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Ex-Penn State football captain dies of brain cancer

STAFF REPORT
  • Bill Lenkaitis, co-captain of the 1967 Penn State football team, has died of brain cancer.
  • Lenkaitis played in 180 NFL/AFL games, including 135 starts.

Former Penn State football offensive lineman and team captain Bill Lenkaitis died Aug. 27 after an 18-month battle with brain cancer.

Lenkaitis was three-time letterwinner for the Nittany Lions and was a co-captain of the 1967 Lambert Trophy team that went 8-2-1 and tied Florida State in the Gator Bowl, 17-17. Lenkaitis played all three offensive line positions during his career. He was honored as Associated Press All-East first team as a senior and claimed honorable mention accolades as a junior. He played one season under Coach Rip Engle (1965) and two seasons under Joe Paterno.

Penn State

Lenkaitis was then selected by the San Diego Chargers in the second round of the 1968 AFL Draft. He played three seasons with the Chargers before moving to the New England Patriots where he played 11 seasons. He played in 180 career games with the Chargers and Patriots, including 135 starts. He started all 16 games in 1978 when the Patriots set a team NFL rushing record with 3,165 yards, a mark that still stands.

Once his NFL career was completed, the Youngstown, Ohio native went on to become a dentist in New England. Lenkaitis earned his dental degree while he was an active NFL player. He became the Patriots’ team dentist while he was still a member of the team.

Lenkaitis is survived by his wife of 44 years, Donna; a son, Jamie; two daughters, Kristen Thompson and Lauren Raffoni; six grandchildren; and a brother, Lew.