The Chargers were saddened to learn that Earl Faison, a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame and 50th Anniversary Team, has passed away at the age of 77.
"On behalf of the Spanos family and the entire Chargers organization, we'd like to express our deepest sympathies to the Faison family," said Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos. "I had the privilege of getting to know Earl through the years. He was a consummate gentleman with a booming voice and laugh. His passion for the Chargers and the game of football was unwavering. As a member of the original Fearsome Foursome, Earl was an integral part of the Chargers' dominance in the team's early years, helping lead the team to two American Football League championship games and winning the AFL title in 1963. His post-football career as an educator is just as accomplished. He will be missed."
"Earl was a complete and total inspiration to me," said former defensive lineman Bob Petrich. "From the time I was a rookie through my entire career with the Chargers, everything he did I tried to copy. He helped me improve more than I could've ever done without him. I'm going to miss him."
Faison played for the Chargers from 1961-66, and was their first round pick (seventh overall) in the 1961 American Football League Draft. The 6-5, 260-pound defensive end out of Indiana was named Rookie of the Year and the Chargers Most Valuable Player in his first season.
"He must have tipped or batted down 25 passes during the season," Offensive Coach Joe Madro said after learning Faison was named Rookie of the Year. "I've never seen a rusher get his hands on the ball as often. If he didn't touch it, he made the passer lob it over his rush and ruined a lot of patterns that way."
Faison was also selected to play in the AFL All Star Game his rookie year, marking the first of five straight appearances. He was named the game's defensive MVP in 1963, and was a four-time All-AFL selection (1961; 63-65) and a second-team All-AFL pick in 1962.
Nicknamed "tree" for being strong, sturdy and outstanding in all phases of defense, Faison was considered one of the AFL's elite pass rushers during his career. He also recorded five interceptions and two touchdowns, which was especially rare for a defensive lineman during that time. As a result, the Chargers inducted Faison into the team's Hall of Fame in 1986, becoming the 12th member of the elusive ring of honor.
"There haven't been many better," his coach Sid Gillman said at the time. "He was tremendous on the pass rush and strong on the run."
Faison impressed many over his career, including Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback George Blanda.
"You put two blockers on him and it doesn't seem to bother him. He can really put on a rush."