Brad Van Pelt will be remembered by many for his contributions to one of the most fearsome linebacking 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 was 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. It was the drafting of Carl Banks that effectively ended Van Pelt's career with the Giants; he played three more years in the NFL after leaving the Giants.
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.
"We had success as a group," Carson said. "As a team we did not have it. But we took great pride in the way that we played the game together."
Said Martin: "He was one of the main reasons why the Giants always had a signature defense."
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. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001. He also played basketball and baseball while at Michigan State.
Van Pelt's son, Bradlee, was a backup quarterback for the Broncos and Texans.
Funeral arrangements have not been completed but are expected to take place in Michigan.
"I talked to (Bill) Parcells this morning, and he said that when you start losing your constituants, it gets a little hairy," Carson said. "I agree. We lost a very good friend in Doug Kotar back in the 1980s. That was an experience to go through. I had a much deeper relationship with Brad because he was a linebacker and after our careers ended we remained in touch.
"I know how he feels about me and I think he knows how I feel about him," Carson added, "so all is good."