Former Ohio State defensive back Jack Tatum died of a heart attack on Tuesday, 10TV Sports reported. He was 61.
His death was confirmed by legendary Ohio State tackle John Hicks, a former teammate of Tatum.
Tatum played under coach Woody Hayes at Ohio State, where he was recruited as a running back. He later switched to defense, where he played linebacker and defensive back.
He was a first-team All-Big Ten player in 1968, 1969 and 1970 and was a unanimous All-American in 1969-70.
In 1970, he was selected as the nation’s best defensive player and was among the top vote getters for the Heisman Trophy.
Nicknamed “The Assassin,” Tatum played professionally for the Oakland Raiders.
In his nine-year career, he was named to the Pro Bowl three times and was a member of the 1976 Super Bowl champion Raiders. He was inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1981 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
Perhaps the play he was recognized the most was a 1978 hit that paralyzed New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingly.
Tatum retired from the NFL in 1980 and suffered diabetes-related issues the rest of his life. He had all five toes on left foot amputated. He later had his right leg amputated.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel later instituted the “Jack Tatum Hit of the Week Award,” given to the Buckeye player who had the best defensive hit of the game.
“We have lost one of our greatest Buckeyes,” Tressel said in a statement that was issued Tuesday. “When you think of Ohio State defense, the first name that comes to mind is Jack Tatum. His loss touches every era of Ohio State players and fans.”
Tatum served as a co-chair for the Central Ohio Diabetes Association.
He is survived by his wife and three children.