Updated February 28, 8:40 AM CT
November 22, 2019
Inventor of NERF football dead at 80
Former Minnesota Vikings kicker and the co-creator of the NERF football Fred Cox died Wednesday night in Minnesota at the age of 80.
“The Vikings mourn the loss of Fred Cox, one of our proudest legends and a member of the 50 Greatest Vikings,” the team said Thursday in a statement. “A respected teammate and friend, Fred’s football career as the Vikings all-time leading scorer set the stage for a life where he went on to achieve great things in business and in his community. Fred’s positive energy, strength in his faith and passion for life will be missed.”
In 1972, Cox teamed with John Mattox to invent the NERF (Non expanding recreational foam) football, a foam toy that was softer and mimicked the bounce and feel of a regular football that allowed children to play with it while lessening the risk of breaking or damaging items around a house.
Nerf (trademarked in capitals as NERF) is a toy brand created by Parker Brothers and currently owned by Hasbro. Most of the toys are a variety of foam-based weaponry, with other Nerf products including balls for sports like American football, basketball and baseball. The most notable of the toys are the dart guns (referred to by Hasbro as "blasters") that shoot ammunition made from Nerf foam. Since many such items were released during the 1970s, Nerf products often feature bright neon colors and soft textures similar to the flagship Nerf ball. The slogan, which has been frequently used since advertising in the 1990s, is "It's Nerf or Nothin'!". Annual revenues under the Nerf brand are approximately US$400 million.
When Parker Brothers did the contract with Cox, they didn't place an end date on royalties, so Cox continued to receive royalties on sales of NERF products.
Cox played 15 seasons for the Vikings, which is the third-longest tenure of any player in franchise history. He was dependable and consistent, playing in all 210 regular-season games in which he appeared.
Cox remains the Vikings franchise leader in scoring with 1,365 points and led the team in scoring for 11 consecutive seasons from 1963-73.
In his career, Cox made 282 of his 455 field goal attempts (62 %), with a career-long of 52 yards. He also made 519 of 539 (93.6 %) extra points.
Cox led the NFL in converted field goals in 1969 and 1970, earning him a first-team all-pro selection in ’69 and a Pro Bowl nod the following season. He is one of just 11 players who appeared on the Vikings rosters of teams that made it to Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX and XI.
“Fred was the ultimate team player for us,” former Vikings Bud Grant said. “He took part in all of our scout teams, playing running back or whatever we asked of him. He was a great asset to our team, a true credit to the team and his community. If you saw those games, he always stood right next to me on the sideline because he was such a big part of what we were doing with field position and knew the game so well.”
Cox was drafted by the Cleveland Browns as a running back in 1961. A back injury, however, forced him to take up place kicking. He was traded to the Vikings before the start of the 1962 season.
Cox was a native of Monangahela, Pennsylvania.
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