Gene Upshaw, a veteran of 16 years in the National Football League as an offensive guard with the Oakland Raiders, will become executive director of the NFL Players Association, it was learned yesterday.

Upshaw, who is currently president of the union, will succeed Ed Garvey, who held the position for the last 12 years before resigning yesterday to become Wisconsin's deputy attorney general. Garvey is the only executive director the union has had.

The NFLPA scheduled a news conference for Monday in Chicago to announce Upshaw's appoinment.

"I'm delighted to get back to the state of Wisconsin," Garvey, a Wisconsin native, told a news conference in Madison. "I've spent my entire adult life trying to come back to the state."

Wisconsin Attorney General Bronson C. LaFollette, who was a contemporary of Garvey's as a student at the University of Wisconsin, joked in announcing Garvey's appointment, describing him as "a great motivator of men, very large ones in fact.

"He brought chaos to the sports world, and that's what he'll bring to the Wisconsin Justice Department," LaFollette said.

In 1968, LaFollette recalled, Garvey was one of his county campaign coordinators when he was the Democratic Party's unsuccessful candidate for governor of Wisconsin.

"Ed and I go back a long time," said LaFollette. "That campaign was not a rip-roaring success, and If I decide to run again, I'll have someone who at least knows how to run a football strike."

Upshaw and Garvey negotiated the final details of the settlement of the union's 57-day strike against the NFL last fall.

Referring to the strike, LaFollette said Garvey "singlehandedly brought the divorce rate down in this country and the birth rate up. He brought husbands and fathers away from television sets on Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings and into the family again. He is a brilliant organizer, a dymanic leader."

Upshaw said, "We are extremely sorry to lose Ed. No one person can replace him."

Garvey said he was sorry to be leaving the football players union. But he added, "This is a perfect time to leave. The union is in excellent shape with four years to go on a new contract. We've accomplished the goals we set out to achieve 12 years ago.

"I've wanted to get into public service for a long time."

But Garvey sidestepped questions on whether he will run for elective office. "At some point down the road who knows what could happen, but for now I'm here to work for Bronson LaFollette."