Larry Eisenhauer, ’fierce competitor’ on Patriots’ defensive line in the 1960s, dies at 79

William T. Bates guided, from left, Mr. Eisenhauer, Houston Antwine, and Ed Philpott as they jog in Boston in 1968.
William T. Bates guided, from left, Mr. Eisenhauer, Houston Antwine, and Ed Philpott as they jog in Boston in 1968.The Boston Globe

Before each football game, Boston Patriots defensive end Larry Eisenhauer prepared himself mentally in the locker room by letting his anger build.

“I’d sit by myself and just concentrate on getting mad. It stimulated me,” Mr. Eisenhauer recalled in a 1973 Globe interview.

The scourge of opposing quarterbacks and opposing linemen, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Mr. Eisenhauer recorded 47½ career sacks, the eighth-most in franchise history.

“He’s one of the three or four best defensive ends in the history of the American Football League,” said Jon Morris, who was among Mr. Eisenhauer’s teammates. “Larry was a fierce competitor who gave you 100 percent on every play.”


Mr. Eisenhauer, who played with the Patriots from 1961 to 1969 and was a four-time AFL All-Star, died Jan. 29 in the Trustbridge hospice in Jupiter, Fla., of bone cancer. He was 79 and had lived in Jupiter.

Selected to the Patriots’ All-Decade Team for the 1960s, he had been nicknamed “The Wildman” by teammates and the media.

Robert Kraft, the Patriots chairman, said in a statement that Mr. Eisenhauer was “one of the most colorful personalities this franchise has ever known,” and added that he made a great impact as a Patriots ambassador — “always eager to volunteer for our many alumni initiatives.”

Part of a renowned defensive front four that also featured Houston Antwine, Bob Dee, and Jim Hunt, Mr. Eisenhauer “was quick, could get off the line, and before you could blink an eye, maneuver past the blockers,” said teammate Chuck Shonta.

And after team reunions, he “loved to host the players at his home,” added Shonta, who played defensive back.

Mr. Eisenhauer, who previously had starred at Boston College, lived in Scituate and Cohasset before moving to Jupiter in 2008. He never lost his New York accent or his sense of humor, friends said.


Jack Kemp, the Buffalo Bills quarterback who once said Mr. Eisenhauer “hit me harder than I’ve ever been hit in my life,” had an unusual dust-up with him.

“Larry told me of a game against Buffalo when Kemp was leading a comeback and one of the Patriots coaches said he would pay $50 out of his own pocket ‘to get that SOB out of the game,’ ” said Reid Oslin, a former Boston College sports information director.

“Larry rushed in and sacked Kemp and proceeded to lay on top of him,” said Oslin, who added that Mr. Eisenhauer told Kemp “to keep lying on the ground and make it look like he was injured, and then take one play off.”

Both players then started laughing.

“Larry said Kemp never left the game and that he never got the 50 bucks,” Oslin recalled.

Mr. Eisenhauer retired before the 1970 season because of a knee injury he had suffered in 1967, which required surgery and slowed him down the next two seasons.

“I’ve always prided myself as being one of the best in the league,” he told the Globe in 1970. “Last year, I couldn’t maintain the standard that I had set for myself.”

Lawrence Conway Eisenhauer grew up in Hicksville, N.Y., on Long Island, outside New York City. His father, Lawrence Eisenhauer Sr., was a commodities broker who had played high school and junior college football. His mother, the former Aileen McGann, was a teacher.


A three-sport star at Chaminade High School in Mineola, N.Y., Mr. Eisenhauer so impressed assistant football coach Frank Furey that Furey called his former coach at Boston College, Mike Holovak.

“I urged Mike to recruit Larry; he was that outstanding,” recalled Furey, who took the train to Boston with Mr. Eisenhauer on the weekend of the Holy Cross game his senior year. “Larry committed that weekend and became a dominant player at BC.”

A 1961 BC graduate, Mr. Eisenhauer was drafted by the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League, and the Patriots.

He chose Boston and fulfilled the prediction of Holovak, who by then had moved on to the Patriots.

In 1961, when Mr. Eisenhauer signed with the Patriots, Holovak told the Globe that “in a few years he’ll be as big and as tough as anybody in our league.”

Jim O’Brien, a BC teammate and All-East tackle, said his longtime friend was “a renaissance man, with interests in classical music and literature, who also enjoyed skiing, golfing, and boating.”

“You could always count on him,” O’Brien added.

Mr. Eisenhauer was a founder of Datcom, an electronics sales firm, and later started a packaging sales company, Pro Action, that he helped run until his death.

Mr. Eisenhauer, whose first marriage ended in divorce, married Lynn Merkle, an artist and singer, in 1983. For many years, they lived in Florida on a 60-foot Hampton motor yacht, “Lynn’s Way,” which also was the name of Lynn’s former rock band.


In 2015, they were honored at halftime of the BC-Virginia Tech game for establishing a football scholarship fund.

An inductee to the Boston College Varsity Club Hall of Fame, Mr. Eisenhauer was honored in 2017 as the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston’s Man of the Year.

A service has been held for Mr. Eisenhauer, who in addition to his wife, Lynn, leaves three daughters from his first marriage, Laura Ball of Bay Shore, N.Y., Danielle of Bourne, and Jennifer of Marshfield; a brother, Peter of Lincoln, N.H.; a sister, Lynn Henningsen of Ormond Beach, Fla.; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren,

In a 1970 Globe interview, Mr. Eisenhauer said he would “always be grateful to football. I played it for 17 years and loved it. It suited my personality and allowed me to meet some beautiful people.”

Peter, who also played football at Chaminade and went on to play at the Naval Academy, was inspired and mentored by his older brother.

“Yes, he was the ultimate schmoozer,” Peter said in a eulogy. “But what really set him apart was his willingness to recognize and help others in need of support and guidance, giving generously of himself and his time.”

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.