Some sad news to pass along on this Thursday morning as former first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Paul Martha, recently passed away at the age of 80. He reportedly died Feb. 4 in Butler County, PA.
Martha, a University of Pittsburgh product, was selected by the Steelers in the first round of the 1964 NFL draft. That same year he was selected in the ninth round of the 1964 AFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills but chose to sign with the Steelers.
Way prior to being drafted by the Steelers and Bills, Martha played high school football at Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, where he was a star quarterback. At the University of Pittsburgh, Martha played college football and basketball. After playing quarterback in 1961, he moved to running back and ultimately became a consensus All-American in his second season at that position.
In 1962, Martha led the University of Pittsburgh in both receiving and scoring and after a fine senior season in 1963 he played in the East-West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl and the College All-Star game.
During his time in the NFL, Martha played on both sides of the football. Most of his NFL playing time, however, came on defense as a safety. In 88 career NFL games played, Martha registered 21 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries to go along with one sack. 15 of those interceptions came as a member of the Steelers.
As an offensive player in the NFL, Martha recorded 17 receptions for 316 yards. He also had 15 yards on six career rushing attempts in the NFL. That’s not all Martha contributed as he also registered 64 yards on 16 punt returns and another 468 yards on 21 kickoff returns.
After playing his first six NFL seasons in Pittsburgh with the Steelers, Martha was traded to the Denver Broncos in June of 1970.
“Martha is the key man in the trade,” Denver head coach Lou Saban said after that deal was made. “He was a starter at free safety for Pittsburgh, is an extremely intelligent athlete and comes to us at a position where we need help.”
Martha retired from the Broncos in 1971 to dedicate more time to his law practice back in Pittsburgh. Martha had attended Duquesne University, where he earned a law degree. He became an attorney and worked for the Reed, Smith, Shaw, and McClay law firm in Pittsburgh and for Youngstown Steel before joining up with Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr.
Martha eventually became executive vice president, general counsel and CEO of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1977 and executive vice president and general counsel of the San Francisco 49ers in 1978. He also ran the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh for a period of time. In the early 1980s, Martha was general manager of the Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL and was involved in mediating between the NFLPA and NFL owners on various occasions.