I always like to do a little something different on this special week due to the celebration of the birth of our country.

I love the Fourth of July and everything for which it stands. Besides, we’re all pretty much mailing it in at work this week anyway. Am I right?

While I’m beginning to run out of patriotic sports-themed ideas, there are still a few cards up my sleeve. I’ll let you decide whether it’s an ace or a deuce.

Without further ado, here are five famous sports figures who were born or died on the fourth of July.

William Thomas “Champion Jack” Dupree

(July 4, 1910 – January 21, 1992)

Never heard of Champion Jack? Well, neither had I until I started doing some research.

Born in New Orleans, Dupree was encouraged to become a boxer by Joe Louis and became a Gold Glove champion. He also happened to be a self-taught accomplished pianist and blues musician recording 16 albums between 1958 in 1993.

He served during World War II and was a Japanese prisoner of war for two years.

Can you imagine the stories this man could have told?

Al Davis

(July 4, 1929 – October 8, 2011)

Davis was one of the most legendary and eccentric figures in the history of American football. He was the original Raider serving as coach, general manager and owner of the franchise at different times in his career. He also served as commissioner of the AFL in 1966 before the merger with the NFL.

Davis refused to let his Raider teams play in cities where black and white players were forced to stay in separate hotels. His teams won three Super Bowls and he was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1992.

His iconic motto is still used practically daily in the world of sports, “Just win baby!”

George Steinbrenner

(July 4, 1930 – July 13, 2010)

If Al Davis is one of the most legendary and eccentric owners in sports history, George Steinbrenner is the other most legendary and eccentric sports figure. He’s the “Boss” of the Bronx.

It was once said Steinbrenner hired and fired like it was a bodily function. He was definitely erratic, but he bought the New York Yankees for $8.8 million in 1973 with a group of investors. The Bronx Bombers net worth is now listed at $4.6 billion. He doesn’t deserve all the credit, but he does deserve a lot of it.

I despise the Yankees, but I’ll always think of Steinbrenner fondly as the caricature that appeared on Seinfeld.

Hank Stram

(January 3, 1923 – July 4, 2005)

Another giant in the history of American football, Stram won three AFL championships with the Dallas Texans (which would later become the Kansas City Chiefs). He also won Super Bowl IV (Kansas City Chiefs 23, Minnesota Vikings 7).

I remember him as a color commentator on CBS talking about one team “matriculating” the football down the field.

Steve McNair

(February 14, 1973 – July 4, 2009)

Air McNair from tiny little Alcorn State. He put up incredible numbers in college and I believe his career total offense of 16,823 yards is still the record in FCS.

Most were skeptical that he could succeed in the NFL, but three Pro bowls and an MVP in 2003 silenced his critics. He led the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl in 1999 famously coming up one yard short.

Andy Graham is a regular columnist for The Outlook.

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