Syracuse great John Mackey dies

Syracuse great John Mackey has died following a long battle with dementia. He was 69.

Mackey helped spur the evolution of the tight end position both at Syracuse and in the NFL, where he became a Hall of Famer. He starred for the Orange from 1960-62, and was selected to the school's All-Century team in 1999. Syracuse retired his No. 88 in 2007. The John Mackey Award, established in 2001, is presented annually to college football's most outstanding tight end.

"The Syracuse football family lost a very special person last night when John Mackey passed away after a long illness," Orange head coach Doug Marrone said. "Our thoughts and prayers certainly go out to his family and especially to his wife, Sylvia."

"John Mackey's passing is extremely difficult news for all of us," added Director of Athletics Dr. Daryl Gross. "John was a true hero, an icon, and a leader in the world. Our hearts go out to his lovely wife, Sylvia, and his family. His impact on Syracuse will never be forgotten as his legacy will last forever. We salute and celebrate John's amazing life, as he has touched us all. God bless John Mackey.”

"John Mackey was one of the great leaders in NFL history, on and off the field," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

"He was a Hall of Fame player who redefined the tight end position. He was a courageous advocate for his fellow NFL players as head of the NFL Players Association. He worked closely with our office on many issues through the years, including serving as the first president of the NFL Youth Football Fund. He never stopped fighting the good fight."

Indeed, Mackey's much-publicized battle with dementia helped create the 88 Plan, providing relief for those players battling that disease or Alzheimer's.

Prayers go out to his family, friends and all those who mourn the loss of an all-time great.