There’s nothing uncommon about an NFL player with Dade County roots. What’s uncommon about Edison High graduate Pete Athas, a Miami resident who died June 28 at 67 from lymphoma, is he played three times as many NFL seasons as he did college games.
Athas walked on at Tennessee in 1966, played two games for the freshman team (freshmen weren’t eligible until 1972), then quit the team in disinterest. He married Becky Henry in 1967 and, needing a job, began playing in the Continental Football League for the Orlando Panthers. Athas racked up 19 interceptions in two Continental League seasons.
The Panthers coach, Jimmy Garrett, later became a Dallas scout and the New York Giants defensive coordinator. That led to Dallas making Athas a 10th round draft pick in 1970 and the Giants signing the Hackensack, NJ native as a free agent in 1971.
Athas would make 13 interceptions in four seasons with the Giants, returning one for a touchdown. He played for Minnesota and Cleveland in 1975 and closed his career with New Orleans in 1976.
He’s survived by his wife and a son, Pete Athas, Jr.
Pete Athas, who had a brief tenure at Tennessee on the 1966 freshman team and later played six seasons in the National Football League, died June 28 in Miami from lymphoma. He was 67.
A native of Hackensack, N.J., and a graduate of Edison High School in Miami, Mr. Athas walked on at Tennessee, but left the squad in the fall of his freshman season.