NFL  > San Diego Chargers  > R.I.P. Walt Sweeney - Chargers 1963-1973; Redskins 1974-1975
February 4, 2013, 09:54 PM
[U-T San Diego] Walt Sweeney, a former Chargers guard named to All Star teams and Pro Bowls for nine consecutive years, and member of the AFL HOF, died on Saturday of pancreatic cancer. He was 71. The Chargers drafted Sweeney in 1963 with a first round pick. He had played defensive end and tight end at Syracuse, but Chargers coach Sid Gillman moved him to the offensive line, where he became an 11-year starter with the Chargers.

Sweeney played in the 1963 AFL Championship at Balboa Stadium, still the Chargers' only victory in a league title game. He was named to the Chargers' 50th Anniversary Team and their Hall of Fame.

In his biography, 'Off Guard,' Sweeney detailed his battles with addictions to alcohol and drugs. Sweeney also played for the Chargers when a team trainer provided steroid pills to players at Rough Acres Ranch, a remote training camp.

Re 'Off Guard,' he told Bud Poliquin of

"I am not writing this as a celebrity. Because I am not a celebrity. I'm just a washed up football player, an old man. I played a million years ago in a small market. But, hopefully, people will read it and learn how things really were back in the 60s and 70s. I am surprised I remembered as much as I did. There is a lot of grim stuff in the book."

That would help to explain why Sweeney was, by his reckoning, (1) all but ignored in his adulthood by SU, down the hill from which he had spent many a disorderly night at the old Clover Club and other haunts, and (2) shunned by the NFL, which he sued for rendering him 'unemployable' and 'totally and permanently disabled' after having been plied with too many chemicals by Chargers personnel during the San Diego franchise's sordid drug scandal of the 60s.

"I am," he declared, "a reminder to everybody." [Bud Poliquin of].

One of the finest O-linemen not to be enshrined in the NFL HOF. Unfortunately, he's a guy many in the NFL want to forget. R.I.P.
Comment #1 has been removed
February 5, 2013  03:05 PM ET

Sweeney should be in the NFL HOF as should Jerry Kramer.

February 5, 2013  03:06 PM ET

Condolences to his family and friends. His is not a familiar name, ripper, but I'll be reading his book. For you Kindle users out there, Off Guard is available from the free Lending Library. Thanks for making us aware of this man and his story, ripper.

Jack, thanks. I was just a kid when he was playing and never paid much attention to him (after all I was a kid and he was a Guard and it was all about Hadl and Alworth back then), until Hadl's last couple of years in '71 and '72. But I learned more about him after he retired. He was as legit as they come as a player, but he is better known for his addictions and being one of the first to expose what was going on in the early 60s.

As I understand it, the '63 Chargers were the first football teams to hire a strength coach and incorporate a strict weight training program in their workout regimen, and Sweeney and HOFer Ron Mix claim they were feeding guys Dianabol three times a day in training camp, while not telling them what they were ingesting other than to say it would help assimilate protein, and certainly nothing was being said about health risks, etc. Dianabol was legal at the time and not banned by any athletic association. It's roots are traced to the Russian Olympic team, supposedly.

I have not read Off Guard, but I plan to as well.


Remember to keep your posts clean. Profanity will get filtered, and offensive comments will be removed.

Truth & Rumors


  1. 1
    D'Antoni's newest 'blunder'
  2. 2
    Baseball's top 2015 free agent
  3. 3
    The NHL's model franchise?
  4. 4
    Cup drought weighing on Sid
  5. 5
    Smith won't play for San Fran in 2014

SI Photos