Nerf Football Inventor, Former Vikings Kicker Fred Cox Dead at 80

Cox never missed a game in 15 seasons in the NFL playing in 210 contests

Inventor of Nerf football dead at 80
Nerf footballs. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Former Minnesota Vikings kicker Fred Cox, the NFL franchise’s all-time leading scorer, passed away Wednesday night in Minnesota at age 80.

A native of Pennsylvania, Cox had been receiving care at his home due to problems with his heart and kidneys.

A stellar athlete who also played linebacker, running back and center for the Vikings during practice, Cox never missed a game in 15 seasons in the NFL playing in 210 regular-season contests.

“The Vikings mourn the loss of Fred Cox, one of our proudest legends and a member of the 50 Greatest Vikings,” the team said in a statement. “A respected teammate and friend, Fred’s football career as the Vikings all-time leading scorer set the stage for a life where he went on to achieve great things in business and in his community. Fred’s positive energy, strength in his faith and passion for life will be missed.”

In 1972, Cox and Minneapolis’ John Mattox teamed together to invent the Nerf football and the quarterly checks he received from the invention allowed him to retire early at age 50.

Cox and Mattox initially pitched Parker Brothers about a ball-and-goal post set, but the firm was only interested in one aspect of their presentation.

“About halfway through the presentation, a guy from Parker Brothers told us he wasn’t interested in anything but the ball,” Cox said of the meeting. “They had been trying to make a Nerf football for three years. They were trying to make them the same way as their round balls, taking a block of foam and using a hot wire to cut balls out of the foam. Their footballs had holes in them. They had tried everything except for injection molding them. The man said, ‘I want that ball.’”

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