PLYMOUTH — Johnny Mazur, the Plymouth native who went on to become a star quarterback for Notre Dame and later the first coach of the New England Patriots, has died.
He was 83 and had been battling Parkinston’s Disease for many years.
Joe Mazur of Plymouth, a second cousin, said Johnny Mazur was treated like a hero by the “old timers” whenever he would return home.
“All his friends and the Plymouth sports enthusiasts would meet up at the VFW or the Ole Shawnee,” Joe Mazur said. “He’s definitely one of Plymouth’s good guys.”
Born June 17, 1930, Mazur attended Plymouth High School then Wilkes College, where Notre Dame coaches noticed his skills. They signed him and he played for the Fighting Irish from 1949 to 1951 and team won the national championship in 1949, according to old newspaper accounts.
After college, he enlisted in the U.S. Marines and played for several Marines teams. When he was discharged in 1954, he played for the British Columbia Lions in the Canadian Football League, but his career was ended by an ankle injury.
He then coached at Tulane, Marquette and Boston Universities, before getting an assistant coach job for the Buffalo Bills.
While at the Bills, he instituted the two-man quarterback system with Daryle Lamonica and Jack Kemp and had some success in the post season.
An article in 2005 in the Boston Globe said Mazur was the last head coach of the Boston Patriots and the first head coach of the New England Patriots.
In 1969, he joined the Patriots as as offensive coordinator and the year after he was named interim head coach when Clive Rush was abruptly fired mid-season. When he was hired in 1971, he was one of three head coaches on the team’s payroll. New England was still paying off a three-year contract given to Rush and a five-year contract with previous coach Mike Holovak.
In 1971, Mazur inked a single-year contract right before Upton Bell was named GM.
Bell and Mazur reportedly had a sour relationship.
“I wanted Carl Garrett and Upton wanted Duane Thomas,” Mazur told the Boston Globe in 2005. ”I fought with him verbally. Carl Garrett was my boy.”
Bell sent Garrett to the Cowboys for Thomas, but the trade was ultimately nullified.
By mid-1972, Mazur’s career with the Patriots was coming to a close. The Patriots suffered their worst setback in their 13-year history, “a 52-0 drubbing” by the Miami Dolphins. It was the team’s sixth-straight loss.
“I have always placed uppermost in my mind the best interests of any organization with which I have been associated with,” Mazur told the Associated Press on Oct. 31, 1972. ” In accordance with this longtime personal policy, I am resigning my position with the New England Patriots.”
He later had assistant coaching duties for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Jets and retired in 1980 with a $1,500-a-month pension.
Mazur was inducted into the John Louis Popple Chapter of the Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame in 1986.
Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday from S.J. Grontkowski Funeral Home in Plymouth with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:30 a.m. in St. John the Baptist Church, Larksville. Friends may call 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Monday at the funeral home.