the first defensive back to win the Maxwell Award in 1972. Van Pelt went into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
Before attending Michigan State, Van Pelt was an all-state quarterback in high school. He also played basketball and football for the Spartans in college.
Van Pelt’s son, Bradlee, was a former backup quarterback for the Broncos and Texans between 2006-07. He transferred from his father’s alma mater of Michigan State to start for Colorado State in college.
Van Pelt was found dead by his fiancee, according to Harry Carson, who discussed his former teammate’s death with the New York Daily News.
Newsday- “Giants great Brad Van Pelt dies at 57” www.newsday.com/sports/football/giants/ny-sppelt0219,0,2603295.story
Detroit Free Press- “Former MSU star Brad Van Pelt dies” www.freep.com/article/20090218/SPORTS07/90218043/Former+MSU+star+Brad+Van+Pelt+dies