Pat Studstill, Lions' Pro Bowl receiver, punter in '60s who went into acting, dies at 83

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Pat Studstill, a wide receiver and two-time Pro Bowler for the Detroit Lions in the 1960s who also was a decorated punter and later went into a career in acting, has died.

Studstill died Saturday at his Los Angeles home, according to a Detroit News obituary. He was 83.

Pat Studstill (25) played for the Lions from 1961-67, and led the NFL in receiving yards in 1966 with 1,266.

Studstill played for the Lions from 1961-67, and led the NFL in receiving yards in 1966 with 1,266. He made the Pro Bowl in 1965 as a punter, with a league-most 78 punts for an average of 42.8 yards, for a Lions team that was among the last in the NFL to employ full-time specialists, and in 1966 as a receiver. He had five receiving touchdowns in 1966 — one going for an NFL-record 99 yards, down the left side from backup quarterback Karl Sweetan, who replaced Milt Plum in a blown loss to the Colts in Baltimore.

It was in 1966 that Studstill also racked up five consecutive games of 125 or more receiving yards, an NFL record that was later matched by Calvin Johnson in 2012. Studstill had 700 receiving yards over that five-game stretch; Johnson's stretch included 702 yards, breaking Studstill's franchise record.

In his first two seasons, the Lions were 19-8-1 and in a Playoff Bowl game both years.

His rookie year, he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. His second year, he led the league in punt-return yards, averaging 15.8.

He was among a long list of characters on those old Lions teams, headlined by another Hall-of-Fame football player-turned actor Alex Karras. Studstill was a "total extrovert" who enjoyed nights on the town, beers and schmoozing it up with anyone and everyone, one time even strolling into the Tiger Stadium broadcast booth as Tigers radio man Ernie Harwell was mid-sentence, retired Detroit News sportswriter Jerry Green recalled.

Studstill played for the Los Angeles Rams from 1968-71 and played for the New England Patriots in 1972, finishing his career with 2,840 receiving yards and 18 receiving touchdowns.

He then retired and turned his attention to Hollywood.

In 1974, he was a technical adviser for "The Longest Yard," and then went into acting, with more than 200 commercials to his credit, including on-camera and voiceover work. Studstill also had acting credits on such TV shows as "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Magnum, P.I.," and "The Incredible Hulk." He also appeared as himself in "Paper Lion" during his playing days.

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He was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and attended the University of Houston, before he was signed by the Lions as an undrafted free agent. He also was an avid golfer and rescue-dog owner.

Studstill is survived by wife Rita, son Pat III, daughters Lisa and Shannon, and two grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family is suggesting making a donation to a charity of your choice; Studstill was particularly passionate about food banks, animal rescues and Earth conservancy.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984