Ernie Ladd

Ernest "Ernie" Ladd (November 28, 1938 – March 10, 2007), nicknamed "The Big Cat", was an American collegiate and professional football player and a professional wrestler. A standout athlete in high school, Ladd attended Grambling State University on a basketball scholarship before being drafted to the American Football League's San Diego Chargers in 1961. Ladd found success in the AFL as one of the largest players in professional football history at 6' 9" and 315 pounds.

He helped the Chargers to four AFL championship games in five years, winning the championship with the team in 1963. He also had stints with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Oilers. Ladd also took up professional wrestling during the AFL offseason and after a knee injury ended his football career, he turned to wrestling full-time in 1969.

As a wrestler, Ladd became one of the top heels in the business. For much of his career he played a villainous character who would arrogantly taunt both opponents and crowds. Ladd feuded with many popular wrestlers of the time, including Wahoo McDaniel, André the Giant and Mr. Wrestling. He retired from wrestling in 1986.

Ladd was recognized for his careers in both football and wrestling. He was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame in 1981, the Grambling State University Hall of Fame in 1989 and the WWF Hall of Fame in 1995.

Ladd was diagnosed with colon cancer in the winter of 2003–2004. He died several years later on March 10, 2007 at the age of 68.

By Dean Hanley

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