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Roman Gabriel dies at 83. The first Filipino-American quarterback in NFL was MVP in 1969

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Roman Gabriel dies at 83. The first Filipino-American quarterback in NFL was MVP in 1969
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Roman Gabriel dies at 83. The first Filipino-American quarterback in NFL was MVP in 1969

2024-04-21 10:14 Last Updated At:10:50

Roman Gabriel had big size and a big arm when he was the No. 2 draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1962. Even while playing in an era of grinding it out on the ground, he still holds the Rams’ team record with 154 touchdown passes.

Gabriel, the first Filipino-American quarterback in the NFL and the league MVP in 1969, died Saturday. He was 83.

His son, Roman Gabriel III, announced his father’s death on social media, saying he died peacefully at home of natural causes.

In 2021, the elder Gabriel told the Los Angeles Times, “I am retired with heart problems and arthritis but happy." He said he split time between Wilmington, North Carolina, and Little River, South Carolina.

“We mourn the loss of Rams legend and football pioneer, Roman Gabriel,” the Rams said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Gabriel, who played at North Carolina State and was a two-time player of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

He was 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, big for a quarterback in that era. Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi once described him as “a big telephone pole,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Gabriel played 11 years for the Rams and five years with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he was traded after the Rams acquired John Hadl.

“Gabe was an amazing player and an even better mentor. Words can't explain my thanks for what a great teammate he was,” retired quarterback Ron Jaworski, whom Gabriel backed up on the Eagles in his final season, posted on X. “A special player and a better man!”

Gabriel was such a hot prospect that the Rams made him the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, and the Oakland Raiders of the rival AFL selected him No. 1. Gabriel wound up signing with the Rams, though it took until George Allen was hired as coach in 1966 for Gabriel to start leaving a mark.

From 1967 to 1970, Gabriel led the Rams to a 41-14-4 record and two division titles, though never a playoff game. He was voted MVP in 1969 after throwing for 2,549 yards with 24 touchdown passes and five rushing scores.

Allen left for Washington after the 1970, and Gabriel was shipped to the Eagles in 1973. He was the NFL comeback player of the year, leading the league with 23 touchdown passes and 3,219 yards, as he tried to help revive the Eagles' offense.

After retiring, Gabriel worked briefly for CBS, calling NFL games.

He went into coaching, with stints at Cal Poly Pomona, the Boston Breakers of the USFL and Raleigh-Durham in the World League of American Football.

Gabriel also dabbled in acting. His movie credits included “Skidoo” starring Jackie Gleason in 1968, and 1969's “The Undefeated” starring John Wayne and Rock Hudson. He appeared in such TV shows as “Gilligan's Island,” “Perry Mason,” “Ironside” and “Wonder Woman.” He also joined Bob Hope on a USO tour of Vietnam.

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FILE- Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Roman Gabriel poses in this August 1975 photo in Philadelphia. Gabriel, the former North Carolina State quarterback who was the 1969 NFL MVP with the Los Angeles Rams, died Saturday, April 20, 2024. He was 83. (AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy, File)

FILE- Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Roman Gabriel poses in this August 1975 photo in Philadelphia. Gabriel, the former North Carolina State quarterback who was the 1969 NFL MVP with the Los Angeles Rams, died Saturday, April 20, 2024. He was 83. (AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy, File)

FILE - Los Angeles Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel, right, is hit by a host of Dallas Cowboys as the ball heads for the sidelines during the third period of an NFL Playoff Bowl football game, Jan. 3, 1970, in Miami, Fla. Gabriel, the former North Carolina State quarterback who was the 1969 NFL MVP with the Los Angeles Rams, died Saturday, April 20, 2024. He was 83. (AP Photo/File)

FILE - Los Angeles Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel, right, is hit by a host of Dallas Cowboys as the ball heads for the sidelines during the third period of an NFL Playoff Bowl football game, Jan. 3, 1970, in Miami, Fla. Gabriel, the former North Carolina State quarterback who was the 1969 NFL MVP with the Los Angeles Rams, died Saturday, April 20, 2024. He was 83. (AP Photo/File)

North Carolina State quarterback Roman Gabriel is in the clutches of a UCLA player as another is driving in at left as he was stopped after an end sweep during an NCAA college football game Oct. 29, 1960, in Los Angeles. Gabriel, the former North Carolina State quarterback who was the 1969 NFL MVP with the Los Angeles Rams, died Saturday, April 20, 2024. He was 83. (AP Photo/Harold P. Matosian)

North Carolina State quarterback Roman Gabriel is in the clutches of a UCLA player as another is driving in at left as he was stopped after an end sweep during an NCAA college football game Oct. 29, 1960, in Los Angeles. Gabriel, the former North Carolina State quarterback who was the 1969 NFL MVP with the Los Angeles Rams, died Saturday, April 20, 2024. He was 83. (AP Photo/Harold P. Matosian)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rep. Thomas Massie’s role in the failed bid to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson didn’t harm his standing with Republican voters in his Kentucky district, where he easily won his primary election on Tuesday in the conservative stronghold.

Massie far outdistanced challengers Eric Deters and Michael McGinnis to maintain his hold on the seat representing the 4th District, which stretches across northern Kentucky. With no Democratic opponent in the fall, Massie’s primary victory cleared his way to claim another term in November.

The libertarian-leaning congressman said his victory amounted to a “referendum on thousands of independent votes I have cast in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Kentucky’s 4th District.”

“I want to thank the voters for trusting me to represent them again, and I look forward to continuing our fight for personal liberty, economic freedom, fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government,” Massie said in a statement.

Elsewhere, the dean of Kentucky’s congressional delegation, Republican Rep. Hal Rogers, easily defeated three challengers in the 5th District covering eastern and parts of southern Kentucky. No Democrat is running for the seat. Rogers is a senior member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which positions him to steer federal money back to his Appalachian district.

Rep. Morgan McGarvey, the state’s only Democratic congressman, coasted to victory over two opponents in the Louisville-area 3rd District. In November, he'll be challenged by Republican Mike Craven, who won his primary in the Democratic-leaning district.

Republican Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, will be opposed by Democrat Erin Marshall after both were unopposed in the 1st District primary. The Bluegrass State’s other congressmen — Republicans Brett Guthrie and Andy Barr — were unopposed in the primary.

Massie’s congressional race drew attention for his reputation of defying his party’s leaders — from then-President Donald Trump to the House speaker — without being punished by his constituents.

Massie aligned with fellow Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in the recent attempt to remove Johnson from his post as speaker. Massie co-sponsored Greene’s ouster resolution, which was overwhelmingly rejected by their colleagues.

Before the primary, Massie sounded unconcerned about any blowback from voters for trying to remove the speaker — nicknamed “MAGA Mike Johnson” by Trump. The former president remains enormously popular in the district.

“It’s a lot of inside baseball and ultimately, because he’s still the speaker, I think a lot of people don’t care,” Massie said last week.

Four years ago, Massie drew Trump’s wrath when the congressman singlehandedly caused a delay in passing a massive COVID-19 relief package. Trump called the Kentuckian a “third rate Grandstander.”

An unapologetic Massie said he tried to hold up what he considered to be an unconstitutional vote for a wasteful bill. Massie deflected Trump’s jabs by joking he was at least “second rate” as a grandstander.

Despite the presidential smackdown, Massie cruised to reelection that year. Two years later, Massie picked up the former president’s endorsement on his way to another reelection victory.

“They still appreciate somebody who will come up here and vote the way he believes is best, even if it’s at odds with Trump sometimes,” Massie said of his constituents. “So that’s sort of my brand at this point.”

In another twist, Massie supported Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ failed bid for the White House, again risking Trump’s anger. The ex-president didn’t give an endorsement in Massie’s primary race this year.

Massie's challengers included Deters, a former gubernatorial candidate who played up his steadfast support for Trump and portrayed Massie as a “goofball” lacking accomplishments in Congress.

Since joining Congress in late 2012, Massie has been known as an avid deficit hawk and staunch gun-rights supporter. In a recent post on the social platform X, Massie wrote: “America is on a path that won’t end well. We are borrowing money at an unsustainable rate, accumulating enemies through endless war, and eroding rights like free speech & privacy.”

Kentucky’s most contentious campaign in the fall is likely to be over a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow taxpayer money to flow to private or charter schools. If it is ratified by voters, state lawmakers could then decide whether to support private or charter school education with public funds. The state's popular Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, will align with the Kentucky Education Association, a group representing tens of thousands of public school educators, in opposing the measure.

FILE - Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., listens to the testimony of Attorney General Merrick Garland during House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies budget hearing on Capitol Hill, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Washington. Kentucky voters go to the polls for the primary election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Republican Rep. Rogers, faced three primary election challengers in the 5th District, which covers eastern and parts of southern Kentucky. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)

FILE - Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., listens to the testimony of Attorney General Merrick Garland during House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies budget hearing on Capitol Hill, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Washington. Kentucky voters go to the polls for the primary election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Republican Rep. Rogers, faced three primary election challengers in the 5th District, which covers eastern and parts of southern Kentucky. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)

FILE - Democrat Morgan McGarvey speaks to supporters in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, after the won the race for the state's 3rd Congressional District. Kentucky voters go to the polls for the primary election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Rep. McGarvey, the state’s only Democratic congressman, has two opponents in the Louisville-area 3rd District. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

FILE - Democrat Morgan McGarvey speaks to supporters in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, after the won the race for the state's 3rd Congressional District. Kentucky voters go to the polls for the primary election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Rep. McGarvey, the state’s only Democratic congressman, has two opponents in the Louisville-area 3rd District. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

FILE - Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., speaks during a TV news interview at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. Fresh off his role in a failed attempt to topple the House speaker, Republican Rep. Massie downplayed any political fallout back home in Kentucky as he looked to maintain his dominance in his solidly conservative district as Bluegrass State voters headed to the polls Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE - Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., speaks during a TV news interview at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. Fresh off his role in a failed attempt to topple the House speaker, Republican Rep. Massie downplayed any political fallout back home in Kentucky as he looked to maintain his dominance in his solidly conservative district as Bluegrass State voters headed to the polls Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

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