Brad Van Pelt will be remembered by many for his contributions to one of the most fearsome linebacker groups in NFL history. Together with Hall of Famers Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor and Brian Kelley, they formed the "Crunch Bunch" in the 1970s and early 1980s for the Giants.
But for those closest to Van Pelt, football mattered little.
"He will be fondly remembered, and he will be missed," former Giants defensive lineman George Martin said. "His impact on our lives was greater as a person than it was as a ballplayer."
Van Pelt was found dead at home in Owosso, Mich., of an apparent heart attack on Tuesday. He was 57.
"He was a classic teammate who was always there for you," Carson said. "That's the thing I will remember more than anything else, his friendship and the times we spent together after football. Those are the things I'll treasure more than anything else."
Van Pelt played for the Giants from 1973 to 1983, during which time he was selected to five Pro Bowls.
"One of the greatest players I ever played with," Taylor said. "If you knew Brad, you loved Brad. He was a very unique individual. He always put a smile on my face. You could never stay mad at him. He was a true character. One the reasons we've kept such a good relationship for so long is because there are not a lot of guys out there like Brad Van Pelt."
Van Pelt's tenure with the Giants preceded their Super Bowl era. He played on just one team with a winning record, in 1981, but was voted the team's Player of the Decade for the 1970s.
A converted defensive back, he wore the number 10 for the Giants, having entered the league just before regulations regarding the jersey numbers that linebackers could wear. He played in 184 regular season games and had 20 interceptions and (unofficially) 24.5 sacks, because that statistic was not recognized when Van Pelt played. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001. He also played basketball and baseball while at Michigan State.
"This is a very sad day for our organization and for my family," Giants president and CEO John Mara said. "Brad was one of the best players in our history and was a good person with a huge heart."
Funeral arrangements have not been completed but are expected to take place in Michigan.
"I think people will reflect on him as a football player and things that he did on the football field, but very few people are going to reflect on the person that he was that not a lot of people got to know personally," Carson said. "I'm just so glad that I got to know the man more so than the athlete."