Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Former Minnesota Vikings kicker Fred Cox, who was the co-creator of the Nerf football, died Wednesday at the age of 80, the team announced.
Cox was discharged from the hospital earlier this month and placed into hospice care because of heart and kidney problems, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
"The Vikings mourn the loss of Fred Cox, one of our proudest legends and a member of the 50 Greatest Vikings," the team said in a statement Thursday. "A respected teammate and friend, Fred's football career as the Vikings all-time leading scorer set the stage for a life where he went on to achieve great things in business and in his community.
"Fred's positive energy, strength in his faith and passion for life will be missed."
Cox never missed a game in 15 seasons playing for the Vikings from 1963-77. His 15 seasons are tied for the third-longest tenure in franchise history.
Cox finished his career with 1,365 points, the most in Vikings history. He led the team in points for 11 consecutive seasons (1963-73) and won the final NFL Championship Game in 1969. He also played in four Super Bowls with the Vikings.
When Cox retired from the league, he ranked second in NFL history in scoring behind quarterback and kicker George Blanda.
In 1972, while still a member of the Vikings, Cox collaborated with partner and local entrepreneur John Mattox to create a soft football to prevent leg injuries to kids. The result was the Nerf football.
Cox went to the University of Pittsburgh and was drafted as a running back by the Cleveland Browns. He shifted to kicker due to a back injury and learned under Lou Groza.
Cox later became a chiropractor and operated a successful practice in Minnesota before retiring at age 50.