Elvis Presley became the biggest star in the world thanks to a slew of hit records and an acting career to boot. But the Memphis native (born in Tupelo, MS, of course), may have also been one of the biggest sports fans in the world, as well.
Like most Southern boys, Elvis couldn’t get enough of football. Even in the sport’s early days, Presley cared about the gridiron: watching it, reading about it, or even playing when he got the chance. He played at Humes High School in Memphis in the early 1950’s, developing a passion that would stick with him until his death in 1977.
Elvis Shared His Early Success with Other Sports Fans
Presley may have never had the athleticism to play professionally, but he had the passion for it. In a 1962 interview, the King said that sports, particularly football, was his biggest hobby at the time besides his own career.
“The thing I keep up with most is professional football,” Elvis said. “I know all the players. I know all their numbers, who they play for. I’ve had people quiz me on it, just in games when we’ve got nothing to do. And that’s a big thing with me right now.
“I watch all the games that I can. I get the films from the teams themselves if I can. But next to the entertainment thing, and music, that I guess, would be the biggest [interest].”
Elvis would have been just 22-years-old in 1962, so his fanatic love of sports is no surprise. But his massive, early fame helped him get involved in sports in ways that other regular fans could never dream of accomplishing. For instance, Presley once bought each and every seat at his high school stadium for an entire season so that the students could attend each football game for free. The grand gesture cost him nearly $10,000 in today’s dollars.
He Would Play Football Whenever He Could
One of his favorite activities at Graceland was an afternoon, backyard football game with his pals, the Memphis Mafia. He even lugged a football with him on the road and at shows, hoping to get in a toss or two whenever he had a break in the day. When his acting career began to flourish, onlookers could watch Elvis Presley tossing the pigskin around movie lots and locations in-between shoots. His friends say he even broke a finger or two playing tackle with them.
As Elvis got older, the game of football continued to grow and become more popular. His two teams, the Browns and the Steelers, both peaked in the 60’s and 70’s. Stadiums got bigger and televised sports became more important to the culture. As a result, Presley started dedicating more and more of his free time away from Las Vegas to the game, going to as many games as he could.
Sadly enough, the last interview Presley ever gave occurred at a local Memphis football exhibition in 1975. He would pass away just two years later, still a lover of football.