Wednesday, October 14, 2009
1960 - 1968
6 Pro Bowls
Robert Guy Talamini was drafted in the 24th round by the expansion Houston Oilers in the fledgling American Football League before the 1960 season. He was a territorial draft selection, and was the third from last player chosen overall.
He had attended college at Kentucky University, where he had been a starter under coach Blanton Collier for three years. Talamini played 60 minutes as both an offensive guard and middle linebacker, and was named Honorable All-American his senior year. He also was named to the All-SEC Third Team at the conclusion of the year, yet was not invited to any of the post season games to put his skills on display.
Talamini had no thoughts of playing professional football, and had already started planning on life after college. Things changed one day after Adrian Burk called him in a conversation that lasted less than two minutes. Burk, who holds the NFL record for throwing seven touchdown passes in a single game, was working in the Oilers front office for owner Bud Adams. Burk asked him if he would have any interest trying out for the team in a league Talamini had heard nothing about. After a moment of thought, he remained non-committal.
A contract soon arrived in the mail to Talamini, who then had his law professor look over it. It stated that he would make $7,000 only if he made the team, and nothing if he did not. Talamini then called Burk back and asked for a bonus. The Oilers sent him $500, so he decided then to try out for the team.
Houston had just made a big splash in the news by signing Billy Cannon to their roster. Cannon was an All-American running back who had just won the 1959 Heisman Trophy Award. He was the first draft choice of both the NFL and AFL Draft, which had both leagues go to court over the right to sign him.
When he arrived in Houston, the Oilers had already been in training camp for over a week. Over 300 players were at the camp, yet the league rules stipulated that only 35 players could make each roster. After standing out immediately, Talamini was soon told by head coach Lou Rymkus that he would start.
The Oilers started 17 rookies in their inaugural season, nine alone just on offense. They were led by quarterback George Blanda, a wash out in the NFL who would revitalize his career in Houston and end up in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. The only only other veteran on offense was seventh year tight end John Carson. Carson had been a Pro Bowl player in 1957 with the Washington Redskins, and would retire from the game after his lone season in the AFL.
Houston was a well balanced team that was equally adept in all facets of the game. They went 10-4 in their first season, then beat the Los Angeles Chargers to capture the first ever AFL Championship. They repeated as champions the next year by defeating the Chargers again in the championship game. Talamini was named to the All-AFL Second Team by both the UPI and the league in 1961.
Houston went to a third consecutive championship game after the 1962 season, but lost in double overtime to the Dallas Texans 20-17. Lasting just six seconds short of 78 minutes, it is still the longest championship game ever played. The Texans would relocate to Kansas City after the game, and rename themselves the Chiefs.
Talamini was named to the All-AFL First Team after that season, and would garner this award every year that followed up until 1967.
Though the Oilers failed to achieve their previous successes, they were a high scoring team over the next several seasons. One of the teams strengths was their rushing attack, which was led by Talamini's blocking prowess. He was excellent versus the pass rush, and was special when it came to pulling out and leading on sweeps.
After the 1967 concluded, he approached Adams for a pay raise. Despite coming off of six consecutive Pro Bowl seasons, at the young age of 28, he was denied his request. Talamini then asked for his immediate release from his contract.
Joe Spencer was an assistant coach on the New York Jets in 1968. He had worked with the Oilers a few years earlier, and was familiar with Talamini. Spencer called him and asked if he would be interested in joining the Jets. Talamini agreed to after being promised a pay raise, so the Jets gave Houston cash for his contract.
The 1968 season was a magical season for the New York Jets. This was a franchise who had struggled to stay in existence just a few years earlier due to poor attendance and play on the field. Things changed when they drafted Joe Namath in 1965. Namath, a future Hall Of Fame quarterback, brought the team a lot of publicity and credit as the Jets slowly built a winning team.
The Jets won their last four games of the year, and finished 11-3. They then faced the Oakland Raiders, a team that handed them their last loss, in the AFL Championship Game. New York won 27-23 on a late fourth quarter touchdown pass from Namath to Hall Of Fame wide receiver Don Maynard. The victory propelled the Jets into Super Bowl III, where they faced the heavily favored Baltimore Colts.
New York won the game 16-7, and became the first AFL team to be declared world champions. They won by creating five turnovers on defense, and controlling the ball on offense. The offensive line was led by Talamini and Winston Hill. They paved the way for running back Matt Snell to gain 121 yards on 30 rushing attempts, as well as helping Snell score the teams only touchdown off of a four yard run.
Though he was just 30 years old, and had been on three championship teams in his nine years, Talamini decided to retire from the game. He was slightly worn out from a difficult season. Making $17,000 that season, he had to spend over $2,000 to commute from New York City to his family throughout the entire year. He decided to get on with his life after football, and to be with his family.
Bob Talamini is a member of the American Football League All-Time Team, and is on the second unit.
He is a player who deserves his induction into Canton when you try and measure his career in several ways. Many men are in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame now based on the fact they played on winning teams. Talamini obviously played on winners, beginning and ending his career collecting championship rings.
Many other players are inducted because they were Pro Bowl players several times throughout their careers. Being honored with a Pro Bowl invitation indicates that player is amongst the very best at his position that season. Talamini was given this accolade in six of his nine years playing. There are several inducted players who appeared in an equal or lesser amount of Pro Bowls than Talamini. There are also several inductees who played in fewer seasons over the duration of their careers.
It is quite clear that he was one of the best to ever play his position in the history of professional football. The fact that the AFL still continues to be disrespected today can be the only fathomable reason for his exclusion.
Jim Otto, Ron Mix, and Billy Shaw are the only three offensive linemen from the AFL that are in Canton today. Shaw is the only one who spent his entire career just in the AFL. Of the 48 players listed on the American Football League All-Time Team, only 12 are in Canton. This is obviously still a resonant of sour grapes that the NFL had for the upstart AFL, and the prejudice still continues.
The AFL was the league that showed scoring could bring in fans, as opposed to the grinding style the NFL was using in those days. Much of those AFL philosophies are still in play today, after the NFL saw the possibilities and expanded on it by castrating defenses.
The Professional Football Hall Of Fame is NOT the NFL Hall Of Fame! If it were, then many legends from other leagues would not be inducted and it would be even more of a empty facility than it currently is. It is very clear that the only reason Bob Talamini is not in Canton is because of more than just time forgetting him or his impact. It is because the NFL still does not respect the AFL.
Notable 1960 NFL Draftees * Denotes Hall of Fame Inductee
1. Billy Cannon, RB, Los Angeles Rams
2. Richard Bass, RB, LA Rams
3. Johnny Robinson, DB, Detroit
8. Jim Houston, LB, Cleveland
10. Ron Mix, OT, Baltimore Colts *
20. Maxie Baughan, LB, Philadelphia
32. Don Meredith, QB, Chicago
42. Roger Brown, DT, Detroit
44. Jim Marshall, DE, Cleveland
55. Abner Haynes, RB, Pittsburgh
74. Larry Wilson, S, St. Louis Cardinals *
109. Charley Johnson, QB, St. Louis
110. Curtis McClinton, RB, LA Rams
119. Bobby Boyd, DB, Baltimore
Notable Players Drafted By The AFL In 1960 :
Jim Otto, C, Oakland Raiders *
Austin "Goose" Gonsoulin, DB, Dallas Texans
Larry Grantham, LB, New York Titans
Pat Dye, OT, Boston Patriots (Noted College Coach)
Jim Norton, DB, Dallas
Mel Branch, DE, Denver Broncos
Pail Maguire, P, Los Angeles Chargers (Noted Broadcaster)
Ed "Wahoo" McDaniels, LB, LA Chargers (Noted Wrestler)
Wayne Hawkins, G, Oakland
Tom Day, DE, Buffalo Bills