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SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Former football star and "Gambler One," Col. (ret.) Felix "Doc" Blanchard, died from pneumonia April 19, 2009 at his home in Texas. Colonel Blanchard won the Heisman Trophy as a member of the U.S. Military Academy in 1945 and later flew 84 missions over North Vietnam. He was the 77th Tactical Fighter Squadron Commander from June 29, 1960 through July 16, 1961. (courtesy photo)
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Former Heisman Trophy winner, 'Gambler One' dies

Posted 4/21/2009   Updated 4/21/2009 Email story   Print story

    


by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Williams
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


4/21/2009 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Former football star and "Gambler One," Col. (ret.) Felix "Doc" Blanchard, died from pneumonia April 19, 2009 at his home in Texas. He was 84.

Colonel Blanchard, a three-time All-American, became the first junior to win the Heisman Trophy as a member of the U.S. Military Academy in 1945 and drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although the War Department would not allow him to play professional football, he chose an Air Force career and flew 84 missions over North Vietnam.

He was the 77th Tactical Fighter Squadron Commander from June 29, 1960 through July 16, 1961. While assigned to the 77th TFS, Royal Air Force Wethersfield, United Kingdom, Colonel Blanchard was awarded an Air Force commendation by successfully landing a burning North American F-100 Super Sabre to avoid crashing into a populated area. He could have ejected, but the aircraft would have crashed into a village.

During his Heisman-winning season in 1945, Colonel Blanchard was named the country's best amateur athlete by winning the Sullivan Award. He ran for 718 yards while scoring 19 touchdowns as a fullback, leading West Point to a record of 9-0. He also played linebacker, place-kicker and punter. On the track and field team, he was a shot-putter and sprinter.

West Point will retire Colonel Blanchard's No. 35 during a ceremony this fall.

Colonel Blanchard grew up in Bishopville, S.C. and is survived by his daughters Mary and Jo Mills of San Antonio; his son Felix Blanchard III of N.C., his sister Mary Elizabeth Blanchard of Sumter, S.C., and seven grandchildren.



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