Andre Tippett

Hall of Famer Andre Tippett Andre Tippett (1959- ), a native of Birmingham, Jefferson County, was a star professional football player in the National Football League (NFL) and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008. A linebacker, Tippett played his entire 11-year career, from 1982 through the 1993 season, for the New England Patriots, with whom he made the Pro Bowl five straight years. He was named to the NFL’s All-80s team, among many other honors.

In the NFL, Tippett played the “strong-side linebacker” position, so-called for playing against the side of the offense that usually features the equally athletic tight-end. He was known as one of the best pass rushers of his time. At his Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Patriots owner Robert Kraft noted that the team had two Hall of Fame quarterbacks playing in their division, Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills and Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins, and remarked that they had to alter their game plans because of Tippett.

Andre Tippett and Dan Marino Tippett was born on December 28, 1959, in Birmingham to Francis Tippett. She later married Willie Lovett, who would become Tippett’s stepfather. He had five siblings. During his youth, his family moved from Birmingham to Newark, New Jersey, and Tippett has noted how difficult the move was for the family of modest means. Tippett attended Barringer High School in Newark. He was cut from the freshman football team but was later selected All-City and team captain in football, track, and wrestling and inducted into Newark’s Sports Hall of Fame. He was a fan of professional football as a youth and closely watched the linebacker position in particular. Tippett attended the University of Iowa and played for the Hawkeyes from 1979-1981, helping a mediocre team to its first winning season since 1961. Despite his interest in the linebacker position, he played defensive end for Iowa. In 1981, his senior year, the Hawkeyes began the season unranked, but victories over top-ten opponents University of Nebraska, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and University of Michigan earned the Hawkeyes national recognition. Iowa was Big Ten Conference co-champion with Ohio State and played in the 1982 Rose Bowl, suffering a 28-0 loss to the University of Washington Huskies. Tippett was named an All-American and the team ended the year with an 8-4 record.

Drafted in 1982 by the New England Patriots in the second round, Tippett joined another team that had had little success. The Patriots had gone to the playoffs just twice since the franchise began in 1959 in the American Football League and posted a 2-14 record in 1981. Tippett would play a large role on the defense. During the strike-shortened 1982 season, the Patriots posted a 5-4 record and earned a playoff berth but lost to division rival Miami Dolphins 28-13. The next two seasons were mediocre, with an 8-8 record in 1983 and a 9-7 record in 1984. But Tippett began to make an impact for the Patriots’ defense, with 8.5 sacks in 1983, 18.5 sacks in 1984, and 16.5 sacks in 1985. That season, the Patriots won three playoff games on the road, a difficult task in the NFL, but would lose Super Bowl XX to a dominating 15-1 Chicago Bears team in a lopsided 46-10 game. He was named an All Pro and the American Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year. The Patriots won their division with an 11-5 record the following year but lost in the playoffs to the Super Bowl-bound Denver Broncos and their quarterback, John Elway.

Beginning in 1984, Tippett was selected for the Pro Bowl for five straight years. Following the 1985 season, he averaged more than nine sacks per game over the next three seasons and usually led the team in the statistic. He did not play in 1989 because of a shoulder injury but returned close to form in his last three seasons, averaging eight sacks per game in those years; he would play in 151 games. Tippett retired following the 1993 season with 100 sacks, the most for any New England player. He also had seven fumble recoveries and one interception during his career.

In 1993, Tippett married Rhonda Kenney Tippett, with whom he would have four children. Son Coby played college football and played for several seasons in the now-defunct XFL football league. A former Baptist, Tippett later converted to Judaism, the faith of his wife. Following his retirement, Tippett joined the Patriots organization in a non-coaching capacity. From 1997-2003, he served as the Patriots Assistant Director of Pro Scouting, then as the Director of Football and Promotions until 2007, when he became Executive Director of Community Affairs. He has been involved in youth athletics and martial arts. He was selected to the Patriots’ 35th Anniversary Team in 1994, inducted into the New England Patriots Hall of Fame in 1999, and was selected to the Patriots Team of the Century in 2000. He was inducted into the University of Iowa Hall of Fame in 2007, the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2009, and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. In November 2021, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

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