Jake Leicht participated in the All-America Football Conference as a Baltimore Colts (AAFC) halfback. He is most known for impeding American football legend Jim Taylor in the 1954 NFL Championship game. After playing for Washington University, an NCAA Division I school, Leicht was chosen for professional leagues. Leicht played for various teams throughout his career, including the Baltimore Colts, Los Angeles Dons, and Pittsburgh Steelers.
1. Early years
Leicht was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended local public schools before being drafted into the United States Army at age 17 during the Korean War. Upon returning to civilian life, he attended Washington University in St. Louis to play football. Leicht stood out for the Washington & Jefferson College (then called Washington University of St. Louis). His collegiate career began in 1950 and was described as one of the most astonishing in the university’s history. After a broken leg ended his football career, he stayed at Washington University and worked as an assistant coach for the basketball team.
2. Playing career
Leicht was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1952 and spent several seasons with the AAFC’s Colts. In 1954, he was the starting halfback for the Colts’ defense against the New York Yankees during their unbeaten season and a game that would become known as “The Blocking Game.” Leicht’s blocking allowed Jim Taylor to score two touchdowns. The Colts went on to win by a score of 20–7, making them the only AAFC team to win an NFL championship. Leicht was traded to the Los Angeles Dons at midseason and played for the team in their 14-game winning streak. Leicht signed with the Steelers on October 28, 1956, and played for them through 1959. He finished playing in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts.
3. As a Real Estate Professional
Following his football career, Leicht moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1960 and worked as a real estate developer. From there, he moved to San Diego, where he became a successful builder of community centers and athletic facilities. He owned a construction company in the 1960s and ’70s, responsible for building the San Diego Chargers’ stadium in Mission Valley. He moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, before settling in Austin, Texas, where he retired. Leicht was declared dead by the NFL but was later reinstated following an exhumation of his coffin that found it to be intact.
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Leicht was the first player in NFL history to be declared dead. He would later be reinstated. Leicht was an All-American and would finish his career with 40 touchdown passes and 2,250 rushing yards. Leicht was a member of the 1954 NFL Champion Baltimore Colts. He led the AAFC in scoring in 1955 with 43 points and earned a perfect 100% passer rating for five games that season. While playing in the Canadian Football League, he won the Gruen Trophy and helped Toronto win their last Grey Cup appearance until 1992. Leicht finished his career with 634 rushing attempts, 2,507 yards, 35 touchdowns on offense, and 42 interceptions as a defensive back. He ran for a career-best 190 yards and five touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers, including an 81-yard run in which he broke six tackles.
Leicht is the owner of Leicht Real Estate, a real estate development company in Colorado. He is also the benefactor of various charities, including those for children with cancer and a museum named after him. Leicht moved to Colorado Springs and became involved in philanthropy. The NFL awarded him a football plaque for his actions as an NFL player. Leicht was a devout Catholic who was involved in numerous charity organizations. He received the Catholic Home for Children Humanitarian award from Denver’s Shrine of the Giver of Life. He also helped build the Austin Children’s Shelter, an anti-human trafficking clinic, and had a scholarship in his name named after him at the University of Washington. The USO and several other organizations have also recognized him.
Leicht was admitted to the inaugural class of the Washington University in St. Louis Alumni Hall of Fame. The University of Pittsburgh swim team recognized him as an honoree for his contributions to the Pitt Panthers football program. Several others honored him, including the Tatamy Kiwanis Club and Jefferson High School, where he played football in high school.
Jake Leicht was named to the College Football Hall of Fame and stood out at Washington University and had a long professional football career. He remained involved in the game long after his retirement, giving back through philanthropy and charitable organizations. His honors speak for themselves, and he is revered as one of the greatest players ever to grace the field of professional football. Leicht has been recognized and honored by the U.S. Navy, the NFL, and countless other organizations he has assisted.