An Annapolis legend — as a remarkable athlete, an incredible person and a dedicated contributor to the community.
That could easily be the epitaph for Alan Pastrana, a lifelong Annapolis resident who ranks among the greatest athletes ever produced by this city.
Pastrana died Thursday morning from pneumonia caused by COVID-19. The Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Famer was 76 years old.
“I don’t even know where to begin with talking about Alan. He was truly one of a kind,” said Robert Pastrana, his younger brother. “I guess the best, most accurate thing you could say about Alan was that he cared about everyone else more than he cared about himself.”
Charles “Alan” Pastrana was born on Nov. 20, 1944 — the second of nine children. Charles Adolph and Ruth Pastrana raised six boys and three girls on Elliott Road in Eastport.
Sports were a huge part of Pastrana’s upbringing, and his father Charlie was often the coach, whether it was football, baseball or boxing.
“It all started at the Naval Academy. Every Sunday since I can remember, my friends and I went to the academy and used its wonderful facilities,” Pastrana told The Capital prior to his induction into the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.
“We’d jump in the boxing ring, then run to another building and play a little basketball. We’d get out on those open fields along the Severn River and throw the football or run through the obstacle course. It was like our own private playground.”
Pastrana became a three-sport standout at Annapolis High, excelling in football, wrestling and lacrosse. He was the starting quarterback and co-captain of the 1962 Annapolis High football team that was the first in program history to go undefeated.
That fabled squad, coached by Neville Leonard, also included such standouts as Johnny Russell, Buck Gardner, Hal Grau, Rick Baskett, Tommy Nylund, Bert Taylor and Tom Parlett among others.
“Alan went on to star at Maryland and in the NFL, and at every stop along the way, he always carried that team mentality and displayed a tremendous amount of leadership,” Parlett said.
Many years later, Pastrana was the driving force behind organizing reunions of that great 1962 team.
“Alan was one of the greatest leaders anyone of us ever knew, and he was our captain for life,” Parlett said. “He always cared deeply about his teammates off the field.”
Pastrana was a three-time county champion in wrestling and an All-State goalie in lacrosse, serving as Annapolis captain in all sports. Following a post-graduate year at Severn School, he received a football scholarship to Maryland.
As starting quarterback for the Terrapins in 1966, Pastrana set an Atlantic Coast Conference single-season record with 17 touchdown passes and school records for passing yardage (1,499), passing efficiency rating (131.29) and longest touchdown throw.
Pastrana also played lacrosse at Maryland and was named first-team All-American as a defenseman in 1966.
The Denver Broncos made Pastrana an 11th round pick in the 1969 NFL Draft, and he spent two seasons with the organization. He played in five games with three starts during the 1970 season.
In a game against the San Diego Chargers, Pastrana drove the Broncos to the 35-yard line and within range for a game-winning field goal. However, he was knocked unconscious and was unable to call a crucial timeout to stop the clock. As offensive captain, he was the only player allowed to do so under the rules of the time.
That game ended in a 17-17 tie as the clock expired before the Broncos could line up for the field goal attempt. Following the season, the NFL changed the rule regarding which players could call timeout.
Pastrana was sacked eight times during that season and suffered a second severe concussion caused by Baltimore Colts defensive end Bubba Smith, effectively ending his professional career. He went to a tryout with the Buffalo Bills in 1971 and was one of three quarterbacks to make the squad but was released by coach Lou Saban in early September.
“Alan was religious for a while, and Bubba Smith hit him so hard he forgot religion,” Robert Pastrana said of his older brother. “Our mom said every time Alan got knocked out, he came out with a different personality.”
Debilitating injuries were a big part of Pastrana’s football career as he tore the MCL and cartilage in his knee while at Maryland and missed the 1967 season after undergoing surgery.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, a 1970 graduate of Annapolis High who went on to become one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, was among many young athletes who grew up revering Pastrana.
“Alan Pastrana was the greatest football player in the history of Annapolis High, possibly the greatest all-around athlete. Everyone in Annapolis looked up to Alan Pastrana as an athlete,” Belichick said Friday. “Alan was just a great, great guy. You would never have known how great an athlete Alan was because he never talked about it. He was just so humble.”
Travis Pastrana, the action sports superstar, remembers being coached by his Uncle Alan as a youngster and always looked up to him.
“While Uncle Alan was an amazing athlete, but he left an even greater impression on me as Coach P,” Travis said. “He always found time for anyone, no matter their age and skill level, who wanted to better themselves physically or mentally.”
Travis Pastrana said he would never have come back from multiple injuries that were described by doctors as career-ending if not for the support of his Uncle “Roll Roll,” the nickname he gave Alan because he always wanted to wrestle.
“Alan was a wealth of information, who helped so many of us see every roadblock as a chance to forge a new path,” Travis said. “He touched so many lives in the community in such a positive way. A life well-lived and one worth celebrating.”
Following retirement from pro football, Pastrana went to work at Anne Arundel Community College and retired after 42 years as an associate professor of physical education and health. He was head football coach at AACC and assistant men’s lacrosse coach under Mike Ballas.
Pastrana was inducted into the Anne Arundel Community College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012 and is also a member of both the Annapolis High and Severn School athletic halls of fame.
Diane Laudenslager first met Alan Pastrana when they attended Annapolis Junior High together. While friends at Annapolis High and the University of Maryland, they did not start dating until after college.
Diane and Alan Pastrana were married in 1970 and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year.
“I married Alan because of his kind heart. As elite an athlete as Alan was, it was his huge, wonderful heart that attracted me the most. Losing him leaves a huge void,” Diane Pastrana said. “Alan was just an amazing person, a real giant among men. Alan lived a great life, and he had no regrets.”
A resident of the Amberley community of St. Margaret’s since 1978, Pastrana devoted his retirement years to making Annapolis and Anne Arundel County a better place to live.
When Nick Good-Malloy took over as varsity football coach at Annapolis High nine years ago, Alan Pastrana became his most important mentor and biggest supporter. Pastrana led fundraisers to help purchase equipment and other items for the program.
“When I got hired here, I got in touch with Alan and he’s been the lifeblood of our program ever since. He’s done so much behind the scenes for Annapolis football and doesn’t want any recognition,” Good-Malloy said.
Having learned first-hand the effects of sports concussions, Pastrana made it a mission later in life to increase awareness among younger athletes. He connected with Dr. Robert Graw and became involved with the HeadFirst Sports Injury and Concussion program, a division of Righttime Medical Care.
Pastrana became a community representative for the HeadFirst program and held countless seminars with high school and recreation coaches, trainers, athletes and parents.
“Nobody did a better job of educating people about the dangers of head injuries than Alan,” Graw said. “Speaking on behalf of the Righttime Medical community, we felt so lucky to have Alan Pastrana come work with us to spread the message.”
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Graw, who met Pastrana in 1973, was amazed by his generosity. He recalled learning that Pastrana personally made lunch for all the men working job sites for Charles Pastrana and Sons.
“What is so unbelievable about Alan Pastrana as a person was that everyone had the same relationship with him. He forged genuine, real friendships with seemingly every person he encountered,” Graw said.
One of those people was Bill Sims, who met Pastrana in the mid-1960s. They have been close friends for 50 years and Pastrana became “Uncle Alan” to Sims’ two sons.
“Alan had a huge heart and was simply a giver. He was constantly giving to everyone in his life,” Sims said. “There are no words to describe what Alan Pastrana meant to the City of Annapolis. It’s just such a huge loss.”
In addition to his wife of 50 years, Pastrana is survived by two daughters — Shannon (Chris) Overend and Lisa (John) Brabazon and six grandchildren. The family and friends are planning a memorial service at Richard Ensor Stadium at Annapolis High at a later date.