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Red Hickey, shotgun formation inventor, dies

APTOS, Calif. (March 30, 2006) -- Howard "Red" Hickey, the NFL coach who invented the shotgun offensive formation with the 49ers, died March 30, his son said. He was 89.

Jeffrey Hickey didn't disclose the cause of his father's death.

Hickey coached San Francisco from 1959-63, going 27-27-1 before resigning three games into the 1963 season. He also played on the Cleveland Rams' 1945 championship team, was an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Rams' title club in 1951 and spent two decades as an assistant and scout for the Dallas Cowboys.

He made history in 1960 when he combined elements of a punt formation, a spread passing attack and a double-wing formation invented by Stanford's Pop Warner into the shotgun -- so named by Hickey because it sprayed receivers around the field.

Before a game against Baltimore in November 1960, Hickey instructed quarterbacks John Brodie and Bob Waters to stand several yards behind the center to receive snaps, giving them more time to survive the Colts' formidable pass rush.

The formation spurred the 49ers to a late-season winning surge, and Hickey combined the shotgun with a three-quarterback rotation in 1961, sending Brodie, Waters and rookie Bill Kilmer into the game on alternating plays.

San Francisco dropped the formation before the next season, but it was revived by coach Tom Landry and the Cowboys several years later, and the shotgun eventually spread throughout football.

The Arkansas native was a two-sport star at the University of Arkansas, earning all-decade honors with the Razorbacks' football team and reaching the 1941 Final Four with the basketball team.

Cecelia Surina Hickey, his wife of 50 years, died in 1995. Hickey, a World War II veteran, is survived by his brother, Bailey; sons Michael, Patrick and Jeffrey; six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

His family and friends will hold a private memorial service.

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