Paul Naumoff, the former Pro Bowl linebacker who spent 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, has died. He was 73.
Larry Click, funeral director at Click Funeral Home, said Saturday that Naumoff died Friday at his home in Lenoir City.
Naumoff played for the Lions from 1967-78. The former third-round draft pick reached the Pro Bowl in the 1970 season and won the Lem Barney Award as the Lions’ defensive MVP in 1975.
Naumoff played college football at Tennessee from 1964-66. He moved from defensive end to linebacker in 1966 and earned Associated Press All-America honors.
Naumoff made a key tackle of Larry Csonka to prevent a touchdown in Tennessee’s 18-12 1966 Gator Bowl victory over Syracuse.
Naumoff, the son of Macedonian immigrants, was born in 1945 in Columbus, Ohio.
During his senior season at Tennessee, Naumoff, a co-captain, volunteered to move from defensive end to linebacker after teammate Tom Fisher was killed in a car accident.
Jacob Naumoff, a grandson of the retired pro baller, was interviewed recently by Steve Williams of the Knoxville Focus. Williams asked if he felt like he inherited any football ability from his grandfather.
“I’m not nearly as gifted as my grandfather was,” replied Jacob. “Yeah, he passed down a few things, but I’ll never be as talented or as gifted.”
In 2015, after seeing his grandfather play the game as a young man in those films, the young Naumoff says, with a chuckle, “It’s hard to believe. Now he’s had all these surgeries. He’s not walking right, but gosh, he was such a gifted athlete.”
Naumoff is remembered for tackling Larry Csonka to preserve the Vols’ 18-12 win over Syracuse in the 1966 Gator Bowl. Csonka went on to play for the Miami Dolphins and become one of the NFL’s strongest running backs of all time.