Former Detroit Lions Pro Bowl linebacker Mike Lucci dies at 81

DETROIT, Mich. -- Former Detroit Lions Pro Bowl linebacker Mike Lucci, the team's defensive MVP from 1969 to 1971, has died, his family confirmed Tuesday. He was 81.

He died after an extended illness, according to an obituary posted by Glick Family Funeral Home in Boca Raton, Florida.

Lucci spent nine seasons with the Lions from 1965 to 1973, being named to the Pro Bowl in 1971.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mike Lucci, whose passion for life was felt by all who knew him," Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp said in a statement. "Many will remember Mike for his toughness as a player during his nine seasons with the Lions, earning Pro Bowl honors in 1971 and being named the team's defensive MVP three times.

"His positive presence as a leader within our Lions Legends community made him a familiar face to all, and his willingness to give back will always be part of his great legacy. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to his wife, Patricia, and the entire Lucci family."

Lucci was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round of the 1961 draft from the University of Tennessee. He won a NFL championship with the Browns in 1964 before the Lions acquired him via trade in 1965.

He was also inducted into the Pennsylvania, National Italian-American and Michigan Sports Halls of Fame.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.