For three years, Perry was the speed merchant in the 49ers' Million Dollar Backfield, which included fellow Hall of Famers Y.A. Tittle (quarterback), Hugh McElhenny (halfback) and John Henry Johnson (fullback). "You'd take the ball from center and turn, and he was already gone through the hole," Tittle said. Joe the Jet broke two barriers in 1954: He became the first player in NFL history to gain 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons and the sport's first African-American MVP. Perry retired in '63 with 8,378 yards (plus another 1,345 in the All-America Football Conference); he had held the NFL career rushing mark for five years until it was broken by Jim Brown. An avid bowler, Perry took his ball on road trips, and after football he competed as a pro.
The freestyle skier had a shot at Olympic gold in 2006, but on his final attempt Peterson chose to do the hardest jump, which he had created. He didn't land the Hurricane—no other competitor tried it—and finished seventh, saying, "That's what the Olympics are about: going for it and being [your] best, not ending up Number 1." Peterson won a silver in 2010. He killed himself in July.
A former wrestling star who didn't play basketball until he was a high school senior, Gilliam had the size (6'9", 230 pounds) and toughness of another Pittsburgh-area power forward: Maurice Lucas. (When Lucas died last year, Gilliam wrote an obituary.) Known as the Hammer, Gilliam led UNLV to the 1987 Final Four and went second in that year's draft; he averaged 13.7 points and 6.9 boards over a 13-year NBA career.
Six weeks after finishing a rookie year with the Mariners in which he hit .230 with two home runs in 35 games, Halman, who represented his native Netherlands at the 2009 World Baseball Classic, was stabbed to death in Rotterdam. The outfielder's brother, Jason, who had reportedly been hearing voices at the time of the killing, was arrested and is being held indefinitely under psychiatric observation.
John Henry Johnson,
While Perry relied on speed, his backfield mate relied on brute force: Johnson broke the jaws of at least two would-be tacklers and bruised countless others with a stiff-arm that was more like a punch. After serving primarily as a blocker with the 49ers, the fullback became the first Steeler to gain 1,000 yards, in 1961; when Johnson retired five years later, he ranked fourth all time with 6,803 rushing yards.