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Greg Latta

Sport: Football

Born: October 13, 1952

Died: September 28, 1994

Town: Newark

Gregory Edwin Latta was born October 13, 1952 in Newark. Tall, tough and athletic, he had large, soft hands tailor-made to catch footballs. This he did at South Side High (now Shabazz HS), as well as playing intimidating defense. Greg earned a scholarship to Morgan State, where he became a standout tight end in the early 1970s. The Bears won the Mideastern Athletic Conference championship his sophomore year under legendary coach Earl Banks. As a senior in 1973—Banks's final season—Greg was named All-MEAC. He stood 6’3” and weighed 230 pounds and had the speed to play tight in the pros.

Football scouts in the Baltimore area knew Greg and he was drafted by the Baltimore Colts and the Florida Blazers of the newly formed World Football League. The Blazers had originally intended to play in Baltimore before heading south. Greg wasn’t keen on unseating incumbent tight end (and fellow Morgan Stater) Ray Chester in Baltimore so he opted to start his pro career in the WFL. He caught 39 passes for 839 yards and 9 touchdowns. The Blazers had a great defensive line and a solid running game. They finished the 1974 season 14–6 and won two playoff battles to reach the World Bowl. They lost 22–21 to the Birmingham Americans. The Blazers trailed 22–0 in the fourth quarter. Greg scored on a 40-yard pass from Bob Davis, one of three touchdowns for the Blazers in the final 15 minutes. But Florida failed on all three conversions to blow the victory.

Greg had a good year but was through with the WFL. The team was in financial trouble and the players were still owed money at the end of the season. The team owner eventually went to jail for tax evasion and cocaine possession. Fortunately, the Chicago Bears needed a tight end and traded for Greg’s rights. He shared the position with Bob Parsons in a Walter Payton-oriented offense, which meant a lot of blocking. In the 1975 season’s final game, he caught three touchdown passes from Bob Avellini against the Saints. More than 30 years passed before a Bears tight end (Greg Olsen) caught 3 TD passes in a game. In 1977, Greg had two more unforgettable games: He caught the winning TD in a 24–23 Monday Night victory over the Rams and caught a 37-yard TD to finish off an epic 28–27 comeback win over the Chiefs.

Greg started 44 straight games between 1976 and 1978, and played one more year for the Bears in 1979 as a reserve. He made the 1980 club but a broken hand suffered against the Bengals in a preseason game kept him out of uniform until the final game and the Bears waived him in 1981 after he experienced blood pressure issues in camp. Greg finished his NFL career with 90 catches for 1,081 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Greg had prepared for life after football working the off-season at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. A former Bear, Johnny Musso, had introduced Greg’s roommate Roland Harper to commodities and Greg followed. He became an account exec at a Chicago commodities firm. He later returned to New Jersey and did some coaching, including as an assistant at Kean University. Greg suffered a heart attack at the age of 41 at passed away at St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark.


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