Buffalo Bills AFL star linebacker Mike Stratton dies at 78

Former Buffalo Bills star linebacker Mike Stratton, who was a key member of the franchise’s American Football League championship teams in the mid-1960s, has died. He was 78.

The Bills announced Stratton died Wednesday because of heart complications stemming from a recent fall. Stratton was living in his native Tennessee, where he spent his college years playing for the Volunteers.

Stratton was a hard-hitting player who is best known for what became known as “the hit heard around the world.” It happened in the 1964 AFL championship game against San Diego and was played in Buffalo.

With the Bills trailing 7-0, Stratton tackled Chargers running Keith Lincoln so hard, the hit broke the player’s ribs. Buffalo went on to a 20-7 win for its first title.

Chargers coach Sid Gillman was quoted following the game by referring to Stratton’s hit as “one of the most beautiful tackles I have ever seen in my life.”

Buffalo followed that up by beating the Chargers 23-0 in the championship game the next year.

Stratton was part of a Bills defence that holds the pro football record of not allowing a touchdown rushing in 17 consecutive games, spanning the 1964-65 seaons.

Selected by Buffalo in the 1962 draft, Stratton spent his first 11 seasons with the Bills. He then ended his career following 1973 season with San Diego.

Stratton was a three-time All-AFL player and earned second-team AFL All-1960s team honours.

Aside from being named to the Bills’ 25th and 50th anniversary teams, Stratton was placed on the Bills Wall of Fame in 1994.

Funeral arrangements were not available.

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