June 27, 2022

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Former Oilers linebacker Garland Boyette, who broke barriers, dead at 82

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The first Black player to start at middle linebacker in pro football grew up in Orange and retired in Houston

Photo of Matt Young


Houston Oilers linebacker Garland Boyette (52) hits Cleveland Browns running back Leroy Kelly during a game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on November 22, 1970 in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won 28-14.

Houston Oilers linebacker Garland Boyette (52) hits Cleveland Browns running back Leroy Kelly during a game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on November 22, 1970 in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won 28-14.

Ron Kuntz Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images

Garland Boyette, who played middle linebacker for the Houston Oilers for seven seasons (1966-72), died in Houston on Tuesday. Boyette, along with the Kansas City Chiefs’ Willie Lanier, was the first Black player to start at middle linebacker in professional football.

Boyette grew up in Orange and starred at Orange’s Wallace High School. He went to Northwestern to play football, but eventually transferred to Grambling where he played alongside his nephew Ernie Ladd.

Boyette went undrafted out of college but still made the St. Louis Cardinals team, where he played for two seasons before leaving to play in the Canadian Football League. Boyette spent two seasons with the Montreal Alouettes and was named the CFL MVP in 1965. Boyette parlayed that success into a contract with the Oilers in 1966. He was named to the AFL All-Star team in 1968 and 1969.

When Boyette finished his playing career, he worked in management at Southwestern Bell for 28 years before retiring to his Missouri City home.



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