Joe Don Looney
No. 32, 35, 26
Position:fullback, halfback
Personal information
Born:(1942-10-10)October 10, 1942
Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.
Died:September 24, 1988(1988-09-24) (aged 45)
Terlingua, Texas, U.S.
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:230 lb (104 kg)
Career information
High school:R. L. Paschal
(Fort Worth, Texas)
NFL Draft:1964 / Round: 1 / Pick: 12
AFL Draft:1964 / Round: 6 / Pick: 44
Career history
Career NFL statistics
Player stats at · PFR

Joe Don Looney (October 10, 1942 – September 24, 1988) was an American football fullback and halfback who played professionally in the National Football League (NFL) for the New York Giants, Baltimore Colts, Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins, and the New Orleans Saints.

Early life

Looney was born in Fort Worth, Texas, the son of Don Looney, who played college football at TCU and then in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1940 and the Philadelphia Eagles from 1941 to 1942. The younger Looney attended Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida and R. L. Paschal High School in Fort Worth.

College career

In his first semester at the University of Texas, Looney received four Fs and one D. Looney responded by dropping out and enrolling at Texas Christian University (TCU). He was eventually kicked out of that school and transferred to Cameron Junior College, where he played for Leroy Montgomery. He set a punting record in the 1961 Junior Rose Bowl, as his team won the junior college national championship. He made All-American with the University of Oklahoma in 1962, leading them to the Big Eight Conference championship. He played in only three games in 1963. Head coach Bud Wilkinson kicked him off the team after Looney netted four yards in six carries in a game against Texas. Looney did not get along with Wilkinson, and it was also alleged he had punched assistant coach Johnny Tatum, though Tatum debunked that claim.[1]

Professional career

Looney was selected in the first round with the 12th overall of the 1964 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. He was also selected in the sixth round of the 1964 AFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, but chose to play in the NFL instead. He was with the Giants just 25 days before they traded him along with offensive lineman Lou Kirouac to the Baltimore Colts for wide receiver R. C. Owens and safety Andy Nelson during training camp on August 24, 1964.[2] As a member of the Giants, Looney racked up a number of fines for violating team rules.[1]

Looney had only 23 carries with Baltimore that season. In November, he got into an argument about politics with a couple, then later that night, broke into their apartment with a friend and attacked them.[1] He received one year's probation and a fine.[1]

The Colts traded Looney and an undisclosed draft pick to the Detroit Lions following on June 3, 1965 for linebacker Dennis Gaubatz.[3] He put together one good season, racking up 114 carries for 356 yards and five touchdowns. While with Detroit, Looney was told by coach Harry Gilmer to carry in a play to the quarterback. Looney refused and told Gilmer, "If you want a messenger boy, call Western Union."[1][4]

Detroit traded Looney to the Washington Redskins, where he had an uneventful tenure. He had 55 carries for 178 yards. The only highlight of his time with the Redskins came on a play in which he did not even have the ball. He was pass protecting for quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, and ended up leveling an onrushing pass rusher with a right hook to the jaw. When he tried to renegotiate his contract, he was let go.[1]

In 1968, Looney was called up by the United States Army to go to Vietnam. He joined a lawsuit that claimed that a reserve unit could not be sent to fight in an undeclared war, but it was defeated.[1]

When he returned to the United States, he signed on with the New Orleans Saints. He had three carries for -3 yards with the Saints that year, and retired after the season.

Looney was ranked as the most uncoachable player in NFL history by NFL Films president Steve Sabol.[5] He would often intentionally run the wrong way on plays in practice in order to make things more challenging for himself. He once skipped several practices. When questioned about his absences, he responded by saying, "If practice makes perfect and perfection is impossible, why practice?"

After football

After his retirement from football he converted to Hinduism and joined the Siddha Yoga movement led by Swami Muktananda. Stan Trout, a fellow convert, alleged that Looney was one of Muktananda's "enforcers" who intimidated people into obeying him.[6]

Looney pled guilty to illegal possession of a firearm in federal court on January 7, 1974. He was sentenced to three years' probation. On February 5, 1988, he received a presidential pardon from Ronald Reagan.[7] Looney died at the age of 45, on September 24, 1988, near Luna Vista north of Terlingua, Texas, when his motorcycle ran off a rural highway and crashed into a fence.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Andy Benoit (June 21, 2017). "The Greatest Player Who Never Was". Sports Illustrated.
  2. ^ "Giants Send Looney, Kirouac to Colts for Owens, Nelson". New York Times. August 25, 1964. p. 30.
  3. ^ "Gaubatz, Lion Linebacker, Traded to Colts for Looney". New York Times. November 29, 1965. p. 30.
  4. ^ The Redskins Book: Page 67
  5. ^ Leaving their mark: NFL legends make impressions that last forever
  6. ^ The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda
  7. ^ The Very Colorful Joe Don Looney
  8. ^ "The greatest player who never was | Sporting News, the | Find Articles". Archived from the original on July 13, 2012.