When I read the headlines of Ernie “Big Cat” Ladd dieing, I have to admit I don’t think of his football career. Ladd played in the early sixties before I was born. No, I thought of Ernie Ladd the Pro Wrestler. When I was a youngster I was a big wrestling buff. Back when it wasn’t so outlandish that a person may actually think it was real. Well, at least a 6th grader.
A majority of Ladd’s wrestling career was before my time as well but I was into the history of the “sport” as well so I was well aware of his past achievements. The long list includes two separate “Brass Knuckles” championships among other titles.
The dude was just scary looking, perfect for a wrestling villain. I mean when you put this scary character in the ring against the most Plain Jane wrestling champion of all time, Bob Backlund, you have to think there is no way the champ can pull it off. Which looking back on it now, Backlund was such an amazing champion because the script could call for him beating a guy that is 6’9″, 325 with a size 18D shoe.
On the football field he brought real fear to opponents.
Boston Patriots center Jon Morris once said Ladd was so big he blocked out the sun: “It was dark. I couldn’t see the linebackers. I couldn’t see the goalposts. It was like being locked in a closet.”
“He was second to none,” said Paul Lowe, a Chargers contemporary as the club’s stellar running back. “No one could block him when he wanted to really play, and he was a motivator for the defense. He would growl at you and talk bad to you. That was ‘Red.’ That was his nickname to us.”
Ernie Ladd lost his battle with cancer, dieing at age 68. Here’s to ya Big Cat!