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A living legend turns 98

There have been a lot of different birthday presents for Glenn Presnell, but the greatest one could come this year.

Presnell, the oldest living former National Football League player, turns 98 years young Monday. And according to sources in the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame, Presnell will be on the 2004 Old Timers ballot.

"He deserves to be in there," said Harold Kittrell of Columbus who played for Presnell at Eastern Kentucky.

"I've contacted the University of Nebraska to get some help. I've talked to Jerry Green at the Detroit Free Press and he's in our corner. He has a vote on the Old Timers committee. I'd love to see this happen to such a deserving man. And it's long overdue."

Presnell doesn't worry about being inducted into the Hall of Fame, nor does he have any special wishes as he approaches his birthday.

"I don't want anything. I've got everything I need," Presnell said.

Some of Presnell's former players have organized an invitation-only birthday party for Monday, and it's certain that the group will weigh heavily to one side the reasons why Presnell should be included in the Hall of Fame.

But Presnell's place among the game's greats is backed by more than just the expected bias of those who know him.

The former two-way threat was an All-American at Nebraska where he led the nation in rushing, starred with the semipro Ironton Tanks and was the key reason the team beat the New York Giants and Chicago Bears of the NFL, and earned All-Pro honors with the Detroit Lions on two occasions, leading the franchise to its first NFL championship while leading the league in scoring.

Actually, Presnell wasn't a two-way threat. His diversity was three- and even four-fold. Not only did he run and pass on offense and play safety on defense, but he was an outstanding placekicker.

Presnell's 54-yard field goal in 1934 was not only a Lions record until 1995 but it was also an NFL record that stood for 19 years.

Presnell played golf until about two years ago, but knee and hip replacement surgery has slowed his pace.

"I feel pretty good. I sleep and eat well. I watch football a lot. I don't have any particular favorite teams anymore," Presnell said.

There are plenty of teams linked to Presnell. Besides Nebraska and the Tanks, he played in the NFL with Portsmouth and Detroit. When Presnell signed with the Lions, he was the person who selected the team's uniform color scheme that is used until today.

Contracts in the 1920s and '30s are no were close in comparison to today's salaries. Presnell was paid about $2,000 to teach science at Ironton High School and coach football at Russell (Ky.) High School. His richest pro contract was with the Lions for a little more than $4,000.

"I got $150 a game with the Tanks and Portsmouth, and a little more with Detroit. But if you didn't play, you didn't get paid," Presnell said.

After an NFL career, Presnell coached football at Nebraska and Eastern Kentucky. He is in the University of Nebraska Athletic Hall of Fame and the Nebraska state sports hall of fame. He was bestowed similar honors at Eastern Kentucky for his coaching and years as athletic director. An induction into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame would be the crowning achievement.

"(Not being in the Hall of Fame) doesn't bother me a bit," Presnell said. "I feel good, I eat good and I sleep good. That's all a person can ask."