The news regarding the passing of NFLPA Executive Director and Hall of Fame guard Gene Upshaw spread quickly around the NovaCare Complex on Thursday. The 63-year-old lost his battle with pancreatic cancer Wednesday night at his home in Lake Tahoe. Upshaw had only been diagnosed with the disease last Sunday.
"On behalf of the Philadelphia Eagles, I am very saddened and shocked to learn of Gene Upshaw's passing this morning," said Eagles Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie. "Whether it was as a Hall of Fame offensive lineman with the Oakland Raiders or as executive director of the NFL Players Association, Gene was a tremendous leader and a wonderful person. Gene always believed the best way to build the popularity of our sport was to craft a dynamic partnership between the players and the owners that served the best interest of the fans. We, as well as the entire NFL family, will miss his presence dearly and our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Teri, and their three sons."
Free safety Brian Dawkins, one of the Eagles' representatives for the players' union who has been heavily involved with the NFLPA for years, said the news of the passing was "a tremendous shock."
"To have someone of Gene's age and the way he carried himself, to all of a sudden receive a phone call that Gene has passed away was a huge shock to me," said Dawkins. "That's why I always live my life in a certain way and that's to make sure my house is in order because you never know when that time is coming."
Dawkins added that Upshaw's legacy will be felt by the players who reap the benefits provided by the union.
"From where the union started to where it is today is leaps and bounds," said Dawkins. "A lot of that credit has to go with Gene and what he stood for. He stood his ground on a lot of key issues. With the backing of the players he was able to get us in a pretty good position in terms of health benefits with the presidents at the time, be it Troy (Vincent) and Trace (Armstrong). They worked to get us in a very good position, and he's left us in a very good position."
Upshaw spent his entire 15-year playing career with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. The seven-time Pro Bowl guard won two Super Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.
In 1983, Upshaw was named the Executive Director of the NFLPA and was instrumental in the creation of free agency.
For more informtation about Upshaw's passing and his career, check out NFL.com.