Former Raiders DB Rodger Bird Dies at Age 76

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIIMay 17, 2020

Fans watch from a general view of Oakland Alameda County Coliseum during the first half of an NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Rodger Bird, an All-SEC tailback at the University of Kentucky and former Oakland Raiders defensive back, died Saturday at age 76.

Las Vegas Raiders @Raiders

The Raiders Family is saddened to learn of the passing of Rodger Bird. Statement »  https://t.co/CXm5Jy3Uuu https://t.co/QLDZHacse3

"The Raiders Family is saddened to learn of the passing of Rodger Bird," the Raiders said in a team statement. "A standout at Kentucky, Bird was drafted by the Raiders in 1966 and played three seasons as a defensive back and returner for the Silver and Black. The thoughts and prayers of the Raider Nation are with the Bird family at this time."

Bird spent three seasons with the Raiders after being drafted 63rd overall in the 1966 AFL draft.

He mostly spent time at defensive back while also returning kicks. Through 38 career games, Bird returned 94 punts for 1,063 yards as well as 25 kicks for 533 yards.

The transition to defense repurposed his most useful skill—running downfield.

A Kentucky Wildcats Hall of Fame member, Bird was an All-SEC tailback in 1964 and 1965, earning All-American honors in 1965 via Time. Bird and his three brothers, Jerry, Calvin and Billy, all played sports at UK.

In three seasons with Kentucky, Bird rushed for 1,699 yards and 21 touchdowns at a time when defenses keyed in on the run game, before passing became the biggest offensive staple.

"Rodger Bird is a true Wildcat great and a Kentucky football legend," Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. "We are proud to call him a UK Athletics Hall of Famer and thankful for all he and the entire Bird family have given to this program. We send our condolences to all whose lives he touched."

Bird was pronounced dead in Henderson, Kentucky, per Rana L. Cash of the Louisville Courier Journal. No cause of death has been given.