One of Tellico Plains’ most legendary athletes passed away on Wednesday.

Mike Stratton, an all-time great football player for the Bears, died at age 78. He was a Vonore native and carved out an incredible gridiron career at Tellico before playing collegiately at the University of Tennessee.

Stratton lettered three times as a two-way player for the Vols, playing from 1956-61.

He scored four touchdowns and recorded 152 receiving yards on 11 catches, according to UTSports.com.

The Buffalo Bills drafted Stratton in the 13th round of the 1962 AFL Draft. He helped lead the team to consecutive league championships in 1964-65 and was named an AFL All-Star six straight times from 1963-68.

He is well-known for his hit on San Diego Chargers player Keith Lincoln in the 1964 AFL Championship, a play regarded as the “hit heard round the world.”

Stratton actually ended his career with the Chargers, retiring in 1973. He is currently the only Tellico Plains alum to play in the NFL.

“It is indeed a sad day for our Tellico Bear family,” the TPHS Legacy Club said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. “Please pray for comfort for the family of Bear, Vol, and Bills legend, Mike Stratton. Mike passed away today.

“The only TPHS Bear to ever play in the NFL.”

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