Obituary: Raymond Popp Jr. / Captain of the Pitt football team in 1964

Jan. 24, 1943 - Dec. 21, 2013

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Debbie Gilbert described her brother, Raymond Popp Jr., as a "man of contradictions."

Mr. Popp's aggression and physical nature on the football field enabled him to start at linebacker for the 1963 and 1964 University of Pittsburgh football teams, including serving as a captain for the 1964 Panthers.

But it was his sensitivity and larger-than-life personality that left a lasting image on everyone he met, both on and off the field.

Mr. Popp died Saturday at his home at Great Sacandaga Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. He was 70.

The son of an ironworker, Mr. Popp traveled much of his childhood, moving wherever his father, Raymond Sr., found employment.

"Family was an important issue with my mother and my father," Ms. Gilbert said. "It was an extended family of people living and working together."

Mr. Popp discovered his passion for football at St. Ignace High School in Michigan but moved to Western Pennsylvania in 1957, where he attended Monongahela High School because it was close to his family and he could play football right away.

"He enjoyed the physical aspect of football," Ms. Gilbert said. "He enjoyed the one-on-one contact as well as the camaraderie of the team."

During his senior year at Monongahela, Mr. Popp was selected to the Big 33 team. He was recruited by several top Division I programs, including Michigan, Penn State and Notre Dame. He chose to attend Pitt so his family could watch him play.

Mr. Popp's style on the field reminded his brother, Blaine Popp, of a current Steelers great.

"Today, the closest comparison to how Ray played would be Troy Polamalu," Mr. Popp said. "He anticipated where each play was going and then put himself in position to make tackles."

Mr. Popp was chosen in the eighth round of the 1964 National Football League draft by the New York Giants. After being cut by the Giants on the final day of training camp his rookie year, he chose to pursue a career as a businessman and transportation director. He worked with several companies, including Arco and H.J. Heinz.

"The same qualities you have within a football game he took to the business world," Ms. Gilbert said. "He just loved putting the tie on but also being in the warehouse with the guys."

Ms. Gilbert added Mr. Popp loved interacting with all kinds of people and never missed the chance to enjoy time with those close to him. "Ray was a very gregarious individual," Ms. Gilbert said. "He would not be shy if there was a party to be had and friends to be made."

Along with his brother and sister, Mr. Popp is survived by his wife, Sue, and his stepdaughter, Shannon Gannon. Memorial services will be scheduled in Pittsburgh and New York.

Jordan Greer:


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