John William Land of Wilmington, Delaware, passed away peacefully November 22, 2017, surrounded by his loving family. John was 73.
Born in Chicago, Illinois to J.B. and Emily Land, John was raised in New York City. He graduated from Delaware State University in 1966, where he was a walk on and made the football team. John was a running back and became team captain his senior year.
After he completed his Bachelor of Science Degree in Health and Physical Education, John was drafted into the North American Football League where he played with the Wilmington Clippers.
While at Delaware State University, John met his wife of 49 years, Adrienne Walls Land. They were married in 1967. John publicly credited Adrienne for being instrumental in making him a successful man.
John ascended to the National Football League where he played for the Baltimore Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles after beginning his career in the Atlantic Coast Football League with the Pottstown Firebirds.
The Pottstown Firebirds won two ACFL championships and were the focus of a documentary, which launched NFL Films. The Making of a Championship Season in a Small Pennsylvania Town was broadcast the hour before the 1972 Super Bowl. In 2000, NFL Films released Pottstown Revisited. John Land appeared in both documentaries about the Pottstown Firebirds.
John ended his 10-year football career playing with the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League. In 1974, John was the rushing leader for the Philadelphia Bell, was selected for the All-Star Team and named “Player of the Year” for the WFL. John was the first African American to rush for 1,000 yards in the City of Philadelphia.
During the ten years John played professional football, he was also an educator at the Ferris School for Boys in Wilmington and Delaware Technical Community College. After John retired from football, he worked for the Xerox Corporation as a Regional Sales Director.
In 1993 John assumed the post of General Manager of Administrative Services for Delmarva Power and Light Company (later Connectiv) serving as the Vice President of Procurement and Corporate Services from 1998 until his retirement in 2005.
Active in volunteer activities, John served on the Boards of the Alliance for Children and Families, the Brandywine YMCA, the Charter School of Wilmington, the LPGA Urban Youth Golf Advisory Board, Junior Achievement and Delaware State University.
In 2004, Children and Families First presented John with the J. Thompson Brown Award to recognize his accomplishments as a Community Volunteer.
In 2005, John was presented with Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters from Delaware State University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
An alumnus of Delaware State College (’66), now Delaware State University, and a Board-Appointed Trustee Member from 1992 to 2011, John Land was named Trustee Emeritus upon his Board Retirement in 2011. John Land served as Board Vice President from 2004-2008. He served as the Chair of the Board’s Student Affairs Committee and as Chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee. John Chaired the Delmarva Scholarship Golf Classic for over a decade. He also served on the Finance and Audit Committees and as acting Board Chair from August 2008 to January 2010.
Four Football Hall of Fames have inducted John Land: the Delaware State University Athletics Hall of Fame in 1988, the Minor League Football Hall of Fame in 1993, the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame in 1997, and the Delaware Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
He enjoyed playing a variety of sports in addition to football, especially racquetball and golf. John was a member at the Brandywine Country Club. He loved the company of his family and friends. John was affectionately known to his five grandchildren as “Big Daddy.” John was his grandchildren’s biggest fan.
John was preceded in death by his parents, J.B. and Emily Land. John is survived by his wife Adrienne, two daughters, Denise (David) Woods of Wilmington, Delaware and Anita (Jason) Cross of Hockessin, Delaware, five grandchildren, Kayla, Kimmi and Krissa Woods and Jackson and Riley Cross, a sister Dorothy Brower, a brother Mitchell Land, many nieces and nephews, and extended family members Ron and Carole Holliday, Monique Walton and Sandy Urquiaga.
John Land's Memorial Service will be at 10 am on Friday, December 1, 2017, at The Chase Center on the Riverfront, 815 Justison Street, Wilmington, Delaware 19801, with Visitation from 9-10 am.
In lieu of flowers, please make contributions in memory of John W. Land to Children and Families First at www.cffde.org.