In a Giants career that spanned from 1974-1981, Doug Kotar’s achievements on the field were overshadowed by that of the team’s misfortunes and mediocrity. During that time, Kotar played for three head coaches: Bill Arnsparger, John McVay and Ray Perkins. Also, in his first three seasons, Koter and the Giants played on a different home field each season: Yale Bowl, Shea Stadium and Giants Stadium.
Despite these difficulties and lack of solidity, Kotar made the most out of a tough situation. In 90 games over that time, Kotar had 3,390 rushing yards. At the time of his retirement, Kotar was the team’s fourth all-time leading rusher. In 1976, while the Giants had just opened Giants Stadium and looking to adjust and appeal to the New Jersey market, Kotar became one of the team’s most famous faces.
That season he had a career-best 739 rushing yards and 319 receiving yards. Teammate, fellow running back and roommate Larry Csonka would later describe Kotar as a guy who ”would dive, claw, scratch – do anything to get the extra yard. He’s a tough cookie.”
Another factor that played in Kotar’s career was injuries. Due to knee injuries, Kotar missed the entire 1980 season and the final nine games of the ’81 season. After retiring from the Giants in 1982, Kotar faced a more daunting challenge. He was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor and died from it in 1983 at the age of 32.
Up until his death, the Giants kept him on their payroll to cover his medical expenses and, of all people, Giants linebacker Harry Carson had a plane reservation set up to visit him at the time of his passing.
In August of that year, while the Giants were in Pittsburgh to play the Steelers in a preseason game, the team visited an ill Kotar, who was living in western Pennsylvania. Many people, including Carson and head coach Bill Parcells, later attributed their team’s success in the ’80s to Kotar’s inspiration.