John 'Bull' Bramlett dies at 73

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- John "Bull" Bramlett, a former professional football and baseball player who was nicknamed the "Meanest Man in Football," has died. He was 73.

Shelby County Mayor's Office spokesman Steve Shular told The Associated Press that family members say the Memphis native died early Thursday. Shular said Mayor Mark H. Luttrell was close to Bramlett, who had been in declining health.

Bramlett was a star baseball and football player at Memphis State, now the University of Memphis.

He went on to play professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals for two years before changing to the NFL, where he played from 1965 to 1971 and was a two-time All-Pro linebacker. He was runner-up to Joe Namath for American Football League rookie of the year in 1965.

His pro football career included four teams: the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Boston Patriots (now New England) and Atlanta Falcons.

Because of his on-field aggressiveness and his antics off the field, Bramlett was given his nickname. But he changed his behavior when he retired from football, becoming a Christian evangelist.

According to a website dedicated to his ministry, Bramlett spent 40 years speaking to hundreds of churches, schools, prisons and conventions, as well as NFL and MLB chapel services.

"Indeed, he inspired many people as a professional football player," Luttrell said in a statement. "Yet ... John's stories of forgiveness and hope through his Christian witness made a real difference in the lives of countless people throughout the nation and here in Shelby County.

"John Bramlett was ... a dear friend. I'm grateful for having known him and his family."