Ex-Vikings Kicker, Co-Inventor of Nerf Football Fred Cox Dies at Age 80

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2019

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 1, 1970 file photo, Minnesota Vikings Fred Cox (14) kicks a field goal from near the twenty-eight yard line on score three points in first quarter of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. Fred Cox, the former Minnesota Vikings kicker who co-created the Nerf football, has died. He was 80. The Vikings announced Cox’s death Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/File)
Uncredited/Associated Press

Former Minnesota Vikings kicker Fred Cox, who was the co-inventor of the Nerf football, died Wednesday.

He was 80. 

"The Vikings mourn the loss of Fred Cox, one of our proudest legends and a member of the 50 Greatest Vikings," the Vikings said in a statement. "A respected teammate and friend, Fred's football career as the Vikings' all-time leading scorer set the stage for a life where he went on to achieve great things in business and in his community. Fred's positive energy, strength in his faith and passion for life will be missed."

Cox played for the Vikings from 1963-1977, winning the 1969 NFL championship and earning a Pro Bowl berth in 1970 with the franchise. The Vikings made four Super Bowls during Cox's tenure. 

At the time of his retirement, he was the NFL's second all-time leading scorer behind George Blanda. He remains the Vikings' all-time leading scorer. 

Cox and John Mattox invented the Nerf football in 1972, later partnering with Parker Bros. The product became ubiquitous in youth culture and remains popular, thanks to its safety for children and different variations—most notably balls that fly farther through the air than typical footballs. 

"It never dawned on me until they were selling six or eight million a year exactly what had happened," Cox told NFL Films in 2018. "They kept sending me checks. ... They're still paying me because there was no end to the contract."

Cox is survived by his wife, Bonnie, and his four children from his first marriage. 


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