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Former NU football coach

Francis Peay was head coach Northwestern from 1986 1991 going 13-51-2.  |  Sun-Times Library

Francis Peay was the head coach at Northwestern from 1986 to 1991, going 13-51-2. | Sun-Times Library

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Updated: October 24, 2013 6:33AM

Former Northwestern coach and nine-year NFL veteran Francis Peay died early Saturday morning. He was 69.

According to reports, Mr. Peay had suffered from prostate cancer.

Prior to Northwestern’s 35-21 win over Maine at home Saturday, the Wildcats honored Mr. Peay with a moment of silence. Mr. Peay was the head coach at Northwestern from 1986 to 1991, going 13-51-2.

Mr. Peay replaced Dennis Green who went on to to coach in the NFL, most notably as the head coach of the Vikings and Cardinals. Green and Mr. Peay were among the first African-American head coaches in major conference college football. Green initially hired Mr. Peay as a Northwestern assistant in 1981 and worked his way up to defensive coordinator before being promoted to head coach.

Mr. Peay was initially named as interim head coach in 1986 when he turned in his best season with the Wildcats when he won four games. It was the university’s best season since 1973.

Mr. Peay was drafted in 1966 by the New York Giants with the 10th overall pick as an offensive tackle. After playing with the Giants for two seasons he went on to play five seasons in Green Bay and two more with Kansas City.

He played collegiately at Missouri where he was an All-American. He was inducted into Missouri’s intercollegiate athletics hall of fame in 1991 and was named to the school’s All-Century Football Team.

Mr. Peay won the Sugar Bowl during his senior season at Missouri, beating Florida and then Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Steve Spurrier, who is currently the coach at South Carolina.

He actually only played two seasons at Missouri, transferring in and initially being tried on defense before moving to the offensive side of the ball.

Prior to coming to Northwestern, Mr. Peay spent two seasons as a junior varsity coach at Notre Dame. From there he coached the defensive line and linebackers for three seasons at Cal.


Twitter: @SethGruen

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