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Keith Lincoln, triple-threat halfback for Washington State in late 1950s, dies at 80

Football Player Keith Lincoln Runs at the Camera with Football. Sports. Football. number 22. (Washington State University)

Keith Lincoln, a powerful, versatile fullback for Washington State in the late 1950’s and early 60’s who later went on to a storied professional football career with the San Diego Chargers, died Saturday in Pullman at the age of 80.

A multi-faceted athlete for the Cougars, Lincoln, nicknamed the “Moose of the Palouse,” had spells at quarterback, running back and punter under then coach Jim Sutherland.

A 1979 WSU Hall of Fame inductee, Lincoln returned to the Palouse following his nine-year career in the American Football League (AFL) and had two assistant coaching stints, at Idaho in 1970 and WSU in 1971 under Jim Sweeney, before taking on an administrative role at his alma mater as the school’s director of alumni relations.

To San Diegans, Lincoln will always be known as a member of the only professional sports team to bring a championship to the city, and he was actually the most outstanding player of the 1963 AFL Championship game, which the Chargers won in a 51-10 rout.

In the game, Lincoln rolled up a postseason-record 329 yards from scrimmage and accounted for two touchdowns against the Boston Patriots. His long runs of 56 and 67 yards helped San Diego establish a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Lincoln, a five-time AFL All-Star, became a member of the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame after finishing with 4,387 yards and 29 total touchdowns with the organization. During the 1963 season, Lincoln remarkably led the Chargers in rushing, punt return and kickoff return yards. Lincoln was traded to the Buffalo Bills for the 1967-68 season but returned to San Diego for one final AFL season in 1968.

A native of Monrovia, California – located not far from Pasadena and the Rose Bowl – Lincoln never got to play in the “Granddaddy of Them All” but his 1958 WSU team got close, finishing second in the league. The Cougars went 17-12-1 during Lincoln’s three seasons playing for Sutherland.

Though Lincoln’s “Moose of the Palouse” nickname didn’t exactly fit – he stood just 6-feet and weighed 215 pounds – he was a still a bull with the ball in his hands, setting WSU’s all-time rushing mark before he was drafted in the second round by the Chargers in 1961. Lincoln also held the school record for punting average by the time he left for the AFL.