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Giants By The Numbers: 76 Is For ...

Roosevelt Grier.

If you aren't old enough to have seen him play (and I was only six years old when he retired), you might remember Grier as an actor, a guitar player or a huge man who made it OK for men to do needlepoint.

Grier, though, was first and foremost a tremendous football player. Listed at 6-foot-5, 284 pounds, though most throught he was 300 pounds or more, Grier was a huge defensive tackle for his time in the NFL. Grier spent 11 seasons in the NFL, and was a Giant the first seven of those (1955-62). During that time he made the Pro Bowl twice and was an All-Pro in 1956. He spent the final four seasons of his career in Los Angeles as part of the 'Fearsome Foursome' with Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Lamar Lundy.

From Lew Freedman's book 'New York Giants: The Complete Illustrated History,' here is an excerpt on Grier.

Roosevelt Grier's nickname was 'The Gentle Giant,' but he was never called by anyone who tried to tuck a pigskin into their chest and run past him. Grier, one of the first of the colossal defensive tackles at 6-feet-5 and about 300 pounds, wrapped up the optimistic ballcarrier in a big hug and threw him to the ground. There was nothing gentle about that, except for the possibility that Grier might be kind enough to help the runner to his feet again.

Grier came out of Penn State and excelled in a 11-season career as one of the New York defenders who were treated to fans shouting 'Defense!' and as one of the Los Angeles Rams 'Fearsome Foursome.' But he was more Renaissance man than football stud. Grier played guitar, recorded albums, served as a bodyguard to U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy (and took the handgun from Sirhan Sirhan on the night of Kennedy's assiassination in Los Angeles), acted and took up needlepoint, an image completely at odds with that of a rough-and-tumble football player.

Grier admitted that he began needlepoint as a joke after "needling" a friend about the activity, and then crossed gender boundaries when he wrote a book called 'Rosey Grier's Needlepoint For Men.'

Grier was a two-time Pro Bowl player and his personality was one of the Giants' assets in the locker room. During his tenure he played in five title games for the Giants.

In an article about the Fearsome Foursome, I found this tidbit about Grier.

Grier weighed at least 300 pounds - the Giants scale only went that high and Grier maxed it out every time - and he could make tackles from sideline to sideline. But unlike someone like Big Daddy Lipscomb, who was trying to break ball carriers in two, Grier - who counted needlepoint as one of his hobbies - preferred to tackle in a way not to hurt.

"Whenever the Giants gang-tackled a ball carrier, Sam Huff would be trying to kill him, and Rosey Grier would be praying for him," Frank Gifford wrote in his book, The Whole Ten Yards.

"If Rosey Grier had ever managed to control his weight, and if he'd ever been able to get angry, he'd have easily made the Hall of Fame."

Grier was a Hall of Fame finalist in 1973. Without question, this is his number in Giants' lore.

Other Notables Who Have Worn 76
  • Jumbo Elliott: Was a fine left tackle for the Giants from 1988-95, then spent six seasons manning the same spot for the New York Jets. A one-time Pro Bowler, Elliott might have been even better if not for a balky that had to sometimes limit his effectiveness.
  • Chris Snee: The current occupant of the 76, Snee has already earned two Pro Bowl trips and one All-Pro nod in six seasons at right guard. He is on his way to being one of the best guards in franchise history, if he isn't there already.