The Chargers lost another member of our family when Sam Gruneisen passed away on Sept. 28 in Orlando, Florida.
He was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 1962 in the same draft class as John Hadl and Lance Alworth and began his career as a back-up guard, eventually moving to play center in 1965. As a starter, he didn’t miss a game for six years until he was sidelined by a knee injury in 1971. During Gruneisen’s tenure with the Chargers, he played under future Hall of Famer’s Sid Gillman and Al Davis, and in AFL Championship games in 1964 and 1965. He played for the Chargers until 1972 and finished his NFL career with the Houston Oilers in 1973.
After working as an area vice president for National Fast Foods in the ‘70’s, Gruneisen began his coaching career at the University of California Berkeley as the offensive line coach under Joe Kapp from 1981-84. He later served as assistant head coach to John Hadl for the Los Angeles Express of the United States Football League (USFL) from 1984-85. Gruneisen was the defensive coordinator at San Jose State under Claude Gilbert from 1986-87 until a job offer from Al Davis brought him to Los Angeles, where he coached linebackers for the Raiders from 1987-90. From 1995-98, Gruneisen was the defensive coordinator at East Michigan University. While Gruneisen was semi-retired, he coached the offensive line at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina from 2000-02.
Gruneisen was born on Jan. 16, 1941 in Louisville, Kentucky and attended Villanova University. He enjoyed playing golf and spending time with his family. Gruneisen is survived by his wife, Barbara; three children – Scott, Stephen and Jennifer – and five grandchildren: Jessica, Nola, Megan, Samuel and Emily.