Former linebacker Matt Blair, the second-leading tackler in Minnesota Vikings history, died Thursday at age 70, the team announced Friday.
His death was believed to be caused by complications from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The neurodegenerative disease, caused by repeated brain injuries, cannot be diagnosed while a person is alive.
The Star-Tribune reported that Blair had been in hospice care.
Ex-teammate Scott Studwell told the Star-Tribune of Blair’s death, “He’d been suffering for a while, so I guess maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, but it’s still too young. It’s a sad day.”
Vikings owner Mark Wilf said in a statement, “Matt Blair was a great presence at Vikings events and a tremendous teammate long after playing. He embodied the best of what it means to be a Viking. Matt is a Ring of Honor player whose legacy will live on forever with the franchise and in the community he loved.”
Blair, a Hawaii native, starred at Iowa State before the Vikings selected him in the second round of the 1974 draft. He played all 12 of his NFL seasons in Minnesota, earning six Pro Bowl appearances and All-Pro honors in 1980.
He was credited with 1,452 tackles, trailing only Studwell’s 1,981 in club history. Blair also had 16 interceptions and 20 fumble recoveries in his 160 career games (130 starts).
An All-American at Iowa State in 1973, Blair was voted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2012, the Vikings added him to their Ring of Honor.
–Field Level Media