Norb Hecker, the first head coach of the Atlanta Falcons who won eight championship rings in the NFL, has died at 76.
Hecker died of cancer Sunday at his home of his son Jeffrey in Los Altos, Calif. He had been living there for the past two weeks, his son said Tuesday night.
As coach of the Falcons from 1966-68, Hecker compiled a 4-26-1 record. He was an assistant with the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi in the 1960s. The Packers won three NFL titles before Hecker went to Atlanta.
He then was defensive coordinator of the New York Giants from 1969-71 before joining Bill Walsh at Stanford as an assistant. Hecker accompanied Walsh to San Francisco, where he coached defensive backs and linebackers, and got four Super Bowl rings.
"I saw him two days before he died," Walsh told The Plain Dealer. "He was very cognitive to the end. He said, 'I've had a great run.' He was a charismatic man, an astute judge of talent and an excellent teacher."
Hecker won a championship ring as a player. He was a defensive back and receiver for the 1951 Los Angeles Rams.
He was born in Berea and attended tiny Baldwin-Wallace College in that Cleveland suburb.
Walsh will speak at Hecker's memorial service March 26 at Stanford University chapel.
As a player, Hecker also spent one season with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. He finished his career with the Washington Redskins from 1955-57. He spent the 1958 season as a player-coach with the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Hecker's wife of 46 years, Barbara, died in 1998. He is survived by five children, seven grandchildren, two brothers and a sister.