SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Off a busy highway in a not so busy part of San Jose, Calif., sits a building where the walls talk
Yelberton Abraham Tittle Jr. never liked his given name, so he shortened it to what would later become the most popular 'two' syllable name in NFL history – Y.A.
“This is my Hall of Fame ring, so I'm proud of that. And there’s my wedding ring stuck in there, some place. Got to make sure my wife sees that.”
Quick witted and always smiling, Tittle, now 85 years old, remembers fondly the effect he had on the game of football, and it, on him.
“Fond memories, yes,” Tittle said. “I remember – well, I might not be able to remember my plays very well, but I remember my whole football career, almost every game I played.
“I don't want to be sentimental in my interview with you, but football was my life.”
And he's got the fan mail to prove it – his life through pictures shared by others. He still gets mail daily from fans.
His life, through pictures shared by other.
“I’m more popular now than I was then.”
Nearly 50 years after his final touchdown pass, Tittle's popularity hasn't waned. Every opened envelope reveals a little bit of his past.
Hard knocks then bring smiles now from the man who escaped Texas for Louisiana, skipping the Longhorns for the Bayou Bengals over a half century ago.
“I grew up in Marshall, Texas,” he said. “The people from Marshall, Texas wanted me to go to a Texas school, not a Louisiana school. LSU stole me off the campus. I never regretted it. I enjoyed it.”
And Tiger fans enjoyed him, because it was at LSU where Tittle revolutionized the passing game.
“The game had changed. The game had no longer, you run, run, run, pass. It was pass, a lot of forward passing,” Tittle said.
Tittle's arm got him to the NFL. Joining the Baltimore Colts in 1948, Tittle's NFL career spanned 17 seasons, with three-different teams – the Colts, San Francisco and the New York Giants, where he had his most success.
Football was Tittle’s life, and now his life’s work can be seen scattered throughout his office in San Jose. And then there’s a picture taken back in September 1964, one that he believes made him famous.
“I got hit in the chest, where it really hurt. Sternum was all torn up. And he ripped my helmet off and throws it around, and I’m sitting here bleeding, and the photographer is down there taking pictures,” he said. “As agonizing as it was, that pic made me more famous than any touchdown I threw.”
And it remains one of sports more famous images. But it's not Tittle's fondest.
“Winning college football game was better,” he said. “It was more touching I think.”
Tittle built enough memories as an LSU Tiger to last a lifetime.
The golden band leading a sold out stadium of LSU faithful. Tittle compares Saturdays in Tiger Stadium to being in Heaven.
It's still that special to him. He said if he could choose one more game to play between LSU or New York, “it’d be LSU.”
“If I could play right now. I still could play,” Tittle said. “I go over in the fall to throw passes to kids running after passes. Oh boy, I can still whip that ball down there.
“At least I think I can.”
Seeing is believing, and this legend, this Hall of Famer, sees it all oh so clearly.