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Former Rams first round pick Mike Fanning dies at 69

Fanning was one of the top players in the nation at Notre Dame and helped L.A. reach the Super Bowl

USA TODAY Sports-Historical Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Fanning, the ninth overall pick of the 1975 NFL Draft, passed away on Sunday at age 69, according to his family. Fanning was a defensive tackle picked by the Los Angeles Rams with the ninth overall selection in 1975 out of Notre Dame, and he was credited with 35.5 sacks over eight seasons with the team, according to Pro-Football-Reference.

During Fanning’s eight years with the Rams, the franchise went to four NFC Championships and one Super Bowl, ranking top-five in defense every year from 1975 to 1978.

Fanning was traded to the Lions in 1983.

Taken in the same draft class as Hall of Famers Randy White, Walter Payton, and Robert Brazile, Fanning held his own as anything but a bust, even if he didn’t reach the same status as those other players. At Notre Dame, he was teammates with the immortal Daniel Ruettiger, aka Rudy.

Fanning was most recently working in the University of Tulsa’s athletic department. In 2018, Fanning recalled his time on the Rams and friendship with teammate Fred Dryer and the changing attitude of team dynamics.

“He was such a great character,” Fanning says of Dryer. “We had a lot of characters on the team. Back then, you had guys stay together on the same team for eight or nine years. Now, everybody is leaving all the time through free agency.”

A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Fanning was also a first team All-American and a leader on a national championship defense in 1973.