Tagged with "AFL"
NFL Free Agency: 10 Best Free Agent Signings Ever
Category: FEATURED
Tags: Reggie White USFL CFL AFL AAFC NFL Warren Moon Johnny Unitas Cleveland Browns John Randle Gary Zimmerman Pro Football Hall of Fame


 

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is not just built by drafted players. There is a plethora of gridiron legends representing the building that found their way onto teams in various ways.

The free agent is surely represented in Canton. The number of free agents inducted figures to greatly increase thanks to shorter contracts with clauses, as teams basically just rent players for short periods of time.

Yet signing the right free agent can lead a franchise to championship glory and sports immortality. While some signings are sound moves, others can be gambles and no one knows how they will pay off until all is said and done.

Here are the very best free agent signings in professional football history since the draft was created in 1936.



Johnny Unitas


 

Unitas was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the ninth round of the 1955 draft. He was cut in camp, as the Steelers decided to go with Jim Finks, Ted Marchibroda and Vic Eaton at quarterback. 

Finks would later go on to be a legendary general manager who built the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, and New Orleans Saints into winners. Marchibroda became an offensive guru who coached several teams. Eaton, drafted two rounds after Unitas, was out of football after 1955. 

Unitas hitch-hiked back home to save money, then worked construction. He kept in shape by playing semipro football for $6 a game.

Weeb Ewbank, the Hall of Fame head coach, asked Unitas' semipro teammate Jim Deglau to try out for the Baltimore Colts. Hearing the Cleveland Browns were interested in Unitas, he asked Deglau to bring the quarterback with him. 

Despite the objections of family members, Unitas went to Baltimore. He made the team, backing up George Shaw and Gary Kerkorian. He soon passed Kerkorian, now in his third year of backing up Shaw, on the depth chart. 

During camp, Unitas would stay after practice was over and throw balls all night to a wide receiver, Raymond Berry, who had caught just 13 catches the year before after making the team as a 20th-round draft pick. This bond between Unitas and Berry would soon have a tremendous impact on the NFL. 

Shaw, who was the Colts first-round draft pick in 1952, broke his leg in the fourth game of the year. Unitas was plugged in and showed some promise. 

His next 10 years saw him go to the Pro Bowl and win the NFL MVP Award three times. Baltimore also won the championship twice with maybe the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. 

The 1970 season was his last as a starter, where the 37-year old Unitas led the Colts to a Super Bowl win. He played until the 1973 season before retiring. 

Unitas left with a ton of records. Many have been equaled or passed as quarterbacks play longer season with rules that help them succeed, but his 47-games streak of a touchdown pass in each game still survives. 

College football hands the top senior quarterback of each year the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. The name of the award is fitting, because Unitas is more than the greatest quarterback in Colts history. 

He is the best free agent signing in NFL history.






Dick "Night Train" Lane
 



A story that the movie "The Natural" may have gotten inspiration from.

Lane was found as an abandoned infant in a dumpster, then raised by a kind-hearted lady. After going to a community college for one year, Lane joined the United States Army for four years and fought in both World War II and the Korean War. 

After serving, he got a job at an aircraft factory. He disliked the job, so he walked onto the training camp of the Los Angeles Rams seeking a job.

He wanted to play wide receiver, but the Rams already had a set of Hall of Famers there named Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch and Tom Fears. He was switched to cornerback and found his calling.

Lane was a monstrous hitter who could blanket any receiver in the game. In a matter of months, he came from nowhere and was the top defensive back in all of professional football. 

Though just 12 games were played in his rookie year, Lane had 14 interceptions. This is a record that still stands today for the most interceptions in a single season. 

Yet Lane was dangerous once he got the ball. He returned the interceptions for 298 yards and two touchdowns, while still finding time to record a safety.  Despite such incredible numbers, he was somehow left off the Pro Bowl squad even though he had almost twice as many interceptions combined over the players that were chosen. 

He did get to the first of his seven career Pro Bowls in 1954. After having been traded to the Chicago Cardinals that season, Lane had 10 interceptions for 181 yards. 

After six years with the Cardinals, he was dealt to the Detroit Lions and took part in some of the greatest secondaries in NFL history. Lane played with Hall of Fame safety Yale Lary and Hall of Fame cornerback Dick LeBeau. 

When he hung up his cleats in 1965, Lane had 68 interceptions in 14 seasons. It still ranks the fourth most in NFL history, but it is still the most ever by a cornerback. Rod Woodson, who had 71 career swipes, got 24 as a safety. 

Lane had 1,207 yards returned off of interceptions, still the sixth most ever. Deion Sanders is the only cornerback who had more. 

He loved to hit receivers and often sought out contact. His favorite way to tackle was a clothesline shot, which was legal in the NFL then. It was dubbed a "Night Train Necktie." 

There may be no free agent signing on defense more special or important than the day Lane decided to try and play professional football.








Original Cleveland Browns 


 

When the Browns were formed in 1946, head coach Paul Brown had a plan. The fledgling All-American Football Conference would soon get steamrolled by these plans. 

Otto Graham, Marion Motley, Dante Lavelli, Lou Groza and Bill Willis are all Hall of Famers that Brown signed as free agents that year. Along with many other great players like Mac Speedie, Lin Houston, Horace Gillom, Frank Gatski and Lou Rymkus who were just a few others that helped Cleveland dominate. 

After winning all of the AAFC titles, they jumped to the NFL in 1950 and promptly won a title. Graham, Groza, Gatski, Gillom and Lavelli were all on the 1954 and 1955 teams that won it all. 

Several great coaches came from those Browns rosters. Rymkus and Lou Saban won American Football League titles as head coaches and Ara Parseghian won a title with Notre Dame University. 

When it comes to free agent signings, the original Cleveland Browns are on a level all by themselves.










Willie Wood
 



Wood went undrafted in 1960 after a collegiate career where he was the first African-American quarterback for the University of Southern California and the Pacific-10 Conference. He signed with the Green Bay Packers, who moved him to free safety.

While mainly returning punts, a duty he did much of his career, the rookie was mentored by Hall of Famer Emlen Tunnel. Tunnel retired at the end of the season, so Wood was named starter and held that spot the next 11 years.

He played on teams that went to the championship six times, winning five. Not only was he excellent at returning punts, he became a ball hawk. In 1961, he scored twice off of 14 punt returns.

He led the NFL with a 16.1 yards per return average. Wood led the NFL with nine interceptions in 1962, while becoming one of the best free safeties of his era. Green Bay relied on him as their last line of defense, and he seldom ever let them down. 

When he retired after the 1971 season, Wood had intercepted 48 passes, scored four times, and went to eight Pro Bowls. Only Forrest Gregg and Brett Favre have gone more for the Packers. 

After having been a finalist nine times, Wood was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989. 

He is easily the best free agent signing Green Bay ever made.






Dick LeBeau



 

LeBeau was a fifth-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in the 1959 draft. He was the 58th player picked overall, but did not make the Browns team and was cut in training camp.  He would then be picked up by the Detroit Lions as a free agent and played six games in his rookie year, mostly on special teams.

He did recover the first fumble of his career that season.  In 1960, LeBeau earned the starting job at cornerback opposite newly acquired Hall of Famer Dick "Night Train" Lane.

The Lions defense also had Hall of Fame MLB Joe Schmidt, Hall of Fame Safety Yale Lary, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Alex Karras and Pro Bowl safety Terry Barr. LeBeau picked off four passes.  The next three seasons, LeBeau and Lane formed the best cornerback tandem in the NFL.

LeBeau picked off three passes in 1961, then four in 1962. He scored the first two touchdowns of his career that year, by interception and fumble recovery.  In 1963, LeBeau picked off five passes and returned them for 158 yards. He also returned one interception 70 yards for a touchdown.

LeBeau would then make his first of three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 1964.  That season also marked Lary's last in the NFL, and Lane played only seven games. LeBeau still managed five interceptions that year. The 1965 season was the last year for both Lane and Schmidt. LeBeau picked off seven passes and returned one for the last touchdown of his career.  

The 1966 season would be LeBeau's last Pro Bowl season, when he intercepted four passes. LeBeau stayed steady the next several years. He picked off four passes in 1967, opposite of Hall of Fame cornerback Lem Barney under new coach, and former teammate, Joe Schmidt.  

LeBeau and Barney would then team up for the next three years as one of the best CB tandems in the league. LeBeau had 20 picks over that time. At 34-years old in 1971, LeBeau would intercept six passes.  

The 1972 season would be the last year as a Detroit Lion for LeBeau and Schmidt. LeBeau was moved to free safety that year, and would not intercept a pass for the first time since his rookie season. He did recover the last fumble of his career that year.

LeBeau only retired from the NFL as a player after 1972. He went into coaching in 1973 for the Philadelphia Eagles as their secondary coach. He stayed with the team until 1975. He then held the same duties with the Green Bay Packers from 1976 to 1979.  

In 1980, he moved to the Cincinnati Bengals. He served as a secondary coach, and as defensive coordinator with the Bengals until 1991. LeBeau then served as the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992 to 1996.  

This is when LeBeau would gain notoriety for inventing the now commonly used "Zone Blitz" defense. The Steelers defense featured such greats as Hall of Fame cornerback Rod Woodson, Pro Bowl linebackers Greg Lloyd, Hardy Nickerson, Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown, Kevin Greene, Jason Gildon and strong safety Carnell Lake.  They would go to the Super Bowl after the 1995 season.

In 1997, LeBeau returned to the Bengals as a defensive coordinator. He would then be named head coach of the Bengals in 2000 and held that job until 2002.  

LeBeau then worked for the Buffalo Bills in 2003. He returned to the Steelers in 2004, and is still the defensive coordinator of the Steelers today. In 2005, the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. Pittsburgh also won Super Bow XLIII in 2008. 

Dick LeBeau is one of the most respected coaches in NFL history, obviously, and is called "Coach Dad" by his players. He is a member of the Detroit Lions Legend and his 62 interceptions are the most in the history of the Lions. 








Don Maynard
 


 

Maynard was drafted by the New York Giants in the ninth round of the 1957 draft, but did not make the team.

He tried again the next year and made it, mostly being used as a punt returner. The Giants cut him again, so he played in the Canadian Football League in 1959 for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

He left the CFL to become the first player signed by the expansion New York Titans of the fledgling American Football League. He caught a career best 72 balls his first year. Yet he also teamed up with Art Powell to be probably the best wide receiver duo in the AFL.  

The tandem became the first professional football players to gain over 1,000 yards on receptions in a season. They duplicated that feat again in 1962. Despite this dynamic duo, the Titans attracted few fans and were struggling financially.

They changed their name to the Jets in 1963, but business did not pick up until 1965. That year saw them draft, then outbid the NFL for the services of a brash quarterback named Joe Namath.

The future Hall of Famer had a chip on his shoulder, but an arm to back it up. Maynard quickly bonded with Namath and the team started to get better each year.

New York reached the AFL title game in 1968, where Maynard would carry the Jets to victory. Facing the Oakland Raiders and Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown, Maynard caught six balls for 118 yards. He scored the Jets' first and last touchdowns, and the last one sealed a 27-23 win. 

It capped off a wild series between the Jets and Raiders that year. Six weeks earlier, the teams made history in the infamous "Heidi Game" incident. The game was taken off the air by television executives with 65 seconds to play and the Jets leading 32-29. Oakland then stormed back and won 43-32. 

The Jets went into Super Bowl III as tremendous underdogs. No one expected much from them outside of the Jets organization and fans. This led to Namath's now famous guarantee of victory. 

Maynard was covered by Johnny Sample, an extremely tough player who knocked many men out of many games in his career. Maynard got shut out, but his bookend George Sauer caught eight balls for 133 yards. 

That, along with a stingy defense and 121 rushing yards by Matt Snell, led the Jets to a 16-7 win over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. It is the game that convinced the NFL to merge with the AFL. Maynard and Sauer both had 1,000-yards receiving together twice.

While a precision route-runner, Maynard was incredible at getting deep and stretching defenses. When he retired at the end of the 1973 season, he had an excellent career average of 18.7 yards per reception. His 88 touchdown receptions over 15 years show he was also a threat in the end zone. 

Don Maynard, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, was the Jets first and best free agent signing.











Warren Moon





It still is an amazing fact that Moon went undrafted in 1978. Despite leading his college team to a Rose Bowl win the year before, some NFL teams wanted him to switch positions. His refusal was followed by an apparent blacklisting. 

Instead, he joined the Canadian Football League and stayed there until 1983. He led his team to an unprecedented five titles and is now a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. 

The NFL couldn't keep on their blinders any longer, and a bidding war began for his services.

Bud Adams, the owner of the Houston Oilers, gained an upper hand by hiring Hugh Campbell as head coach. Campbell had coached Moon in the CFL. 

Moon started setting team records for the Oilers almost as soon as he donned their uniform. Houston had an explosive offense, led by Moon, but always seemed to just fall short of reaching a Super Bowl. 

After 10 years and six Pro Bowls, Moon was traded to the Minnesota Vikings before the 2004 season. He lasted three years there, making the Pro Bowl twice. 

At 41-years old, Moon signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent. He went to the Pro Bowl again. He joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 1999, retiring after two years at 44-years old. 

Moon was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, making him the first Canadian Football Hall of Famer, first undrafted quarterback, and the first African-American quarterback to achieve this. 

His free agency signing wasn't just great for the Oilers, NFL or football, but society as well.







John Randle

Randle went undrafted in 1990, so he tried to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because his brother Ervin was entering his fifth season with them. The Buccaneers though he was too small, so they declined. The Minnesota Vikings then gave him a try out and was impressed.

Randle made the team and earned a starting job midway into his second season. He was a quick player who was excellent at rushing the passer.

Starting in 1992, he had eight straight years of double-digit sacks. From 1993 to 1998, he went to the Pro Bowl. 

His 1997 was probably his best. Randle led the NFL with 15.5 sacks and had a career high 58 tackles.

He became a free agent after the 2000 season, so he joined the Seattle Seahawks. He scored the only touchdown of his career, off a fumble recovery, in his first season in Seattle. He also had 11 sacks, but missed the first game of his career in what would be his final Pro Bowl season. 

Randle missed four games the next year. His five games missed with Seattle were the only games he missed in a 14-year career. He would retire after the 2003 season. 

His 137.5 sacks are the sixth most ever, and the most ever by a defensive tackle. Steve McMichael is second with 95. 

For a player nobody wanted, the Vikings sure were lucky and blessed to sign this free agent that got inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.








Gary Zimmerman

Zimmerman was selected in the first round of the 1984 Supplemental Draft by the New York Giants, but he chose to join the United States Football League instead. When the USFL folded two years later, he was a free agent. 

The Minnesota Vikings signed him and plugged him in at left tackle right away. Zimmerman stayed with the Vikings for seven years, going to the Pro Bowl four times. At the end of the 1992 season, he became a free agent again. 

He signed with the Denver Broncos, who needed someone to protect Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway's blind side. Though still mobile at 33-years old, Elway was slowing down some after years of hits. 

Zimmerman was the glue of an excellent offensive line, and one of the most important pieces to the Broncos attack. In his five years with Denver, he was a Pro Bowler three times. 

He made his last Pro Bowl in 1996 despite missing the first two games of his career. He missed two games again the next year, but Denver would go on and win Super Bowl XXXII. He retired after that. 

Zimmerman is on both the 1980s and 1990s NFL All-Decade Team, one of just a few players to make two teams. He is also on the USFL All-Time Team. 

Inducted into Canton in 2008, Zimmerman is one of the very best free agent signings for both the Vikings and Broncos.






Reggie White




The Philadelphia Eagles made him their first draft pick in the 1984 Supplemental draft. Steve Young, Mike Rozier and Gary Zimmerman were selected ahead of him.

All decided to go play in the United States Football League. White was named the USFL Man of the Year in 1985, and he is a member of the USFL All-Time Team. 

When the USFL folded after 1985, he joined the Eagles. He played eight seasons for them, going to the Pro Bowl each season except his first.

He was widely known as the best defensive end in all of football, and he was dubbed the "Minister of Defense" because he was also an Evangelical minister. 

He became a free agent after the 1992 season, and a bidding war started to attain his services. The Green Bay Packers won by giving him an airplane to use whenever White desired. 

In his six seasons as a Packer, White went to the Pro Bowl every year. He led them to Super Bowl XXXI, where the Packers defense and special teams carried them to victory. 

After being named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1998, he retired. But the Carolina Panthers coaxed him out of retirement in 2000, the only year of his career he was not a Pro Bowler except for his first year. He retired for good after that. 

His 198 sacks are the second most ever since the stat started to get recorded in 1982. He retired as the Packers leader in sacks, but now ranks second. He still heads the Eagles list. 

Not only was his free agent signing good for the USFL, but Green Bay's signing him won them a championship.

Inducted into Canton in 2006, almost two years after his unexpected death, White is one of the truly great free agent signings in NFL history.

NFL Draft 2011: The Best Late Round Value Pick in the History of Every NFL Team
Category: FEATURED
Tags: 2011 NFL Draft NFC AFC AFL NFL Draft Carolina Panthers New York Giants Washington Redskins Denver Broncos Atlanta Falcons Dallas Cowboys



As the 2011 NFL Draft approaches the end, teams are beginning to scramble to find serviceable players in what is best described as a wacky draft thus far..

Yet fans should not give up hope on their teams getting a gem, because all teams have found such a player at least once. Players who helped their teams achieve glory by excelling beyond expectations.

The only question left, after the dust of the 2011 draft settles, is if there will be a player one day good enough to supplant anyone on this list.


Arizona Cardinals : Larry Stallings


Drafted in the 18th round of the 1963 NFL Draft, Stallings was the 241st player selected and just 39 players were drafted behind him.

Stallings earned a starting job as a rookie and held onto it the next 14 years before retiring at the conclusion if the 1976 season.

He went to the Pro Bowl once and scored three times.



Atlanta Falcons : Jamal Anderson


Ever since the NFL shortened the draft to seven rounds in 1994, it really is hard to be called a find or bargain. Yet the Falcons are a pretty young team, so the 1994 draft might have given them their best late pick.

Anderson was drafted in a seventh round where just six men did not play in the NFL. He was the 201st player chosen overall.

After barely playing his first two seasons, Anderson became the Falcons workhorse in 1996. He ran off three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

After being lost for the year early in 1999, he ran for 1,024 in 2000. He got hurt early in 2001, he retired.

Yet that three year run was special, especially 1998. It was his only Pro Bowl year, where he churned out 1,846 yards and 14 scores on an NFL-leading 410 carries. He also caught 27 balls for a pair of touchdowns.

His 410 carries was a record until 2006. Anderson would do the "Dirty Bird" dance when he scored. It excited fans and got his teammates going. Anderson put the Falcons on his back and led them to Super Bowl XXXIII, the only championship game in the franchises history.

Though Atlanta lost the game, Anderson ran for 96 yards on just 18 carries. His 5,336 career yards are the fourth most in Falcons history. The 1,846 yards he ran for in 1998 is still a single season team record.




Baltimore Ravens : Chester Taylor


They have been drafting since 1996, so we'll go with Taylor. He was the 207th overall selection on the 2002 draft.

He was rarely used in his first two seasons because Pro Bowler Jamal Lewis got most of the work. He got more work in 2004 and began to show the NFL how versatile he was.

When his contract expired after the 2005 season, the Minnesota Vikings signed him and got 1,216 yards rushing from him in 1996. He scored one of his six touchdowns off a 95-yard run, which is a Vikings record.

Taylor left Minnesota for the Chicago Bears in 2010, where he currently plays.

He has been one of the top reserve running backs throughout most of his career.





Buffalo Bills : Charles Romes


Romes was drafted in the 12th round of the 1977 draft, where he was the 309th player chosen overall. Just eight of the 26 players chosen behind him played in the NFL.

After spending his rookie year as a reserve, Romes earned a starting job in 1978 and held it until 1986. He was an important part of a defense that, in 1980, helped the Bills win the AFC East for the first time in franchise history.

Romes never missed a game, starting every one over the next nine years. He had 28 interceptions over that time, which is the fourth most in Bills history.

Buffalo has hit on several excellent picks late in their draft history, but Charles Romes is their best find.





Carolina Panthers : Kris Mangum


Since the team was created in 1996, Mangum might be their best late round pick. He was selected in the seventh round of the 1997 and was the 228th player chosen overall. Just 12 players were selected behind him.

After playing mostly special teams in his first two seasons, Mangum started to get used more on offense mostly as a reserve tight end.

He stayed with the Panthers until 2006, catching 151 balls. It is the eight most receptions in Carolina history.





Chicago Bears : Danny Fortmann


To find the greatest late round draft pick of one of the NFL's original teams, you only need to look at far as their first draft. Though the great Roland Harper, the 420th player selected in 1977, must be mentioned.

Fortmann was drafted in the ninth round of the 1936 draft, and he was the fourth from last player selected.

The story goes that Bears owner George Halas drafted Fortmann because he liked the sound of his name. Playing offensive guard, defensive tackle, and linebacker,

Fortmann was soon starting as a rookie and excelling. From 1938 until his final year in 1943, he was named First Team All-Pro and was named to three Pro Bowls.

He was also selected on the NFL 1930s All-Decade Team. The Bears won three championships over this time.

Fortmann, who was just 20-years old when drafted, had been going to medical school while playing as a key member of the "Monsters of the Midway." He was the youngest starter in the league at that time, but he called the signals for the lineman on offense.

Chicago has had a league-leading six players go on to be doctors. Three were on the 1943 squad.

After Fortmann retired, he became the team doctor of the Los Angeles Rams was 17 years and was a famous surgeon.

Not only is he a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Fortmann is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. This easily makes him the Bears best late round pick.





Cincinnati Bengals : Bob Trumpy


Trumpy was drafted in the 12th round of the 1968 draft, the 301st player overall, by the expansion Bengals. Cincinnati was a new member of the American Football League at the time, and the AFL would fully merge with the NFL in two seasons.

He impressed his Hall of Fame head coach Paul Brown with his work ethic, so Brown named him the starter as a rookie.

Cincinnati was rewarded with 37 receptions at a 17.3 yards per catch clip, which got him named to the Pro Bowl. Trumpy returned the next year by setting a still standing team record of a whopping 22.6 yards per catch average off another 37 receptions.

He also scored a career high nine times and was named First Team All-Pro for his efforts.

In his first year in the post-merger NFL in 1970, Trumpy went back to the Pro Bowl. He went back for the final time in 1973 before seeing a decline in receiving opportunities.

Though he caught seven touchdowns off of 21 catches in 1976, he retired at the end of the 1977 season. At the time of his retirement, almost ever Bengals receiving record was owned by him.

His last touchdown came off a rare reverse flea flicker, where three other Bengals touched the ball before it reached him.

What makes Bob Trumpy's career special is not just the fact he helped an expansion team grow up fast with his help, as they had only three losing seasons in his ten years, but how he accumulated his excellent statistics. Cincinnati has eight different quarterbacks throwing him the ball during his career, yet he remained a viable threat regardless.

Besides still owning the team record for yards per catch in a season, the 35 touchdowns Trumpy scored are the most ever by any Bengal tight end in team history. He still ranks tenth is total receptions for a career, and his career average of 15.4 yards per catch shows how good he was with the ball after getting it.

Not only is he the first Pro Bowl player in Bengals history, an honor he shares with halfback Paul Robinson and center Bob Johnson, he is the second Bengal ever to be named First Team All-Pro.

He is also the only Bengals tight end to be named First Team All-Pro. Bob Trumpy is the greatest tight end the team has ever had.

Trumpy was drafted in the 12th round of the 1968 draft, the 301st player overall, by the expansion Bengals. Cincinnati was a new member of the American Football League at the time, and the AFL would fully merge with the NFL in two seasons.

He impressed his Hall of Fame head coach Paul Brown with his work ethic, so Brown named him the starter as a rookie.

Cincinnati was rewarded with 37 receptions at a 17.3 yards per catch clip, which got him named to the Pro Bowl. Trumpy returned the next year by setting a still standing team record of a whopping 22.6 yards per catch average off another 37 receptions.

He also scored a career high nine times and was named First Team All-Pro for his efforts.

In his first year in the post-merger NFL in 1970, Trumpy went back to the Pro Bowl. He went back for the final time in 1973 before seeing a decline in receiving opportunities.

Though he caught seven touchdowns off of 21 catches in 1976, he retired at the end of the 1977 season. At the time of his retirement, almost ever Bengals receiving record was owned by him.

His last touchdown came off a rare reverse flea flicker, where three other Bengals touched the ball before it reached him.

What makes Bob Trumpy's career special is not just the fact he helped an expansion team grow up fast with his help, as they had only three losing seasons in his ten years, but how he accumulated his excellent statistics. Cincinnati has eight different quarterbacks throwing him the ball during his career, yet he remained a viable threat regardless.

Besides still owning the team record for yards per catch in a season, the 35 touchdowns Trumpy scored are the most ever by any Bengal tight end in team history. He still ranks tenth is total receptions for a career, and his career average of 15.4 yards per catch shows how good he was with the ball after getting it.

Not only is he the first Pro Bowl player in Bengals history, an honor he shares with halfback Paul Robinson and center Bob Johnson, he is the second Bengal ever to be named First Team All-Pro.

He is also the only Bengals tight end to be named First Team All-Pro. Bob Trumpy is the greatest tight end the team has ever had.





Cleveland Browns : Ben Davis


Davis was drafted in the 17th round of the 1967 draft, the 439th player chosen overall. Just six players were picked after he was.

Used as a return specialist as a rookie, Davis led the NFL with a 12.7 return average off 18 attempts. He also scored once off a 52-yard return. Cleveland also had him return 27 kickoffs at a 26.2 average.

He would return just nine punts and eight kickoffs the next season, then never be asked to again.

The reason was because he earned a starting job at cornerback in his second year. Davis picked off a career best eight balls, returning them for an NFL-leading 162 yards.

He picked off a pass in seven straight games that season, a Browns record. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1972 after swiping three passes.

Cleveland traded him to the Detroit Lions in 1974, where he lasted three years before retiring. Davis intercepted two ball and returned one for a score over that time.

His 17 interceptions with Cleveland still ranks as the 19th most in team history.

Ben Davis is also known as the brother of famous political activist Angela Davis.






Dallas Cowboys : Larry Cole


Few teams have drafted as well late in the draft, especially during the Tex Schramm and Tom Landry Era.

It was kind of a nice surprise Cole was drafted anyways because he attended three colleges in four years.

Dallas selected him in the 16th round of the 1968 NFL Draft, where he was the 428th player selected. Jimmy Raye, a famous coach, was picked 3 slots behind him.

Cole quickly earned a starting job at defensive end as a rookie. He picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown, while also returning a fumble for another score. He intercepted another ball the next year, returning it for a score.

He became an important member of the famous "Doomsday Defense."

When Harvey Martin and Ed "Too Tall" Jones joined Dallas, Cole slid in at defensive tackle. When Randy "Manster" White began his Hall of Fame career, Cole became a key reserve. After longtime starter Jethro Pugh retired, Cole took over in his slot.

He played until 1980, a year he took an interception 43 yards for a touchdown. He had four career interceptions, scoring three times.

Cole is just one of eight players to appear in five Super Bowls.

He also was on two winners. Known as a run stuffer, Cole was also credited with 60 sacks in his career. The very versatile Cole did whatever it took to win.

He started at every position on the defensive line in his career, but sought no accolades. He and a few Cowboys started the "Zero Club", where the first rule was not to seek publicity.

He and linebacker D.D. Lewis were the first Cowboys to play in three different decades for the team.

Cole had quite a career as a Cowboy defender, made more remarkable due to the fact he was drafted as an offensive tackle before being switched to defense in training camp.




Denver Broncos : Karl Mecklenburg


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.

Besides missing seven games in 1988, and one the next year, he took the field every time his team did.





Detroit Lions : Jim David


It is amazing that so few late picks by the Lions have contributed much to the NFL. Two of the very few that have, Mac Speedie and Pete Retzlaff, starred for other teams.

David was selected in the 22nd round of the 1951 draft, where he was the 261st player chosen overall.

He earned a starting job at cornerback as a rookie, bookending Hall of Famer Yale Lary. Hall of Famer Jack Christiansen and Pro Bowler Dan Doll were the safeties.

Teams tried to avoid the three greats by picking on the rookie. That strategy backfired because David picked off seven balls on the top-ranked defense that year.

Detroit went on to win the championship, where he had a critical interception in the Lions 17-7 win over Cleveland.

Nicknamed "The Hatchett", David was a huge hitter who once knocked Hall of Famers Y.A. Tittle and Tom Fears out of consecutive games in 1953.

He had four swipes that year as Detroit won a second consecutive title. David intercepted a ball and returned it 36 yards to set up a crucial score in Detroit's 17-16 win over the Browns.

The stellar secondary was called the "Chris Crew." He made the first of his six consecutive Pro Bowls in 1954 by matching his career best total of seven interceptions. He would match that total again in 1956.

Detroit won the championship in 1957, the last title in franchise history so far. Again, David intercepted a pass in his third consecutive championship game.

When the game was at it's biggest, David always came up larger than the rest in helping his team win. He retired after his final Pro Bowl season in 1959.

Hi 36 career swipes rank fifth in team history. The four men above him, Dick LeBeau, Lem Barney, Lary, and Christiansen, are all inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. David played with all except Barney.

But he got into coaching after retiring and coached Barney. He was the one who presented Barney at his induction into Canton in 1992.





Green Bay Packers : Phil Epps


The Pack have had a few late picks become Pro Bowlers in Timmy Brown and Bill Curry. Unfortunately, it was with other teams that they excelled on.

Epps was drafted in the 12th round of the 1982 draft. The 321st player chosen overall, just six players drafted behind him played in the NFL.

While showing some promise as a receiver the few times he was used in his first two years, Epps made his bones as a punt returner.

He returned a career best 36 punts in 1983, while taking one 90-yards for a score. He returned punts for just two more years because Green Bay began using him as a starter on offense in 1985.

That season saw him grab 44 balls for three scores and run the ball fives times for one touchdown. Despite missing four games the next year, Epps snagged a career best 49 passes.

After catching 34 in the strike shortened 1987 season, he got hurt the next year and played just six games.

His absence allowed a rookie by the name of Sterling Sharpe and begin a career that saw him make the Pro Bowl fives times in his seven seasons.

Epps joined the New York Jets in 1989, where he was rarely used. He then retired.

He is still fifth in Packers history in punt return yards and third in returns. He has the 21st most receptions in team history and the 14th most receiving yards.

Most Packers fans remember the ultra-quick Epps, a player who beat the odds and helped his team win quite a few games




Houston Texans : David Anderson


They have been in the NFL since 2002, but Anderson is their best late pick so far. The 251st pick in 2006, just four players were drafted behind him.

After not playing a lot in his first three years, mostly being used on special teams, Anderson started eight games in 2009 and caught a career best 38 balls. Despite being 5'10" 195, he even saw some time at tight end.

His 2010 season was cut short by injury, he hopes to help them again in 2011.

A resilient player, Houston cut him for four weeks in 2007 before bringing him back.




Indianapolis Colts : Stan White


With a nod to Alvin Haymond, one of the greatest return specialists in NFL history, White wins the spot.

He was drafted in the 17th round of the 1972 draft, when the team was in Baltimore, and was the 438th player chosen overall. Just four men were drafted behind White.

After spending his rookie season as a reserve, White was named a starter in 1973 after veteran Ray May, the 1972 Byron "Whizzer" White Man of the Year Award winner, was traded.

Teaming with Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks and 1970 Defensive Player of the Year Mike Curtis, the trio formed one of the better linebacker units in the NFL.

Over the next few years, as Hendricks and Curtis moved on to other teams, White stayed a consistent force. While he was very good at stopping the run, White might have been the one of best linebackers of his era defending the pass.

He played with the Colts until 1979 and intercepted an impressive total of 25 passes, taking two for touchdowns. He also had a knack for getting fumbles, recovering 12 for the Colts.

He joined the Detroit Lions and played three years there, picking off nine balls.

The United States Football League began play in 1983, so White joined the Chicago Blitz. The 1984 season was his last with the USFL and as a player, when he suited up for the Arizona Wranglers.

Don Shinnick, who played on two Colts championship teams, is the only linebacker in team history with more interceptions. White ranks ninth in franchise history in interceptions and only 11 Colt defenders have recovered more fumbles.

Not only is he one of the finest linebackers in team history, he is a fixture in Baltimore as a Ravens broadcaster. Not bad for a guy who was one of the last players drafted in 1972




Jacksonville Jaguars : Rob Meier


The Jags had four picks in the seventh round of the 2000 draft. Three made the team, but Meier was the best of the group.

Drafted 241st overall, just 13 players were selected behind him.

At 6'5" 293, Jacksonville used him as both a defensive tackle and end. While stopping the run was his specialty, Meier did sack the quarterback 21.5 times in his career.

Though he never started more than nine games until 2008, where he started 15, Meier was a very important member of the rotation and his versatility made him more valuable.

He recorded a safety and recovered three fumbles as well.

After getting hurt and missing the entire 2009 season, Jacksonville released him. Still, he gave the team nine quality seasons.





Kansas City Chiefs : Mike Garrett


After Garrett was drafted in the second round of the 1966 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams, the American Football League and Chiefs probably thought they had little shot at signing the USC legend and 1965 Heisman Trophy winner.

They selected him in the final round of the AFL Draft, where he was the 178th selection. Just four players were drafted behind him.

Garrett shocked everyone by signing with the Chiefs, despite having been born and raised in Los Angeles.

Kansas City put him to work immediately as both a halfback and return specialist, which earned him a Pro Bowl nod and helped the Chiefs win the AFL title.

While returning the only 14 kickoffs of his career at an impressive 23.1 average, Garrett also returned a career high 17 punts and took one 79 yards for a score. He would return just 22 punts in his career, scattered throughout eight seasons.

Running the ball on offense is where the Chiefs needed him most. He led the AFL with a 5.4 yards per carry average as a rookie, as well as scoring on a 77-yard run that was the longest in the AFL that year.

The 1967 was his best with the Chiefs. He was named First Team All-Pro and named to the Pro Bowl after gaining a career best 1,087 yards on the ground. He also caught a career best 49 balls, while scoring a career high 10 times.

Garrett continued to be the Chiefs main running back, though Robert Holmes and Warren McVea also helped him carry the load.

He led the team with 43 receptions in 1969 as Kansas City reached Super Bowl IV. His 5-yard run helped the Chiefs extend their lead to 16-0 against the Minnesota Vikings.

Kansas City ended up winning 23-7, becoming just the second AFL team to beat an NFL team in a Super Bowl. It was also the last Super Bowl where the two leagues met, because they merged after the game.

Three games in 1970, Garrett was traded to the San Diego Chargers. He stayed with the team until 1973 before retiring, but he did gain 1,031 yards in the 1972 season for them.

Garrett still ranks seventh in Chiefs history in rushing yards and touchdowns. Just eight Kansas City running backs have more career receptions than him.

It certainly was lucky that Hank Stram decided to use his final draft choice in 1966 on Garrett.





Miami Dolphins : Lloyd Mumphord


With a nod to J.B. Brown and Anthony Carter, who became a star with the Vikings, Miami's best late pick was Mumphord.

Drafted in the 16th round of the 1969 NFL/AFL Draft, the 401st player selected, just six men drafted behind him saw time in the NFL.

Mumphord impressed Miami enough to start in seven of the 11 games he played as a rookie. He picked off a career best five balls. He started every game the next year, swiping five more passes and returning one for a touchdown.

He lost his starting job in 1971, but still was valuable as an extra defensive back.

On the 1972 Super Bowl champion Dolphins, the only perfect team in modern NFL history, he was second on the team with four interceptions and returned one for a score.

He continued his role in 1973 to help the Dolphins win Super Bowl VIII, their second straight title.

He was traded to the Baltimore Colts before the 1975 season, where he stayed for four years and picked off seven balls before retiring.

Mumphord had a fine career, winning two Super Bowl ring in three tries.





Minnesota Vikings : Milt Sunde


Sunde was a hometown product drafted in the 20th round of the 1964 draft. He was the 241st player selected overall and just two men drafted after him played in the league.

After a rookie year of being a reserve, he earned a starting job at left guard in 1965. Sunde then earned his only Pro Bowl nod the next season, joined by left tackle Grady Alderman and center Mick Tingelhoff.

He got hurt the next year, appearing in 10 games. The Vikings moved him to right guard in 1968, where he split starts with Larry Bowie. He took over the starting job the next year as the Vikings became the last NFL champions before they merged with the American Football League.

He held the starting job until 1974 when new acquired Andy Maurer took over. The Vikings went to the Super Bowl in 1973 and 1974, but lost both times. Sunde retired at the end of the 1974 season.

Minnesota has had several great guards in the franchises history, but Milt Sunde was the first to ever go to the Pro Bowl. A perfect scenario for the local kid who made good against all odds. He is a member of the Vikings 25th Anniversary Team.






New England Patriots : Jim Nance


The Patriots have had some last round picks help them, like Marty Moore, Patrick Pass, and David Givens.

Nance was a ninteenth-round pick of the Patriots in 1965. Just two players drafted after him played. He spent his rookie year mostly blocking, carrying the ball 111 times and scoring five times.

He broke loose the next year, leading the AFL with 299 carries for 1,458 yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, 1,561 total yards, and an average of 104.1 yards rushing per game.

All were career highs, as was his 4.9 yards per carry average and his 65-yard run that season.

He was named the AFL Most Valuable Player, and went to the Pro Bowl.

Nance led the AFL again the following year with 269 carries for 1,216 yards. His 86.7 yards rushing per game also led the league, and he scored eight touchdowns. One came off a reception, the only time he ever scored via the air. He was named to his final Pro Bowl that year.

Nance is the only AFL player to have run for over 1,400 yards, and to have consecutive seasons of rushing for over a thousand yards.

Nance led the AFL with 193 carries the next season, and scored six times. He was named the AFL Comeback Player Of The Year that season.

He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles after that year, but opted to retire instead. Nance came back to the NFL in 1973, joining the New York Jets. He carried the ball 18 times for 78 yards over a span on seven games.

In 1974, the World Football League was starting up. Nance decided to join the Houston Texans. The Texans would later become the Shreveport Steamers towards the end of their first season.

Nance ran for 1,240 yards that year in 20 games, then ran for 767 yards the following season in 12 games. The WFL folded before the season could be completed.

His 2,007 yards on 490 carries is the most in WFL history.

His 45 touchdowns with the Patriots is still the most in franchise history.

He is a member of the Patriots Hall Of Fame, the Patriots 35th Anniversary Team, and the Patriots All-Time 1960's Team.

Jim Nance is considered by many to be the best running back in Patriots history







New Orleans Saints : Danny Abramowicz


The Saints have done very well late in the draft over the years. Jim Wilks and Marques Colston head a pretty decent list.

Abramowicz was the first of three 17th-round picks in their very first draft of 1967. Only two players drafted after him played in the league.

He became an instant star in the NFL despite the fact New Orleans struggled as a team. After 104 receptions and 13 scores in his first two years, Abramowicz had his best season in 1969.

Leading the NFL with a career high 73 receptions, he also gained a career high 1,015 yards.

Abramowicz was named First Team All-Pro, the first Saint to ever achieve that honor. After 55 catches in 1970, his production started to go down.

He was traded to the San Francisco 49ers two games into the 1973 season. He retired after the 1974 season.

He left the game with several Saints records and an NFL record of catching at least one pass in 105 consecutive games.

Though most of his records are broken, he still ranks fourth in Saints history in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns caught.

There are few late picks in NFL history better than Danny Abramowicz.







New York Jets : Dave Herman


Herman was the Jets 27th-round pick in the 1963 AFL Draft. He was the 211th player chosen overall and just four men drafted after him played pro football.

After appearing in just five games as a rookie, Herman was named the starting right guard. He held that duty for the rest of his career.

Herman made his first Pro Bowl in 1968 on an excellent offensive line that had Winston Hill and Bob Talamini. The Jets reached Super Bowl III, where they shocked the world of professional football by defeating the heavily favored Baltimore Colts.

He made his final Pro Bowl in 1969, but continued to be an important member of the team until he retired after the 1973 season. He missed just three games his entire career after his rookie year.

Dave Herman is one of just three Jets guards to have even been named to the Pro Bowl, but he is probably their best late round draft pick ever.






New York Giants : Homer Jones


Jones was drafted in the 20th round of the 1963 draft by the New York Giants. The 378th player chosen, he was the third from last pick in the entire draft.

He was also a fifth round draft choice of the Houston Oilers of the American Football League, the 33rd player picked in the draft. Jones decided to join the Oilers, which featured Hall of Fame quarterbacks George Blanda, and head coach "Slinging" Sammy Baugh.

Also joining the Oilers in camp was undrafted rookie Willie Brown, a Hall of Fame cornerback.

Jones hurt his knee in training camp then failed his physical and was cut, along with Brown. He was then intent on proving to the Oilers they had made the wrong decision.

The Giants quickly called and gave him a plane ticket to New York City. Upon his arrival, the Giants had Jones undergo surgery on his knee. He was given the jersey No. 45, which was previously worn by Hall of Fame safety Emlen Tunnell, upon Tunnell's request.

He nicknamed Homer "Seabiscuit", after the famous racehorse, because Jones was so fast. Tunnell, now a defensive backs coach for the Giants, took the young receiver under his wing to teach him the tricks of the trade.

He spent most of his rookie year recuperating while learning the game, but did get on the field for three games that year. It was also the last year that Hall of Fame Giants like Y.A. Tittle, Andy Robustelli, and Frank Gifford would play in the NFL.

He also spent time watching players like Gifford throwing the ball up into the stands to fans after scoring a touchdown, and wanted to do the same thing when he reached the end zone.

After the season, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle put in a rule that players would be fined $500 for doing so. Jones was making $10,000 a year then, so he knew that throwing the ball into the crowd was no longer an option.

He then thought of an alternative that would change the course of football history.

During the 1965 season, Jones was told ten minutes before a game that he would be starting. He responded by setting a Giants record, when he took a pass 89-yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game. It was the longest scoring play in the NFL that year.

Upon arriving in the end zone, he spiked the ball into the ground. It was the first time in NFL history this would happen, and there has been thousands of players to pull off the same feat since.

Though he feels celebrations have been taken way too far these days, Jones pioneered a part of the game many enjoy today.

Homer became a bigger part of the offense in his second year, catching 26 passes for 709 yards and 6 scores. He averaged a whopping 27.3 yards per catch, his career best.

In the 1966 season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jones had already scored on a 75 yard touchdown pass when he came up against Brady Keys of the Steelers.

The Giants had the ball on their own two-yard line, and Keys told Jones "What am I doing here covering you? I could be home eating chicken for dinner with my family."

Giants quarterback Earl Morrall what Homer thought. Jones said, "He's talking, so he's ready."

Morrall took the snap, reared back, and heaved the ball about 60 yards in the air. Jones snagged it and took it in for a 98-yard score. It is the longest play in the history in the franchise history of the Giants.

Homer then turned and told Keys, who was about fifteen yards behind him, "If you keep playing like that, you'll soon be eating chicken with your family every Sunday."

Jones finished the season with 48 receptions for 1,044 yards and eight touchdowns. He was a bona-fide star in New York, and was often swarmed by fans when out and about in public.

It was hard for Homer and his wife to eat dinner or watch a movie without him being bombarded with autograph requests.

The 1967 season saw him make his first Pro Bowl. He grabbed a career best 49 balls for 1,209 yards, an incredible average of 24.7 yards per catch. Jones also ran a ball 46 yards for a score. He led the NFL with 13 pass receiving touchdowns and 14 total touchdowns.

A local radio station polled fans on who the Giants MVP was, and Jones won. The station gave him a brand new convertible Cadillac for his achievement.

The Giants traded him to the Cleveland Browns for two players in 1970, including future Pro Bowl running back Ron Johnson. He had no intention of playing ever again, but was coaxed into joining the Browns by his father.

Homer had an aunt who lived in Cleveland and his father wanted him to take care of her, along with his cousin Joe "Turkey" Jones.

Upon joining the Browns, he was told that he would be the teams third receiver and return kickoffs. In the season opener, Cleveland played in the first Monday Night Football telecast on ABC. Jones led the Browns to a win by returning a kickoff 94 yards for a score, the first of its kind on MNF.

He spent the rest of the year returning 29 kicks for 739 yards, a 25.5 yards per return average. He didn't get much time on the field, but he did take one of his ten receptions 43 yards for the last touchdown of his career. He then retired after that year.

He holds the NFL record of averaging 22.3 yards per reception throughout his career. This is based on having a minimum of 200 receptions. Jones also holds the Giants franchise record for having 66.4 receiving yards per game over a career.

His 4,845 receiving yards are the fifth most, and his 35 receiving touchdowns is still tied for the fifth most in Giants history. The 218 receptions he had still ranks 18th best in team history as well.




Oakland Raiders : Rod Martin


Martin was drafted in the 12th round of the 1977 draft by Oakland, the 317th overall selection. Just five men drafted behind him played in the NFL.

One was kicker Rolf Benirschke, the second to last player picked that year. Oakland drafted him then traded him to the San Diego Chargers, where he excelled.

Martin played just one game as a rookie, but started to earn a lot of playing time in his second year by starting half of the season. Oakland was impressed with his intelligence and solid all-around play.

After starting all of 1979, he did not start in six games in 1980. This inspired him to get better just as the Raiders reached the playoffs as a WildCard team.

Bookending Hall of Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks, the duo helped the team reach Super Bowl XV. Facing the Philadelphia Eagles, Martin became a nightmare foe Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski.

He made three key interceptions to help lead Oakland to a 27-10 win. No other player in Super Bowl history has had three picks in a Super Bowl, and his three career swipes is tied with two others as the most in Super Bowl history.

He was somehow not named MVP of the game, despite such excellence.

The 1983 season was one of the best in his career. He led the NFL with two touchdowns off of interceptions, had a career high four picks, and chipped in six sacks.

He was named to his first Pro Bowl. Oakland reached the playoffs, where Martin had a sack in their AFC Championship win. In Super Bowl XVIII, he came up big again for his team.

Besides recording another sack, he recovered a fumble and made several key tackles. One came on a fourth-down play, where he stopped Hall of Fame running back John Riggins short of a conversion in the Raiders victory.

He was honored as First Team All-Pro in 1984, as well as being named to his last Pro Bowl. Martin had a career high 11 sacks, recorded a safety, and scored off a 77-yard fumble recovery.

Martin stayed in the starting lineup until after the 1988 season, where he decided to retire. He was credited with 33.5 sacks, but this stat was not recorded until 1982.

Despite being basically robbed of four years of sacks, he still ranks seventh in Raiders history and it is the most ever by an Oakland linebacker. His 14 interceptions is the second most ever by a Raiders linebacker.

One of Rod Martin's special abilities was reaching the end zone once he got his hands on the ball, which he did six times. Only Terry McDaniel's seven exceeds his total for a team record.

While the Raiders have had a few late round picks help them, none have been better than Martin.




Philadelphia Eagles : Tom Sullivan


The Eagles have had little luck finding players late in the draft until the last decade. Of the few they did hit on, Hall of Famer Lou Creekmur and Otis Taylor, they cut and watched those players become stars elsewhere.

Drafted in the 15th round of the 1972 draft, Sullivan was the 378th player selected overall. He didn't play a lot as a rookie and mostly blocked when he did.

The Eagles promoted him to the starting lineup in his sophomore year, so Sullivan responded by churning out a career best 968 yards, at a 4.5 yards per carry average, and a career best 50 receptions.

He followed that up in 1974 by leading the NFL with 11 rushing touchdowns. He began to share carries with fullback Art Malone and backup James McAlister in 1974, but still led the team with 632 yards on the ground.

Mike Hogan was the primary ball carrier the next year, as Sullivan received less touches. The Eagles hit pay dirt in the 1977 draft by selecting Wilbert Montgomery in the sixth round.

Though Sullivan was second on the team in rushing yards, he was traded to the Cleveland Browns at the end of the year. He suited up for four games and touched the ball six times for Cleveland in 1978, so he decided to retire.

Though he never made the Pro Bowl, he retired the third leading rusher in Eagles history. He still ranks tenth in that category, as well as 14th in rushing touchdowns.

While he played on some struggling squads, Tom Sullivan had a few excellent seasons.




Pittsburgh Steelers : Rocky Bleier


With a nod to Joe Kuharich, who became a Pro Bowl player and head coach, Carlton Haselrig, and Warren Lahr, who became a star with the Browns.

Bleier was drafted in the 16th round of the 1968 draft, where he was the 417th player chosen overall. He touched the ball nine times on offense as a rookie, but he contributed well on special teams.

The Vietnam War was going on, so Bleier decided to serve his country. He was shot in the left leg, then nearly lost his right foot to an exploding grenade.

The thought was his football career was over. Then Steelers Hall of Fame owner Art Rooney sent him a postcard telling him the Steelers needed him.

This inspired Bleier to rehab hard and he returned to the gridiron one year after his injuries. Though he rejoined Pittsburgh in 1971, he rarely played on offense over the next three years.

He had pain when walking and was under his playing weight. Pittsburgh waived him twice, but Bleier kept working hard. He increased his weight and found it less painful to run.

Earning a starting job at halfback in 1974, his primary duty was to block for Hall of Fame fullback Franco Harris. But he also found himself handling the ball more each season.

His finest season came in 1976. He had career high totals of 220 carries for 1,036 and five scores. With the 1,128 yards Harris gained, it was the first and only time in Steelers history two running backs ran for at least 1,000-yards in one season.

Bleier's touches started to decrease after that, but he was still a very important member on both the field and locker room. Pittsburgh dominated much of the 1970's, winning four Super Bowls.

One of his biggest moments came in Super Bowl XIII when Bleier caught a seven-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter, giving Pittsburgh a 21-14 lead over the Dallas Cowboys. The Steelers never relinquished the lead, winning 35-31.

In the 1974 AFC Championship win against the Oakland Raiders, most fans recall Harris gaining 111 yards on 28 carries while scoring twice. Yet Bleier was the quiet hero of the game by pounding out 98 rushing yards, leading the team with 123 all-purpose yards, and recovering a key fumble.

He retired after the 1980 season and still ranks eighth in team history with 3,865 rushing yards and ninth with 23 touchdowns on the ground.

Not only was he a steal for Pittsburgh in the draft, but his inspirational story is an example as to why football is a great sport.






San Diego Chargers : 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.





San Francisco 49ers : Jesse Sapolu


Sapolu was drafted in the 11th round of the 1983 draft, where he was the 289th player chosen overall.

After spending his rookie year as a reserve, he was hurt in the first game of the 1984 season and lost for the year.

He earned his way into the starting lineup at left guard in 1985, becoming one of the Niners best run blockers. They moved him to center in 1989, where he stayed the next five years.

After making his first Pro Bowl in 1993, San Francisco moved him back to left guard in 1994. Not missing a beat, he made the Pro Bowl yet again.

He was moved back to center in 1996, where he stayed until he retired after the 1997 season.

Sapolu was a very important member of four 49er teams to win Super Bowls. Excluding his second season, Sapolu missed just 10 games in his career.

A fan favorite, he is surely one of the best late round picks in franchise history.





Seattle Seahawks : Dwayne Harper


Seattle has hit on a few guys late in the draft, but most went on to help other teams.

Harper was drafted in the 11th round of the 1988 draft. He was the 299th player chosen and just nine guys drafted behind him played in the NFL.

After a rookie year of being a reserve, where he recorded the only sack of his career, Harper became a starter in his second season. He became a solid player equally tough against the run or pass.

Though the four interceptions he had in 1991 was a career high, he also forced an excellent 10 fumbles in the 1993 season. He then signed with the San Diego Chargers as a free agent in 1994.

He stayed with the Chargers for five seasons, though two were cut short by injuries. Harper started for them when San Diego reached Super Bowl XXIX, the only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

After playing just one game in 1998, because of injury, He signed with the Detroit Lions in 1999. He suited up for three games, then got hurt. He then retired.

Of his 24 career interceptions, 13 came with Seattle. That is good for the 13th most in team history and makes Dwayne Harper the Seahawks best late round pick.





Saint Louis Rams : Dante Magnani


The Rams have done well late in drafts. They got Hall of Fame defensive ends Deacon Jones and Andy Robustelli well into their draft classes, whole snagging guys like Fred Stokes and Drew Hill near the end.

Magnani was drafted in the 19th round of the 1940 draft by the Cleveland Rams, the 175th player chosen overall. Just five players drafted after him played in the NFL.

He wasn't used much as a rookie, but he did return a kickoff 93-yards for a score.

His 1942 season was his lone Pro Bowl year, where he led the team in rushing and receiving.

The Chicago Bears traded for him in 1943. He was second on the team in rushing, but he did lead the NFL with a 79-yard run for a score and a 96-yard kickoff return for a score.

The Bears won the NFL Championship that year, helped by Magnani's four receptions for 122 yards and two scores.

World War II was going on during this time, so Magnani enlisted to serve his country.

He returned to the NFL in 1946 to be third in rushing and receiving for the Bears. They reached the title game again. Magnani intercepted a pass in the first quarter and returned it 19-yards for a touchdown.

It put the Bears up 14-7, as they went on to defeat the New York Giants 24-14. He left Chicago to rejoin the Rams, now in Los Angeles, in 1947.

He played there two seasons before rejoining the Bears in 1949. After playing in the 1950 season for the Detroit Lions, he retired.

Not many late round picks have helped the Rams. Stokes and Hill mostly excelled elsewhere, but did contribute to the Rams.

No player drafted late has given the Rams more than Dante Magnani. Especially for young organization that had just started three years earlier and he was amongst the first handful to go to the Pro Bowl.





Tampa Bay Buccaneers : Dave Logan


The Bucs have always done well late in the draft. In their initial draft of 1975, they picked Carl Roaches near the end. Though he never played for them, he became a Pro Bowler for the Houston Oilers.

Logan was drafted in the 12th round by Tampa Bay in 1979, the 307th player selected, and played in five games as a reserve.

He earned the starting job in the third game of the next year, and would hold onto it the rest of his Buccaneers career.

He also scored a touchdown on a career long 60-yard fumble recovery in 1980, and scored again off of a 21-yard return the following season.

In the strike-shortened season of 1982, the NFL began recording sacks as an official statistic, and he was credited with 4.8 sacks in the nine games he played.

His best year may have been in 1983, where he had 9.5 sacks and scored off of a 54-yard fumble recovery. He was named First Team All-Conference by Pro Football Weekly, and would attain that honor again the next year after getting 5.5 sacks and scoring the last touchdown of his career off of a 27-yard interception.

Though he was not named to the Pro Bowl, he was named First Team All-NFL by the Sporting News that year.

After two more years, he left the team and joined the Green Bay Packers in 1987. He played in just two games, got hurt, then retired.

Dave Logan was an incredible physical specimen who relied on intelligence and technique to excel. He weighed just 250 lbs. while playing the most demanding position in football.

He played, and started in, every game in the last six of his eight years with the team. Besides his rookie year, he never missed a game with the Bucs.

He had 39 sacks in his career, which would be the fourth most in franchise history, but the NFL only has him officially with 28.3. That ranks as fifth best, yet it needs to be noted the NFL only recognizes 23 of the 78.5 career sacks Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon had with the team.

Logan also had 624 tackles in his career, showing he was more than a pass rusher.

His three fumble recovery touchdowns are the most ever by a Buc defensive lineman, and second in team history to the four defensive back Ronde Barber has. He is tied with 30 other players as the fourth most in NFL history in that category.

He is easily the greatest nose tackle in Buccaneers history.






Tennessee Titans : Billy "White Shoes" Johnson


This organization has had quite a few great late round picks. Grabbing Hall of Famer Ken Houston, considered the greatest strong safety in NFL history, in the ninth round of the 1967 draft was a steal in itself.

Johnson was a 15th round draft pick by the Houston Oilers in 1974. He was the 365th player picked overall despite the initial objections of GM/Head Coach Sid Gillman who didn't want a "midget" on his team.

He made the team as a return man and stood out immediately. He was given the moniker "White Shoes" in high school when he wore the white cleats, as opposed to most wearing black cleats.

In his first four seasons, he returned five punts for touchdowns, as well as two kickoffs for scores. In 1975 he tied an NFL record with four kick returns for touchdowns in a season.

He would celebrate his touchdowns with the "Funky Chicken" dance. This dance, coupled by his shoes, made him a fan favorite across the league. He was used as a third-down slot receiver in multiple receiver sets mostly.

He caught 116 balls with seven touchdowns his first three years. He was mostly used as a possession type due to the teams offensive scheme, but he also ran the ball for a touchdown.

Johnson caught 20 balls his fourth year for three touchdowns at a 20-yards per catch average. He also took a reverse 61 yards for a touchdown, the last rushing touchdown of his career.

In 1978, he blew out his knee during the fifth game. He only managed two games the following season due to its lingering effects. In 1980, he returned to be used only as a third wide receiver. He caught 31 balls for two touchdowns.

Disenchanted with his role, "White Shoes" bolted for the Canadian Football League to play for the Montreal Allouetttes. That year in Montreal, Billy caught 65 passes for 1,060 yards and five touchdowns.

Johnson returned to the NFL in 1982 by signing with the Atlanta Falcons. He played nine games that year and only caught two passes. He was able to return 24 punts at an impressive clip of 11.4 yards per return.

"White Shoes" was used as the Falcons full time punt returner in 1983. He also started at wide receiver. He caught a team and career high 64 passes while scoring five touchdowns total. One touchdown was via a punt return.

He won the Pro Bowl MVP that year when he took a punt 90-yards for a touchdown, as well as accumulating 159 total return yards. Both are still Pro Bowl records.

Johnson left the Falcons, but tried to play for the Washington Redskins in 1988. He played only one game and fielded four punts, returning three of them for 26 yards. He then retired.

Billy "White Shoes" Johnson was named to both the NFL's 1980's All-Decade Team, and to the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

He set seven team records in Houston and four in Atlanta and held the NFL record for punt return yardage when he retired. He is still ranked third all-time in NFL history for punt return yardage and still holds the Oilers / Titans franchise record for punt return yardage.

Johnson may be known to many fans as an innovators of the touchdown dance. He is credited as being one of the first, but certainly his can stake claim to having been the best ever.

Celebrations with more choreography may have been employed since then, but it is much like the students trying to emulate the master. He was not just a crowd pleaser with his dance.

He was a premier return specialist who took eight kicks to the end zone in his career. He also worked hard to become a threat at wide receiver and he is on the All-Time NFL Team as the only return specialist.




Washington Redskins : Chris Hanburger


The Redskins have a good history on late round picks. Hall of Famer Wayne Milner was part of the Redskins first draft class and just four men selected after him played in the NFL.

Clint Didier, Jimmie Johnson, and others also helped the team. Yet there is no greater Redskins late round pick than "The Hangman."

Hanburger was an 18th-round draft choice of the Redskins in 1965. He was the 245th player chosen that year. He was a 25-year old rookie, due to his service in the Army before going to the University of North Carolina.

Hanburger played right away and was in the Pro Bowl by his second year in the league. He would then begin a string of Pro Bowl appearances until 1969. He then resumed that string in 1972 until 1976.

Sacks and tackles were not recorded in those days, but Hanburger was a play maker. He is considered one of the best of his era.

He was known for his blitzing ability and pass coverage. Ever the complete player, he returned three fumbles for touchdowns in his career to go with two on interceptions.

In 1972, Hanburger captained the "Over The Hill Gang's" defense to a Super Bowl appearance and was named NFC Defensive Player Of The Year. Hanburger was known not only for good speed, but his exceptional quickness.

He had the innate ability to diagnose a play before the ball was hiked. He often would cover the other teams tight end and peel off to knock passes down meant for wide receivers.

Hanburger's nine Pro Bowl appearances are still the most by any player in the entire history of the Washington Redskins. Hanburger was inducted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

The Best Middle Linebackers Not In The Pro Football Hall of Fame
Category: NFL
Tags: Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL USFL AFL Denver Broncos Atlanta Falcons Philadelphia Eagles Dallas Cowboys Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cincinnati


Randy Gradishar
6'3" 233
Linebacker
Denver Broncos
1973 - 1984
Ten Seasons
145 Games Played
20 Interceptions
4 Touchdowns
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.







Tommy Nobis
6'2" 240
Linebacker
Atlanta Falcons
1966 - 1976
11 Seasons
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
6'1" 221
Linebacker
Dallas Cowboys
1963 - 1976
14 Seasons
186 Games Played
32 Interceptions
18 Fumble Recoveries
3 Touchdowns
1 Safety
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.








Sam Mills
5'9" 229
Linebacker
New Orleans Saints
1986-1997
12 Seasons
181 Games Played
23 Fumbles Recovered
4 Touchdowns
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.








Bill Bergey
6'4" 243
Philadelphia Eagles
1969-1980
12 Seasons
159 Games Played
27 Interceptions
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.








Hardy Nickerson
6'2" 230
Linebacker
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1987-2002
16 Seasons
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.








Karl Mecklenburg
6'3" 240
Linebacker
Denver Broncos
1983-1994
12 Seasons
180 Games Played
79 Sacks
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.








Jessie Tuggle
5'11" 230
Linebacker
Atlanta Falcons
1987-2000
14 Seasons
209 Games Played
6 Touchdowns
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.






Mike Curtis
6'3" 232
Linebacker
Baltimore Colts
1965-1978
14 Seasons
166 Games Played
25 Interceptions
3 Touchdowns
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.

The Almost All-Time San Diego Chargers
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NFL AFL Pro Football Hall of Fame NFC AFC San Diego Chargers 2011 Draft CFL

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.

United Football League : Time To Burn Out Or Fade Away
Category: FEATURED
Tags: UFL WFL USFL AAFC AFL NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame American Football League National Football League United Football League United States

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.

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