Monday, February 14, 2011
New York Jets
1963 - 1977
198 Games Played
174 Consecutive Starts
8 Pro Bowls
AFL All-Time Team
Winston Cordell Hill was a 11th round draft pick by the Baltimore Colts in the 1963 NFL draft. He was the 145th player chosen overall. Hill went to Texas Southern University, where he was an All-American player who played along the line on both offense and defense. Hill is a member of the Texas Southern Sports Hall of Fame.
The Texas Southern roster was stacked with great players at the time. Many went on to play professional football. Men like Charlie Frazier, W.K. Hicks, Willis Perkins, Art Strahan (the uncle of future Hall of Famer and Texas Southern Alumni Michael Strahan), Warren Wells, Andy Rice, B.W. Cheeks, Gene Jeter, and Hill's close friend Homer Jones, who invented the spiking of the ball after a touchdown.
The Colts had just drafted future five-time Pro Bowler left tackle Bob Vogel in the first round, and would later draft future Colts greats like Willie Richardson, Jerry Logan, and Hall of Famer John Mackey. Hill decided to join the New York Jets of the American Football League.
He quickly found himself starting at left tackle for the Jets. He missed one game that season, but would never miss another game in his entire time in New York. Though the Jets struggled in his first few years, Hill made the Pro Bowl in just his second season.
Fortunes began to change for the better with the Jets in 1965. They drafted future Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath. With Hill protecting the blindside of "Broadway Joe" under the direction of Hall of Fame coach Weeb Ewbank, Namath was able to throw often to Hall of Fame wide receiver Don Maynard and Jets greats like George Sauer, Emerson Boozer, and Matt Snell.
As the Jets had the first winning season in franchise history during 1967, Hill would begin a string of seven consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. This highlight of his career came in 1968, when the Jets defeated the Colts in Super Bowl III.
Not only was Hill excellent at pass blocking, but he was also dominating when the Jets ran the ball. The Jets had just coaxed six-time Pro Bowl guard Bob Talamini, who had already won two AFL Championships with the Houston Oilers, out of retirement for one year to play next to Hill. The Jets won 11 games that year, a total they would not match again until 1985.
Hill was seemingly indestructible in an era where blockers were at the mercy of defenses. Blockers in that era were not allowed to extend their arms like they do today, forced to tuck their hands by their chest to resemble a chicken wing. This did not prevent Hill from starting in 174 straight games.
He manned left tackle until 1976 for the Jets. Namath decided to join the Los Angeles Rams in 1977, and he got his good friend and protector to go with him. Hill suited up for three games that year, but decided to retire after the third game.
Not only did Hill help bring the Jets their only championship in franchise history, but he helped make Namath a star. Namath led the league in passing yards three times, including the first 4,000-yard passing season in professional football history.
There is no question that Hill is the greatest blocker in Jets history, and many of the teams fans would tell you he is also the best player the franchise has ever had as well. His eight Pro Bowls are the most in team history, and his 174 consecutive starts are ranked tenth best in pro football history.
Hill is a member of the AFL Hall of Fame and AFL All-Time Team, as well as an inaugural member of the Jets Ring of Honor. Namath, Ewbank, Maynard, and Curtis Martin joined him in the ceremonies.
The disrespect of the AFL is quite evident by his exclusion from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of the 10 offensive linemen on the AFL All-Time Team, which also includes Talamini, only Ron Mix, Billy Shaw, and Jim Otto are inducted. Only 12 of the 48 players on the AFL All-Time Team are members of Canton's exclusive club.
How the voters keep overlooking the AFL can only be attributed to lingering envy and anger that the NFL had for the league when it existed. The AFL played an exciting brand of football and won two of the four Super Bowls between the leagues, including the last two, before the merger of the AFL and NFL was completed. Not bad for a league the NFL liked to call a "Mickey Mouse League" before being forced to merge to save their own product.
Yet it all started with Hill's Jets shocking the football world by soundly defeating the supposedly heavily-favored Colts. Though most recall Namath guaranteeing a win before he game, it is unlikely he would have made such a boast if Hill was not there to protect him.
It is obvious Winston Hill should be inducted into Canton. His eight Pro Bowls are proof, and it must be noted he went to four Pro Bowls after the merger too. This proves not only was he amongst the best in AFL history, but he was one of the very best in all of professional football.
The New York media is given a lot of hype for creating hype for their local teams, but they have dropped the ball here. They need to honor their past better and make a bigger push for Hill to finally get his rightful respect and place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Notable Players Drafted In 1963 * Denotes Hall of Fame Inductee
2. Jerry Stovall, S, Saint Louis Cardinals
5. Bob Vogel, OT, Baltimore Colts
6. Lee Roy Jordan, MLB, Dallas Cowboys
7. Pat Richter, TE, Washington Redskins
8. Kermit Washington, CB, San Francisco 49ers
13. Don Brumm, DE, Saint Louis
14. Dave Robinson, OLB, Green Bay Packers
17. Bob Reynolds, OT, Saint Louis
18. Ray Mansfield, C, Philadelphia Eagles
19. John Mackey, TE, Baltimore *
21. Walt Rock, OT, San Francisco
35. Ron Snidow, DE, Washington
44. Paul Flatley, WR, Minnesota
47. Jerry Logan, S, Baltimore
88. Lee Roy Caffey, OLB, Philadelphia
89. Willie Richardson, WR, Baltimore
102. Tom Woodeshick, FB, Philadelphia
129. Jackie Smith, TE, Saint Louis *
136. Bill Nelsen, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
152. Karl Kassulke, S, Detroit Lions
157. Chuck Walker, DT, Saint Louis
220. Andy Russell, OLB, Pittsburgh
241. Larry Stallings, OLB, Saint Louis
259. Jim Turner, K, Washington
278. Homer Jones, WR, New York Giants
1. Buck Buchanan, DT, Kansas City Chiefs *
2. Walt Sweeney, OG, San Diego Chargers
4. Dave Behrman, C, Buffalo Bills
8. Ed Budde, OG, Kansas City
9. Jim Dunaway, DT, Buffalo
21. Tom Janik, S, Denver Broncos
46. Sam Silas, DT, Boston Patriots
48. George Saimes, S, Kansas City
49. Dave Costa, DT, Oakland Raiders
50. Mickey Slaughter, QB, Denver (Notable College Coach)
56. Bobby Bell, OLB, Kansas City *
60. Hewritt Dixon, RB, Denver
85. Billy Joe, RB, Denver
88. Jerrell Wilson, RB / P, Kansas City
188. Daryle Lamonica, QB, Buffalo
192. Dave Hill, OT, Kansas City
211. Dave Herman, OG, New York Jets
219. Mike Taliaferro, QB, NY Jets