1973 - 1984
145 Games Played
7 Pro Bowls
1978 NFL Defensive Player of the Year
Randolph Charles Gradishar was drafted in the first round of the 1973 draft by the Denver Broncos. He was the 14th player chosen overall.
He attended college at Ohio State University under legendary coach Woody Hayes. Hayes, who sent over 98 players to the professional football level in his Hall of Fame career, called Gradishar the finest linebacker he ever coached.
Not only is he a member of the schools All-Century Team and their Hall of Fame, but Radish is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. An excellent student in college, he is also inducted into the GTE Academic Hall of Fame and is on the ABC Sports All-Century team.
Denver brought him along slowly in his rookie year, starting just three of 14 games behind veteran Ray May. May was the 1971 NFL Man of the Year and a member of the Super Bowl V champion Baltimore Colts.
He started every game the next year, the last season the Broncos would run a base 4-3 defense during his tenure with the club. He was named to the Pro Bowl after grabbing three interceptions and taking one in 44 yards for a touchdown. He scored once again the following year off of another three picks and had seven quarterback sacks.
Denver went into the 1977 season running the 3-4 defense under coach Joe Collier. With players like Gradishar, Louis Wright, Tom Jackson, Bill Thompson, Reuben Carter, Bob Swen sen, Lyle Alzado, and Barney Chavous, the Broncos had one of the most feared defenses in all of football history.
They were dubbed the "Orange Crush", and a soft drink named after them soon became very popular. Five members of the defense was named to the Pro Bowl that year and four were named First Team All-Pro, including Gradishar.
They led Denver to a 12-2 record and an appearance in Super Bowl XII. Though they lost the game, the defense left a permanent mark on NFL history with their excellence by allowing just 10.6 points per game that year.
Radish may have had his finest season the following year, where he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by both the Associated Press and UPI. He also was named the winner of the George Halas Award and Linebacker of the Year by Football Digest.
Denver's defense was second in the league in points allowed, and Gradishar was one of five Bronco defenders to go to the Pro Bowl.
Football Digest named him NFL Linebacker of the Year again in 1979. He was once again selected to the Pro Bowl.
Though he failed to make the Pro Bowl in 1980, he did take one interception a career long 93 yards for the last touchdown of his career. He was also named First Team All-NFL by the Sporting News.
Gradishar made the Pro Bowl the next three years before retiring after the 1983 season. He never missed a game in his entire career, an amazing feat for someone playing such a violent position where he had to give up his body on virtually every play to prevent the opponents from success.
Not only was he durable, very intelligent, quick on his feet, and a big hitter, but Gradishar was also a masterful technician. He had the innate ability to diagnose a play and was seldom fooled.
This, along with his foot speed, allowed him to defend just about any opponent on a pass play. This ability allowed Denver the luxury of blitzing their outside linebackers, knowing he could cover their assignments.
His specialty may have been the short-yardage situation. With a superb ability to sift would-be blockers, he often filled the holes the opposing running backs would run to. Though he didn't have the toothless snarl of Jack Lambert or easily seen nastiness of Dick Butkus, he was just as good as those two Hall of Famers.
Some of the best running backs in NFL history, Walter Payton and Tony Dorsett, are on record espousing his tremendous hitting ability. "The chance for a real good shot comes very seldom, but when it's there I take full advantage of it." Gradishar once said.
There have been few linebackers to take the gridiron on his level. He is a member of the Broncos Ring of Honor and Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. Why he has yet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is beyond bewildering. He has been a finalist twice and a semi-finalist four times.
Now he is in a gigantic pool of candidates in the Seniors Committee list. Though he should have long been inducted before he made it that far, he is caught in a quagmire of a selection process where no more than two candidates yearly can just make it to the final vote process.
It would behoove Canton to double that, allowing the Seniors Committee to try to induct at least four each year. The backlog of excellent players is too long, and it is frustrating seeing lesser modern players go in as superior players are caught in a numbers crunch that is much harder to win than a slots machine jackpot at a casino.
Watching a player as great as Randy Gradishar wait this long to get his deserved respect truly shows the ineptness of the Canton voter.
Though no one can question the recent inductions of linebackers like Andre Tippett, Ricky Jackson, and Derrick Thomas, no one would ever say that any were better football players than Gradishar.
Though deserving, it is a travesty the much more deserving Gradishar continues to wait on his rightful placement in the hallowed walls of Canton.
1966 - 1976
133 Games Played
5 Pro Bowls
1966 NFL Rookie of the Year
Thomas Henry Nobis Jr. was the first draft pick ever by the expansion Atlanta Falcons in the 1966 NFL draft. He was also the first player chosen overall.
Nobis is a legend in Texas. He was was the only sophomore starter on the Longhorns' 1963 National Championship team.
No bis averaged nearly 20 tackles per game at Texas, and was a two-way player on teams that were ranked first in the nation at some point during each of his three years.
He graced the covers of Life, Sports Illustrated and Time magazines. Nobis won the Knute Rockne, Outland, and Maxwell Awards and finished seventh in the Heisman voting.
Nobis was selected to the Football News All-Time All-America Team, Sports Illustrated's All-Century Team, and the Walter Camp Football Foundation All-Century Team.
He is also a member of the Texas and Georgia State High School Halls of Fame, Thomas Jefferson High School Alumni Hall of Fame, the San Antonio Hall of Fame, the Longhorn Hall of Honor and the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame.
Nobis started right away for the Falcons, and was very busy on a new team that struggled to a 3-11 record.
He set a Falcons record, that still stands today, when he amassed 294 tackles. It may be an NFL record, but that stat is unofficial and kept by individual teams.
He was named to the Pro Bowl and was the 1966 NFL Rookie of the Year.
Nobis intercepted the first three passes of his career the next season, and returned one for a touchdown. He was also selected to his second Pro Bowl and only First Team All-Pro honor.
In 1968, he was named to his third Pro Bowl, as the struggling Falcons went through a coaching change by hiring Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin after the third week of the season.
Nobis was injured in the fifth game of the following year, and missed the rest of the season. He came back in 1970 and was named to the Pro Bowl. He then was injured in the fourth game of the following season, and missed the rest of the year.
Nobis would only miss two games for the rest of his career. He made his last Pro Bowl in 1972, and also scored the last touchdown of his career.
The 1973 season would be the best record the Falcons had during Nobis' career. They went 9-5. Atlanta won 50 games in his eleven seasons.
His number 60 the first number retired by the team, and he is a member of the Falcons' Ring of Honor, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, and the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame.
He has also been named the NFL Man of the Year (Dodge and Vitalis), and Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. award, due to his work with the Special Olympics as a member of the Falcons front office, and in his own foundation.
Nobis is on the NFL's All-1960s team, which is quite an accomplishment if you consider he didn't even play half of the decade.
It is TRULY astounding that 'Mr. Falcon' still has yet to be inducted into Canton. While he played on many lousy teams, but he was outstanding.
Atlanta got little publicity during his time as a player, but the voters cannot use this as an excuse. These voters are supposed to represent the whole NFL, not just the media driven franchises.
They are supposed to be experts, or at least this is what their positions as voters implies. The exclusion of Nobis for all of these years belies that thought.
Tommy Nobis epitomizes what a Hall of Fame football player is supposed to symbolize. Both on and off the field. It is truly disgraceful, and disrespectful, that he is not in Canton.
Lee Roy Jordan
1963 - 1976
186 Games Played
18 Fumble Recoveries
5 Pro Bowls
Lee Roy Jordan was the Dallas Cowboys first draft pick of the 1963 draft. He was the sixth player chosen overall. Jordan was already a gridiron legend in college, after a spectacular career at Alabama University.
In his last game with Alabama in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma University, Jordan piled up a whopping 30 tackles and was named the games MVP. He is a member of the Alabama Hall Of Fame and the College Football Hall Of Fame.
He only suited up for seven games in his rookie year, but started each game at outside linebacker on the left side. He ended up swiping three interceptions and recovering a fumble.
He was moved to middle linebacker in 1966 and would stay there the rest of his career. This was the time the famous "Doomsday Defense" was at its beginnings, and Jordan was the leader.
He picked off one pass that year and returned it 49 yards for a score that year. Jordan had three interceptions the next year for a career best 85 yards, while scoring another touchdown and recording a safety.
The Cowboys would end up making it to the 1967 NFL Championship Game before losing to the Green Bay Packers in the famous "Ice Bowl". He was named to the first of three consecutive Pro Bowls that season.
Jordan ended up playing in Super Bowl V, the first Super Bowl after the NFL/ AFL merger. The Cowboys ended up losing in the waning seconds to the Baltimore Colts in a game dubbed "The Blunder Bowl" because it was a game that featured 11 turnovers by both teams and 10 penalties against Dallas.
Jordan had two interceptions and a career best three fumble recoveries in 1971. The Cowboys would go on to beat the Miami Dolphins 24 - 3 in Super Bowl VI. It is the only Super Bowl where a team was prevented from scoring a touchdown.
Jordan had two more swipes in 1972, then had a career high six interceptions in 1973. In one game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jordan picked off three passes in a five-minute span.
He took one ball for a 31 yard touchdown, and was named to the Pro Bowl after the season. He made his final Pro Bowl in 1974 after getting two interceptions.
The 1975 season saw Jordan tie his career high of six interceptions, while leading the Cowboys to Super Bowl X. The Cowboys ended up losing a close game to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jordan again started every game in 1976, but did not record any turnovers for only the second time of his career.
He then retired after that season as the franchises all-time leader in tackles, and his 32 interceptions are still tied for the third most ever by a linebacker in NFL history. Jordan is a member of the Cowboys Ring Of Fame.
There are a few theories as to why Jordan still awaits his call to Canton. One is that he was a member of a fantastic defense that featured Hall Of Fame Defensive Tackle Bob Lilly, along with such greats as George Andrie, Chuck Howley, Jethro Pugh, Charlie Waters, Cornell Green, and Cliff Harris.
Then there is some that say is was because of the genius diagramming of Hall Of Fame Coach Tom Landry that the "Doomsday Defense" was so effective.
Others believe that the voters have some anti-Cowboys bias from that era as well. Maybe all those points have some validity, but you cannot ignore the facts that Jordan has placed in front of all to see through his play on the field.
He was a true leader who always gave it everything he had on every play without fail. Not only was he a tackling machine, but the man helped get the ball back for his teams offense over 50 times in his career.
Jordan gathered a turnover in every 3.72 games he played in his career, an outstanding percentage. His three interception game was named one of the ten most memorable moments in the history of Texas Stadium in 2008.
Not a big man in size or stature, Jordan's heart was immeasurable, and he was one of the top linebackers in the NFL almost every year that he played.
When you see the late Derrick Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs inducted, though deservedly so, it can make one wonder. Thomas was known for just rushing the passer, and was not the complete player that Jordan was.
Lee Roy Jordan certainly is deserving of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.
New Orleans Saints
181 Games Played
23 Fumbles Recovered
5 Pro Bowls
Samuel Davis Mills Jr. went undrafted in 1981, then tried out with the Cleveland Browns and was cut. He then tried out with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and was cut again.
The United States Football League began playing in 1983 and Mills tried out for the Philadelphia Stars. Not only did he make the team, he became an instant success. Nicknamed the "Field Mouse", the 5'9" Mills was known for his leadership and intensity both on and off the field.
The USFL folded after 1985, but it did have many successes. Six members of the USFL are inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including four players. Mills played in the USFL Championship Game all three seasons, winning twice. He is a member of the USFL All-Time Team, and was named All-USFL, their version of the Pro Bowl, all three years.
David Dixon created the USFL. He also was instrumental in bringing the Saints to New Orleans. His connections with the USFL proved to be valuable when that league folded as he signed many former USFL personnel.
He hired Jim Mora Sr. as his head coach, Bobby Hebert as his starting quarterback, Chuck Commiskey as a starting offensive guard, Buford Jordan as the starting fullback, Antonio Gibson as the starting strong safety, Mel Gray as the return specialist, and Mills and Vaughn Johnson as his starting inside linebackers. Mora had coached Mills, Commiskey, and Gibson in the USFL.
The Saints already had Hall of Famer Ricky Jackson at one outside linebacker slot, and had just drafted future Pro Bowler Pat Swilling to bookend him. Teamed with Mills and Johnson, New Orleans has one of the best linebacker corps in NFL history. The group was so devastating that they were called "The Dome Patrol".
Mills was the leader of the group and made his first Pro Bowl in his second season. He was always around the ball and averaged almost 100 tackles a year in his nine season with the Saints. He also took two fumble recoveries in for touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl four times total.
When his contract expired in 1994, the Saint allowed the 36-year old to leave despite the fact he had just piled up a career high 155 tackles that year for them. Mills signed with the expansion Carolina Panthers determined to show he had a lot of football still in him. He became an instant hero for the Panthers.
The 1996 season was one of his best. He was named to the Pro Bowl and was also given his only First Team All-Pro honor. Mills had a career best 5.5 sacks to go with 122 tackles and became the oldest player in NFL history to recover a fumble and return it for a score.
He retired after the 1997 season and became a linebackers coach for Carolina. He found out he had intestinal cancer and only had a few months to live in 2003, but kept coaching and pleading for his players to "keep pounding". This inspired Carolina to reach Super Bowl XXXVIII that year.
Mills died in 2005 and the Panthers have a statue of him outside of their stadium in his honor. He is a member of the Panthers Hall of Honor, the Saints Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey, and the College Football Hall of Fame.
There is still a good chance Mills will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day. Though critics may say his five Pro Bowls with the NFL isn't enough for induction, that means they are discounting what he did in the USFL.
The USFL was professional football, and Mills was a huge star in that league. The building in Canton has the words Pro Football" engraved on their buildings, signs, and letterheads everywhere. The USFL obviously had tremendous impact and influence on the NFL as well.
His is a story of perseverance. The "American Dream" that became reality. Even if Mills never gets into Canton, he is probably the greatest inside linebacker the Saints franchise ever had wear their jersey.
159 Games Played
21 Fumble Recoveries
5 Pro Bowls
William Earl Bergey was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of the 1969 AFL draft out of Arkansas State and was an AFL All-Star in his first year. Bergey started for the Bengals for five years.
He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1974 for two first-round and one second-round draft picks because he had signed a "futures contract" with the World Football League.
The WFL folded, so he went to Philadelphia. With the Eagles, Bergey went to four straight Pro Bowls, and became the highest-paid defensive player in the league.
He earned Eagles MVP status three times. Bergey recorded 233 tackles in a single season with the Eagles. After Philadelphia lost to Oakland in Super Bowl XV, Bergey retired in 1980 with 48 turnovers, which means he got the ball back for his teams every 3.3 games.
Bergey is a member of the Bengals 40th Anniversary Roster, the Eagles Honor Roll, and the city of Buffalo's Hall of Fame. Though he was excellent in Cincinnati, it was with Philadelphia he enjoyed his best years in the NFL.
In his five years with the Bengals, Bergey had 9 interceptions and 6 fumble recoveries.
He accumulated 18 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries in seven seasons as an Eagle.
He was a tackling machine that allowed fellow Eagle linebackers John Bunting, Frank LeMaster and Jerry Robinson to excel.
When you talk of the rich history of the Eagles, names like Van Buren, Bednarik, McDonald, White, Montgomery, Carmichael, and Bill Bergey roll off the tongues of most die hard Philly fans.
He may not get into Canton, but he is a Hall of Fame player in my book.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
225 Games Played
1990s All-Decade Team
5 Pro Bowls
Hardy Otto Nickerson was drafted in the fifth round of the 1987 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. After spending his rookie year as a reserve, he soon moved into the starting lineup and became a solid member of the team.
He signed with the Buccaneers as a free agent in 1993, and blossomed in the 4-3 base defense that head coach Tony Dungy ran. He was named First Team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl in his first season after setting a team record with a whopping 214 tackles that still stands today.
Though he never exceeded 147 tackles in a season for the rest of his career, Nickerson was the fiery, intelligent leader of the defense and was called "The Dragon" by teammates and fans.
In 1996, he went to the Pro Bowl again, something he would continue to do until 1999. He also was named First Team All-Pro in 1997, and was honored with the Byron "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year Award for his work in the community and country.
He became a free agent after his last Pro Bowl season of 1999, so he signed a contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He got hurt after six games, missing the rest of the season.
The 2001 season saw him get a career high three interceptions and nine defended passes. He then signed with the Green Bay Packers in 2002, then retired at the end of the season.
Nickerson is a member of the NFL 1990's All-Decade Second Team. No other Buccaneers middle linebacker has more tackles than him and he has the third most in team history.
His getting inducted into Canton may seem a long shot to some, but Nickerson's career stacks up next to some of the greatest middle linebackers in NFL history. His longevity also shows how tough he was and how much he had.
180 Games Played
6 Pro Bowls
Karl Bernard Mecklenburg was drafted in the 12th round of the 1983 draft by the Denver Broncos, the 310th player chosen overall. He made the team as a rookie, but started out playing defensive end.
He was able to work his way on the field by impressing the coaches with his determination. After getting a pair of sacks as a rookie, he was used as a pass rush specialist the next year and got seven more. He also picked off two passes and returned them for 105 yards.
Denver knew they had to find a way to get Mecklenburg on the field, and they also wanted to upgrade their linebacking unit. Joe Collier, the Broncos legendary defensive coordinator, decided to try him at inside linebacker.
Though he split time with incumbent starter Rick Dennison, Mecklenburg was still able to rack up a career high 13 sacks. He was named First Team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl despite starting just nine games.
He took over as a full-time starter in 1986 and was named First Team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl again after getting 9.5 sacks. Denver would reach the Super Bowl, but lost.
The Broncos would go back to the Super Bowl in 1987 and 1989, but lost each time. Mecklenburg was a big reason for their success. In 1987, he went to the Pro Bowl after getting the last three interceptions of his career.
He was named First Team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl in 1989 after scoring the first touchdown of his career, which came off of a fumble recovery. He scored off another fumble the next year, as well as recording a safety.
From 1986 to 1997, Mecklenburg was one of the best linebackers in all of football. He wasn't just a pass rusher, though he did pile up 55.5 sacks over that time, but he was also a tackling machine.
Starting in 1986, Mecklenburg had at least 100 tackles every year until 1986 except for the 97 he had in the strike shortened 1987 season. He had 99 tackles in 1997. After getting 68 in 1998, his lowest total as a full-time starter, he retired.
Nicknamed the "Albino Rhino" by teammates, he has the second most tackles and sacks in Broncos history. His 180 games played are the third most ever as well.
No other Broncos linebacker has been to the Pro Bowl six times, and his three First Team All-Pro nods are tied as the second most in franchise history. He is a member of the Broncos Ring of Honor.
Mecklenburg was a winner, as shown by his helping Denver reach the Super Bowl three times. His was career not expected, so the term "self-made man" certainly applies in his care.
Through determination, he ended his career on the same level as Randy Gradishar. Many consider Gradishar the greatest Broncos linebacker ever, but Mecklenburg is not far behind.
Besides missing seven games in 1988, and one the next year, he took the field every time his team did. Consistent, tough, and fiery, Karl Mecklenburg had a career certainly worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
209 Games Played
5 Pro Bowls
Jessie Lloyd Tuggle Jr went undrafted in 1987 despite having a career at Valdosta State University that had him inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He signed with Atlanta and soon found himself starting at left inside linebacker after 1980 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Buddy Curry went down with a career-ending injury.
He split time with Joel Williams the next year, starting in eight games. He was still able to rack up 103 tackles and score a touchdown off of a fumble recovery. Atlanta then handed him the job full-time the rest of his career, and he missed just three starts over that time.
After getting 183 tackles in 1989, he had 201 tackles and a career high five quarterback sacks the next year. He also took a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown.
He followed that up in 1991 with a career-best 207 tackles, and scored again off of a fumble recovery. He also had his first career interception.
The 1992 season saw him finally get recognized as a Pro Bowler after somehow not being named in either of his two previous stellar seasons. He had 193 tackles, and interception, and he scored off a career-long 69 yard fumble recovery.
After getting 185 tackles the next year, he returned to the Pro Bowl in 1994 after getting 93 tackles. The 1994 season was the last time he exceeded 100 tackles, when he had 111.
He also had a career high three interceptions, the last of his career. One was returned for a touchdown, and he made the Pro Bowl again.
After making the Pro Bowl in 1997, he made his last Pro Bowl the next year. He also scored his last touchdown, which happened off of a fumble recovery.
The Falcons would reach Super Bowl XXXIII, their only championship appearance in franchise history, but lost.
He had 3.5 sacks in 1999, but missed two games. After missing half of the 2000 season, he retired with a Falcons record of 1,640 tackles.
His five fumble recoveries for touchdowns was an NFL record until Jason Taylor of the Miami Dolphins surpassed it by one in 2009.
"The Hammer" has his jersey retired by the Falcons, and he is a member of the team's Ring of Honor.
Tommy Nobis may be the best Falcon middle linebacker ever, but Tuggle is right up there with him. Being the ultimate team player that he was, Tuggle still has a shot at induction into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.
166 Games Played
4 Pro Bowls
1970 AFC Defensive Player of the Year
James Michael Curtis was drafted in the first round of the 1965 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts. He initially played fullback and even ran the ball six times as a rookie, as well a catching a pass.
The Colts switched him to linebacker the next year, where he played on the weak side. Though he started seven games in 1966, he did score off a fumble recovery. He got hurt in the third game of 1967, missing the rest of the year.
Curtis rebounded strong in 1968, helping lead the Colts to Super Bowl III after being named First Team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl. In Baltimore's first playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, Curtis took a fumble 60 yards for a touchdown.
He had an interception in the Colts 34-0 win over the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship and helped hold Cleveland's powerful running game to 58 yards.
Baltimore switched him to middle linebacker in 1969. Curtis responded by being named First Team All-Pro. He got a career best five interceptions in 1970, helping the Colts win their division.
After getting an interception in a first round win over the Cincinnati Bengals, he picked off another pass in Super Bowl V as the Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16-13.
He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year by the NFL 101 Club for all of his accomplishments that year.
He was a captain on the Colts most of his time with them, known for his intensity and mean streak. Many called him the meanest player of his era.
He made the Pro Bowl in 1971 and 1974 again for Baltimore, and was named the team MVP in that 1974 season. He got hurt in 1975 and was able to play just six games.
The Colts left him exposed to the expansion draft, so the Seattle Seahawks grabbed him. He was moved to outside linebacker again, where he started every game.
Curtis, who grew up in suburban Maryland, asked to be traded closer to home. Seattle acquiesced by dealing him to the Washington Redskins before the 1977 season. Curtis retired after 1978.
Many fans who saw him play think Curtis is one of the most underrated middle linebackers of his era, in spite of the many accolades he attained. They point to Hall of Famers like Willie Lanier and Nick Buoniconti being in his way of more Pro Bowl accolades.
The fact is that Curtis was more than a vicious hitter who brought violent collisions. He was very athletic, being one of the very first players to ever retire with at least 20 interceptions and sacks in a career.
His 21 interceptions with Baltimore is still the third most ever by a Colts linebacker. His presence also helped fellow linebackers, and Colts legends, like Stan White and Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks be even more effective.
As the years pass, his chances for going into Canton dwindle. Yet Mike Curtis certainly did have a career worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
This is a team of the best Chargers who are not, and may be never will be, members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Quarterback : John Hadl
Hadl was drafted in the third round of the 1962 AFL Draft by the Chargers. He was also drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions that year, the tenth player chosen overall.
Having been an All-American player at both halfback and quarterback in a collegiate career that ended up with induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, Detroit told Hadl they were going to use him much like the Green Bay Packers used Hall of Famer Paul "Golden Boy" Hornung.
The Lions had just acquired Pro Bowl quarterback Milt Plum in a trade and had Earl Morrall as his backup. They also drafted quarterback Eddie Wilson in the second round, though Wilson opted to sign with the AFL's Dallas Texans and backup Hall of Famer Len Dawson.
San Diego had Hall of Famer Sid Gillman as their head coach, the man called the father of the modern day passing game by many. Though Hadl was a running quarterback in college, he wanted the challenge of transitioning into a drop-back passer over being used in a variety of ways like Hornung was as a halfback.
Jack Kemp was a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Chargers, so the thought was Hadl would sit and learn. It did not end up that way because Kemp broke fingers on his throwing hand in the second game of the year.
Gillman attempted to hide Kemp on the waiver wire because they had just acquired quarterback Dick Wood, but the Buffalo Bills quickly grabbed him and Kemp finished the season as a Pro Bowler. Kemp would later become an AFL MVP while leading the Bills to a pair of championships.
Wood, who later became the first starting quarterback in Miami Dolphins history, was name the starter the next two games. Both times saw Hadl come off the bench to lead the Chargers to comeback wins and outplaying Wood. Gillman then decided to go with Hadl.
Though he struggled from that point on, as did the team by losing eight on their last nine games, Hadl showed a knack for throwing a beautiful deep ball to a rookie wide receiver named Lance Alworth in the four games they played together.
Gillman decided Hadl wasn't quite ready, so he signed Tobin Rote. Rote hadn't played in the NFL since the Lions released him in 1959 despite his being a Pro Bowler for the Packers in 1956 and leading Detroit to a title in 1957. He went to play in the Canadian Football League for the Toronto Argonauts and set several CFL records in his three seasons.
While Rote was named First Team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler that year, which saw the Chargers win the only championship in their franchise history, Hadl played sparingly. In their 51-10 win over the Boston Patriots in the 1963 AFL Championship Game, Hadl ran for a touchdown and threw another.
Rote got off to a rough start in the first five games in 1963, so he was replaced by Hadl. The young quarterback led the Chargers back to the title game, but was hurt in the first quarter on their 20-7 loss to Kemp and the Bills. He was still named to the Pro bowl that year.
San Diego had lost punter Paul Macguire to the Bills before that season, so Hadl took over. He attempted a career high 62 punts that year, which included a career long 72-yard boot. After punting 38 times the next year, he attempted just three punts the rest of his career.
Now firmly entrenched as the starter in 1965, Hadl led the league in passing yards, yards gained per passing attempt and completion, as well as yards gained per game. He made his second Pro Bowl, but San Diego would end the season losing to the Bills again in the AFL title game.
During this time, he and Alworth had established themselves as a deadly combination. Hadl was masterful throwing the deep ball, and players like Alworth, Gary Garrison, and Jacque MacKinnon all averaged 19 yards or more a reception in 1968. Alworth averaged 19.6 yards in his AFL career.
Between 1966 and 1968, Hadl had streaks of 19 and 16 consecutive games he threw a touchdown pass. That means he had just seven games over three years he failed to toss a score.
The 1968 season may have been one of his best. He led the AFL with a career best 3,473 yards, 27 touchdown passes, and 440 attempts. Hadl also led the AFL with 208 completions that year. He was named to the Pro Bowl that year, an honor he would duplicate the following season and be named MVP of the last AFL All-Star Game ever played.
After having a rough 1970 season where the mobile quarterback was sacked a league leading 42 times, he rebounded the next year. The 1971 season saw Hadl lead the NFL with a career best 233 completions. He also led the league in attempts, passing yards, touchdown passes, and passing yards per game. He was also named NFL Man of the Year, now known as the Walter Payton Award.
After being named a Pro Bowler in 1972, the Chargers traded him to the Los Angeles Rams for running back Bob Thomas and Pro Bowl defensive end Coy Bacon. While Bacon was effective in his three years before being traded to the Cincinnati Bengals for Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner, Thomas lasted two uneventful season with the Bolts before retiring.
One of the reasons for the trade is because San Diego had just acquired Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas. Unitas did not play as well as hoped and was replaced by rookie Dan Fouts, whose career would end with induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The trade revitalized Hadl. The Rams lost just two games all year behind his leadership. He was named the teams MVP by his teammates and won the NFC Player of the Year Award. He was also named First Team All-Pro and given his final Pro Bowl nod.
The Rams traded him to the Packers five games into the 1974 season for two first-round draft picks, two second-round draft picks, and two third-round draft picks. Though he led the team to three wins in his six games, Hadl mostly struggled.
The 1974 season did not go well for him or the Packers. While playing on a team not deep in talent, he tossed just six scores against 21 interceptions while Green Bay won just four of his 13 starts.
The Packers were in a massive rebuilding mode, so they traded Hadl to the Houston Oilers for quarterback Lynn Dickey before the 1976 season. He spent the next two years backing up Dan Pastorini before retiring.
Hadl later became Hall of Famer John Elway's first NFL quarterback coach and Hall of Famer Steve Young's first professional football coach. He has since returned to his Alma mater as an assistant athletic director.
His five Pro Bowls are the second most ever by a Chargers quarterback, one behind Fouts. Hadl is also one of the 50 Greatest Chargers, as well as having been inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions.
Though he was a gifted athlete, Hadl worked hard to become a great quarterback. He wore No.21 in his career, the last NFL quarterback to wear a jersey with a number that high numerically.
Many AFL observers and players believe he should have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame long ago. Not just because he was a proven winner with the necessary accolades for induction, but because of the passing attack he was in charge of.
Most of Alworth's career receptions came off his arm, and the Hall of Fame receiver has often stated Hadl belongs in Canton. Factor in the career of Garrison and all of the other weapons who excelled under his leadership, John Hadl should be inducted into Canton.
Jack Kemp, Tobin Rote, and Stan Humphries deserve mention.
Fullback : Keith Lincoln
Lincoln was the Chargers second round draft pick in the 1961 AFL Draft. The Chicago Bears also drafted him in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, but he chose to join San Diego.
He was not not used a lot as a rookie, but he did set a then-team record with a 91-yard reception for a touchdown. It still is the longest touchdown catch ever by a Chargers running back and is the second longest reception in team history.
San Diego had him return seven punts that year. One was returned 57 yards for a score. He would return only 18 punts the rest of his career, but the Chargers did ask him to return kickoffs frequently the next two seasons.
The 1962 season was his first as Pro Bowler. He was used as a halfback and averaged 4.9 yards on 117 carries. One run went a career long 86 yards, which led the AFL that year. He also led the league with a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. This is still a Chargers record, though Darren Sproles tied it in 2008.
Lincoln's best season was probably in 1963. He ran for a career high 826 yards. The 6.5 yards on 128 carries from the fullback position is impressive in any era and led the league, as did his 76-yard run. He ran for a career best five scores that year while returning seven punts and a career high 17 kicks.
San Diego reached the AFL Championship Game that year and Lincoln exploded. He piled up 329 total yards on offense by gaining 206 rushing yards, on just 13 carries, and 132 yards on seven receptions. He scored on a 67-yard run in the first quarter and a 25-yard reception in the fourth as San Diego won 51-10.
He was again named to the Pro Bowl that year, as well as First Team All-Pro. He won the AFL All-Star Offensive MVP Award in both 1963 and 1964. He is the only player in AFL history to win the award twice by himself. Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath also won the award twice, but shared it in 1967 with Hall of Fame receiver Don Maynard.
Lincoln is still the only Charger to win this award by himself. Hall of Fame quarterback is the second and last Charger to win it, but he shared the award with Green Bay Packers wide receiver John Jefferson in 1982.
While making the Pro Bowl in 1964, San Diego asked Lincoln to kick too. He made 16 of 17 extra point attempts and five of 12 field goal attempts. He also completed two of four passes, one of which resulted in a 53-yard score. Lincoln would never be asked to kick again.
San Diego reached the title game in 1964 and 1965, but mysteriously did not give the ball much to Lincoln in both losses. He touched the ball nine total times. Despite running for 47 yards on three carries in the 1063 title game, San Diego decided to pass the ball most of the game.
The 1965 season was his last as a Pro Bowler for San Diego despite missing four games due to injuries. They were the first games of his career he failed to play in. Gene Foster was named the starting fullback in 1966, so Lincoln left to join the Buffalo Bills.
He beat out 1966 AFL Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowler Bobby Burnett for the starting job at halfback that season. He carried the ball a career high 158 times that year, while being used heavily in the passing game. Lincoln caught a career high 41 balls that year, averaging an impressive 13.6 yards per reception, while hauling in a career high five scores.
Buffalo was the worst team in the AFL in 1968, winning once. Lincoln was hurt early, able to appear sparingly in five games. He asked for his release, then signed again with the Chargers. He suited up for one game, then retired.
His three Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Chargers fullback and he still ranks seventh in team history with 2,698 yards rushing. His 86-yard run is still the second longest in team history. Though he never had a year where he averaged more than 11.1 carries per game, his big play ability had him often run for 100-yards on just a few attempts.
He was a rare fullback. Besides kicking, Lincoln completed eight of 17 passes for 240 yards and five touchdowns with the Chargers. He still has the most receptions ever by a Chargers fullback despite having to share the ball with many weapons in San Diego's arsenal.
Lincoln is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers, and has been inducted into both the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions. He is easily the best fullback in team history.
Lorenzo Neal, Brad Hubbert, Bo Matthews, Hank Bauer, and Jacque MacKinnon deserve mention.
Halfback : Paul Lowe
Lowe signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent rookie in 1959. He did not make the team, so he took a job in a mail room of a company owned by the Hilton family. Barron Hilton would found the Los Angeles Chargers in the fledgling American Football League in 1960.
After being coaxed to try out for the team, Lowe became an instant star. The first time he touched the ball, he exploded for a 105-kickoff return for a touchdown in the teams first ever preseason game.
He was named First Team All-Pro as a rookie after averaging an league leading 6.3 yards on 136 carries. The Chargers made it to the first AFL title game but lost, despite 165 rushing yards and a score by Lowe.
Lowe led the AFL with nine rushing touchdowns in 1961, a career high total. One was on a 87-yard run that is still a team record. It set the stage for perhaps the finest season of his career in 1963.
He made his first Pro Bowl after churning out 1,010 yards and eight scores, while catching a career best 27 balls. The Chargers would win the only championship in franchise history that year. Lowe ran for 94 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown, in the title game.
The 1965 season saw Lowe named the AFL MVP by both the Sporting News and UPI. He led the league with a career best marks of 1,121 yards and 80.1 yards rushing per game. He also led the AFL with six rushing touchdowns and a five yard per carry average on a career best 222 attempts.
It was the last year he was named First Team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl. He led the Chargers in rushing the next year, but suffered through in injury-riddled 1967 season. He appeared in just seven games while missing the first seven games of career.
Dickie Post took over as the primary halfback, and Lowe still had not recovered from his injury. He played in one game for the Chargers in 1968, then was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. He appeared in just one game for them, but returned the next season as a backup. The Chiefs would win Super Bowl IV that year and Lowe then retired.
The 4,972 rushing yards Lowe had with the Chargers was a team record until LaDanian Tomlinson passed him in 2004. It still ranks second best. Lowe's 1,202 rushing attempts is the third most by any player in AFL history.
His 38 touchdowns on the ground is still third best in team history. His two First Team All-Pro honors was a record for a Chargers halfback until Tomlinson passed him in 2007.
Paul Lowe is a member of the AFL's All-Time First Team, one of the 50 Greatest Chargers, and the Chargers Hall of Fame. The Chargers have had a ton of excellent halfbacks play for them for a few years. The best is Tomlinson, who is headed to Canton when he retires. Yet Lowe is probably the second best halfback in team history.
Dickie Post, Lionel James, Natrone Means, Mike Garrett, Marion Butts, Chuck Muncie, Gary Anderson, James Brooks, Mike Thomas, Eric Metcalf, Ronnie Harmon, Ricky Young, Earnest Jackson, Lydell Mitchell, and Don Woods deserve mention.
Wide Receiver : John Jefferson
The Chargers first-round draft pick in 1978, "J.J." blew into the league with a force that is often remembered by those who saw him play. He was a Pro Bowler in each of his first three years, as well as being named First Team All-Pro twice.
"The Space Age Receiver" averaged 17.9 YPC in each of his first two seasons.
He caught over 1,000 yards of balls in each of his first three seasons. His catch total went from 56 to 61 to 82 in those years. Jefferson also snared 36 touchdowns those three years.
He led the NFL in touchdown catches as a rookie with a career best 13. Sports Illustrated called him the "Touchdown Man". Jefferson led the league with 13 more in 1980, as well as leading the NFL with 1,340 receiving yards and 83.8 receiving yards per game.
A prevalent theme for the Chargers in that era was disgruntled players wanting a raise in pay and having their requests denied. Jefferson was amongst these players. He was traded to Green Bay after a contract dispute in 1981.
Though he averaged about 16 YPC in his first three years as a Packer, he also battled injuries. His Packer highlights was being named the 1982 Pro Bowl MVP and in 1983, when he caught seven touchdowns on 57 receptions for 830 yards.
He played one more year there before finishing his career with the Cleveland Browns. Perhaps if Jefferson had stayed in the warm weather of San Diego and confines of Air Coryell, he would be with the legends of Canton.
His two First Team All-Pro nods are the most ever by a Chargers wide receiver. His 1,340 yards in 1980 is still the third most receiving yards for a single season in team history.
Jefferson was a key ingredient of the famous "Air Coryell" passing attack. He had two seasons where he teamed with Hall of Fame wide receiver Charlie Joiner to both having at least 1,000 receiving yards. Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow joined them in 1980, becoming the first trio in NFL history to have 1,000-yards each.
Though he was a Charger just three years, John Jefferson is one of the best receivers in their franchises history. Jefferson made the greatest catch I have ever seen, a grab in the back of the end zone with one finger, while he was with the Chargers.
Not only is he inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, Jefferson is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers.
Wide Receiver : Gary "Ghost" Garrison
Garrison was drafted in the sixth round of the 1965 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He did not make the team, as the Eagles ended up losing two rookie receivers who later became Pro Bowlers that year. The other was their fifth round selection Otis Taylor, who would become a star with the Kansas City Chiefs.
After not playing that year, Garrison joined the Chargers in 1966 because he had a legendary collegiate career at San Diego State University under future Chargers head coach Don Coryell. Garrison still holds the school record for career touchdown receptions.
He earned a starting job as a rookie, getting to bookend Hall of Famer Lance "Bambi" Alworth. He caught 90 passes in his first two year before earning his first Pro Bowl nod in 1968 after having perhaps the finest year of his career.
Garrison set career best marks of 52 receptions for 1,103 yards. He averaged an impressive 21.2 yards per catch and caught 10 touchdowns. One went for a career long 84 yards. He would average over 20 yards a reception in four of his next five years as well.
Nicknamed "Ghost", he averaged a career best 22.9 yards on 44 receptions in 1970, to go with a career best 13 touchdowns catches. It was the first of three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances and the last time he has over 1,000 receiving yards in one season.
After matching his career high total of 52 catches in 1972, his 1973 season was filled with injury. Garrison missed half of the season but rebounded strong the next year. The Chargers passing attack in 1975 struggled, tossing just seven scores against 15 interceptions. The 27 receptions Garrison had that year were the lowest total of his career with the exception of his injury filled 1973 season.
Garrison caught two passes for 58 yards and a touchdown in the Chargers first game of the 1976 season. He got injured in the second game, causing him to miss the rest of the season. San Diego then dealt him to the Houston Oilers. He suited up three times in 1977, then retired.
The Chargers have has a lot of incredible receivers wear their uniform. Two wide receivers and a tight end are inducted in Canton. Garrison ranks sixth best in franchise history in receptions and third in both receiving yards and touchdown catches. His 18.6 yards per catch is only surpassed by Alworth for a Charger with 113 receptions or more.
The"Ghost" is certainly one of the greatest Chargers receivers ever. He is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers, a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions. His four Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Chargers wide receiver.
Wes Chandler, Anthony Miller, Tony Martin, Kassim Osgood, Jeff Graham, Curtis Conway, and Don Norton deserve mention.
Tight End : Dave Kocourek
Kocourek was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 19th round of the 1959 draft. He didn't make the team, so he joined the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League that year. He then left the CFL to join the Chargers in 1960.
He stepped in as a starter right away and became an important member of the Chargers exciting passing attack. Kocourek was excellent at getting deep, stretching the seam of the defense. He averaged 16.6 on 40 balls as a rookie, which was a prelude of things to come.
The 1961 season was his best. Kocourek set career high marks of 55 receptions for 1,055 yards at an average of 19.2 yards per catch. One reception went for a career long 76 yards. He was named to the first of his four consecutive Pro Bowls that season.
When the Chargers won the AFL Championship in 1963, he caught a career high five touchdowns. He matched that total again the next year while averaging 18 yards on 33 receptions. After a down year in 1965, Kocourek joined the expansion Miami Dolphins in 1966.
He then reunited with Al Davis, his receivers coach the first three years of his career, with the Oakland Raiders in 1967. He stayed with the team two years as a reserve before retiring. He was rarely used as a receiver over this time.
In his nine seasons as a player, Kocourek played in the AFL Championship Game seven times. He is the only person to ever accomplish this feat. He won a championship with both the Chargers and Raiders.
Mysteriously, Kocorek is not a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame yet. He left owning every record for a Chargers tight end. Most have been broken by Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, but his 17.1 yards per reception average is still team records by a tight end with 113 receptions or more, and his and 76-yard catch is a record for Charger tight ends.
He has the fourth most receptions ever by a Chargers tight end, which ranks 14th best. His 3,720 yards is the third most ever by a Chargers tight end, and it ranks 11th most in franchise history. Kocourek also ranks third in touchdown receptions by a Chargers tight end, which ranks 12th best in team history.
Though Winslow is the best Chargers tight end ever, and Antonio Gates ranks second, Cockerel was a special player who had a lot of speed for a man of his size in that era. He was a big reason his teams played in so many title games. His four Pro Bowls was a record by a Chargers tight end until Winslow passed him by one.
Willie Frazier, Jacque McKinnon, Reggie Carolan, Pete Holohan, Eric Sievers, and Freddie Jones deserve mention.
Tackle : Russ Washington
Washington was drafted in the first round of the 1968 draft by San Diego. He was the fourth player chosen overall. He was first used as a defensive tackle, where he stood out for two seasons.
Ron Mix, the Chargers Hall of Fame right tackle, had retired after the 1968 season. The Chargers wanted to protect Pro Bowl quarterback John Hadl while being teamed with Pro Bowl right guard Walt Sweeney. They decided to move Washington into the position.
He made the move look seamless, stepping in and earning a starting job right away. The 6'6" 290 lbs Washington wasn't just a road grader who flattened defenders when San Diego ran the ball, he was nimble and athletic enough to shut down the NFL's best pass rushers.
Helping Mike Garrett gain over 1,000 yards in 1972, Washington began to gain notice despite playing on a struggling team. He made his first Pro Bowl in 1974 when Don Woods won the Rookie of the Year Award on nine starts. The blocking of Washington was a critical element in Woods' success.
Washington made the Pro Bowl again in 1975, then three straight years starting in 1977. He was considered one of the best at his position. Big, strong, and tough, he had gone 12 years without missing a single game.
That changed in 1980, when he got hurt in the sixth game and had to miss the rest of the year. Though he returned the next year, Washington missed 13 games. Those 13 contests are the only games he missed in his entire career.
He retired after the 1982 season having played 200 games in 15 seasons, which includes his 28 games as a defensive tackle. His 200 games was a team record until long snapper David Binn passed it in 2006. It still is the second most ever, tied with linebacker Junior Seau.
Russ Washington is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers. He is inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions. There have been few Chargers as great as him.
Tackle : Ernie Wright
Wright joined the Los Angeles Chargers in their inaugural 1960 season. He earned a starting job at left tackle right away and would stay there the next eight years. The Chargers reached the first ever AFL Championship Game, but lost to the Houston Oilers.
Bookending Hall of Famer Ron Mix, the duo soon garnered respect throughout the league. Chargers head coach Sid Gillman called them "the best pair of offensive tackles in professional football".
He was named to his first Pro Bowl in 1961. The Chargers, now in San Diego, were known for their explosive and innovative offense. Wright and Mix helped this by frequently dominating their opponents, allowing the Chargers to appear in five title games in their first six years of existence.
The 1963 season is the only year the Chargers franchise won a championship. Wright was named to the Pro Bowl, helping pave the way for the most productive offense in the AFL that season.
After returning to the Pro Bowl in 1965, Wright missed the first game of his career the next year. It would be the only game that he would miss in his Chargers career. San Diego left him exposed to the Cincinnati Bengals 1968 expansion draft.
Cincinnati grabbed him right away and plugged him into the starting lineup. He started there the next three games, but got hurt for the year midway through the 1971 season. He rejoined the Chargers in 1972 as a backup, then retired at seasons end.
Not only is Wright named one of the 50 Greatest Chargers ever, but he is amongst just twenty men to have played an all 10 years that the American Football League existed. He was an important part of an offensive machine that will probably never be seen again.
Jim Lachey and Billy Shields deserve mention.
Guard : Walt Sweeney
Sweeney was a first-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers in the 1963 American Football League draft. He was the second player picked overall.
He did see action in his rookie year, mostly as a reserve. He got his hands on one kickoff and returned it 18 yards. The Chargers would end up winning the 1963 AFL Championship.
Sweeney was fully entrenched as the starting right guard in 1964, and finish that season being named to his first AFL All-Star Team. Sweeney would earn this distinction every year until the AFL merged with the NFL after the 1969 season.
Sweeney would then earn a Pro Bowl berth the next two seasons up to the conclusion of the 1971 season. His blocking opened up holes for such Chargers legendary ball carriers like Keith Lincoln, Jacque MacKinnon, Paul Lowe, and Dickie Post.
He also protected great quarterbacks like John Hadl, and Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas and Dan Fouts. He mostly played guard, but versatile and smart enough to play anywhere along the offensive line when injuries would knock out the other starters.
After the 1973 season, he was traded to the Washington Redskins. He started the next two seasons for the Redskins before retiring after the 1975 season. Sweeney is a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame and was named one of the 50 Greatest Chargers ever.
Sweeney is one of the finest lineman to have ever played professional football. He is a member of the AFL's All-Time Team. He has been an immense success from college to the pros. He was part of an exciting Chargers offense that was one of the best units to ever have played the game.
He was a sound technician who was very athletic. He was equally adept at pass blocking or pulling in front of some of the best rushers to have ever suited up in pads. His exclusion from Canton can only be attributed to his AFL ties.
He went to the name number of Pro Bowls as his teammate, Hall of Fame Tackle Ron Mix, but still waits to be called. Hall of Fame center Jim Ringo is the only Syracuse alumni to have played in more Pro Bowls than Sweeney. He is tied with Hall of Fame fullback Jim Brown as having the second most.
I find it amazing to see that this man has not had his long overdue induction into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame yet. This is obviously another case of being snubbed because of the NFL's hatred and envy of the AFL, though some theorize Sweeney upset a lot of football brass by once having sued the NFL over their failure to supervise coaches giving drugs to players.
As time marches on, many of the newer voters will be those with little knowledge of the AFL. Sweeney's case may get more faint as these events transpire. I suggest all real football fans to wake up the Canton voters in their represented areas. Walt Sweeney most certainly deserves induction.
Guard : Doug Wilkerson
Wilkerson was drafted by the Houston Oilers in the first round of the 1970 draft. He spent his rookie season on the bench, appearing in nine games. Houston then traded him to the Chargers before the 1971 season.
The trade became one of the biggest steals in Chargers history. Wilkerson earned a starting job immediately and held it for the next 14 years.
San Diego struggled the first half of the decade, but fortunes began to change when the hired Don Coryell as the head coach during the 1978 season. They were a run oriented offense before his arrival, and Wilkerson's blocking helped NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Don Woods gain 1,162 yards despite just nine starts in 1974.
Now it was the age of "Air Coryell", an offense that is one of the most exciting in NFL history. A big reason for the incredible production of the offense was the excellent blocking Wilkerson provided.
Wilkerson was the steadiest on the line, as well as the most reliable. He played in 126 straight games until missing four because of injury in 1979. He would miss four games in 1983 as well, but started and played in 195 of 203 possible starts in his career.
His excellence was rewarded in 1980 with the first of three consecutive Pro Bowl nods. He was also honored as First Team All-Pro in 1982. Wilkerson played until 1984, retiring at 37-years old.
He and Walt Sweeney are the only guards in Chargers history to earn a First Team All-Pro honor. His three Pro Bowls is the third most ever by a San Diego guard. There have been few offensive linemen in the teams history as good or durable as Doug Wilkerson.
Wilkerson is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and is inducted into both the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions.
Ed White and Dennis McKnight deserve mention.
Center : Don Macek
Macek was drafted by the Chargers in the second round of the 1977 draft. He started right away at right guard and stayed there two years. When San Diego traded for Pro Bowl guard Ed White, he slid over to center.
After splitting starts with incumbent Ralph Perretta that year, he got hurt in 1979 and started just six games as Bob Rush, San Diego's first-round pick in 1977, started the rest of the year.
Macek came back in 1980 to reclaim his starting job and would hang onto it the next eight seasons. The Chargers were the most explosive offense at that time, and their excellent offensive line was a big ingredient to their attack.
While he was the starter, Macek was also often banged up and forced to miss games. In his 14 seasons, he was able to start every game in just three. From 1980 to 1987, Macek missed 18 games.
He got hurt in the fifth game of 1988, forcing him out the rest of the year. San Diego then drafted Courtney Hall to supplant the 35-year old Macek in 1989. He sat on the bench mentoring Hall that season and then retired.
Macek has been named one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and is also a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame. Not only was he a masterful technician, but he was a leader on some of the most exciting Chargers teams in NFL history.
Courtney Hall, Sam Gruneisen, and Carl Mauck deserve mention.
Defensive Tackle : Gary "Big Hands" Johnson
Johnson was San Diego's first pick in the 1975 draft, selected eighth overall. That 1975 draft might be the best in franchise history. The Chargers had two picks in the first, second, fifth, sixth, eighth, 11th, and 13th rounds.
Ten players from the draft played in the NFL, but San Diego got a Hall of Famer, a pair of Pro Bowlers, and eight solid starters from it. Five were defensive players.
San Diego tried to bring him along slowly as a rookie, starting John Teerlink for the first five games. Teerlink, now a noted defensive line coach who has won three Super Bowls, could not keep Johnson on the bench and soon was replaced after six games.
San Diego had an exciting defensive line of Pro Bowler Coy Bacon with three rookies, Johnson, Fred Dean, and Louie Kelcher, that year. Yet they acquired Leroy Jones and then traded Bacon to the Cincinnati Bengals for future Hall of Fame wide receiver Charlie Joiner before the 1976 season.
The mammoth Jones fit in nicely and soon the Chargers had the best defensive line in the NFL. Not only was it nearly impossible to run up the middle of the San Diego defense, bit their defensive linemen were very athletic. Johnson took an interception 52 yards for a touchdown in 1978.
The 1979 season was the first of his four consecutive seasons being named to the Pro Bowl. Though sacks were not an official statistic, the Chargers piled them up in great numbers.
San Diego's front four was called the "Bruise Brothers". The quartet had 60 sacks themselves in 1980, and Johnson got 17.5 of them. He was named First Team All-Pro that year and the next season. He also intercepted another pass and ran for a touchdown in 1981.
The 1982 season was his last as a Pro Bowl player, and he recorded a safety. After the 1983 season, Johnson and Kelcher were looking to get a raise in pay. The Chargers owner, Eugene Klein, was not willing to acquiesce.
Klein had the same issue with Dean in 1981, where he ended up trading the future Hall of Famer to the San Francisco 49ers. He had already let Billy Shields, who had started at left tackle the last eight seasons, go to the 49ers along with Kelcher before the season began.
After four games with the Chargers in 1984, Johnson was traded to the 49ers and joined Dean, Kelcher, and Shields. All three happened to be drafted with him by San Diego in 1975. The ex-Chargers contributed mightily to the 49ers cause that year.
Johnson had five sacks, a safety, and scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery in his 12 games. When San Francisco got to the NFC Championship Game against the Chicago Bears, "Big Hands" had two sacks in the Niners win.
San Francisco faced the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX, Johnson had a sack as the Niners won. He played 11 games for San Francisco the next year and then retired.
His four Pro Bowls is tied as the most ever by a Chargers defensive tackle. His 17.5 sacks in 1980 is still a team record and he was credited with 67 in his Chargers career.
He, Kelcher, and Dean once all started in a Pro Bowl game. It is the only time in NFL history where three defensive linemen from the same team accomplished that feat.
Sacks were not officially recorded until 1982, so he will never be given the full credit he deserves. But Chargers fans lucky enough to have seen "Big Hands" dominate know how great he truly was. He was also one of the most beloved teammates in the Bolts locker room.
Johnson is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame, the San Diego Hall of Champions, and College Football Hall of Fame.
Defensive Tackle : Ernie "Big Cat" Ladd
Ladd was a 15th round draft pick of the Chargers in the 1961 AFL Draft. The Chicago Bears drafted him in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. At 6'9" 300 lbs, he was the biggest man in professional football at the time.
He chose to join the Chargers and stood out right away, being named First Team All-Pro as a rookie. After being named to the Pro Bowl the next year, San Diego moved him from right defensive tackle to the left side to line up next to Pro Bowler Earl Faison.
The moved paid off as the Chargers had the top defense in the league and won the AFL Championship. Ladd was one of 11 Chargers to go to the Pro Bowl that year. He went to the Pro Bowl the next two years, as well as being named First Team All-Pro.
San Diego had Ladd and Faison both wanting more money. They traded Ladd to the Houston Oilers in 1966, where he played one season. After four games with them in 1967, the Oilers traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs.
With the Chiefs, Ladd was reunited with Hall of Famer Buck Buchanan. Both had played together at Grambling State University. Buchanan was 6'7" 270 himself, giving the Chiefs the largest defensive tackle duo in pro football history. He stayed with Kansas City until 1968 before retiring.
During his rookie year, Ladd got involved with professional wrestling. He won several titles as both a singles and tag team competitor, building rivalries with some of the greatest in the business. He was a heel typically, known for his excellent oratory skills on the microphone.
He would antagonize and feud with legends like Andre the Giant, the Junkyard Dog, and Paul Orndorff. Ladd is inducted in several wrestling Hall of Fame's such as the WWE and WCW.
His four Pro Bowls is tied as the most ever by a Chargers defensive tackle.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and is inducted into both the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions.
Ernie Ladd was so big that Boston Patriots center John Morris said facing Ladd was like playing football in a closet. "It was dark because he blocked out the sun he was so big. I couldn't see the goalposts."
Not only has professional football not seen a character like him since, the Chargers haven't had the excellent play he brought since he left.
Louie Kelcher, Jamal Williams, Bill Hudson, Shawn Lee, and John Parrella deserve mention.
Defensive End : Earl Faison
Faison was the Chargers first-round draft pick in 1961 AFL Draft. Despite being an All-American two-way player at Indiana University, where he he is inducted into their Hall of Fame, he wasn't drafted until the fifth round of the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
He started immediately for San Diego and quickly became a star. A stunning athlete at 6'5" 270, Faison had a propensity of intercepting passes his entire career. He intercepted two passes as a rookie and was named AFL Rookie of the Year, First Team All-Pro, and a Pro Bowler.
Faison began to face multiple blockers each down because he was often harassing the opposing quarterbacks. It did not slow him down, but he missed six games his second year due to a knee injury. He still was named an Pro Bowler after intercepting a ball.
The 1963 season was the only year Faison failed to intercept a pass in his career, but he was still one of the best defensive ends in pro football. San Diego won the only title in their franchise history that year and Faison was named to the Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro.
He was named to the Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro in each of the next two years as well. Faison also picked off a pass each year and ran for touchdowns. He then asked for a pay raise and almost bolted to the Canadian Football League.
He was traded to the Houston Oilers because of these contract differences, but the trade was nullified when Oilers owner Bud Adams was found guilty of tampering. Faison then injured his back after three games and was released.
The Miami Dolphins signed him right away and he played six games with them. Faison intercepted a pass and took a fumble recovery for a touchdown.. Despite this, Miami tried to trade him to the Denver Broncos, but his back issues made Denver send him back to Miami.
The Dolphins then cut him, so Faison decided to retire. After a few acting stints, he got into coaching high school football. Hall of Famer Marcus Allen was his most famous student at a school that has sent 12 men to pro football.
His five Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Chargers defensive end. No other Chargers defensive lineman has scored as many touchdowns off interceptions than him, and his five interceptions with San Diego is the most by a Chargers defensive lineman ever.
His four First Team All-Pro nods are the fourth most in Chargers history. Only Hall of Famers Ron Mix and Lance Alworth, along with future Hall of Famer Junior Seau, have more.
Faison is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and has been inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions.
Amazingly, he was left off the AFL All-Time Team despite having more First Team All-Pro nods than all of the four defensive ends selected, and he went to more Pro Bowls than three of them.
Sacks were not recorded in his era but Faison put up accolades worthy of induction into Canton in his six seasons. Critics who point to his 73 games played only need to look at the 68 games Hall of Famer Gale Sayers played as a rebuttal. Faison went to one more Pro Bowl than Sayers and had one less First Team All-Pro nod.
He is easily the best defensive end in Chargers history.
Defensive End : Leslie O'Neal
O'Neal was the Chargers first-round draft pick in 1986, the eighth player chosen overall. He exploded onto the NFL scene in his rookie year despite missing three games.
He intercepted two balls, returning one for a score. The 82 tackles he had were the most he ever accumulated playing defensive end, and he also tallied 12.5 sacks. O'Neal was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, becoming the first Charger defender to win such an award since the 1961 season when Earl Faison won AFL Rookie of the Year.
He was unable to play the entire 1987 season because of injury. San Diego spotted him in nine games during the 1988 season, where he had a career low four sacks. They then decided to move him to outside linebacker.
O'Neal played outside linebacker for three years. He went to the Pro Bowl twice over that time and had 35 total sacks. The 96 tackles he had in 1989 was the best of his career.
San Diego had been playing a 3-4 defense. They switched to a 4-3 defense in 1992 and improved greatly on defense. O'Neal went back to defensive end and Pro Bowler Junior Seau replaced him at linebacker. Ranked 21st in scoring defense in 1991, San Diego improved to fourth best in 1992.
The 1992 season was also one of his best seasons as a player. O'Neal piled up a career best 17 sacks and was named to his first of four consecutive Pro Bowls as a defensive end.
He was the Chargers sack master over this time. He had 54 sacks over those four seasons. When his contract expired after the 1995 season, the Saint Louis Rams signed O'Neal to a free agent contract.
Though O'Neal lasted just two year with the Rams, his 1997 was excellent. He had 10 sacks, an interception, and scored off of a 66-yard fumble recovery return. Despite this, Saint Louis let him sign with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1998.
The Chiefs lined him up at both linebacker and defensive end the next two years, where he had 10 total sacks before retiring at the end on the 1999 season.
Of his 132.5 career sacks, which is eighth best in NFL history, 105.5 came with the Chargers. It is the best in team history and O'Neal is one of 24 NFL players with at least 100 sacks in a career. He ranks fourth in tackles for a Charger, but first amongst all defensive linemen.
Not only was Leslie O'Neal named one of the 50 Greatest Chargers, he is one of the best defensive players in team history.
Lee Williams, Steve DeLong, Marcellus Wiley, Ron Nery, Bert Grossman, Chris Mims, Raylee Johnson, and Coy Bacon deserve mention.
Outside Linebacker : Woodrow Lowe
The Chargers somehow lucked into Lowe in the fifth round of the 1976 draft. It was amazing the three-time All American, who is now in the College Football Hall of Fame, lasted that long.
Lowe earned a starting job immediately and held onto it the rest of his career. While stout against the run, Lowe was an expert blitzer, lock down pass defender, and big-time playmaker who was always around the ball.
The 1979 season was one of his best. Lowe swiped a career best five balls and returned them for 150 yards. He led the NFL with two touchdowns off of interceptions. Despite an excellent year, he was left off the Pro Bowl roster.
He followed up that year with a solid 1981 season. Lowe picked off three balls and took one in for a touchdown. He was one of the top outside linebackers of the game, but Hall of Famers Jack Ham and Ted Hendricks, along with the great Robert Brazile, typically went to the Pro Bowl over that time.
The 1984 season saw him miss one game because of injury. It was the only game he missed in his 11-year career. He scored the last touchdown of his career by taking one of his three picks for a score. Lowe retired at the end on the 1986 season.
His four touchdowns is a Chargers record by a linebacker. Only three linebackers in NFL history have scored more touchdowns off interceptions than Lowe.
His 21 interceptions are the ninth most in team history, and is the most by any Chargers linebacker ever.
Lowe is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and should one day find himself in the Chargers Hall of Fame.
There were few players more underrated than him in his era. Sacks were not recorded until 1982, so the 15 he has officially recognized are not a true indication of his greatness. Tackles were not recorded his entire career, but he was almost always in on the play.
Though he was never invited to the Pro Bowl, Woodrow Lowe is definitely one of the best linebackers in Chargers history.
Middle Linebacker : Chuck Allen
Allen was drafted in the 28th round of the 1961 AFL Draft by the Chargers. The Los Angeles Rams tabbed him in the 17th round of the NFL Draft, but he wisely chose San Diego because the Rams had Hall of Famer Les Richter at middle linebacker.
San Diego tried to bring the rookie along slowly, but Allen won the starting job for the final nine games in what was one of his best seasons. He had career best marks of five interceptions and 111 return yards. One pick was taken 59 yards for a touchdown.
He made his first Pro Bowl in the Chargers 1963 title year. Allen picked off five balls and returned a fumble 42 yards for the last touchdown of his career. He was moved to outside linebacker the next year, but was still named a Pro Bowler.
The Chargers moved Allen back to middle linebacker in 1965, where he would stay the rest of his career. While he was tough against the run, the cerebral Allen was also solid against the pass.
He missed 13 games over his last four seasons in San Diego, because of injury, after not missing a game the previous four years. San Diego traded him to the Pittsburgh Steelers before the 1970 season,
After two solid seasons in Pittsburgh, where he snagged seven interceptions, Allen joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 1972. Though he started eight games, he spent most of his time mentoring young linebackers like Steve Zabel and John Bunting.
Allen retired after the 1972 season and later became the Vice President of Football Operations for the Seattle Seahawks. His 20 interceptions are the most ever by a Chargers middle linebacker. Allen is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame.
The two Pro Bowls he went to is the most ever by a Chargers middle linebacker and he might be the best to have ever played the position for the team.
Rick Redman, Gary Plummer, and Donnie Edwards deserve mention.
Outside Linebacker : Emil Karas
Karas was drafted in the third round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. He played 11 games, starting four, and intercepted a pass. He then bolted to the Los Angeles Chargers of the fledgling American Football League in 1960.
The Chargers had him play middle linebacker in their first year. They moved him to the outside the next year, and the move paid off. The Chargers had the top defense in the AFL and made it to the title game before losing 10-3.
He had a career high three interceptions that year and made the first of three consecutive Pro Bowls. He got hurt in 1964 and missed 10 games. The injuries lingered into the next season and Karas played just two games before retiring.
Karas is one of the few Chargers to have been on all five teams that made it to the AFL title game. His three Pro Bowls is the second most by an outside linebacker in Chargers history.
He was one of four men inducted into the inaugural class of the Chargers Hall of Fame and is certainly one of the best linebackers in franchise history.
Frank Buncom, Paul Maguire, Don Goode, Linden King, Pete Barnes, Bob Laraba, and Billy Ray Smith deserve mention.
Strong Safety : Kenny Graham
Graham was drafted in the 13th round of the 1964 AFL Draft by the Chargers. The Baltimore Colts drafted him in the 12th round of the NFL Draft. He joined the Chargers, fresh off winning the AFL title.
He won the starting job in training camp and held onto it the rest of his Chargers career. Graham quickly became known for always being around the ball and delivering jarring tackles.
After four interceptions as a rookie, he made his first Pro Bowl the next year after getting a career high five picks. He scored a touchdown off an interception, a feat he would accomplish the next two years as well.
Though he did not go to the 1966 Pro Bowl, he was named First Team All-Pro after getting five more picks and scoring once. He went to the Pro Bowl every year with the Chargers except for his rookie season and the 1966 year.
The 1969 season was one of his best. Graham led the AFL with two touchdowns off his four interceptions. He also forced four fumbles and recovered four fumbles.
Despite being one of the greatest strong safeties in AFL history, the Chargers let him join the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1970. Graham got hurt in the third game and was released. The Cincinnati Bengals signed him for the final five games and he picked off three balls.
Graham then retired at 29-years old because of his injuries. His four Pro Bowls are the most ever by any defensive back in Chargers history.
His 25 interceptions are the fourth most in team history, and his five interceptions returned for touchdowns is tied as the most in franchise history.
San Diego also asked him to field punts on occasion. As a punt returner, his 38 career fair catches is a AFL record as is the 24 he had in the 1969 season.
Kenny Graham is a member of the AFL All-Time Team, but has amazingly been left out of the Chargers Hall of Fame so far. His exclusion from the 50 Greatest Chargers Team is beyond disgraceful.
Emerson Boozer, the great running back of the New York Jets, said no one hit harder than Graham. It is obvious he was dangerous around and with the ball. He is the best strong safety in Chargers history.
Rodney Harrison, Mike Fuller, Darren Carrington, and Bryant Salter deserve mention.
Free Safety : Joe Beauchamp
Beauchamp joined the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 1966. Halfway through the year, he found himself supplanting veteran Bud Whitehead for starts at free safety and swiped a pair of passes.
The Chargers moved him to cornerback the next year and he picked off three balls. San Diego moved him back to free safety in 1968 and he led the team with five interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Two interceptions were returned for touchdowns, which led the AFL that year.
Despite that success, the Chargers moved him back to cornerback the next three seasons. He began the 1972 season at cornerback, but was moved back to free safety, where he had a career high six interceptions and scored the last touchdown of his career off a pick.
Beauchamp stayed at free safety the next two years but was bitten by injuries. He missed nine games over that time. The Chargers moved him back to cornerback in 1975, but was only able to play eight games. He retired at the end of the year.
His 23 interceptions with the Chargers is still the sixth most in team history. The three touchdowns he scored off of interceptions in the fourth most in Chargers history.
Joe Beauchamp has not earned any accolades, but his versatility should not be forgotten. He played wherever he was told to help the team.
Charlie McNeil almost got this slot based on his amazing 1961 season where he had 9 picks for a whopping 349 yards and two scores. He still owns the record for 177 yards off interceptions in a single game. But it was his only full season played in five years, and he missed 28 games.
Though his 14 interceptions as a free safety is less than the 19 McNeil had, the fact he played three different positions in the secondary over a decade for San Diego gets him the nod here.
Charlie McNeil, Glen Edwards, Vencie Glenn, Stanley Richard, Bud Whitehead, Bob Zeman, Hanik Milligan, Pete Shaw, and Chris Fletcher deserve mention.
Cornerback : Gill Byrd
When the Chargers made Byrd their first-round pick in 1983, they asked him to be their top cornerback almost immediately because San Diego had a pair of rookies starting that year.
He showed that he was up to the task especially in 1984. Byrd picked off four balls and returned them for a career best 157 yards. He scored twice off of interceptions, including a 99-yarder.
The Chargers were starting three rookies in the secondary in 1985, so they moved Byrd to strong safety to help the defense out. They moved him to free safety the next year for seven games. Rookie Vencie Glenn showed improvement, so they moved Byrd back to cornerback for the rest of his career.
The 1987 season was shortened four games because of a players strike. It is also the only season in Byrd's career he failed to intercept a pass. He rebounded strong by getting a career high seven interceptions in each of the next three seasons.
Byrd got his first Pro Bowl honor in 1991. After getting his second Pro Bowl nod in 1992, as well as being given the Bart Starr Man of the Year Award, he retired. He has been coaching defensive backs for the Chicago Bears since 2006.
His 42 interceptions are the most in team history and Byrd is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame.
San Diego has had quite a few excellent cornerbacks play for them and Gill Byrd might be the best of them all. He was also tough, missing just seven games in his ten seasons. The fact that he played every position in the defensive secondary shows how excellent he was.
Cornerback : Dick Harris
Harris joined the newly formed Los Angeles Chargers as a free agent rookie in 1960. He was placed in the starting lineup right away. The Chargers also asked him to return 13 punts that year, a chore they would ask him to do just 14 times the rest of his career.
Where Harris excelled was on defense. The AFL did not have an All-Star game in 1960, but Harris was named First Team All-Pro after intercepting five passes and returned one for a touchdown. It set the stage for perhaps the best year of his career.
The 1961 season saw Harris grab seven picks. He returned three for touchdowns, which led the AFL and still is a Chargers record for the most touchdowns off interceptions in a single season. It is also an AFL record, though Miller Farr of the Houston Oilers matched it in 1967.
Harris was named to the first AFL All-Star game and given another First Team All-Pro honor. He followed that up with five the next year. In the Chargers 1963 championship season, Harris had a career best eight interceptions and scored the last touchdown of his career.
He got off to a fast start in 1964, picking off three balls for 82 yards in just six games. He then got hurt and missed the rest of the year. They would be the only eight games of his career that he would miss. Harris returned the next year, but found himself backing up Speedy Duncan. Harris intercepted one ball that year then retired.
His 29 interceptions are the second most in team history, and his five interceptions returned for touchdowns is tied as the most in franchise history. Those five touchdowns off of interceptions is tied with four others as the second most in AFL history.
His two First Team All-Pro nods are the most ever by a Chargers defensive back. San Diego has had several excellent cornerbacks, and the legendary Speedy Duncan was almost put in this slot. I chose Harris because he helped a young team get off the ground to excellence fast by standing out far apart from most others.
Speedy Duncan, Mike H. Williams, Willie Buchanon, Joe Beauchamp, Claude Gibson, Danny Walters, Donald Frank, Bob Howard, and Dwayne Harper deserve mention.
Kicker : Rolf Benirschke
Benirschke was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 12th round of the 1977 draft. He was traded to the Chargers and supplanted veteran Toni Fritsch, who had taken over from Ray Wersching with five games left in the 1976 season.
Fritsch went on to be a Pro Bowl kicker for the Houston Oilers, and Wersching won two Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers.
When Benirschke joined San Diego, the famous "Air Coryell" offensive attack was a year away. After attempting 24 extra points as a rookie, it increased to 43 in 1978 after Don Coryell was named head coach six games into the season.
He also began experiencing ulcerative colitis in 1978, but was able to finish the season. Benirschke tied to play through the pain in 1979, but collapsed on an airplane after the Chargers played their fourth game.
He was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease and lost 50 pounds after having his large intestine removed. He came back later to a home game that year to cheer his team on, to the surprise of many. It inspired the team to a 35-7 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The disease did not hold him down. Benirschke came back strong in 1980, making a career best three field goals of over 50 yards. He also made 46 extra points for the high scoring Chargers.The 118 points he got that year was the best of his career.
San Diego was unstoppable in 1981. Benirschke led the NFL with 61 extra point attempts and 55 extra points converted. He scored 112 points that year, and his field goal against the Miami Dolphins at 13 minutes and 52 seconds in overtime sealed a Chargers win in a game famously called "The Epic in Miami".
The 1982 season is best known for being shortened to nine games because of a players strike. The strike hurt what was becoming the best year of Benirschke's career. He had 80 points in his nine games and led the NFL in extra points attempted and made. It was also his only Pro Bowl year.
Benirschke was also known for his charitable work as a player. He was honored as the 1983 NFL Man of the Year, now known as the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
He got hurt in the first game of the 1986 season, missing the rest of the year. He returned in 1987, but the season was shortened because of another players strike. Benirschke retired after that year.
He ranks first in Chargers history in extra point attempts and second in extra points made. Nick Kaeding passed him in 2010 in made extra points and is eight away in attempts.
Benirschke ranks second in Chargers history in field goal attempts and third in made field goals. His 766 points, which was a team record when he retired, still ranks fourth best.
The 61 extra points he attempted in 1981 is still a team record. His 55 conversions was a record until Kaeding passed it by three in 2006. His three field goals made of over 50 yards in 1980 is still a Chargers record.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and is inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions.
Rolf Benirschke is not only probably the toughest kicker in Chargers history, he may the best ever.
John Carney, Dennis Partee, George Blair, and Dick Van Raaphorst deserve mention.
Punter : Darren Bennett
Bennett joined the Chargers as a 30-year old free agent rookie in 1995. He became the only Chargers punter to ever be named First Team All-Pro in his rookie year, and he was named to the Pro Bowl as well.
He became a big part of the team immediately. Bennett never averaged less than 43.9 yards per punt in his first six seasons. This includes the 1998 year where he attempted a career high 95 punts.
The 2000 season was his last as a Pro Bowler. Bennett led the NFL with a career high average of 46.2 yards per attempt. He had one of his most difficult season in 2002. The 37-year old had two punts blocked while averaging 40.7 yards per attempt. It was his lowest average with the Chargers.
He signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings in 2004 at 39-years old. He got hurt in the preseason of the 2005 season and was replaced by current Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.
Kluwe had to miss a game that year because of injury, so the Vikings called on Bennett. He played one game and punted eight times. One included a 53-yarder. Kluwe then returned, so Bennett retired.
His journey to the Chargers was a special one. Born in Australia, he had previously player 12 years of Australian Rules Football. He retired from the game because of injuries, but led that league twice in goalkicking and is considered a legend of the game.
Bennett got married and decided to honeymoon in California. He stopped by the Chargers offices asking for a tryout. The Chargers brass was impressed enough to have him play that spring in NFL Europe. He earned all-league honors and then joined the Chargers.
One of his career highlights came in 1999 when the Chargers traveled to Australia to face the Denver Broncos in the NFL's first American Bowl.
At 6'5" 235, he loved to tackle return specialists. He knocked one unconscious in his rookie year. He also brought a new style of punting to the NFL.
He used the "drop punt", which is common in Australian Rules Football. The NFL calls it a "pooch punt". Bennett was so good at it that other teams scored Australia looking for punters.
In 2005, the New York Jets signed Ben Graham, who had been playing Australian Rules Football for 12 years and is the same size as Bennett. Graham, now punting for the Arizona Cardinals, has been to the Pro Bowl and tied a record for 49 punts inside the 20-yard line in 2009.
Darren Bennett is a member of the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team. His two Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Chargers punter and he is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers. No other Charger has more punts or punt return yards than he does, and he is probably the best punter in team history.
Ralf Mojsiejenko, Jeff West, Dennis Partee, and Paul Maguire deserve mention.
Kick Returner : Andre Coleman
Coleman was drafted in the third round of the 1994 draft by San Diego. He spent his rookie year just returning kickoffs, which he did well at. Coleman scored two touchdowns on 49 attempts while averaging a career best 26.4 yards per return.
The Chargers made it to the only Super Bowl in their franchise history that year. They were trounced by the San Francisco 49ers, but Coleman played well. He set Super Bowl records with eight returns for 244 yards. His 244 total yards was also a record.
His highlight came when San Francisco was ahead 42-10. Coleman returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.
His second season was the best of his career. Coleman returned 62 kickoffs for 1,411 yards. Both are career highs. He also returned two for touchdowns and was asked to return 28 punts for 326 yards. He took one punt 88 yards for a score. It is tied for the third longest in Chargers history.
The 1996 season was his last as a Charger. Not only did he return 55 kickoffs, but he caught a career best 36 balls for 486 yards and two touchdowns. He left the Chargers at the end of the year to join the Seattle Seahawks.
Coleman played just three games for Seattle before being released. He signed later that year and signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He lasted with Pittsburgh for four games in 1998 before being cut. He then retired.
The four career touchdowns off kickoffs in tied for 16th most in the history of the NFL. It is also the most in Chargers history. He ranks second in franchise history in kickoff returns and third in kickoff return yardage.
Though Andre Coleman lasted just three years with San Diego, he had a huge impact and helped his team reach the Super Bowl. Though San Diego played poorly in the Super Bowl, he did not. He could be the best kickoff return specialist in Chargers history.
Ronney Jenkins, Speedy Duncan, Anthony Miller, Tim Dwight, Nate Lewis, Gary Anderson, Keith Lincoln, and James Brooks deserve mention.
Punt Returner : Leslie "Speedy" Duncan
Duncan was an undrafted rookie who was signed by the 1964 San Diego Chargers. He only got to play five games as a rookie, but did manage to intercept a pass and return one of his nine kickoff returns for a career best 91 yards.
Speedy got on the field more the next year and lead the league in punt return yardage with a career best total of 464. He also led the AFL with a career high 15.5 yards per return average and two touchdowns scored off punt returns. Duncan also excelled at cornerback, grabbing four interceptions, which helped garner his first Pro Bowl honor.
Duncan was a Pro Bowler again in 1966, when he picked off a career best seven balls. He also scored on a league leading 81-yard punt return, and led the league with a 13.2 yards per punt return average.
He went back to the Pro Bowl once again in 1967, when he averaged 12.1 yards per punt return, and picked off two passes and took one interception for a league leading 100 yard touchdown return. This was a team record until 1987.
Duncan scored his last punt return TD in 1968. He took a punt for a career long 95 yards, which led the league. It is also a Chargers record. In 1969, he had six interceptions for a career best 118 yards while scoring a touchdown on a 72-yard jaunt.
He then was injured in the sixth game of the 1970 season, and missed the rest of the year. Duncan joined the Washington Redskins in 1971, and made his last Pro Bowl team after leading the NFL with a 10.6 yards per punt return average.
Washington used him as an extra defensive back, but he also scored his last NFL touchdown when he took his lone interception for a 46 yard score.
Duncan was an important member of the 1972 NFC Champion Redskins while sharing return duties with Herb Mul-Key and backing up cornerbacks Pat Fischer and Mike Bass.
He retired after the 1973 season with a 10.9 career average on 202 punt returns and four punt return touchdowns. He also had 24 career interceptions for three touchdowns, and a 25.2 average on 180 kickoff returns.
Duncan leading the league in punt return average three times is tied for an NFL record. He has the most punt returns in AFL history and is the one of three players to lead the league twice in returns.
Duncan has the most punt return yards in AFL history, as well as having the longest punt return ever. His four touchdowns is tied as the most in AFL history, as is his two in one year.
His 25.9 yards on 115 kickoff returns is the second best in AFL history for a career. His 248 combined returns is the most ever by an AFL player, and his 4,617 total combined is the second most.
The four touchdowns off punt returns is a Chargers record and he ranks second in career returns and return yards on punts. He also ranks fourth in kickoff returns and yards and his 25.3 return average is the best in Chargers history by anyone with more than 50 returns.
Besides being probably the best return specialist in Chargers history,he was a great cornerback. His 21 interceptions with San Diego still ranks seventh best in team history. His two touchdowns off interceptions is tied with 11 others as the fifth most.
His three Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Chargers cornerback.
Duncan is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and a is member of the Chargers Hall of Fame.
Mike Fuller, Lionel James, Darrien Gordon, Eric Parker, James Brooks, Tim Dwight, Ron Smith, Kitrick Taylor, Andre Coleman, Nate Lewis, Keith Lincoln, and Eric Metcalf deserve mention.
Think I'm the only Redskins fan on the Gab, but here is a mock for them
10. Robert Quinn, DE/ OLB, North Carolina
Quinn came into the draft with a past of character issues and a benign brain tumor. He started crawling up the draft board at the combine and shot up even higher after his pro day.
Linebacker is one position the Redskins are woefully thin at, and their leader will be 36 years old if the 2011 season goes on as scheduled.
London Fletcher will be asked to possibly plug the middle of a defense with unproven Perry Riley since Rocky McIntosh is an unrestricted free agent. Andre Carter has been released, though he never really did fit in the defensive scheme as an outside linebacker. Defensive end in a 4-3 is his best position, yet his departure opens the slot for Quinn.
Quinn is a lot like Redskins Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo in that he can get after the quarterback and has some ability to play defensive end. He adds options off the edge and is also athletic enough to improve upon his pass defense, an area Orakpo has also been trying to improve on. Neither is really stout against the run, but their athleticism and first step are exceptional.
With the Redskins' "Amoeba" defense, which is run by ex-NFL Pro Bowl linebacker and current defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, Quinn offers flexibility and options.
Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley could slip to the Redskins, but the Tennessee Titans have a defensive line coach who could prevent this from happening. Tracy Rocker is an ex-Redskin who is the first person in SEC history to win both the Outland and Lombardi Awards in the same year. He coached Fairley in college, so Tennessee has a good chance of grabbing the defensive tackle here.
It is possible that Washington will try to improve the offense by drafting a quarterback, especially since that is Shanahan's area of expertise. Jake Locker might be too tempting to pass up.
Prince Nakamura is a cornerback with a lot of upside to him. Starter Carlos Rogers and his backup, Phillip Buchanon, are unrestricted free agents. Both are older players too, so now might be the best time to get someone groomed.
Buchanon has been erratic at best, but Kevin Barnes has shown little since being drafted in 2009. Most of what Barnes has given the team came from the safety position so far.
Nnamdi Asomugha may get a look since Redskins owner Dan Snyder likes to make a big splash in the free agency market and Asomugha is the best player available.
If Washington ignores the cornerback position in the first round, then getting more linebackers is a good direction, especially if they lose the versatile McIntosh and DE/OLB Chris Wilson in the free agency market.
Plus the thought of Orakpo and Quinn coming off the edge brings images of havoc-wreaking play for a defense looking to turn over the ball more.
41. Torrey Smith, Wide Receiver, Maryland University
Even if the Redskins bring back free agent Santana Moss, Washington needs help at receiver.
The Vinny Cerrato Era saw Washington strike out in their attempts to draft players with Malcolm Kelly spending his time on the bench and Devin Thomas now with the New York Giants.
Smith is a player who can make the big play. He has excellent speed and is a hard worker who has improved his game each year in college.
Smith has all the makings of being a starter in the NFL. The one area he needs work in is his route-running, but he loves to block. He is also a great return specialist, an area in which the Redskins need a lot of help. If Moss returns, Washington could bring Smith along as a third receiver and have him return kicks.
Phil Taylor is a nose tackle who could possibly fit here. If he's available, Washington should think about grabbing the big man. A 3-4 defense is generally only as good as the nose tackle, and the Redskins really have no one special at this position.
Taylor is a mammoth man with incredible strength. While he has better speed than expected for a man his size, Taylor does have durability concerns and had a tendency to give up on plays during his collegiate career. He also had character issues early in his college career.
It is highly doubtful Taylor lasts long in the second round, and there is a chance he could go earlier. Even if Taylor turns out to be just a plugger, it is an upgrade over what the Redskins have right now.
But Torrey Smith has the ability to be special..He also went to nearby Maryland University where the Redskins have gotten some good players the last few seasons.
144. Will Hill, Free Safety, Florida University
This is Washington's first pick in three rounds, so it has to count.
Kevin Barnes was forced to play free safety last year when injuries destroyed the Redskins' already-dubious secondary, so Hill adds much needed depth.
Hill is extremely raw, but is an exceptional athlete. He has good size and speed for the position, but will need a lot of time in the film room to develop the next year. Until then, he will help a lot of special teams.
Though he is physical run-defender, consistency has been his issue. He needs to improve his read/reaction time, thus the need for more time in the classroom. He closes in on plays fast and has good hands.
If he puts in the work, Hill could be a productive starter because he has all the necessary physical tools.
With very few safety prospects at this position, probably the weakest in an already-mediocre draft, Washington grabbing Hill here would be a good move.
155. Marcus Gilbert, Offensive Tackle, Florida University
Gilbert has good size (6'6", 330 pounds) and is a good athlete who faced top-flight opponents at Florida.
He is a mauler who excels at run-blocking, but needs work at pass protection. He is not quick or really athletic, and will need to refine his footwork, but he is versatile enough to play guard.
Veteran Jammal Brown is an unrestricted free agent who dealt with nagging injuries in 2010. Even if Washington brings Brown back to man the right tackle position, they need depth there and at guard.
Gilbert has the ability to be an NFL right tackle. Some think he can play guard in the NFL too, so that type of swing-man is always needed on every roster.
213. Taylor Potts, Quarterback, Texas Tech
At 6'4", Potts has good size for the position and offers Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan a quarterback to groom.
He stood out at the NFLPA game, but still has work to put in; footwork and getting rid of the ball faster are the two biggest areas.
He comes from Texas Tech, a school that loves to toss the ball. He needs to show he can take a snap under center and be effective though. Potts has shown good arm strength, but is a project at this point.
224. Da'Rel Scott, Running Back, Maryland University
Washington needs running backs in camp to push the unproven position. Scott comes from their own backyard having played at Maryland University.
Scott is a tough player known to play through pain, but he does have a past with injury concerns. He displays good moves and vision with the ball. Maryland did not throw him the ball much, but he had soft hands when given an opportunity.
Scott could add depth while helping on special teams, but will have to have an excellent training camp to supplant the veterans in front of him.
253. Blaine Sumner, Nose Tackle, Colorado School of Mines
Sumner comes from a small school called Colorado School of Mines, so the level of opponents he has faced is questionable. But he is 6'1", 335 pounds and very strong, which has the nose tackle position beckoning him.
There are very few nose tackle prospects in the 2011 draft, so Washington might not want to risk trying to sign him as a free agent because he will get offers.
Sumner is a power-lifter who set a combine record with 52 reps at the bench-press. Redskins defensive line coach Jacob Burney will need to put extra work into this kid though because Sumner is not a great athlete.
He is a three-year starter who shows good awareness, despite being very raw. With his awesome strength, the Redskins should take a flier on Sumner.
The United Football League started operations in 2009, becoming America's first alternative to the National Football League since 1987. While the UFL has no connections to the NFL. some in the media thought that it would eventually serve as a developmental league.
Others speculated the UFL was born at the time it was to swoop in when the NFL and their players would lock out after the 2010 season. Now that this has happened, the UFL is on the cusp of doing something only one other league has done before. Competing against the NFL has been more a losing proposition.
There have been many leagues formed to oppose the NFL. The first was the American Football League in 1926, created by Hall of Famer Red Grange and his agent after Chicago Bears owner George Halas reneged on monies owed to Grange.
The AFL tried to capitalize on a messy 1925 season for the NFL. Commissioner Joe Carr had just stolen the Championship Trophy from the Pottsville Maroons and handed it to the Chicago Cardinals. The Cardinals owner, NFL co-founder Chris O'Brien, refused the trophy, but the Bidwell family bought the Cardinals in 1933 and have claimed the trophy since.
Grange started the New York Yankees Football Club. A charter NFL team, the Rock Island Independents, joined the AFL and the league played one game in Canada that year. One team, the Brooklyn Horsemen, merged with the Detroit Lions.
This AFL folded after just one season due to financial issues. The second AFL formed in 1936, lasting two years before folding. This league had a team, the Los Angeles Bulldogs, that was the first professional team to play home games on the West Coast. The league had a team called the Cincinnati Bengals, who Hall of Famer Paul Brown named his 1967 expansion team after.
The lasting legacy of the second AFL was the Cleveland Rams, who are now known as the Saint Louis Rams in the NFL. The Rams had a rookie by the name of Sid Gillman on their 1936 team. Gillman is a Hall of Famer known as the "Father of the Modern Day NFL Offense". A second Yankees team was founded as well, and starred Hall of Fame running back Ken Strong.
Though the Los Angeles team drew fans, the rest of the league only garnered local interests in their respective areas. The financial strains of trying to compete against the NFL caused them to fold after 1937, but the dream of competition lived on.
The third AFL formed in 1940. They had a third version of the Yankees, a team that has lineage tied to the Indianapolis Colts, and Bengals. The Yankees called themselves the Americans in 1941, creating a coup by signing 1940 Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon over the Chicago Bears. The league folded after just two years because World War II emptied most of their rosters.
The All-American Football Conference was born after the war. The Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts, and San Francisco 49ers were teams born from the AAFC that would later join the NFL, though this Colts team has no ties to the current version. The Browns dominated the league, once going a record 29 games without defeat.
The AAFC is most remembered for breaking the color line professional sports employed in that era. The Browns signed Bill Willis and Marion Motley, two men who would later be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The AAFC drew well at first, and helped the NFL get more viewers as well.
The increasing popularity of pro football led to salary increases for the players. Only two NFL teams had profits in 1946. The AAFC instilled the use of the face mask, refining pass route running, shuttling players with plays called from the sideline, a year-round coaching staff, and classroom sessions that broke down games on a chalkboard and film.
The league folded when the Browns, Colts, and 49ers merged with the NFL. A fourth AAFC team, the Buffalo Bills, had their large fan base unsuccessfully campaigned for their teams inclusion but failed. Ralph Wilson, then a part-owner of the Detroit Lions saw this rabid fan base and would reward them a decade later.
The fourth American Football League was founded in 1960. Owners like Wilson, Bud Adams, and Lemar Hunt made the league work even despite their initial struggles. The AFL took an aggressive approach. They did not only line their rosters with ex-NFL players, but they held their own annual drafts and offered college kids more money than the NFL.
They made a few huge signings, starting with 1959 Heisman winner Billy Cannon. Adams recruited him in the end zone of his final collegiate game. Cannon would help lead the Houston Oilers to the first two championship wins in AFL history.
Others soon followed Cannon to the AFL. Hall of Famers like Joe Namath, Lance Alworth, Ron Mix, and Johnny Robinson were all first-round draft picks of the NFL who opted for the AFL. All are inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame except Robinson, who should be as well. The AFL put 31 men in the Hall of Fame, so far, and should have more.
The AFL brought an exciting brand of big play football without castrating the defenses. The offenses were exciting, as opposed to the grind-it-out style of the NFL then. Despite their fun play, the NFL considered them inferior and called them a "Mickey Mouse League."
When the AFL beat the NFL in the third Super Bowl, opinions changed. Secret meetings between Hunt and NFL owners in 1966, that were held without the knowledge of league commissioners Pete Rozelle and Al Davis, bred a merger that was agreed upon in 1970.
The AFL won the Super Bowl one more time in 1969 before it happened. Most of the AFC teams of today started in the AFL and no AFL team is in the NFC.
Since then, the World Football League, United States Football League, and XFL tried to compete with the NFL. The WFL signed several NFL stars and even took a few out of college.
Hall of Famers Larry Csonka and Paul Warfield were joined by Pat Haden, Danny White, Alfred Jenkins, Greg Latta, Jim Fassell, and Vince Papale, along with coaches like Jack Pardee, Marty Shottenheimer, Lindy Infante, and John McVay, to play two years with the WFL until it folded.
The XFL lasted one year before folding. They tried to bring in old school fans by allowing the bump and run defense, except they let defenders hit the receiver at any time. After four weeks, they adopted the NFL's five-yard chuck rule to increase scoring. They only allowed the two-point conversion after touchdowns, which the WFL also had, and they did not flip a coin to begin games to determine possession. They had a player from each team run 20 yards to gain possession of the ball laying on the 50-yard line.
The XFL put 33 players in the NFL and seven played in Super Bowls. Five won Super Bowl rings and Tommy Maddox, Bobby Singh, and Rob Carpenter won both an XFL and NFL championship.
The USFL had some successes in their three years of play. The league has six men in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and several others who later became stars in the NFL. They were aggressive in bidding for NFL free agents and college stars. Some of their biggest signing were Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and Steve Young out of college, as well as 1982 Heisman winner Hershel Walker, 1983 winner Mike Rozier, and 1984 winner Doug Flutie.
The USFL also attained the services of Hall of Famers Reggie White and Gary Zimmerman by offering them more money. Despite all of this, they could not keep up financially and teams began folding before they suspended play after 1985 and took the NFL to court. After losing their lawsuit, the USFL folded in 1987.
The UFL has all of this history to learn from. To see what works and what is a risk for failure. They are struggling some already, having their New York team move to Connecticut and Florida team move to Virginia and become owned by the league.
The league has just five teams right now and plans to play on Sundays starting in August. If they receive an influx of NFL players, there is a possibility of a sixth team. The UFL allows celebrations by players and have a "No Tuck Rule".
Several NFL coaches are in the UFL. Jim Fassel, Marty Shottenheimer, Jerry Glanville and Dennis Green lead teams. Joe Moglia, the Ameritrade CEO who was an unpaid assistant at Nebraska University, will coach the other team. The UFL has had 27 of their players go on and play in the NFL.
The UFL appears to be restricted financially. They borrowed $5 million from Mark Cuban last year and now have been taken to court by Cuban for failure to re-pay him on time. Cuban was once rumored to be interested in owning a UFL team and broadcasted their games on his HDnet network the first two years of their existence.
With the NFL appearing a long time away from solving their differences, the UFL could benefit. There is also a chance the lock out can hurt them. NFL players are trying to convince college players to skip the draft, so owners have been said to consider using replacement players like they did in 1987 during a players strike. The UFL could see most of their players in NFL uniforms.
Getting NFL players to join them could take time, as many may prefer to sit back and observe the negotiations. The UFL also does not appear to have the maverick leadership the AFL in the 1960's enjoyed. But it could work.
If an influx of bored NFL players decides to go to the UFL to collect a paycheck, their popularity could increase. It may increase already, considering they are the only game in town right now. In this tenuous situation, the next few months can define the legacy of the United Football League.
These Are The Best Dolphins Who Are Not Yet, And Might Never Be, Inducted Into The Pro Football Hall Of Fame
Quarterback : Earl Morrall
Morrall was a first round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1956 draft. He was mostly used as a punter in his rookie year, but he did start four games when the starter, Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle, was injured.
He was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers after that year, and was named to his first Pro Bowl in 1957. After starting the first two games of the 1958 season for Pittsburgh, Morrall was traded to the Detroit Lions for Hall of Famer Bobby Layne. There, he backed up Tobin Rote, Jim Ninowski, and Milt Plum until 1964.
He was traded to the New York Giants before the 1965 season. He started the entire year, and threw the longest pass of that season for 89 yards. Morrall started seven games the next year and threw a pass that is still franchise long of 98 yards to Homer Jones, the man who invented the spiking of the football after a score.
He then was dealt to the Baltimore Colts in 1968, where his career would be reborn. Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas was injured in the last preseason game and was out for the year, so Morrall became the starter. He led the Colts to a 13-1 record, tossed a career high 26 touchdown passes with a career best 2,909 yards.
He led the NFL in touchdown passes, touchdown percentage and yards gained-per-pass attempt. He was also selected First Team All-Pro and to his last Pro Bowl, while being named the 1968 NFL MVP. The Colts would go on to lose in Super Bowl III. With Unitas healthy again, Morrall started three games over the next two seasons.
In 1970, the Colts would win Super Bowl V when he was called upon again after Unitas was injured early in the game. Morrall helped the Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys 16-13.
Morrall started the first nine games of the 1971 year, leading the Colts to a 7-2 record.
He was then injured and replaced by Unitas as the Colts would go on to lose to the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship game.
The Colts then cut Morrall, but he was claimed by the Dolphins because their coach, Hall of Famer Don Shula, had coached him on the Colts' 1968 Super Bowl team and was familiar with the quarterback.
The move paid off early into the 1972 season, when Hall of Famer Bob Griese was injured during the fifth game. Morrall started the next 10 games and helped lead the eventual Super Bowl Champion Dolphins to the only perfect season in modern NFL history.
He took them to the AFC Championship game, but was replaced by Griese. Morrall was named the AFC Player of the Year, First Team All-Pro,, and won the first Comeback Player of the Year Award. He started one game the next year, as the Dolphins repeated as Super Bowl Champions.
Over the next three seasons, he started two games, and won both. Morrall retired after the 1976 season at the age of 42 years old. Though he started only 102 of the 255 games he played over 21 years, Morrall won 60 and tied three, while being on four Super Bowl teams..
He is an inductee of the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team.
Don Strock, Jay Fiedler, and David Woodley deserve mention.
Fullback : Norm Bulaich
Bulaich was drafted in the first round of the 1970 draft by the Baltimore Colts. He led the Colts in rushing as a rookie, helping lead them to a Super Bowl V victory. He ran for 116 yards in the first playoff win against the Cincinnati Bengals, then his two rushing touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders provided the margin for victory.
His second season was his best. He ran for a career high 741 yards and eight touchdowns. Bulaich set a Colts record that year by running for 198 yards in one game, a team record that stood until 2000, and was named to his lone Pro Bowl appearance.
He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles before the 1973 season and lasted there two seasons. Bulaich joined the Dolphins in 1975, backing up Don Nottingham. While Nottingham was the primary short-yardage specialist, Bulaich was second on the team with 32 receptions and still scored five times on the ground himself.
He started six games the next year and was second on the team in rushing and receiving. The 1977 season saw him place third in rushing and receiving for Miami while splitting starts with Leroy Harris. After a decrease of touches over the next two seasons, he retired.
When you talk of the great fullbacks in Miami Dolphins history, it all starts with Hall of Famer Larry Csonka. Besides Csonka, only three Dolphins fullbacks have more rushing yards and scores than Bulaich. Just two have more receptions.
There have been many Dolphin fullbacks behind Csonka that brought different skill sets to the team. Even though he didn't always start, Norm Bulaich might have had the best of all of them.
Andra Franklin, Woody Bennett, Don Nottingham, Keith Byars, and Rob Konrad deserve mention.
Halfback : Mercury Morris
Morris was a third round draft choice by Miami in 1969. He spent his first three years as a Pro Bowl kick returner, carrying the ball just 140 times. The Dolphins had a Pro Bowl duo of Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick in their backfield, so Morris special teams play was his main contribution, though he did average 6.8 yards on 60 carries in 1970.
Things changed in the Dolphins perfect 1972 season. Morris began to share carries with Kiick, getting 190 carries. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry, finishing with 1,000 yards. Morris also led the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns and caught a career best 15 balls as he was named to the Pro Bowl.
The 1973 season was his last as a Pro Bowler, as Miami won their second straight championship. He led the NFL with an excellent 6.4 yards on 149 carries. Morris also ran for ten scores, despite playing with a neck injury. His 6.4 yards per carry is a team record and ranks 17th best in NFL history.
Morris hurt his knee in an exhibition game in 1974, limiting him to just five games and 56 carries that year. With Csonka and Kiick now gone, he became the workhorse in 1975. Morris had a career best 219 carries while gaining 875 yards.
Miami then traded him to the San Diego Chargers. Despite averaging over five yards per carry, Morris retired after one season due to the lingering effects of his neck and knee injuries.
He still ranks fourth in rushing yards in a career for the Dolphins, and his 29 rushing touchdowns is fifth best in franchise history. Morris averaged 5.1 yards per carry with Miami, easily the best in team history by anyone with more than 42 attempts. He ranks sixth in Dolphins history with 754 rushing attempts.
Though he had to share carries with a Hall of Fame fullback and Pro Bowl halfback, Morris earned his Pro Bowls with sheer determination. Blessed with blazing speed, he went from being one of the best kick returners in the league to becoming one of the best halfbacks.
He is an inductee of the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team, and might be the best halfback the Dolphins ever had.
Jim Kiick, Tony Nathan, Ricky Williams, Mark Higgs, Delvin Williams, and Karim Abdul-Jabbar deserve mention.
Wide Receiver : Mark Clayton
Clayton was drafted in the eighth round of the 1983 draft by Miami. He was buried on the depth chart behind Dolphins greats Nat Moore and Duriel Harris, so Clayton returned a career high 41 punts and scored once.
Miami had also drafted quarterback Dan Marino, a future Hall of Famer in 1983. Marino and Clayton soon developed a close rapport that soon translated onto the football field. He exploded in 1984, helping the Dolphins reach Super Bowl XIX before losing.
Clayton made his first Pro Bowl by leading the NFL with 18 touchdown catches. Not only is it a team record, it was an NFL record at the time and still ranks as the third most ever. He also led the Dolphins with 73 receptions for 1,389 yards at an impressive 19 yards per catch.
He made the Pro Bowl in each of the nest two years, teaming with Marino and bookend Mark Duper as one of the most exciting passing attacks of their era. He led the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions on a career best 86 catches in 1988, then began to experience health issues.
After missing seven games over two years, Clayton rebounded with his last Pro Bowl season in 1991. He had 12 touchdown catches on 70 receptions. After missing three games because of injury in 1992, he was released.
The Green Bay Packers signed Clayton, where he started. He caught 32 balls as Sterling Sharpe was busy setting a then-NFL record with 112 receptions that year. Clayton retired at the end of the season.
No Dolphins player has more receptions and touchdown catches than him. Clayton also ranks second in receiving yardage. His 86 receptions in 1998 was a team record for ten years.
His 84 career touchdown catches still ranks 15th best in NFL history, and he ranks 47th best in receiving yards. Though diminutive, Clayton was an underdog who came from nowhere to become of of the finest wide receivers in Dolphins history.
He is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll, and his five Pro Bowls is tied with Hall of Famer Paul Warfield as the most ever by a Dolphins receiver.
Wide Receiver : Mark Duper
Duper was a second round draft choice of the Dolphins in 1982. Though the season was limited to nine games because of a players strike, Miami reached Super Bowl XVII before losing. Yet Duper played in just two games that season, not recording any statistics.
Business began to pick up for Duper in 1983 when the Dolphins used their first round draft pick on future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. Though he started just 11 games, Duper averaged a career best 19.7 yards on 51 receptions and scored 10 times in earning his first Pro Bowl honor.
He went back to the Pro Bowl in 1984 as the Dolphins reached Super Bowl XIX before losing. Duper was teaming with fellow wide receiver Mark Clayton as a deadly duo of 5'9" receivers nicknamed the "Marks Brothers".
Duper reached his last Pro Bowl in 1986 after catching a career best 11 touchdowns. One went for a career long 85 yards, which led the league. He caught eight touchdowns in 11 games during the strike-shortened 1987 season.
Injuries nagged him in 1988, but he came back to get 1,085 receiving yards on 70 receptions in 1991. After 44 receptions and seven touchdowns in 1993, he retired. Clayton was also released that year, effectively ending the "Marks Brothers" in Miami. Duper did reappear in 1994 to play two games with the Miami Hooters of the Arena Football League before retiring permanently.
Nat Moore almost was given this spot, and deservedly so, but we decided to let the "Marks Brothers" ride again. Duper's three Pro Bowls are the second most ever by a Dolphins wide receiver.
He has the most receiving yards in Dolphins history, and he ranks second in total receptions. Duper also has the third most touchdown catches in team history, and his 85-yard catch is the second longest by a Dolphin.
He is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll, and one of the best receivers in Miami Dolphins history.
Nat Moore, Chris Chambers, Irving Fryar, O.J. McDuffie, Howard Twilley, Duriel Harris, Orande Gadsen, Tony Martin, Jim Jensen, Karl Noonan, and Jack Clancy deserve mention.
Tight End : Bruce Hardy
Miami snagged Hardy in the ninth round of the 1978 draft. After rarely being used as a rookie, he started the next two seasons. The following four years saw Hardy splitting starts with other players.
He was named the started in 1985 and caught 121 passes over the next three years. The 1986 season saw Hardy catch a career high 54 passes and five scores. Injuries besieged him in 1988 and 1989, limiting him to just three total games and forcing retirement.
He still ranks ninth all-time on the Dolphins reception list and leads all tight ends. He also tops the list in receiving touchdowns amongst all Miami tight ends.
When you think of all the offensive excellence the Dolphins have given the NFL, the tight end position is the one area that has yet to be truly great. The team has sent just two tight ends to the Pro Bowl a total of three times, yet neither player lasted long with the club. Bruce Hardy could be the best the Dolphins have had so far.
Ferrell Edmunds, Keith Jackson, and Jim Mandich deserve mention.
Offensive Tackle : Richmond Webb
Webb was the Dolphins first round draft selection in 1990. He was put in the staring lineup at left tackle immediately and went to seven consecutive Pro Bowls. He was quickly considered one of the best as his position, and Webb was named First Team All-Pro twice.
Though he was solid in 1997, it was the first time in his career he failed to go to the Pro Bowl. That was followed by an injury the next year that took away significantly from his game, forcing him to miss seven games. Though he returned the next season, he wasn't the same player.
Miami let Webb go to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2001. After one full season, he played in just four games in 2001. Cincinnati released him, so Webb tried out for the Dolphins but failed to make the team. He then retired.
He ranks first amongst all Dolphin linemen in consecutive starts with 118. The seven consecutive Pro Bowls he appeared in is also a team record. Webb also ranks second amongst Dolphin blockers in total starts.
His career started off destined for Canton, but his career seemed to hit the wall when he turned 30-years old. Yet there still is a chance he gets inducted one day because he was an upper echelon player for seven years and due to the fact he is a member of the 1990's NFL All-Decade Team.
Not only is Webb a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll, he might be the best offensive tackle in team history.
Offensive Tackle : Norm Evans
Evans was drafted in the 14th round of the 1965 AFL Draft by the Houston Oilers. He soon found himself in the starting lineup protecting Hall of Fame quarterback George Blanda. He also scored a touchdown off a blocked kick. Yet that still not prevent the Oilers exposing him to the expansion Dolphins before the start of the 1966 season.
Evans was plugged into the starting lineup right away and would stay there his entire career. The Dolphins would improve yearly and Evans was a big reason why. Starting in 1971, Miami reached three Super Bowl games and won the last two.
Part of the reason for their success was an offense that could run over teams with three Pro Bowl running backs while stretching the field with a Hall of Fame quarterback tossing it to a Hall of Fame wide receiver.
The Miami offensive line had two Hall of Famers, yet Evans also was sent to the Pro Bowl twice himself. He stayed a stalwart in the trenched until 1975, when the Dolphins exposed the 34-year old to the expansion draft.
The fledgling Seattle Seahawks grabbed him up and Evans would start over the next two seasons. After spending the 1977 season as a reserve for the first time in his career, he retired. He is an inductee of the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team.
He never missed a game in his entire 10 seasons with Miami. Evans ranks third amongst all Dolphin linemen in consecutive starts with 91, as do his 135 total starts. There have been few Dolphins players as durable and dependable as Norm Evans.
Wayne Moore and Doug Crusan deserve mention.
Guard : Bob Kuechenberg
Kuechenberg was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round of the 1969 draft. He quit the Eagles during training camp and the played for the Chicago Owls of the Continental Football League, the first professional football team to play on Soldier Field since the Chicago Cardinals occupied it for one season in 1959.
He signed with the Dolphins in 1970, and eventually started five games that year. He was named the full time starter at left guard the next year, remaining there mostly the rest of his career. Kuechenberg immediately earned to respect of his peers.
Miami went to the Super Bowl in his first season, where they would lose to the Dallas Cowboys. Hall of Fame defensive tackle Bob Lilly, a star with Dallas, noted that Kuechenberg was one of the best offensive linemen he had ever seen.
After the loss to Dallas in Super Bowl VI, the Dolphins went undefeated in 1972 with the top rated offense and defense in the NFL. After winning Super Bowl VII, Miami repeated as champions the very next season. The offensive line led the way for Miami, with every starter of the 1973 team having made the Pro Bowl in their careers.
He made his first Pro Bowl in 1974, something he would duplicate in three of the next four years. The 1978 season was one of his best, making First Team All-Pro after having to play several games at left tackle because of injuries.
Kuechenberg played left tackle the entire 1979 season, then moved back to guard for the rest of his career the following season. He made his final two Pro Bowls in 1982 and 1983, then retired. His six Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Dolphins guard.
He ranks first amongst all Dolphin blockers in total starts and games played. Only Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino has played more games with the team than Kuechenberg. His 15 seasons is ranked second behind Marino's 17 years.
He is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll as both an individual and member of the 1972 team and has been a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame six times so far. It seems likely that one of the best offensive linemen in Dolphins history will eventually find himself inducted into Canton.
Guard : Ed Newman
Newman was a sixth round draft pick of the Dolphins in 1973. He did start one game as a rookie, helping Miami win Super Bowl VIII. The next five seasons were mostly spent as a reserve behind Hall of Famer Larry Little and Pro Bowler Bob Kuechenberg.
He replaced Little in 1979 and soon became an integral part of the Dolphins attack. He made the first of four consecutive Pro Bowls in 1981, establishing himself an elite NFL right guard.
The Dolphins reached the Super Bowl in 1982 and 1984, but lost both times. Newman was named First Team All-Pro in 1984, yet retired after the Super Bowl XIX defeat. He has since become a judge in Miami.
He ranks second in games played for all Miami offensive linemen. His 12 years is tied with Hall of Famer Larry Little as the most by a Dolphins lineman. The four Pro Bowls he appeared in are the third most ever by a Dolphins guard, one less than Little and two fewer than Kuechenberg.
Roy Foster and Keith Sims deserve mention.
Center : Tim Ruddy
Ruddy was the Dolphins second round draft pick in 1994. After sitting on the bench as a rookie, he was named a starter from his second year on. Called "Big Master" by his teammates, Ruddy led an offensive line that protected Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.
He was durable and gifted. Besides his rookie year, Ruddy started in every game he played and missed just four games with the Dolphins. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2000. The 2003 season was his last due to knee problems.
Center has been a strength in Miami, starting with Pro Bowlers like Tom Goode and Bob DeMarco. Hall of Famers Jim Langer and Dwight Stephenson followed. Ruddy was once named one of the 40 greatest Dolphins of all-time, cementing his legacy with the franchise always.
Jeff Dellenbach, Bob DeMarco, and Tom Goode deserve mention.
Defensive Tackle : Bob Baumhower
Baumhower was drafted in the second round of the 1977 draft bu the Dolphins. He was drafted to handle the nose tackle position because Miami switched to the 3-4 defense that season. He started in all 14 games he played that year.
He quickly established himself an elite player in 1978, after scoring a touchdown off a fumble and intercepting the only pass of his career. Baumhower made he first Pro Bowl the very next season. He would return to the Pro Bowl in 1981.
The NFL did not recognize sacks as an official statistic until 1982, a season marred by a players strike. Yet Miami led the league in defense behind their "Killer Bs" defense. With Baumhower manning the middle in his third Pro Bowl year, the Dolphins made it to Super Bowl XVII before losing.
His 1983 season may be considered his best. Baumhower was named First Team All-Pro for the only time in his career after getting eight sacks, an excellent number for a nose tackle. He made the Pro Bowl that year and the next after scoring on another fumble recovery.
Miami returned to the Super Bowl in 1984, but were soundly defeated by the San Francisco 49ers after a record setting performance by the 49ers offense.
Most nose tackles are squatty player with wide bases. Baumhower was not of this mold, standing 6'5" and weighing just 261 lbs. He was a master technician with superior intelligence and athleticism. Yet nose tackle is the hardest position to play in football.
Though he was named to the 1984 Pro Bowl, he decided to have knee surgery instead. Earlier that year, his streak of 125 straight starts was ended when he hurt the knee, but he got right back out there, not missing another game, and damaged it further to try to help Miami win a title. He needed help walking off the field after the loss to San Francisco.
The knee got so bad that he couldn't walk for awhile. He sat out of the entire 1985 season, but tried to return in 1986. He played 12 games that year but decided to retire because the knee was giving him problems.
He is easily the greatest nose tackle in Dolphins history, but it was a position he was not keen on playing initially. “But a lot of that was because the center and two guards I was practicing against were Jim Langer, Bob Kuechenberg and Larry Little, three All-Pros, maybe the best trio ever.", Bauhower said. "They bounced my around like a pinball. But I learned a lot, and that made playing other teams easier.”
Baumhower is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll. His five Pro Bowls is tied for second as the most appearances by a Dolphins defensive lineman, and it is far and away the most by an interior defensive lineman.
Defensive Tackle : Tim Bowens
Bowens was Miami's first round draft pick in 1994. After getting a career best 52 tackles and two forced fumbles, he was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The 1997 season was one of his best. Bowens had a career high five sacks and scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery while tying his second-best career total of 48 tackles. He was named to the Pro Bowl the next season.
He returned to the Pro Bowl in 2002. What interesting about his two Pro Bowl years is that they are the only seasons of his career, excluding his last, where Bowens failed to record a sack as well as being two years that were amongst his lowest tackle totals.
Bowens hurt his back in 2003, forcing him to miss three games that year. He had missed five total in his ten years by then, showing his toughness and dependability. He played two games the next year, but retired because of his back issues.
The excellence of Bowens is especially amazing if you consider he was missing three toes on his left foot caused by a lawnmower accident as a teenager. He was the only Dolphins defensive tackle in franchise history to go to a Pro Bowl until Randy Starks went in 2010.
It is safe to say Tim Bowens is the one of the best defensive tackles in Dolphins history.
Brian Sochia, Manny Fernandez, Daryl Gardner, and Bob Heinz deserve mention.
Defensive End : Bill Stanfill
Stanfill was the Dolphins first round draft pick in 1969. Miami put him at defensive end despite his playing defensive tackle so well in college that he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Miami was intrigued by his athleticism, which once had Stanfill play quarterback in one collegiate game.
The move worked out great right away. He was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie after scoring twice on the only two interceptions of his career. He also had eight sacks, which is still a team record by a rookie.
Miami was building a special football team at this time, and Stanfill was a key component. Stanfill would lead the team in sacks the next two years as Miami began to make an impact on the NFL. They reached Super Bowl VI in 1971 before losing as Stanfill made the Pro Bowl.
The 1972 Dolphins team is the only team in modern NFL history to have a perfect season. Though their great defense was dubbed the "No-Name Defense", people knew about Stanfill. He was named to the Pro Bowl and given his only First Team All-Pro honor.
After Miami won Super Bowl VII in 1972, they repeated as champions the next season. Stanfill went to the Pro Bowl after setting a team record with 18.5 sacks. He also set a team record with five sacks in one game.
His 1974 season was his last as a Pro Bowler. He tied his record of five sacks in a game, finishing with 10 that year. Stanfill then jammed his next during a exhibition game in 1975 that was so bad that he spent much of the next two years as a reserve before retiring.
Though the NFL did not recognize sacks in his era, Stanfill retired with a franchise leading 67.5 in 1976. It is still the fourth most in team history. His five Pro Bowls is the second most ever by a Dolphins defensive lineman.
He is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll as both an individual and member of the 1972 team. Stanfill is also a member of the Dolphins All-Time Team. When talk of the greatest defensive end in Dolphins history is discussed, Bill Stanfill should always be the first name mentioned.
Defensive End : Jason Taylor
Taylor was drafted by Miami in the third round of the 1997 draft. He quickly earned a starting job, getting five sacks. The next year he scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery, a prevalent theme throughout Taylor's career.
He was given his first Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro honor in 2000 after getting 14.5 sacks and scoring off another fumble recovery. Taylor would score his third touchdown off a fumble recovery the next season.
The 2002 season was one of the best in Taylor's career. He led the NFL with 18.5 sacks and was given his second Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro honors. Though he had 13 sacks the next year, as well as recording a safety and scoring off yet another fumble recovery, he was somehow not given a Pro Bowl honor.
Taylor then went to the Pro Bowl four straight years starting in 2004. He recorded a safety and scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery in 2005, as well as having a career best 73 tackles and 12 sacks.
The 2006 season is considered by some the best of his career. Taylor was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year after forcing an amazing nine fumbles. He also scored twice off interceptions, which led the league, and had 13.5 sacks.
After making his last Pro Bowl in 2007, where he scored off an interception, Taylor left Miami and was dealt to the Washington Redskins in a trade. His stay in Washington was so ineffective that the two parted ways after just one season, partly because Taylor refused to participate in team conditioning activities.
He returned to the Dolphins in 2009, but was moved to the linebacker position. He has seven sacks and scored once again off a fumble recovery. Taylor then signed a contract with the New York Jets as a reserve linebacker and recorded a safety. New York released him and he is currently a free agent.
Taylor is all over the record books for both the NFL and Dolphins. His six touchdowns off fumble recoveries and three safeties are the most in NFL history. His 27 fumble recoveries in just two short of an NFL record by a defensive player, and his 246 yards off fumble recoveries is 23 yards short of another NFL record.
His 132.5 sacks is eighth best in NFL history, and the 124 he had with Miami is a team record. Taylor's six Pro Bowls and three First Team All-Pro honors are the most by a defensive lineman in team history.
He scored nine non-offensive touchdowns in his career. Not only is it the most in Dolphins history, but it is the most by a defensive lineman in the history of professional football. His 42 forced fumbles is easily a team record, as is the nine he had in the 2006 season. Since the NFL does not keep track of this stat, it is unknown where it stands historically.
Yet his impact in Miami goes beyond the gridiron. Taylor's mission to try to teach kids to read in a foundation of his garnered him the 2007 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his charitable works.
At just 250 lbs most of his career, Taylor was surprisingly stout against the run despite facing off against the opponents best offensive tackles weekly. Most weighed at least 50 pounds more than Taylor, but his athleticism, quickness, strength, and intelligence allowed for him to make play after play.
It is unknown if his career is over, but Taylor does seem bound for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day. He was always around the ball making huge plays. Whether it was scoring or getting the ball back for his team, the definition of "play maker" certainly can be branded onto his extensive resume.
Jeff Cross, Doug Betters Marco Coleman, Ed Cooke, T.J. Turner, and Vern Den Herder deserve mention.
Outside Linebacker : Bob Brudzinski
Brudzinski was a first round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams. He started half of his rookie year at left outside linebacker after an injury, eventually being named All-Rookie by several publications.
He moved over to the right outside linebacker the next year and was named a starter on a team known for their excellent defensive unit at the time. The Rams reached Super Bowl XIV in 1979 after an excellent season from Brudzinski. He piled up 127 tackles and five sacks while breaking up 14 passes.
After the Rams lost, Brudzinski headed into the 1980 wanting a pay raise. After the owners declined his request, he walked away from the team nine games into the season. He vowed to never play with the Rams again, which forced them to trade Brudzinski to the Dolphins before the 1981 season.
Miami plugged him in as the starting left outside linebacker right away, and he would stay there the next seven years. Though his specialty was stopping the run, Brudzinski was also solid against the pass and an effective blitzer.
He became an integral part of the Dolphins famous "Killer Bs" defense, which also had Glenn and Lyle Blackwood, Doug Betters, Kim Bokamper, Bill Barnett, and Bob Baumhower all helping Miami's defense rank first in yards allowed and second in points allowed in 1982.
Miami reached Super Bowl XVII in 1982, but lost. He led the team in sacks that year. The Dolphins went back to the Super Bowl in 1984, but lost again. After scoring the only touchdown of his career, off a fumble recovery, in 1985, he continued to be a steadying force.
In 1988, he was a key reserve of Miami. It was the first year of his career he was not a starter. He retired after the next year. Brudzinski is a member of the Dolphins All-Time Team.
Middle Linebacker : Zach Thomas
Thomas was drafted in the fifth round of the 1996 draft by Miami and immediately earned a starting job. He had a career high three interceptions, one of which was taken for a touchdown, and a career best 120 solo tackles. He was named AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The 1998 season was his first to be named First Team All-Pro after matching his career mark of three interceptions and returning two for scores. He then began a run of five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 1999, three of which he was also named First Team All-Pro.
He returned to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2006, as well as earning his final First Team All-Pro nod in 2006 after getting a career high 165 tackles. Thomas was hurt the next year, appearing in just five games. Miami then released him.
Thomas signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2008 and played one year for them. He tried to join the Kansas City Chiefs the next year, but was cut in training camp. He then retired.
Since the NFL began officially recording tackles in 2001, Thomas has the fourth most in NFL history. He is one of three players credited with 100 or more tackles in each of his first ten seasons.
His 17 interceptions are the most ever by a Dolphins linebacker and his four touchdowns off interceptions is a team record. His five First Team All-Pro honors is tied with Hall of Famer Larry Little as the most in Dolphins history, and his seven Pro Bowls is the most by a Miami defender.
The list of legendary middle linebackers awaiting induction into the Pro Football if Fame is long, starting with Tommy Nobis, Randy Gradishar, and Lee Roy Jordan. Thomas has a very good chance at one day joining fellow Dolphins middle linebacker Nick Buoniconti in Canton because of his excellence as a player and leader.
Bryan Cox, A.J. Duhe, and John Offerdahl deserve mention.
Outside Linebacker : Larry Gordon
Gordon was the Dolphins first round draft pick in 1976. He started right away at left outside linebacker as a rookie.
Miami switched to a 3-4 base defense in 1977, deciding to move veteran Bob Matheson inside. Gordon replaced him at right outside linebacker, where he would stay the rest of his career.
Statistics like tackles and sacks were not recorded officially during his career, but Gordon was a force. Whether it was intercepting passes or sacking the quarterback, his steady play was a key to the teams defense.
The strike-shortened 1982 season would be his last. Gordon was part of a defense that allowed just 14.2 points per game, which was second best in the NFL that year. Miami began an improbable run in the playoffs, winning three games and giving up just 26 points total.
After shutting out the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game, Miami would lose 27-17 to the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVII. It was the last game of Gordon's career, because he passed away while jogging a few months later.
Though he was taken away in his prime, the seven seasons Larry Gordon spent with the Dolphins was special. He helped bring the team back to the Super Bowl after a nine-year drought and left a legacy those who knew him would not forget.
Kim Bokamper, Bob Matheson, Doug Swift, John Bramlett, Tom Erlandson, Larry Izzo, Joey Porter, Mike Kolen, and Derrick Rodgers deserve mention.
Strong Safety : Dick Anderson
Anderson was the Dolphins third round draft pick in 1968. He was named their starting strong safety right away and responded by leading the league with 230 interception return yards, which came off of eight picks. One interception went 96 yards for a touchdown. It was a team record until 1992.
After getting named AFL Defensive Rookie of the Year that season, he followed that up with 106 yards off three swipes the next year, Anderson led the NFL with 191 interception return yards. He had eight interceptions, returning one for a league leading 86 yards.
Despite all of that excellence, he did not go to the Pro Bowl until the 1972 season after leading the NFL with five fumble recoveries. He returned one for a score. Teaming with Jake Scott as one of the greatest safety duos ever, the Miami "No Name" defense dominated the league in helping the team have a perfect season.
The Dolphins went to the Super Bowl three straight years between 1971 and 1973, winning the last two games. The 1973 season was probably the best in Anderson's career. He led the NFL with eight interceptions and two touchdowns off of those interceptions. He was named to his second straight Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro honors.
Anderson was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in a year he picked off four passes for 121 yards for two touchdowns in a key late season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He stayed with Miami until 1977, making the Pro Bowl for the final time in 1974. After missing five games due to injury in 1976, Anderson failed to record any statistics the next year as a reserve. He then retired.
Though he ranks second in Dolphins history with 34 career interceptions, one less than Scott, Anderson was used several different ways by Miami. He played both safety slots, punted the ball nine times, caught a pass, and returned both punts and kickoffs.
The 792 interception return yards in his career is a Dolphins record. His 230 interception yards in one season is still a team record, as is his eight interceptions as a rookie.
Anderson is the only Dolphin with three seasons of at least eight interceptions. His four interceptions in one game in 1973 is a team record, and the 121 yards he got that day stood as a team record until 1992.
His three career touchdowns off interceptions is the second most in team history and the most by a Miami defensive back. The two he had in one game and season is tied as a team record.
He is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll as both an individual and member of the 1972 team. He is also a member of the NFL's 1970's All-Decade Team. There is no question that Anderson is the greatest strong safety in Dolphins history.
Glenn Blackwood, Jarvis Williams, and Tim Foley deserve mention.
Free Safety : Jake Scott
When the Dolphins grabbed Scott in the seventh round of the draft, Miami general manager Joe Thomas proclaimed the team had gotten first-round talent for seventh-round cash. Scott had been an All-American player who is now on the 50th Anniversary All-Time SEC Team.
Scott was coming in from one season with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League after having left the University of Georgia as a junior because Vince Dooley had brokered a deal for his team to play in the Sugar Bowl, a lesser game at the time, despite the Bulldog players having voted to play in the Orange Bowl.
Dooley had long called Scott the greatest athlete he ever coached, which includes men like Hershel Walker, but their disagreement in has led Scott to declining induction into the College Football Hall of Fame because Dooley was involved.
Scott joined the Dolphins despite making $10,000 less than he had made in the CFL. He was starting right away at free safety and returning punts full time with the team. He picked off five balls for a career long 112 yards while returning 27 punts. He took one ball 77 yards for a touchdown
The Dolphins safety tandem of Scott and Dick Anderson was quickly becoming the best in the NFL. Both were supremely intelligent and athletic, capable of playing either safety slot at a Pro Bowl level. This versatility gave Miami an advantage few teams have ever enjoyed in NFL history.
The 1971 season saw Scott lead the NFL in punt return yards, getting 318 on 33 returns. He also intercepted seven balls, which led the team and helped Scott earn his first of five consecutive Pro Bowl nods. The Dolphins would get all the way to the Super Bowl that year before losing to the Dallas Cowboys.
He severely broke his left hand on the helmet of Kansas City Chiefs fullback Jim Otis in the 1971 AFC Championship Game, then he would break his right wrist early in Super Bowl VI. This led to both hands in heavy casts and the famous Scott quip, "Now I find out who my real friends are when I go to the bathroom."
The Dolphins 1972 season was one that all teams head into striving for, but only this team actually accomplished. They led the NFL in both offense and defense while going undefeated the entire year. Scott returned less punts that year because Charlie Leigh took most of the attempts.
Miami also had Scott playing strong safety often, and it led to five interceptions. He hurt his shoulder so bad that, heading into Super Bowl VII, prognosticators favored the Washington Redskins because the word was that Scott would be unable to play.
Not only was he able to play, but Scott became the first defensive back, and just second defensive player, to ever be named Super Bowl MVP. In a defensive battle where ball possession reigned supreme, the Dolphins outlasted Washington 14-7 in the lowest scoring game in Super Bowl history.
Scott intercepted a pass on the Redskins first possession, then picked off a second in a crucial moment in the fourth quarter. On a Billy Kilmer pass intended for Hall of Fame wide receiver Charley Taylor, Scott picked off the ball in the end zone and took it 55 yards.That would set up the famous "Garo's Gaffe", when Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian would throw an interception that resulted in the Redskins only points.
Miami would reach their third consecutive Super Bowl in 1973, a year that saw Scott get named First Team All-Pro on a defense that gave up only 10.7 points per game all season. Scott handled the return duties in Super Bowl VIII and recovered two fumbles in the Dolphins 24-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
When Dolphin legends Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Paul Warfield bolted for the fledgling World Football League in 1974, Scott bluffed Miami by saying he also had an offer. The Dolphins quickly signed him to a five-year contract for $600,000, making him the first defensive back in NFL history to make at least $100,000 per season.
He rewarded Miami by intercepting a career best eight passes, which had him earn his second First Team All-Pro honor while playing most of the year at free safety. He also returned 31 punts for 346 yards. He was named NFL Defensive Back of the Year by Football Digest.
Scott and Dolphins head coach Don Shula were close to the point the Shula's son wore Scott's jersey number when playing football because Scott was his hero. When the Dolphins brilliant defensive coordinator, Bill Arnsparger, left Miami after the 1973 season to become head coach of the New York Giants, several Dolphins defenders, including Scott, were unhappy that Vince Costello was chosen as the replacement.
Costello was replaced by Don Doll after one year. Playing under Doll, he enjoyed his final Pro Bowl seasons in 1975 after six interceptions. Rookie wide receiver Freddie Soloman handled the punt return duties instead of Scott that season.
One practice in 1974 had Scott telling Costello he didn't know what he was talking about. When Shula interjected, the pair had words. This carried over into 1976, when Shula wanted Scott to play a preseason game even though the safety said his shoulder was hurting too much.
When Scott refused to shoot pain killing medicine into his shoulder, the coach and safety argued so much that Scott was quickly traded to the Washington Redskins for safety Bryan Salter. Salter lasted six games with Miami before calling it a career after one more game as a Baltimore Colt that season.
Scott lasted three years with the Redskins, starting in every game that he played and missing only two games. Though Washington had him return three punts in 1976, those duties were primarily given to Pro Bowler Eddie Brown.
In his three years with Washington, Scott picked off 14 passes. He had a career best five fumble recoveries in his first year, then picked off seven and retired at the end on the 1978 season.
He is the Dolphins all-time leader in interceptions, punt returns, and punt return yards. Scott is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll as both an individual and member of the 1972 team. He is definitely the greatest free safety in team history.
He might not yet be inducted into Canton, but his 49 interceptions, punt return prowess, and overall excellence say he surely belongs.
Brock Marion, Lyle Blackwood, Willie West, and Louis Oliver deserve mention.
Cornerback : Sam Madison
Madison was the Dolphins second round draft pick in 1997. He was mostly used as an extra defensive back as a rookie, but would earn a starting job from his second season on.
He intercepted eight balls in 1998, then led the league with seven the next season. He was named to the Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro after scoring a touchdown off a pick and recording a safety that year.
He made the Pro Bowl, as well as again being named First Team All-Pro, in 2000 after swiping five balls and taking one for a score. He and fellow Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain represented Miami in the Pro Bowl that year and again in 2002.
Madison and Surtain were perhaps the best cornerback duo in the NFL and Dolphins history over this time. Teams rarely tested Madison, who was know for his toughness and willing run support.
He became a free agent after the 2005 season, so he signed a contract with the New York Giants. He led the Giants with four interceptions in 2007, helping them reach Super Bowl VLII.
New York defeated a New England Patriots team trying to become the first perfect team since the 1972 Dolphins. He broke his ankle seven games into the 2008 season, causing him to retire at the end of the year.
His 31 interceptions with Miami is the third most in team history and the most ever by a Dolphins cornerback. His four Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Dolphins cornerback, as is his two First Team All-Pro nods.
Some longtime Miami fans will tell you that Sam Madison is the best cornerback in team history. He one day should find himself in the Dolphins Ring of Honor, hopefully joined by Surtain.
Cornerback : Patrick Surtain
Surtain was the Dolphins second round draft pick in 1998. He was used as a nickel back as a rookie and swiped a few balls. Taking over a starting job towards the end of the 1999 season, Surtain picked off two passes and had a career best two sacks.
Now firmly entrenched as a starter, Surtain became a top-flight AFC cornerback. After scoring a touchdown off a pick in 2001, he began a run of three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 2002 after scoring once again. The 2002 season saw him named First Team All-Pro as well.
He and Sam Madison were perhaps the best cornerback duo in the NFL from 1999 to 2003, where at least one of them represented Miami in the Pro Bowl each season over that time. The pair would go to the Pro Bowl together twice.
After a career high seven interceptions in 2003, Surtain became a Pro Bowler for the final time in his career the next year. He was due a raise in salary, but Miami chose to dealt the 29-year old to the Kansas City Chiefs for a second round draft pick.
Kansas City had him paired with Ty Law starting in 2006, and the Chiefs had one of the NFL's best pass defenses in 2007. He got hurt in 2008, missing half of the season. The Chiefs then released him, so Surtain retired.
In his seven season with the Dolphins, Surtain intercepted 29 passes. It is the second most ever by a Dolphins cornerback, and tied with Glenn Blackwood as the fourth most in team history by any player. His three Pro Bowls are the second most ever by a Dolphins cornerback.
Miami has had several great cornerbacks wear their jersey over the years, and Patrick Surtain was one of their very best.
William Judson, J.B. Brown, Troy Vincent, Paul Lankford, Dick Westmoreland, Curtis Johnson, Lloyd Mumphord, Don McNeal, Tim Foley, Gerald Small, and Terrell Buckley deserve mention.
Kicker : Garo Yepremian
The journey of Yepremian to NFL stardom is a better story than any Hollywood writer could concoct. He had emigrated to the United States from the island of Cyprus in the 1960's looking for work. He inadvertently watched a few minutes of an NFL game on television and decided he could make money kicking a ball.
After tryouts with several teams, he made the Detroit Lions roster in 1966. He knew so little about the game that he decided not to wear a facemask at first. When Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke hurt him in the fourth game of the season, Yepremian decided to wear one.
A famous story of his football innocence was in a story Lions Pro Bowl defensive tackle Alex Karras liked to tell. Detroit scored a touchdown late in a game that they were losing heavily in. Yepremian celebrated after converting an extra point, prompting Karras to ask Yepremian what he what happy about.
"I keek a touchdown". was Yepremian's reply.
He set an NFL record as a rookie by kicking six field goals on eight attempts in a single game. Jim Bakken, of the Saint Louis Cardinals, broke that record the next season by making seven of nine attempts. Yepremian still holds the rookie record.
He also set an NFL record by making four field goals in one quarter. This has been tied since, but he owns the record for a rookie. Though he made six field goals that day, Yepremian made just seven of 14 attempts in the other eight games he appeared in.
Detroit had him suit up for eight games the next year, where he attempted just six field goals and made two. They preferred having Pro Bowl linebacker Wayne Walker kicking field goals.
He joined the Army for a short stint in 1968, then kicked for the Michigan Arrows of the Continental Football League. The team folded after the season, so Yepremian was out of the game in 1969.
The Miami Dolphins gave him a tryout in 1970, and Yepremian made the team. He had worked hard on his game during his year off, and this was shown by his leading the NFL in field goal percentage that year.
He was named First Team All-Pro in 1971 after making 28 field goals on a career best 40 attempts and leading the league a career best 117 points. His highlight that year was kicking a game-winning field goal during double-overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs in the longest game ever played in NFL history. Miami would go on to reach Super Bowl VI before losing.
Yepremian led the NFL in extra point attempts the next year, as well as the making the first three field goals of his career of 50 yards or longer. He would only make two kicks of 50 yards or longer the rest of his career.
The highlight for Yepremian was not just the fact the Dolphins had a perfect season, but his famous moment in Super Bowl VII will have him forever a part of the games historical lore.
The Dolphins were winning 14-0 when they decided to have Yepremian try a field goal against the Washington Redskins. The kick was blocked right back into Yepremian's hands, where he inexplicably tried to pass the ball.
The ball started to slip from his hands, causing Yepremian to bat it straight in the air. Washington's Mike Bass caught it and ran for a score. Though a play considered a comedy of errors, Miami prevailed with a 14-7 victory.
Yepremian made his first Pro Bowl, as well as earning his second First Team All-Pro honor in 1973, as the Dolphins repeated as champions. He was now a celebrity in Miami, rubbing elbows with their most famous residents.
In the 1973 Pro Bowl, he became the second kicker to ever win the MVP Award after making a Pro Bowl record five field goals. Though Jan Stenerud won it two years earlier, he shared the award with teammate, and fellow Hall of Famer, Willie Lanier. Yepremian is the first kicker to win the award by himself.
Staying with the Dolphins until 1978, he made his last Pro Bowl that year after making 20 consecutive field goals and leading the NFL in field goal percentage. Miami still allowed him to join the New Orleans Saints in 1979, where he played one season.
Yepremian joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1980, then retired after playing in three games the following season. Of the 1,074 career points Yepremian had, 830 came with the Dolphins and is the second most in team history.
His 117 points in a season was a team record until 1991. No other Dolphin has attempted nor made as many extra points as Yepremian. He has the second most field goal attempts and third most made field goals in team history.
He is an inductee of the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team and the first Dolphins kicker to ever go to the Pro Bowl or be named First Team All-Pro.
Yepremian is a member of the NFL's 1970s All-Decade Team. He was named Kicker of the Decade for the 1970's, beating out Hall of Famer Stenerud. He was also named one of the Dolphins "Greatest Players" on their 40th Anniversary celebration.
Miami has employed several excellent kickers in their franchise history, yet there have been none better than Garo Yepremian.
Pete Stoyanovich, Uwe von Schamann, and Olindo Mare deserve mention.
Punter : Reggie Roby
Roby was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the sixth round of the 1983 draft, and was the 167th player chosen overall. He produced immediately, averaging 43.1 yards on 74 punts. He also had the first of just five career punts blocked. Roby went to his first Pro Bowl the next year, when he averaged 44.7 yards on 51 punts.
He would be named an All-Pro that season. Known for his strong leg and incredible hang time, Roby led the NFL in 1986 and 1987 with the longest punts of the year of 73 and 77 yards. He led the NFL with a net average of 38.7 yards per punt in 1986.
Roby returned to the Pro Bowl in 1989 after 42.4 yards on 58 attempts. He then led the NFL with a 45.7 yards average in 1991, on 54 attempts. He is the only Dolphins punter ever to go to a Pro Bowl.
He then joined the Washington Redskins in 1993, and went to his final Pro Bowl the next year. He averaged 44.4 yards on a career high 82 punts. It was also the final time he would be named an All-Pro.
Roby then joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 1995, and averaged 42.8 yards on 77 attempts. He also attempted his only career pass that year, which went for 48 yards. The 1996 season saw Roby in a Houston Oilers uniform, and he had a career best 38 yards net that year.
He stayed with the team as they moved to Tennessee the next year, and then joined the San Francisco 49ers for 14 games in 1998, and averaged 41.9 yards on 60 punts. He then retired from the game with a career average of 43.3 yards per punt on 992 attempts.
Roby was one of a kind. He was known for his quick two step delivery, which many have tried to emulate since. He also wore a watch many games so he could time his punts in the air. The NFL only started recording net punting average in 1991, as well as virtually every other type of punting statistic.
Roby's career net average is probably better than the recorded one of just over 36 yards. He was a great directional punter and put an incredible amount of air under his punts. Twice he had opponents fair catch his punts 23 times over the 8 years that stat was kept.
He still holds several NFL and team records. His 77-yard punt in the longest in Miami Dolphin history, as is his 58.5 yards per punt single game average.
His ten punts in the 1985 Pro Bowl is a record, and he ranks second in Dolphins history in punt attempts and yardage. Reggie Roby is a member of the NFL 1980's All-Decade Team, and should never be forgotten.
Larry Seiple and Matt Turk deserve mention.
Kick Returner : Mercury Morris
Morris was the Dolphins primary kick returner during hid 1969 rookie year. He led the AFL with 43 returns for 1,136 yards and a 105-yard touchdown return that is still the sixth longest in pro football history. He also returned 25 punts.
Averaging an impressive 29 yards on 28 returns the next season, Morris also started to become a bigger part of the Miami offense. He made his first Pro Bowl in 1971 after averaging 28.2 yards on 15 returns.
He began to share kick return duties the next two years as his responsibilities on offense increased. The 1973 Super Bowl-winning season was his last as a return specialist. He returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in his career, a Dolphins record.
The 26.5 yards per kick return average is the 16th best in NFL history and is the best in Dolphins history by anyone with 13 or more returns. His 29 yards per return average is a team record for anyone with 18 or more attempts. He still ranks third in team history in career yards on returns.
While other players have had more attempts and yards as a kick returner for the Dolphins, Morris was the most explosive and effective in franchise history. He is on the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team.
Wes Welker, Fulton Walker, Brock Marion, and Tedd Ginn Jr. deserve mention.
Punt Returner : Tommy Vigorito
Vigorito was a fifth round draft pick of the Dolphins in 1981. He was the Dolphins primary punt returner, but he also returned the only four kickoffs of his career as well. He had a career high 36 punt returns for 379 yards while scoring on a team record 87-yard return.
He returned 20 punts in the strike-shortened 1982 season and scored again. He got hurt in the first game of 1983 after returning one punt for 62 yards, forcing him to miss the rest of the year and the entire 1984 season. He came back to return 22 punts in 1985, then retired.
Miami liked to throw the ball to Vigorito on third down in his first two seasons, but they ran him occasionally as well. He ran the ball 54 times and caught 57 passes his first two years, then caught just two balls the rest of his career.
His two touchdowns on punt returns is a Dolphins record and he still ranks fourth in team history in punt return yards. Vigorito was a passionate overachiever who finished his brief career as one of the best punt return specialists in Dolphins history.
Jake Scott, Wes Welker, Scott Schwedes, Freddie Soloman, and O.J. McDuffie deserve mention.
6 '2" 247
204 Games Played
13 Fumbles Recovered
6 Pro Bowls
Grady Charles Alderman was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 10th round of the 1960 draft. He went to college at the nearby University of Detroit Mercy. Alderman and Kansas City Chiefs guard George Daney hold the distinction of being the last players from the school to have played in the NFL.
The football program at Detroit Mercy was disbanded in 1964 despite having put 62 players in the NFL and once winning a national championship. Alderman is a member of the schools Hall of Fame.
He spent his rookie year on the bench, playing both guard and tackle. Detroit left him exposed to the Vikings expansion draft in 1961. Though Minnesota got several good players, including Hall of Fame halfback Hugh McElhenny, Alderman was their finest selection.
He started at left tackle day one. Alderman started every game he played over the next nine seasons, missing just one game over that span. Though the Vikings were struggling as a team, he quickly stood out.
The 1963 season was his first of five consecutive Pro Bowl honors. The team have five losing seasons in their first seven years of existence, but people recognized the work of Alderman. He played in an era where players and coaches voted on who would get that honor.
The Vikings steadily improved, and Alderman was a consistent force each year. The offensive line was one of the reasons for the improvement, with Pro Bowlers Mick Tingelhoff at center and Milt Sunde at guard. It would get even better when Hall of Famer Ron Yary and Pro Bowler Ed White were added later on.
Though his Pro Bowl streak ended in 1968, it was the first year the Vikings won their division. Minnesota repeated as division champions the next year by winning 12 of 14 games. Though the team would win 12 games three more times up until 1973, it was a franchise record until the 1998 team won 15.
The Vikings are the last NFL Champion before the NFL and American Football League officially merged in 1970. They reached Super Bowl V that year before losing. Alderman was named to his last Pro Bowl, as well as earning his lone First Team All-Pro nod.
The last five years of his career was peppered with injuries, but he helped Minnesota keep winning. The team lost just 11 games in four of those years. Alderman would miss the first three starts of his career in 1970, and miss three more the next year. He also missed the second game of his career in 1971.
Now 36-years old in 1974, Minnesota took him out of the starting lineup for the first time in his career. He appeared in every game but one as a reserve. The Vikings reached their third Super Bowl in his career with them, but lost. Alderman then retired as the last of the original Vikings.
His 194 games played is still the seventh most in Vikings history. Few players in the history of the game were as reliable. Alderman missed just three games in his 14 years with Minnesota.
A masterful technician, he always took on the other teams best pass rusher. He also had to block with knowledge of the avenues Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton might take off running to. Tarkenton was known as the "Mad Scrambler", so blockers would have to stay blocking on plays longer for him than other teams had to.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of both their 25th and 40th Anniversary Teams. Alderman was an alert player who pounced on 13 fumbles in his career.
Alderman was somehow left off the NFL's 1960s All-Decade Team despite going to the Pro Bowl more than two of the three tackles selected. One, Bob Brown, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Brown went to the Pro Bowl four times in the 1960's and the other selection, Ralph Neely of the Dallas Cowboys, went twice.
The six Pro Bowls he played in are tied with 11 other Vikings as the fifth most in franchise history, and it is the most ever by a Vikings left tackle. He is the first tackle in team history to be named First Team All-Pro. Alderman was named Second Team All-Pro five times.
What fans forget with all of his longevity, durability, and excellence is how he accomplished all of this despite being one of the smaller left tackles in the game. Alderman stood 6'2" and weighed 247 lbs. in an era where blockers were not allowed to extend their arms and use their hands like today.
Surviving alone shows how stellar he was with his technique. Then you factor in all of the accolades he attained in his career as his teams went from the basement of the NFL to becoming a dominant squad for many years.
I can only guess his exclusion from Canton is some sort of punishment for the Vikings failing to win a Super Bowl. He hasn't even gotten close in the voting process, which is a head scratcher.
There are many men in Canton because their teams won championships, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame is not a team honor. It is supposed to honor individual achievement. This is somehow forgotten by voters too many times to count. Just because the Vikings failed to win, they have several extremely worthy players still waiting on induction.
Inferior players go in today as time forgets the greatness of these men of the past. The expression that no one remembers second place seems to get louder in the case of men like Alderman, yet the voters seem clueless how hard it is to reach a title game or even just make an NFL team.
Six Pro Bowls in a career is an excellent number for a offensive tackle, but it looks less thanks to how the National Football League ruined the Pro Bowl in both the game and how they sullied the honor by allowing no-nothing fans to vote within the last few decades ago. Where showboats or media whores get the honor instead of the deserving.
Offensive tackle is a position neglected by Canton's voters the last few decades. Yet Alderman's numbers match or exceed a few inducted. He has as many Pro Bowl appearances as Mike McCormack and Rayfield Wright and more than Bob St. Clair or Joe Stydahar.
It would be the right thing for the voters to do by getting the trenches some respect in Canton. Minnesota has three blockers worthy and two, Alderman and Tingelhoff, really should have been in long ago. Those who toiled in the trenches in virtual anonymity for the sake of victory.
The list of legendary tackles is long waiting for induction. Opening up the seniors pool to include a few more candidates would be the intelligent move as well, because watching inferior modern players get inducted first due to these rules is infuriating and diseased.
Not only is he still the greatest left tackle in the history of the Minnesota Vikings, but Grady Alderman is most certainly worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Notable 1960 Draftees * Denotes Hall of Fame Inductee
1. Billy Cannon, RB, Los Angeles Rams
3. Johnny Robinson, DB, Detroit Lions
8. Jim Houston, LB, Cleveland Browns
10. Ron Mix, OT, Baltimore Colts *
13. Harold Olson, OT, St. Louis Cardinals
17. Bob Jeter, DB, Green Bay Packers
20. Maxie Baughan, LB, Philadelphia Eagles
23. Don Floyd, DE, Baltimore
24. Marvin Terrell, G, Baltimore
32. Don Meredith, QB, Chicago Bears
35. Rod Breedlove, LB, San Francisco 49ers
37. Willie West, DB, Green Bay
40. Ted Dean, FB, Philadelphia
41. Johnny Brewer, TE, Cleveland
42. Roger Brown, DT, Detroit
44. Jim Marshall, DT, Cleveland
48. Vince Promuto, G, Washington Redskins
55. Abner Haynes, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
56. Don Norton, WR, Philadelphia
59. Len Rohde, OT, San Francisco
63. Gail Cogdill, WR, Detroit
69. Bob Khayat, G, Cleveland
72. George Blair, DB, New York Giants
74. Larry Wilson, S, St. Louis *
75. Jim Norton, S, Detroit
86. Carroll Dale, WR, Los Angeles
88. Bill Mathis, FB, San Francisco
105. Chris Buford, WR, Cleveland
106. Don Perkins, FB, Baltimore
109. Charley Johnson, QB, St. Louis
110. Curtis McClinton, RB, Los Angeles
111. Grady Alderman, OT, Detroit
118. Mel Branch, DE, Detroit
119. Bobby Boyd, DB, Baltimore
157. Bob DeMarco, C, St. Louis
161. Jon Gilliam, C, Green Bay
162. Brady Keys, DB, Pittsburgh
178. Larry Grantham, LB, Baltimore
181. Jim Hunt, DT, St. Louis
203. Goose Gonsoulin, FS, San Francisco
229. Tom Day, DE, St. Louis