Former Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Bears quarterback Bill Wade died Wednesday night. He was 85.
Adam Sparks of the Tennessean received confirmation of the news Thursday from Wade's daughter, Sharon Wade Kinser. She also provided a statement to the outlet: "Our family is celebrating that his sight is restored, that he is able to walk and run on the field again. He is free, and he is home. So much has been robbed of him in the last decade. To be able to know that he can see the beauty of heaven gives our family comfort."
Wade rose to stardom at Vanderbilt, where he was named the SEC's Player of the Year during his final season with the Commodores in 1951.
His success at the collegiate level allowed him to become the first overall pick of the Rams in the 1952 NFL draft. He was part of a terrific incoming class that also included Les Richter, Ollie Matson and Frank Gifford, among others.
The Nashville, Tennessee, native threw for over 18,000 yards and 124 touchdowns across 13 seasons in the NFL. He also added more than 1,300 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground. His accolades included two Pro Bowl appearances (1958 and 1963) and a pair of All-Pro selections (1962 and 1963).
His crowning achievement came in the 1963 NFL Championship Game when he scored the Bears' only two touchdowns in a 14-10 victory over the New York Giants.
In 2007, Wade told Mike Downey of the Chicago Tribune that he underwent eye surgery after being diagnosed with glaucoma, but he came out of the procedure blind. He tried to make the best of a difficult situation.
"It's OK," Wade said. "What are you going to do? It's what the system dictates, and there's nothing you can do about it. It's like going to war. You aren't happy about it, but it's the way things are so you do your best."
Wade certainly always did his best on the football field in an era before high-powered passing attacks took over the league. He came up in the clutch for the Bears in 1963 to capture a championship, which will be his lasting NFL legacy.