RIP: Jimmy Corcoran

Remembering teammates who have passed on.
User avatar
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 9:53 am
PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 12:29 pm
NFL Notebook: Long Live The King
Comment(2) Email Print Facebook Twitter
Sunday, July 19, 2009

By Ray Didinger

His name was James Patrick Corcoran, but he was better known as “The King.” Some fans may remember him as quarterback of the Philadelphia Bell in the World Football League. Folks in Pottstown know him from his days with the minor league Firebirds.

But anyone who crossed paths with the King – and it was hard not to cross paths with him, given the way he bounced around – has a story to tell. He was like a character from a Dan Jenkins novel. He lived large even though he played most of his career on a small stage.

The King died last month at age 65. The news did not make headlines. Indeed, it was hardly mentioned. The King passed quietly and that would have upset him. He never did anything quietly, on the field or off.

He had talent – he threw 31 touchdown passes for the Bell – but he is better known for his swagger. In Pottstown, while his teammates rode a bus, the King traveled in a Lincoln Continental with a mobile phone. He had seen a photo of Joe Namath in a limo talking on a phone and if it was good enough for Broadway Joe, the King figured it was good enough for him.

He and Namath were together briefly at the New York Jets’ training camp in 1967. To hear the King tell it, coach Weeb Ewbank cut him because he and Namath were having too much fun. “Weeb said, ‘One of you has to go,’” the King said. “I knew it wouldn’t be Joe.”

The King had a cup of coffee with the Patriots in 1968 – seven pass attempts, three completions, two interceptions – between stints with the Waterbury Orbits and Lowell Giants of the Atlantic Coast Football League. The next year, he signed with the Firebirds who were a farm team for the Eagles. (Yes, some NFL clubs had farm teams back then).

The King played well in Pottstown leading the Firebirds to two ACFL championships. He was invited to the Eagles’ training camp in 1971 but he so infuriated coach Jerry Williams with his showboating that Williams cut him even though he often outperformed the other quarterbacks, Pete Liske, Rick Arrington and Jim Ward.

Williams was determined to go with Liske, who played for him in the Canadian League, and he knew Arrington and Ward would do what good backups are supposed to do which is stand on the sideline and keep their mouths shut. But Williams saw the King as a giant pain in the butt, so he sent him back to Pottstown.

There were many King Corcoran stories at that summer camp, some involving linebacker Tim Rossovich, another wild character known for eating glass and setting his hair on fire. The King claimed he and Rossovich crawled into a ladies shoe store one day and startled the customers by biting their toes. Asked why, he said: “We were bored.”

True story? Who knows? With the King, it was hard to tell.

A native of Jersey City, Corcoran played at the University of Maryland, mostly as a backup to Dick Shiner. In 1964, he led the Terps to a 27-22 upset of Navy and Roger Staubach. He was a listed at 6-0 and 205 pounds, but he was closer to 5-10. He was oddly shaped for a quarterback -- a thick upper body perched on two stubby legs – but he had a major league arm. No one ever questioned that.

His biggest problem was a lack of discipline, an off-shoot of his enormous ego. If his team was 10 points ahead with four minutes to go, he would still be throwing the ball to pad his stats. When NFL Films did a documentary on the Firebirds – “Pro Football, Pottstown, Pa.” – it put a microphone on the King. At one point, he throws a touchdown pass and runs off the field, shouting: “Way to go, King baby.”

The Firebirds’ only loss in the 1970 season was the result of Corcoran defying the orders of coach Dave DiFilippo and throwing a pass on the one-yard line. It was intercepted and returned 99 yards for the decisive touchdown. DiFilippo was so enraged, he benched the King who was leading the league in every passing category.

When the Firebirds disbanded in 1971, Corcoran joined the Norfolk Neptunes. The next year, he signed with Montreal in the Canadian League. In 1973, the World Football League was born and the King was one of its first stars. He put up big numbers for the Philadelphia Bell (3,631 yards passing) but the league went bust after two seasons.

Some WFL players, such as Vince Papale and Keith Krepfle, found homes in the NFL. But at 32, with a reputation as a head-strong, high-maintenance playboy, the King was left out in the cold. He left football and pretty much dropped out of sight.

We stayed in touch for awhile. I covered the Eagles for the Philadelphia Bulletin in the ‘70s so I attended a number of Firebirds games. Frankly, they were more fun than the Eagles. The farm team was winning more – a lot more – than the varsity in those days with Corcoran throwing passes to Ronnie Holliday and Jack Dolbin, two receivers who would later play in the NFL, Holliday with San Diego and Dolbin with Denver.

There were times in 1971 when the Eagles were losing and my phone would ring. I’d pick it up and hear a familiar voice: “How are those quarterbacks doing? The guys who beat me out, how are they looking?”

It was the King calling to gloat. It didn’t matter that he was calling from a dusty trail somewhere in the Atlantic Coast League. He was calling from his Continental, on his mobile phone and that meant he was still the King. That part never changed.
User avatar
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon May 24, 2010 10:59 pm
PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 9:57 pm
It was a treat to play with king and a pleasure to be his teammate.

What a guy! To him nothing was inpossible and no lead couldn't be overcome.

I'll never forget an incident in Jacksonville. I'd kicked off into the end zone, for a touchback and as I trotted off the field Jimmy grabbed my facemask. "Nobody does that in this league!" he screamed in my face. Then he let go, broke into a big smile, patted me on my helmet and looked onto the field. The King had held Court, and I was dismissed... :lol:

Great memories. No doubt King is bugging The Big Coach on the sidelines to put him in...
Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings.
-George Will
User avatar
Posts: 69
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 1:04 am
Location: Stephens City, Virginia
PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 1:28 pm


Stephen Miles was a freshman at the University of Maryland in the early 1960s
when he noticed a classmate who looked unusually dapper for a college student.
He was wearing a sharkskin suit, starched shirt and necktie and had manicured

"This guy looks like he's out of Gentleman's Quarterly," recalled Miles, now a
Baltimore lawyer.

When he introduced himself to his well-dressed classmate, this was the reply:
"I'm the King."

At the time, Jim Corcoran was a backup quarterback at the U-Md. He would go on
to become the most famous minor league football player of all time.

From the beginning, he was flamboyant, brash and utterly unforgettable. He was a
showman, an unapologetic playboy, an egomaniacal self-promoter who traveled with
his own PR agent. And, not least of all, he was a lady-killer on an epic scale.
Not for nothing was he called the "poor man's Joe Namath," after the Hall of
Fame New York Jets quarterback and notorious skirt chaser.

Mr. Corcoran had undeniable football talent as a strong-armed passer, but his
tryouts with NFL teams all came to naught. He played in two games with the
Boston Patriots of the old American Football League in 1968, completing three
passes in seven attempts. Two of his passes were intercepted. Yet his
achievements on the gridiron are only the merest prologue to the remarkable life
of Jim "King" Corcoran.

"In all my years of knowing big-time athletes and people on Wall Street," said
ex-teammate Bill Murphy, who is now an international gold trader, "never in my
life have I met a guy like the King. Nobody close."

In later years, Mr. Corcoran embellished his career at Maryland, saying he
engineered the Terps' 1964 victory over a Navy team quarterbacked by Roger
Staubach, the reigning winner of the Heisman Trophy as the nation's top college
player. In fact, Mr. Corcoran never played in that game.

His college career really peaked in 1961, when he led the Maryland freshman team
to an undefeated season, including a 29-27 victory over the Navy plebes, under
Staubach. In that game, Mr. Corcoran scored one touchdown and passed for two

After riding the bench at Maryland, he spent a decade as a football vagabond. He
was released after tryouts with the Patriots, Jets, Philadelphia Eagles and
Denver Broncos -- whose coach, legend has it, found him in bed with six women.
But in 1969, he signed a three-year, $125,000 contract with the Pottstown (Pa.)
Firebirds, and in that low-wattage spotlight Mr. Corcoran found his glory.

There have been two documentaries and one book about the fabled Firebirds, who
were justifiably called the best professional football team in Pennsylvania and
twice won the championship of the now-defunct Atlantic Coast Football League.

Several Firebirds went on to star in the NFL, but no one outshone the King. He
wore sunglasses on the sidelines and refused to practice in the rain.

He was loved by some of his teammates, loathed by others, but he had an uncanny
ability to inspire confidence. Everywhere he went, his teams won. In 1967, with
a club called the Waterbury Orbits, he won his first Atlantic Coast Football
League championship. His Lowell (Mass.) Giants were undefeated in 1968, when he
was called up for his brief stint with the Patriots. In 1971, he piloted the
Norfolk Neptunes -- the remnants of the Firebirds -- to yet another
championship. In 1974, playing for the Philadelphia Bell, he led the upstart
World Football League in touchdown passes.

"He told me, 'You're the best,' and I played like it," said Murphy, who was a
wide receiver for the Lowell Giants and Boston Patriots. "He knew how to make
you feel better about yourself more than anyone I have ever known. It rubbed off
on everybody, the whole team. He exuded this total confidence."

Mr. Corcoran had permission from his teams to drive to games on his own -- "The
King doesn't ride a bus," he said.

He would pull up in his custom-equipped Lincoln Continental Mark IV, with a
mobile telephone, copier and bar. He had his own Coke machine in the trunk. The
license plate read "King 9," for his uniform number. He dressed like a dandy,
with platform shoes, leather coats and capes.

"Seeing him walk around Pottstown," recalled Miles, the lawyer, "was like
watching Travolta in 'Saturday Night Fever.' "

When they were roommates in 1968, Murphy said, Mr. Corcoran told him to spruce
up his wardrobe.

"He burned all my clothes -- burned them," Murphy recalled, "and said, 'You
can't go out with the King looking like that.' "

Few of Mr. Corcoran's teammates at the time knew that, away from the football
fields of Pottstown and Norfolk, he was leading the life of a gentleman squire
in Potomac, with a wife and two children, and a real estate company called The
Royal Group Ltd.

Mr. Corcoran retired from football in 1975 to buy and sell houses and land. In
the early 1980s, despite never having ridden a horse, he took up polo and became
a creditable amateur player.

His business dealings grew more complex and, at times, questionable. His wife
and children moved to Florida, and he rarely saw them again. He never got a

"As time went on," said Hugh Wyatt, former player personnel director with the
Philadelphia Bell, "Jim Corcoran disappeared, and King Corcoran became the

Mr. Corcoran did not drink or smoke, but he enjoyed the high life and spent more
and more time in Las Vegas. He told people he was working as a singer, which at
least one of his friends thought was just another tall tale -- until he went to
Vegas and, sure enough, saw the King up on stage with Engelbert Humperdinck.

"With so many stories about King," said longtime friend Dave Darrikhuma, "I end
up finding there was an ounce of truth to everything."

Several times a year, Mr. Corcoran would jet off to Florida or the Bahamas to
judge bikini contests. At public events, he'd invariably step out of a limousine
with a buxom 20-year-old on each arm.

"He dwarfed Joe Namath as a ladies' man -- dwarfed him," Murphy said. "He was
the ladies' man of ladies' men."

Mr. Corcoran moved from Potomac to Clifton to Manassas to parts unknown. He had
been trailed by accusations of fraud and theft since the 1970s, and during one
court case in the 1990s not even his lawyer knew where to find him.

Some people believe he spent as much as two years living on an Indian
reservation in Montana. About 10 years ago he grew his hair to his shoulders and
began to wear an earring with a feather. He said his Indian name was Running
Wolf, that he had been born on a Blackfoot reservation and was orphaned when he
was 9.

It was just another contradictory but inscrutable side of his personality. As
garrulous as he was, Mr. Corcoran never revealed much about himself. It's safe
to say that no one in his life knew the full truth about him.

Everyone knew about his football career, about his jovial nature, about the
women who were always around. But few people knew of a darker history, of a
criminal past that included convictions for theft and fraud for trying to sell
properties he didn't own. In 1997, he served six months in federal prison in
Cumberland, Md. -- he called it "Camp Cupcake" -- for tax evasion. He was
arrested a year later for violating parole.

At one sentencing, the court record listed nine names that he went by, not one
of which was his given name. In fact, he was born James Patrick Corcoran in
Jersey City, N.J., on July 6, 1943. (He sometimes said he was born Dec. 26,

His claims that he was Indian and an orphan were, in the words of his
sister-in-law, "totally untrue."

"He was born and raised in [New] Jersey of Irish Catholic parents," said Maria
Corcoran, the widow of Mr. Corcoran's younger brother, Raymond, who died in

"He was very charismatic," she added, "sometimes to the point of being

After his father, a truck driver, died in 1966, "Jimmy" Corcoran, as his family
knew him, never saw his mother again. When she died last year, he didn't come to
the funeral. He has two half-brothers living in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In recent years, hobbled by arthritic knees, Mr. Corcoran lived in hotels and
apartments in Baltimore and the Washington suburbs. He was outwardly as buoyant
as ever, visiting strip clubs and amusing friends with his stories. When he had
money, he always picked up the tab. When things weren't going well, he began to
ask for loans. No one seemed to mind.

"He had this warm, magic personality," said Miles, the lawyer who met him in
class at the University of Maryland. "He was always trying to hustle something."

As the economy bottomed out in the past year, so did Mr. Corcoran. He ended up
all but destitute, living his final months in a friend's spare room in Takoma
Park. Yet he remained as upbeat as ever, e-mailing and talking on the phone
about new business possibilities until June 19, when he died of a heart attack
at Washington Adventist Hospital. He was 65. No one from his family attended
either of his memorial services.

Oh, there's one more loose string to tie up: the story of how Jim "King"
Corcoran came by his nickname in the first place.

"I was a senior quarterback in high school and having fantastic season, but no
one was giving me any recognition," he told The Washington Post in 1972.

"We had a big game at the end of the season and it poured during the first half,
but the sun started to break through at halftime. So, with everyone else filthy
dirty, I came out in the second half with a new uniform, sun glasses, and had
the manager next to me holding my helmet.

"I was really looking sharp, so I kind of hailed the crowd. Then someone yelled,
'Hail to the King.' It did something to them, they started screaming, booing,

A brawl broke out and spread from the football stands to the streets beyond. But
there on the sidelines, in his shades and spotless uniform, with cheering in his
ears, the King had found his domain.

"I was ink now, I was someone," he said. "I went from a nothing quarterback to
second-string all-state in two weeks. It was the turning point in my life."
Richie Franklin
WFL Historian
User avatar
Posts: 69
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 1:04 am
Location: Stephens City, Virginia
PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 4:01 pm
Jim "King" Corcoran in action.

Philadelphia Bell vs. Hawaiians - October 9, 1974

Hawaiians 25
Bell 22

Attendance - 4,900
Jim "King" Corcoran - QB Philadelphia Bell
CORCORAN, VS HAWAII.JPG (316.98 KiB) Viewed 8106 times
Richie Franklin
WFL Historian

Return to In Memorial