Peter Gent was a center/forward with the Michigan State University basketball team from 1962 to 1964. He became the first player in school history to lead the basketball team in scoring three consecutive seasons. In his senior year, he averaged 21 points per game. He left school ranked as MSU’s second career scorer, with a total of 1,146 points. He averaged 17.4 points per game for his college career, he was third team All-Big Ten in 1963 and second team All-Big Ten in 1964. In 1964 he was awarded the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor, which is given annually to a male and female athlete at each of the Big Ten institutions, who demonstrates the greatest proficiency in scholarship and athletics. Gent graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in advertising. Gent was the recipient of the 2005 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Although Peter Gent never played a down of college football, the Dallas Cowboys were impressed by his athleticism and offered him a try out. He went to the Cowboys training camp in the summer of 1964, to receive the $500 they were paying to players who attended. As with Cornell Green whom the team had converted two years earlier, he was first tried at defensive back, but at 6–4 and 210 pounds, he was not agile enough to play in the secondary. The coaches decided that Gent’s best chance was at wide receiver, where he wound up making the team and turning down a contract offer with the Washington Bullets, who had drafted him in the 14th round of the 1964 NBA Draft.
Peter Gent became a valuable wide receiver by his second year in 1965, while splitting time with Buddy Dial and playing opposite Bob Hayes. In 1965, Gent caught 16 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns. In 1966, he had 27 receptions for 474 yards (averaging 17.6 yard per catch) and one touchdown. In 1967 with the arrival of Lance Rentzel and health problems, he was moved to tight end. Gent’s career was marred by injury, as he underwent knee operations and endured constant back problems. He was known for his intelligence, soft hands and size. He caught passes mostly from quarterback Don Meredith, with whom he enjoyed a close friendship off the field. In 1969 he was traded to the New York Giants, but was waived on September 8.
After leaving professional football, Peter Gent wrote several novels dealing with the sport. His first and most famous book, a semi-autobiographical novel entitled North Dallas Forty, was published in 1973. Its main characters, a quarterback and a wide receiver, are widely considered to be based on Don Meredith and Gent, respectively. The novel was one of the first to examine the NFL’s hypocrisy regarding drug use. North Dallas Forty was made into a movie of the same name in 1979 starring Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, G.D. Spradlin, and Dayle Haddon. Gent wrote the screenplay for the film. During the making of the film, he experienced creative difficulties with producer Frank Yablans. Gent made his home in Texas for many years, where he was friends with many of that state’s significant creative minds of the day, including Larry L. King, Billy Lee Brammer, Gary Cartwright, Bud Shrake, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Dan Jenkins. They called themselves the Mad Dogs. Peter Gent also explored the corruption in modern professional sports in a sequel volume entitled North Dallas After 40, published in 1989, and in two unrelated football novels—Texas Celebrity Turkey Trot (1979) and The Franchise (1983). Peter Gent had two children, Holly Gent Palmo (born 1963) and Carter Davis Gent (born 1976). He resided in Bangor, Michigan at the time of his death from a pulmonary disease on September 30, 2011, and was working on a novel.
- August, 23, 1942
- Bangor, Michigan
- September, 30, 2011
- Bangor, Michigan
Cause of Death
- pulmonary disease