Lionel Thomas Taylor was an undrafted rookie signed by the Chicago Bears for the 1959 season. Lionel went to college initially at West Virginia University before quickly transferring to New Mexico Highlands University. The Highlands has produced 21 pro football players, including two Rookie Of The Years (Don Woods and Carl Garrett). Taylor was a two way player who also starred on the schools basketball and track teams. He played Defensive End and Wide Receiver. The team ran a single wing formation, so the team rarely passed the ball. One season the team played with just 25 healthy players, and 4 of those men were banged up. So the healthy guys played all 60 minutes of every game. Taylor was still able to make All Conference in 2 seasons as a WR, as well as making the Little All American team one year. Lionel Taylor is a member of the New Mexico Highlands Hall Of Fame.
Lionel only got in on 8 games as a rookie with the Bears. He only played special teams and accumulated no statistics. Not happy with his role with the Bears, Lionel joined the expansion Denver Broncos of the fledgling American Football League in 1960. He started out as a fourth string receiver on the roster. He was playing catch with Frank Tripuka, an assistant coach on the Broncos. The quarterbacks the Broncos had in camp were not acceptable, so Tripuka was asked to suit up. He told the Denver staff how impressed he was with Taylor's ability to catch anything thrown his way, so the Broncos promoted Taylor to the starters job at Split End. He started producing immediately. He had 92 receptions, which led the AFL. Taylor also had career highs of 1,235 yards and 12 touchdowns. He took one pass for a career long 80 yards as well. Taylor was named to his first All Pro team that year for his efforts. 1961 would be the year that Lionel Taylor would be most remembered for. He became the first player in the history of professional football to have 100 receptions in one season. He had 1,176 yards and 4 touchdowns also, and was named to his second All Pro squad. Lionel was named to his third straight All Pro team the next year, when he had 77 receptions for 908 yards and 4 scores. 1963 saw Lionel lead the AFL in receptions for a fourth straight season, when he snagged 78 balls for 1,101 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was named to the UPI AFL Second Team for his efforts. He followed that up with 76 receptions for 873 yards and 7 scores the next season. Taylor made his last All Pro team in 1965, when he led the AFL with 85 receptions. He also gained 1,131 yards and scored six times. 1966 was a rough season for the Denver Broncos. They were last in the AFL in passing, running, and total offense. They played 5 quarterbacks and won only 4 games. Taylor was third on the team with 35 receptions for 448 yards and scored once. Lionel then joined the Houston Oilers in 1967. He played in just 8 games and caught 18 balls for 233 yards and a scored once. Lionel's last year in professional football was in 1968. He appeared in 9 games and caught a career low 6 passes for 90 yards without scoring. He retired after that season.
I really am confused to as why Lionel Taylor has not yet been inducted into Canton. You look at recent inductee "Bullet" Bob Hayes and can make a case that Taylor is much more deserving. Taylor had almost 200 more career receptions than Hayes, despite being the Broncos only option in the passing game. Taylor frequently was covered by two or more defenders on each passing down. He caught his 100 balls in a 14 game season which also included the 10 yard chuck rule, thus making it even harder for a pass catcher to do his job. Taylor was an intelligent and crafty player not blessed with great speed, but often faked defenders out of position with a wide variety of moves. He also had incredible hands and caught seemingly every pass caught his way. He did not play on any good teams that had other options to go to like Hayes. He was all Denver had pretty much. He led the AFL in receptions in five of his first six seasons, and averaged over 84 yards per reception over that span. It was then a record as the highest total over a six year span. Taylor is still first in Broncos history with his 6,872 receptions yardage, and is second with 543 receptions. Lionel Taylor is a member of the Denver Broncos Ring Of Fame and the Colorado Sports Hall Of Fame. Some may argue that Taylor did not have long enough of a career of excellence to be inducted, but then I point out Gale Sayers. Taylor, like Sayers, stood out on some teams that did not win much. Both were the primary weapons of their teams as well. I tend to think the real reason is because Taylor played in the AFL. I always say that this is the PRO Football Hall Of Fame, NOT the NFL Hall Of Fame! Many great AFL players, as you may have read in some other CCC selections, are still awaiting the call unjustly. I think it is quite evident that when you look at Lionel Taylor's numbers and impact on the game, he belongs in Canton.
Notable Players Drafted In 1959 (None are a Canton Inductee Yet)
2. Dick Bass, FB, Los Angelos Rams 3. Bill Stacy, DB, Chicago Cardinals 5. Dave Baker, DB, San Francisco 6. Nick Pietrosante, FB, Detroit 9. Paul Dickson, DT, LA Rams 12. Jackie Burnett, LB, Baltimore 15. J.D. Smith, OT, Philadelphia 17. Bob L. Harrison, LB, San Francisco 19. Mike Rabold, G, Detroit 21. Rich Petitbon, DB, Chicago Bears 22. Buddy Dial, WR, NY Giants 23. Dick Shafrath, OT, Cleveland 25. Bowd Dowler, WR, Green Bay 26. Wray Carlton, RB, Philadelphia 28. Emil Karas, LB, Washington 29. Eddie Dove, DB, San Francisco 34. Joe Morrison, RB, NY Giants 35. Fran O'Brien, OT, Cleveland 41. Monte Clark, DT, San Francisco 44. John Tracey, LB, LA Rams 47. Dave Lloyd, LB, Cleveland 49. Bob Wetoska, OT, Washington 53. John Wooten, G, Cleveland 58. Dick LeBeau, CB, Detroit 80. Eddie Meador, DB, LA Rams 102. Bobby Joe Green, P, San Francisco 119. Bob Zeman, DB, Cleveland 123. Art Powell, WR, Philadelphia 125. Harry Jacobs, LB, Detroit 141. Mike Connelly, C, LA Rams 164. Joe Robb, DE, Chicago Bears 167. Elbert Dubenion, WR, Cleveland 173. Bruce Maher, DB, Detroit 177. Roger LeClerc, LB, Chicago Bears 209. Joe Kapp, QB, Washington 219. Alan Miller, FB, Philadelphia 223. Dave Kocourek, TE, Pittsburgh 242. Dale Memmelaar, G, Chicago Cardinals 249. Donnie Stone, RB, Chicago Bears 250. Jim Fraser, LB, Cleveland 266. Fred Glick, DB, Chicago Cardinals 313. Timmy Brown, RB, Green Bay 319. Charley Tolar, FB, Pittsburgh 331. Ron Hall, DB, Pittsburgh 353. Jim Colclough, WR, Washington