Playing for the demanding Vince Lombardi was a chore for many NFL players.

But for Tulsan Don Chandler and Sam Huff, New York Giants rookies in 1956, the task seemed overwhelming.

At one point during two-a-day practices that year, the pair turned in their playbooks and hightailed it to the airport, Chandler's son Bret Chandler said.

"Lo and behold, an Italian coach with a big, toothy grin showed up and said, 'I'll tell you what,' " Bret Chandler said of Lombardi, then the Giants offensive coordinator. "You boys may not make this football team, but you are not going to quit."

They didn't.

Huff, a linebacker, became an NFL Hall of Famer, and Chandler, a punter/placekicker, won an NFL world championship with New York and three with the Packers, including Super Bowl titles in 1967 and '68.

Donald Gene "Don" Chandler, a 1952 graduate of Will Rogers High School, died Thursday at his Tulsa home. He was 76. A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday at Asbury United Methodist Church under the direction of Moore's Southlawn Funeral Home.

"My dad had a very special place in his heart for Lombardi," Bret Chandler said of the head coach of Green Bay from 1959 to 1967. "They were very close."

Chandler played 12 seasons in the NFL, the first nine with the Giants, who won a world championship in his rookie season.

Born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, he attended Bacone Indian College in Muskogee and graduated from the University of Florida, where the halfback/punter led the nation in punting in 1955.

In 2002, The Daily Oklahoman selected him as punter of the "Oklahoma Team of the Century." The following year, the Tulsa World picked him as one of Oklahoma's greatest athletes.

He led the NFL in punting in 1957, in field goal percentage in 1962 and in scoring in 1963. Chandler holds Packers records for most consecutive games scoring (42) and most field goals in a Super Bowl (four, in 1968).

He retired after Green Bay's rout of Oakland in Super Bowl II.

"I had made my mind up before that game I was going to retire," he told Tulsa World columnist Bill Connors in January 1975.

"And I've always been driven by the fear of failing or reaching the point where they would ask me to retire. To have one of the best kicking games of my life in my last game made it my biggest thrill."

Chandler made the Pro Bowl in 1968 and is a member of the University of Florida and Packers' halls of fame. During his playing career, he was one of the original "Marlboro Men," doing speaking engagements and national commercials for tobacco giant Philip Morris.

After his retirement from football, he worked for Standard Industries in Tulsa and started several real estate companies in the city.

Married for more than 47 years to Patricia Chandler, they had four children and 10 grandchildren.

"He was really a very humble man and had a lot of pride in being from here," Bret Chandler said. "He was a good father. Football was an important part of his life, but it's not what defined him.

"I think anybody who knows him very well would tell you the same thing.

"He was the best man at my wedding. That kind of sums up our relationship," he said. "We were fortunate enough to spend a lot of time together."

Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395 SUBHEAD: The Tulsan stayed the course and played on NFL title teams with the Giants and Packers. Don Chandler 1934-2011

Original Print Headline: He didn't quit, and a standout career started

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