Born: July 6, 1943
Died: June 19, 2009
Town: Jersey City
James Sean Patrick Corcoran was born July 6, 1943 in Jersey City. His father died when he was a teenager and his mother abandoned the family, leaving him and his younger brother to live in a YMCA. His big personality led to the nickname King. As a senior quarterback at Dickinson High, he emerged from the dressing room after a mud-soaked first half in a whistle-clean uniform and sunglasses, prompting the crowd to chant Hail to the King! Notre Dame, Miami and Maryland were among his suitors, and King eventually chose to play for the Terrapins. He led the freshman team to an undefeated season in 1961 and backed up Dick Shiner during a varsity career marked by disputes with the Maryland coaching staff.
King’s flamboyance and wild lifestyle—plus the fact that he was reluctant to accept a back-up job—scared most NFL and AFL teams away, so he toiled in the minors for several seasons. The Jets gave him a chance and signed him to a practice-squad contract in 1967, but one Joe Namath on the roster was enough and he was cut after a few games. The following season he played in one game for the Patriots—his only official appearance for a major league.
King’s talent was undeniable and he was the life of the party wherever he played. In 1969, the Eagles signed him to their minor-league team, the Pottsville Firebirds, as insurance for their veteran QB, Norm Snead. King led the Firebirds to league championships in 1969 and 1970, and was featured in an NFL Films documentary entitled Pro Football, Pottstown PA. He was invited to training camp by the Eagles in 1971, but was the odd man out when the team decided to go with Pete Liske and Rick Arrington. He returned to the minors and led the Norfolk Neptunes (with whom Potsstown had merged) to the league championship. He played for the Chambersburg Cardinals in 1972 and 1973, leading the Pennsylvania-based club to yet another championship in 1973.
King’s last gasp at big time football came in 1974 with the creation of the World Football League. He signed with the Philadelphia Bell, who were owned by Grace Kelly’s brother and coached by Ron Waller, who had been the offensive coordinator for the Firebirds years earlier. Playing for his old coach, King had a monster season. He completed 280 passes for 3,531 yards and led the WFL with 31 touchdown passes. One of his receivers was Vince Papale, who went on to make the Eagles as a special teams player. King and Vince connected on the first completion in WFL history in a 33–8 win over the Portland Storm. Claude Watts, a teammate in Pottstown and Norfolk, was the team’s top runner. The Bell went 8–11 and were credited with an additional win by forfeit. King played briefly for the Bell in 1975, completing 45 more passes and throwing three more touchdown passes before quitting at the age of 32.
After football, King dabbled in real estate and formed a nightclub act in Las Vegas. During the 1990s he spent six months in prison for tax evasion. He was felled by a heart attack while staying with an old friend in Maryland and died at the age of 65.