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John ‘Bull’ Bramlett, 73; played for Patriots

Mr. Bramlett played for two seasons with the Patriots.
Mr. Bramlett played for two seasons with the Patriots.NFL PHOTOS/File 1970

MEMPHIS — John "Bull'' Bramlett, a former Boston Patriots linebacker who was nicknamed the "Meanest Man in Football,'' died Thursday. He was 73 and had been in declining health.

Mr. Bramlett was a star baseball and football player at Memphis State, now the University of Memphis. He went on to play professional baseball in the St. Louis Cardinals organization for two years before turning to professional football in 1965. He was a two-time All-Pro linebacker and was runner-up to Joe Namath for American Football League Rookie of the Year in 1965.

He played for four teams from 1965 to 1971. In 1969, he and quarterback Kim Hammond were traded from the Miami Dolphins to the Patriots for All-Pro linebacker Nick Buoniconti. Mr. Bramlett played for the Patriots in 1969 and 1970. He also was with the Broncos and Falcons.

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Mr. Bramlett was given his nickname because of his on-field aggressiveness and his antics off the field. But he changed his behavior when he retired from football, becoming a Christian evangelist.

According to a website dedicated to his ministry, Mr. Bramlett spent 40 years speaking to audiences at hundreds of churches, schools, prisons, and conventions. He also held chapel services for the National Football League and Major League Baseball.

"He inspired many people as a professional football player,'' Mayor Luttrell of Memphis, a family friend, said. " John's stories of forgiveness and hope through his Christian witness made a real difference in the lives of countless people throughout the nation and here in Shelby County. John Bramlett was . . . a dear friend. I'm grateful for having known him.''