It's hard to believe that a football blog didn't even take a pause to acknowledge the passing of old school legendary kicker of the Minnesota Vikings, Mr Fred Cox who invented the NERF football. There are geezers who remember him as the kicker with the one bar helmet with the squared shoe that kicked old school style. It's hard to believe now that was how they kicked it. He had a glorious career that is a team record with a whopping 1365 points & made 282 field goals. He played for 15 years all for MIN & when he retired he was the second leading scorer all time. He did lead the league in scoring twice. These kids today complain about a kicker missing a field goal, well back in the day they were brutal as even Cox was a 60% kicker & that was acceptable back then.
Yet, his legacy is that of the NERF football, yet somehow it was a secret that nobody ever talked about, even his teammates didn't know. He teamed up with a local football coach to come up with a foam ball & they pitched it to Parker Brothers. PB had the popular NERF ball basketball hoop that many of us had as a kid. PB's ball was foam & that didn't translate well to a football, it worked great in the house for the basketball, but the football failed when used outdoors. PB didn't like the game that Cox had created, but they wanted his ball because it was perfect because they found a way of taking hot goo & pouring it into a mold & after drying it formed a thin skin to improve the ball's performance just like grandma when she would cook pudding. The rest is history as PB now had a toy that became a sales leader & is truly an iconic toy of all time. Cox claimed he didn't get rich, but did alright from the quarterly royalty checks.
As a kid, the NERF allowed us to play football whenever warever. I didn't have a replica football, but I went through many NERF's in my childhood. It allowed us to play at school at recess because it was viewed as safer than a real football. Back then, only a few kids had a real football, but many had a NERF. There was that one kid who had that hard plastic ball that was impossible to throw & next to impossible to catch in cold weather. That's what made the NERF so great, it was easier to catch & was sometimes the only choice. The only thing that sucked about a NERF was getting it wet & then going through the drying out process as in the neighborhood, you had good NERF's & bad NERF's. I can't believe it was him that invented it & to find out now was just crazy. I remember him as a lineman sized guy that was squeezed into that helmet, I remember having his football card. The legacy of the NERF deserves a mention as it allowed many of us to play football all the time. My childhood would have been different without it, but I'm thankful for having it, yet sadly we find out after all this time & after he passed. So Fred Cox, thank you for that invention that allowed us to play football anytime, anyplace. The NERF football is worthy of it awesomeness. We can start bickering again, but we should take a moment to thank Fred Cox for the many memories he has given us. I only hope he knows the impact of his invention.