John Papit, 86, a football star at Northeast High School who set records as a running back at the University of Virginia and spent four years in the NFL before embarking on a career in banking, died Monday, April 6, in Forest, Va., of complications from a stroke.
Despite a football legacy that included a victory in a legendary city championship game against West Catholic 1946 and having his jersey retired by UVa in 2008, Mr. Papit, known as "Johnny," rarely spoke about his gridiron glory, according to son Michael.
"He almost never talked about his football years," Michael Papit said. "He was extremely modest. I learned most about that career from the people we met over the years."
Papit said this week he found two plastic tubs in his father's attic filled with football memorabilia.
"There are pictures in there I had never seen," Michael Papit said. "It was like opening an Egyptian vault."
A native of Philadelphia, Mr. Papit played a starring role in the 1946 city championship. Retired Philadelphia Daily News sports reporter Ted Silary ranked that contest as No. 8 in the 50 most memorable high school playoff games in city history through 2008.
Playing before a reported crowd of 60,000 at Franklin Field, Mr. Papit ran 29 times for 160 yards and three touchdowns, Silary wrote, as Northeast bested West Catholic, 33-20. With 10 seconds to go, the game was halted by rioting.
Offered his choice of 19 college scholarships, including West Point and Annapolis, Mr. Papit selected Virginia.
Between the time he began in 1947 and when he graduated with a degree in education three years later, Mr. Papit set several football records. He still ranks No. 7 on the Cavaliers' roster of career all-purpose yards leaders, where Tiki Barber is third.
Mr. Papit was selected for the All-America team in 1949 and played in the East-West Shrine Game for the College All-Star team in 1950 that took on the Cleveland Browns.
Mr. Papit was drafted in the seventh round by the Washington Redskins in 1950. He was a running back with the Redskins for three years before he was traded to the Green Bay Packers.
He retired from football in 1954 and began a multi-decade career as a bank executive.
Although Mr. Papit returned to his alma mater to take a few courses in finance, Michael Papit said, his father essentially "built his career in banking from scratch."
He served as executive vice president at the Bank of Virginia and was the president of several banks, including Community Banks in Florida.
He and his wife, Barbara, lived for many years in Seminole, Fla. The couple moved to Forest, outside Lynchburg, in 2005 to be closer to her family and their son.
In addition to his wife of 43 years and son, Mr. Papit is survived by another son, James; a stepson, Barry Robertson; a stepdaughter, Elaine Zopp; a sister; and a granddaughter.
Funeral services were held Thursday, April 9, at Diuguid Waterlick Chapel in Lynchburg, followed by internment at Rose Lawn Cemetery in Martinsville, Va.