Mike Montler, the center on the Buffalo Bills Electric Company offensive line that blocked for O.J. Simpson in his 2,003-yard season in 1973, has died in Grand Junction, Colo. He was 74.
The cause of death has not been announced. Funeral arrangements are pending.
A Columbus, Ohio, native, Montler was an All-American at the University of Colorado after service in the Marine Corps. He was drafted by the Boston/New England Patriots and played four seasons for them before he was traded to Buffalo in 1973.
Montler replaced Bruce Jarvis on the Bills' line at center in the 1973 season between guards Reggie McKenzie and Joe DeLamielleure and tackles Dave Foley and Donnie Green.
"He was older than all of us," DeLamielleure said by phone from North Carolina. "We had one of the youngest teams in the NFL at that time. I think we averaged like 24 years old. Montler brought the average up because he served in the Marines for four years and was in Vietnam. Then, Jarvis got hurt and they moved Mike into center. He was actually a tackle with the Patriots.
"If I got chewed out, I would really take it hard. Montler said, 'Hey, man, you're a good player. Don't worry about it. Everybody gets chewed out.' When I got into the Hall of Fame, Mike asked if I'd give his son, Bonner, an autographed hat. So I wrote on it, 'Bonner, I'd have never got here without your dad.' He was like a real mentor to me."
DeLamielleure described Montler as "a real physical guy" who relied more on strength than quickness.
"He wasn't a puller," DeLamielleure said. "It was kind of weird. He was really quick on a racket ball court, but – I don't want to say he was slow – he wasn't a fast running guy. He was quick in a small area. And he was a bull. He worked out all the time. He was a beast in the weight room."
In 1977, Montler was traded to Denver and played for the Broncos’ Super Bowl team that season. He played in 1978 and 1979 for the Detroit Lions before retiring.
In all, he played 126 games with 116 starts.