Roman Gabriel, strong-armed QB for NFL’s Rams, Eagles, dead at 83

Roman Gabriel

Roman Gabriel, whose rifle arm and bruising physique made him a standout quarterback in the NFL for 16 seasons, died Saturday, his son said. He was 83.

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Gabriel died at his home in Little River, South Carolina, his son, Roman Gabriel III, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. He did not specify a cause.

At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, Gabriel was a formidable opponent in the pocket, the Los Angeles Times reported. Green Bay Packers coaching legend once referred to Gabriel as “a big telephone pole,” according to the newspaper.

He played 16 seasons in the NFL, including 11 for the Rams and five for the Philadelphia Eagles, according to He was named the NFL’s most valuable player in 1969, when he threw for 2,549 yards and a league-leading 24 passes in a 14-game season.

He was also the first Filipino American to play in the NFL, and was capable of throwing a football 70 yards.

Gabriel was also named the NFL’s comeback player of the year in 1973, The New York Times reported. Rebounding from knee problems and a sore arm, Gabriel led the NFL in touchdown passes with 23 and passing yardage with 3,219 yards, according to the newspaper.

Gabriel also appeared in four Pro Bowl games -- three times with the Rams and once with the Eagles.

“We mourn the loss of Rams legend and football pioneer, Roman Gabriel,” the Rams said in a statement. “We extend our condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Gabriel’s teams only reached the playoffs twice, and the Rams were eliminated both times.

Fifty years after he retired, Gabriel still holds several Rams records, the Los Angeles Times reported. They include touchdown passes (154), passes attempted (3,313) and wins by a starting quarterback (74), according to the newspaper.

Gabriel retired from pro football in 1977, finishing with 201 touchdowns for 29,444 yards in 183 career games, according to

Roman Ildonzo Gabriel Jr., was born on Aug. 5, 1940, in Wilmington, North Carolina. His father, a native of the Philippines, was a railroad waiter and cook, The New York Times reported. His mother, Edna Wyatt Gabriel, was Irish American.

Gabriel played college football at North Carolina State, where he was a two-time All-American, according to the newspaper. Playing on a team that emphasized a ground game, Gabriel passed for 19 touchdowns and ran for 15.

He finished ninth in balloting for the Heisman Trophy in 1961.

He was the No. 1 overall pick of the Oakland Raiders in the 1962 draft and was also the No. 2 draft pick of the Rams in the NFL draft.

He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.