Pro football had never seen anything like him.
Entering pro football in the 1950s, Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb was 6’9 and about 290 pounds, a Marine Corps veteran who learned his defensive end skills in the service. The “scout” who discovered him? NFL PR man and future commissioner Pete Rozelle.
Lipscomb had never played college football but became an All-Pro and two-time NFL champ.
His size and speed weren’t easy for even the best offensive linemen to handle. A first team all pro by his sixth season in 1958, Big Daddy helped the Baltimore Colts to back-to-back championships.
“I just reach out and grab an armful of players from the other team and peel them off until I find the one with the ball. I keep him,” he once said of his technique.
How good was he? “Big Daddy was in the same category as [Hall of Famers] Merlin Olsen and Bob Lilly,” former player and team executive John Wooten told Sports Illustrated’s William Nack for a remarkable profile on Lipscomb in 1999. “He could devastate an offense by himself.”
Sadly, Lipscomb didn’t always surround himself with the best people and had a big appetite for partying. Orphaned after his mother’s murder, teammates described him as fun-loving one day and deeply troubled the next. He died in Baltimore at age 31 on the night of May 10, 1963, the victim of a heroin overdose.
Now, a jersey from the final season of his pro football career—maybe the last one he ever wore in an NFL game—is coming to auction. Lipscomb spent his last two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and it’s his #76 black and gold durene home game shirt that will be sold by Heritage Auctions next month, where it’s expected to fetch $30,000 or more.
According to Heritage, “Legendary Hall of Fame owner Art Rooney, Sr. removed this jersey from Lipscomb’s locker following his tragic death, gifting it to his good friend and former professional boxer Phil “Chappy” Goldstein.”
Bearing multiple team repairs and frayed tags, the well-used jersey includes a custom-hemmed crotchpiece just below the Rawlings tag. A size 56 jersey, it has been authenticated A10 by MEARS.
Bidding in the two-part Heritage Platinum Night Auction is scheduled to open February 1 and run through February 23 and 24.