Alzado, Lyle : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Alzado, Lyle

Lyle Martin Alzado

A four-time All-Pro, Alzado was one of the most intimidating defensive linemen in the history of the NFL. A big, powerful man who once had 27 wins as an amateur boxer, he died at 43 of brain cancer brought on by excessive steroid use. Confronting his imminent death, he remarked, "I started taking anabolic steroids in 1969 [in college] and never stopped. It was addicting, mentally addicting. Now I'm sick, and I'm scared. Ninety per cent of the athletes I know are on the stuff. We're not born to be 300 pounds or jump 30 feet. But all the time I was taking steroids, I knew they were making me play better. I became very violent on the field and off it. I did things only crazy people do. Once a guy sideswiped my car and I beat the hell out of him. Now look at me. My hair's gone, I wobble when I walk and have to hold on to someone for support, and I have trouble remembering things. My last wish? That no one else ever dies this way."

During his life, Alzado, whose mother was Jewish and who had a Bar Mitzvah, was questioned about his Jewishness. Lyle said, "...when I am asked, I try to explain it, exactly what I am and what I have faith in. If there is ever a situation - and there have been - people will challenge my Judaism. I'm basically pretty protective...and I will protect that part of me - no matter what I have to do."

Birth and Death Dates:
b. April 3, 1949 - d. May 14, 1992

Career Highlights:
Born in Brooklyn to an Italian-Spanish father and a Jewish mother, the Alzados moved to Long Island when Lyle was 10 years old. His father, who Alzado called a drunk, left when Lyle was a sophomore in high school, and Alzado played football at Lawrence High School. He did not receive any scholarship offers and attended tiny Yankton College, a NAIA school in South Dakota. Seen in game films by a Denver Bronco scout, Alzado was selected by the Broncos in the fourth round (79th overall) in the 1971 NFL Draft.

Alzado's combination of speed (4.75 in the 40-yard dash) and strength made him one of the premier pash rushers in the NFL. His versatility -- he played both defensive tackle and end -- also made him a feared lineman. A starter as a rookie in 1971, Alzado said, "My first year with the Broncos, I was like a maniac. I outran, outhit, outanythinged everybody. All along I was taking steroids and I saw that they made me play better and better." After his rookie season, he returned to Yankton to complete his college education and received a B.A. in physical education with an emphasis on secondary education.

In 1972, Alzado led the Broncos in sacks (10.5) and tackles (91). Two years later, he had a team record 13 sacks. In 1977, Alzado was named AFC Defensive Lineman of the Year as the Broncos made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history after a 12-2 regular season. They won the AFC West and reached the Super Bowl before falling to the Dallas Cowboys, 27-10. The following year, Denver finished the season 10-6, repeating as division champions, but they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs.

Prior to the 1979 season, Alzado had a contract dispute with the Broncos and walked out of training camp. An amateur boxer, he considered turning pro (he fought an exhibition against Muhammad Ali), but was then traded to the Cleveland Browns before the season. The two-time Pro Bowler (1977 and 1978) played three seasons with the Browns and registered 16.5 sacks for the team. In 1982, Alzado moved to the Los Angeles Raiders, and thrived under legendary owner Al Davis. He led the team with seven sacks in the strike-shortened season and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

The following year, Alzado had seven sacks and teamed on the line with Hall of Famer Howie Long to lead the Raiders to a record of 12-4-0 and a 38-9 victory over the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl. Alzado retired after the 1985 season, having recorded eight points that year (safety, and fumble recovery for touchdown). Lyle played in a total of 196 games in the NFL, and was an All-Pro from 1977-1980, and again in 1982. After his playing career ended, he appeared in 15 movies before being diagnosed with brain cancer. In a 1991 Sports Illustrated article, a weakened Alzado spoke out against the horrors of steroids.

Brooklyn, New York

Career Dates:
Alzado played at Yankton College (South Dakota) from 1968-1970. He then played defensive end and defensive tackle in the NFL for the Denver Broncos from 1971-1978, the Cleveland Browns from 1979-1981, and with the Los Angeles Raiders from 1982-1985.

Physical description:
6'3", 255 pounds

Career Statistics:
In the NFL:
Games: 196
Sacks: 23
Touchdowns: (on a fumble recovery)
Safeties: 3 (tied for second all-time in the NFL)

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Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League, edited by Bob Carroll, Michael Gershman, David Neft, and John Thorn (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999)