Upshaw, Gene

Upshaw, Gene (Eugene Upshaw, Jr.), 1945–2008, American football player and labor union leader, b. Robstown, Tex. He attended Texas College of Arts and Industries (now Texas A&M, Kingsville), where he starred in football and track. Drafted (1967) by the Oakland Raiders, he played left guard (1967–81) in 217 regular-season games, and his power, aggressiveness, and speed on the offensive line helped propel his team to Super Bowl victories in 1968, 1977, and 1981. After his retirement as a player, Upshaw became the first African-American executive director of the National Football League Players Association, serving from 1983 until his death. Tough and plain-spoken, he led the union in the contentious 1987 strike and through lengthy contract negotiations that led to free agency, high salaries, revenue sharing, and other significant player benefits. Upshaw was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

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