Ralph Godfrey Kercheval, a former University of Kentucky football star, prominent member of the Thoroughbred industry and the oldest living former National Football League player, died Wednesday in Lexington at the age of 98.
Born in Salt Lick, Kercheval graduated from Lexington's Henry Clay High School and earned a degree in animal husbandry from UK, where he played basketball, track and football.
According to a news release from UK, Kercheval was the first player to be named first-team All-SEC when the league started in 1933. He was inducted into the Henry Clay High School Hall of Fame, the UK Athletics Hall of Fame and the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame.
While he played quarterback, defensive back and kicker, he was best known for his punting for UK and later for the Brooklyn Dodgers of the NFL. He set several SEC records, including most punts in a season, 101 during his senior year, in 1933, according to UK. During his time as a Wildcat, Kercheval punted 234 times for an average of 44.8 yards per kick.
He was a running back and punter in the NFL for seven years.
Kercheval had a love for horses, and he worked part-time on the C.V. Whitney farm during the off-season. His friends from the horse industry remember him fondly.
"Ralph Kercheval was one of the greatest gentlemen I've ever met," said one of those friends, Marylou Whitney.
Kercheval went on to train and breed horses at farms across the country. When he was general manager at Sagamore Farm in Maryland, he bred Native Dancer.
He is survived by his wife of 74 years, Blanche Kercheval, and three sons: Ralph Jr., Hal and Ron Kercheval.
His funeral will be 11 a.m. Monday at Lexington's Central Christian Church, 219 East Short Street. Milward Funeral Home is handling arrangements.
The family requests contributions to Hospice of Bluegrass, 2312 Alexandria Drive, Lexington, Ky. 40504, or Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (designated for Alzheimer's research) at 101 Sanders Brown Building, 800 South Limestone, Lexington, Ky. 40536.