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George Izo passed away on June 11 in a retirement community in Alexandria, Virginia. He played backup quarterback in the NFL for seven years, including four in Washington, and shared the unbreakable pro football record for the longest touchdown pass. He was 84. Wp Take advantage of everything. Select a strategy. ArrowRight According to his son Erik Izo, the cause was complications from Alzheimer’s illness.
When he was a collegiate athlete at Notre Dame, Mr. Izo (pronounced Eye-zoh) was featured on the Sports Illustrated cover. He was selected by the Cardinals with the second choice in the 1960 NFL Draft, when the team was still in its inaugural season in St. Louis. Arizona is now the team’s home state.
He was moved to Washington in 1961, where he worked as Norm Snead’s and eventually Sonny Jurgensen’s understudy. The Redskins, as the team was then known, did not have Mr. Izo start a game, but on September 15, 1963, at Cleveland, he did make a memorable play.
When Mr. Izo entered the game in the third quarter of the Redskins’ first game of the season, they were down 27-7. Head coach Bill McPeak. On its own 1-yard line, Washington possessed the ball.
Mr. Izo faked a handoff on his first play, ducked under pressure in the end zone, and then threw a long pass downfield. Bobby Mitchell, a Washington receiver, received the ball at roughly the 40-yard line and outran the Cleveland defenders to the goal.
Only two 99-yard touchdown passes have ever been completed in NFL history. The first was in 1939, when another Washington quarterback, Frank Filchock — a backup to Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh — teamed up with Andy Farkas against Pittsburgh.
Shirley Povich, a veteran sportswriter for the Washington Post, saw both plays.
“No substitute quarterback was ever more instantaneous or spectacular a success,” Povich wrote of Mr. Izo in 1963. “Izo threw the ball  yards in the air, and waiting for it was Bobby Mitchell, no less. … On his first play of the game, Izo wrote himself into the record books as co-holder of the mark for the longest touchdown pass.”
11 additional 99-yard touchdown passes in the NFL have occurred since that time.
Mr. Izo threw for eight touchdowns in a Washington uniform before being traded to the Detroit Lions in 1965. He had a final season with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1966 before retiring from football. He had 12 touchdown passes by the time his career was up. The only time he played for a winning team was his rookie year with the Cardinals.
George William Izo was born Sept. 20, 1937, in Barberton, Ohio. His father, who worked at a chemical factory, had played football at Notre Dame under Coach Knute Rockne in the 1920s before having to leave school because of an injury.
In high school, the younger Mr. Izo was a standout performer in basketball and baseball and an all-state quarterback in football. He followed his father to Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., at a time when the Irish football team was struggling.
In 1958, before a crowd of 57,773 in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, Mr. Izo led Notre Dame to a 40-20 win over Navy.
“Using the wing-T formation for the first time,” New York Times reporter Allison Danzig wrote, “and with the newly promoted quarterback, George Izo, completing nine of fourteen passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns in the first half — one of the greatest displays of aerial proficiency in Notre Dame history — the Fighting Irish turned the game into a rout in the second quarter.”
Mr. Izo grew to be a powerful 6-foot-4 and 218 pounds, but knee injuries held him back. Late in the 1959 season, he had recovered and took over as starting quarterback. In Notre Dame’s final two games, he led the Irish to upset wins over Iowa, 20-19, and seventh-ranked Southern California, 16-6.
In the Iowa game, he threw for three touchdown passes, including a 56-yard game-winner to halfback George Sefcik in the fourth quarter.
Mr. Izo graduated in 1960 and began his pro career. After retiring from football, he worked in condominium sales in the Bahamas, then returned to the Washington area and became a partner in a wholesale food company. He later moved to Arizona, where he coached football and taught at a Navajo Nation high school. He lived in California for several years before settling in Northern Virginia.
He was active in NFL alumni events and helped organize overseas tours of U.S. military bases for former players, including Hall of Famers Paul Hornung and Ken Stabler and former Washington quarterback Billy Kilmer.
His marriages to Anita Rowland and Deborah Spivey ended in divorce. Survivors include two children from his first marriage, Erik Izo of Maplewood, N.J., and Amy Mann Fang of Arlington, Va.; a daughter from his second marriage, Lillianna Izo of Richmond; a brother; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
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