Friday, August 20, 2010

Harold Jackson

Harold Jackson
5'10" 175
Wide Receiver
Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles
1968 - 1983
16 Seasons
208 Games Played
579 Receptions
10,372 Yards Receiving
76 Touchdowns
5 Pro Bowls

Harold Leon Jackson was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 12th round of the 1967 NFL Draft, the 323rd player chosen overall. He was just the 11th of a now 56 players drafted from Jackson State University. There have been 92 players from the school to have played pro football so far.

Led by Hall of Famers Walter Payton, Jackie Slater, and Lem Barney with other gridiron legends like Robert Brazile, Coy Bacon, Speedy Duncan, Leon Gray, Wilbert Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, and Rickey Young. Jackson's five Pro Bowls are only exceeded by Payton, Slater, and Barney, and matched by Smith.

He only appeared in two games during his rookie season, not recording a statistic. The Rams then dealt him to the Philadelphia Eagles before the 1968 season, where he would soon be known throughout the league. He was their only offensive Pro Bowler, and one of the three they had that year.

On a Eagles team that struggled to four wins, he caught nearly half of starting quarterback Norm Snead's passing yards and touchdowns with an NFL leading 1,116 yards and 9 scores on a career best 65 receptions. His career best 79,7 receiving yards per game also led the league.

The Eagles struggled in mediocrity the next two years, and juggled Snead, Pete Liske, and Rick Arrington at the quarterback position. They ran the ball mostly, and Jackson caught 88 balls for eight scores over that time. He exploded in 1972 with another Pro Bowl season, leading the NFL with 62 receptions, 1,048 receiving yards, and 74.9 receiving yards per game.

The Rams decided they wanted Jackson back, so they traded three time Pro Bowl quarterback Roman Gabriel for him. The trade benefited both teams, as both men made the Pro Bowl that year with their new teams.

Jackson accrued his only First Team All-Pro honor as well that season, leading the NFL with a career high 13 touchdown catches with a career best 21.9 yards per catch on 40 receptions. One game saw him score four times on seven receptions for 238 yards that year.

He stayed a productive deep threat for the Rams over the next four years, making the Pro Bowl in 1975,, averaging over 16 yards per catch on 160 balls. He made his last Pro Bowl in 1977, then joined the New England Patriots the next year.

He added another component to an explosive Patriots passing attack led by quarterback Steve Grogan with wide receiver Stanley Morgan and tight end Russ Francis. They were called "Grogan's Heroes".

Jackson averaged over 20 yards per catch in three of his four years in New England. Though Grogan never earned a Pro Bowl nod, he enjoyed the finest years of his career with the trio. Morgan also averaged over 20 yards each year, going to a pair of Pro Bowls. Francis was a top tight end during that era, having made his third and final Pro Bowl squad that year. The team was in the top ten in the league in offensive yards and points in Jackson's first three years with the team.

Now 36-years old, he joined the Minnesota Vikings in 1982. It was the only year he did not have the number 29 on his jersey, and it proved to be a jinx. He was hurt in the first game, not getting any statistics and missing the rest of the year. He then joined the Seattle Seahawks the next year, catching eight passes before retiring at seasons end.

He was back in uniform in 1987 with the Patriots at the age of 41. The NFL players had went on strike, so New England asked him to suit up for two games. Though he was their receivers coach, he obliged but did not appear in a game.

In the decade of the 1970's, no other player caught more balls for more yards and more touchdowns than Harold Jackson. His feat is even more of an amazing accomplishment, considering he had over 14 different quarterbacks throwing him the ball in his career on some teams that generally struggled at that position.

He helped Pat Haden make his only Pro Bowl, helped John Hadl make his last and his only First Team All-Pro honor. He caught some of Hall of Famer Joe Namath last passes, and improved the games of Grogan, Liske, James Harris, and John Reaves.

Most people look at his career average of 17.9 yards per catch, or the fact he averaged over 20 yards four times, and assume Jackson was strictly a deep threat. While he was torturous on defensive backs on the long ball, he also ran precision routes and had excellent hands.

Of the four wide receivers that were chosen on the NFL's 1970's All-Decade Team, only two are in Canton. Not only did Jackson outperform them with catches, yardage, and touchdowns, but he averaged more yards per catch than any of them. The closest to him is Hall of Famer Lynn Swann and fellow All-Decade selection Drew Pearson with their 17.1 yards per catch. Pearson played seven years that decade, Swann had six. Jackson averaged 18.2 over the entire ten years.

One probable reason for his not being chosen was the fact he played on just a few teams that made the playoffs a few times. Mostly his teams struggled, where he was all they had as a deep route threat. He often was met with double teams in an era where the ten-yard chuck was legal, thus making it much more difficult to get open. Teams also generally had their defensive backs play man-to-man, another way making getting open much harder in the ten-yard chuck rule era.

If Jackson got to play in this era of zone defenses and the 5-yard chuck rule, you could easily pump up his career statistics to even more astonishing numbers. Yet with all the rules since 1979 that helped the offense, he still ranks 29th in NFL history in receiving yards, 23rd in career yards per touch, and 24th in receiving touchdowns.

Though the casual football viewer might see him as a sexy choice, and the voters in Canton have not really voted much for him since his retirement, the numbers do not lie. The newer fan might not appreciate his numbers, not understanding the game or the rules of his era.

The fact he still ranks 67th on the All-Time receptions list in NFL history shows his productivity and that he was more than a deep threat. Some critics might point to his five Pro Bowls not being enough, but Jackson played in an era where your peers voted him in. Not a computer generated fan vote like today that is a popularity contest seemingly based more of histrionics than actual football play.

Of the 19 wide receivers inducted into Canton, only eight have appeared in more Pro Bowls than Jackson. What got many of those with lesser Pro Bowls inducted was the fact they played on teams that won championships. This is a debate on whether a teams accomplishments should be part of the reasoning for induction or if a players actual individual accomplishments on the gridiron constitutes worthiness.

If he had played on just one championship team, the theory that Harold Jackson already being a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame seems fathomable. Cliff Branch, though somewhat comparable to Jackson but with lesser numbers, played on three championship teams and came fairly close to induction a few times.

Perhaps it is time to look more at what the player does with what he has to work with around him, than what his team does while with him. Harold Jackson most certainly belongs in Canton.

Notable Players Drafted In 1968 (* Denotes Hall Of Fame)

1. Ron Yary, OT, Minnesota *
2. Bob Johnson, C, Cincinnati
3. Claude Humphrey, DE, Atlanta
4. Russ Washington, DT/ OT, San Diego
8. Larry Csonka, FB, Miami *
9. Haven Moses, WR, Buffalo
11. Greg Landry, QB, Detroit
13. MacArthur Lane, RB, St. Louis Cardinals
14. Tim Rossovich, LB, Philadelphia
15. Forrest Blue, C, San Francisco
23. John Williams, OT, Baltimore Colts
26. Bill Lueck, G, Green Bay
31. Curley Culp, DT, Denver
33. Charlie West, DB, Minnesota
42. Bob Atkins, DB, St. Louis
43. Bill Lenkaitus, C, San Diego
47. John Garlington, LB, Cleveland
48. Mike Livingston, QB, Kansas City
52. Ken Stabler, QB, Oakland
69. Skip Vanderbundt, LB, San Francisco
73. Dick Anderson, DB, Miami
74. Charlie Sanders, TE, Detroit *
77. Elvin Bethea, DE, Houston Oilers *
80. Art Shell, OT, Oakland *
81. Dick Himes, OT, Green Bay
82. Paul Robinson, RB, Cincinnati
84. Jess Phillips, RB, Cincinnati
98. Johnny Fuller, DB, San Francisco
105. Jim Beirne, WR, Houston
110. Charlie H. Smith, RB, Oakland
117. Mike Bragg, P, Washington
118. Jim Kiick, RB, Miami
124. Mark Nordquist, G, Philadelphia
127. Cecil Turner, WR, Chicago
130. Blaine Nye, G, Dallas
156. Essex Johnson, RB, Cincinnati
159. D.D. Lewis, LB, Dallas
167. Oscar Reed, RB, Minnesota
176. Bob Brunet, RB, Washington
181. Willie Holman, DE, Chicago
190. George Atkinson, DB, Oakland
222. Paul Smith, DT, Denver
249. John Outlaw, DB, Boston Patriots
261. Tommy Hart, DE, San Francisco
275. Greg Brezina, LB, Atlanta
277. Marv Hubbard, RB, Oakland
288. Henry Davis, LB, New York Giants
289. Rich Coady, C, Chicago
291. Dennis Partee, K, San Diego
297. John Pergine, LB, Los Angeles Rams
301. Bob Trumpy, TE, Cincinnati
305. Jim Cheyunski, LB, Boston
317. Jeff Queen, RB, San Diego
330. Charlie Greer, DB, Denver
351. Dean Halverson, LB, LA Rams
357. Marlin Briscoe, WR, Denver
375. Robert Holmes, RB, Kansas City
417. Rocky Bleier, RB, Pittsburgh
428. Larry Cole, DE, Dallas
441. Bob Lee, QB, Minnesota

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Randy Gradishar

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

In his three years as a Buckeye, starting in every game, he set then-school records for 320 tackles in a career and 134 in one season. He was ejected in the 1971 game against rival Michigan University, causing a ten minute brawl after he punched a Wolverine in the face. It happened one play after a famous meltdown by Hayes, where the coach threw a penalty flag and yard marker he had previously destroyed after being thrown out of the game himself.

Not only is he a member of the schools All-Century Team and their Hall of Fame, but Gradishar 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 Swensen, 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.

Gradishar 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 despite not starting in one of the 16 games he played. Other than his rookie season, it was the only game in his career he failed to start. 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 then 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.

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.

Notable Players Drafted In 1974 (* Denotes Hall of Famer)

1. Ed "Too Tall" Jones, DE, Dallas
5. John Dutton, DT, Baltimore Colts
19. Henry Lawrence, OT, New Orleans
21. Lynn Swann, WR, Pittsburgh *
24. Roger Carr, WR, Baltimore
34. Steve Nelson, MLB, New England
35. Keith Fahnhorst, OT, San Francisco
45. Dave Caspar, TE, Oakland *
46. Jack Lambert, MLB, Pittsburgh *
49. Delvin Williams, RB, San Francisco
51. Matt Blair, LB, Minnesota
53. Danny White, QB, Dallas
78. Nat Moore, WR, Miami
82. John Stallworth, WR, Pittsburgh *
87. Mike Boryla, QB, Cincinnati
88. Frank LeMaster, LB, Philadelphia
109. Henry Childs, TE, Atlanta
116. Steve Odom, WR, Green Bay
125. Mike Webster, C, Pittsburgh *
169. Efren Herrera, K, Dallas
199. Eddie Brown, S, Cleveland
365. Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, WR, Houston Oilers

Friday, May 7, 2010

Jim Tyrer

Jim Tyrer
6'6" 280
Offensive Tackle
Kansas City Chiefs
14 Seasons
194 Games Played
9 Pro Bowls
6 First-Team All-Pro
AFL All-Time Team

James Efflo Tyrer was drafted in the third round of the 1961 American Football League draft by the Dallas Texans, the first draft the league ever held. He was the 22nd player chosen overall. He was also drafted in the 14th round of the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears.

He had been a two-time All-American at Ohio State University and was the co-captain of teams that played in two Rose Bowl games. He was also named a College All -Star as a senior. He was a quick learner who earned a starting job by his sophomore season on teams that featured future NFL legends like Dick Schafrath, Jim Houston, Dick LeBeau, and Bob Vogel, as well as several other players who later played pro football. Tyrer is a member of the school's "O" Hall of Fame.

Tyrer was named the starting left tackle immediately by the Texans, now in their second year of existence under the leadership of future Hall of Fame head coach Hank Stram. The Texans would go on to win the AFL Championship in 1962, as Tyrer was named to his first of nine straight Pro Bowl honors.

Hall of Fame owner Lamar Hunt, a founder of the AFL, was unhappy with attendance despite winning the title. Though he wanted to keep the team in Dallas, he decided to move the Kansas City and rename them the Chiefs because he was tired of sharing the same stadium, the Cotton Bowl, with the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL and suffering from low attendance figures.

Tyrer was unaffected by the transition, as he received the first of six straight First-Team All-Pro nods in 1965, establishing him as the top left tackle in all of professional football.

The Chiefs would win the 1966 AFL title, but it was also the first season the AFL and NFL decided to hold a championship game between the two leagues. Kansas City faced the Green Bay Packers of the NFL but lost the game 35-10.

In 1967, Hunt was watching his children play with a toy called a Super Ball. He then had the idea of calling the AFL and NFL title game the Super Bowl. The Chiefs would reach this game in 1969, the last one player between AFL and NFL teams before the two leagues merged. It was also the season where Tyrer was named the AFL Offensive Lineman of the Year. Kansas City would win Super Bowl IV, dismantling the Minnesota Vikings 23-7. It has, so far, been the last Super Bowl in which the Chiefs have appeared.

Tyrer missed two games in 1973 for the first time in his career. His string of 180 straight games played is the third-longest streak in club history, and he started in each one of them.. Kansas City thought the 34-year old was nearing the end of his career because he had finished his second season where he failed to make the Pro Bowl. They traded him to the Washington Redskins.

He played in every game for the Redskins in 1974, though he mainly served as a back up to Ray Schoenke. He did, however, start in one game. Washington won their division, but were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by the Los Angeles Rams. Tyrer decided to retire at the end of the year.

Despite being the best left tackle in AFL history, he has yet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Though he was a finalist once in 1981, no player in the history of professional football has more accolades than Tyrer and has failed to be inducted.

One reason may be because of the reason he died in 1980. Suffering from depression, Tyrer committed suicide after killing his wife. Though depression was not much of a subject to speak about in that era, it is as though the Hall of Fame voters have kept him out of Canton due to perhaps their lack of knowledge of this subject.

In recent years, professional football has almost begrudgingly acknowledged depression and the fact that it can occur after severe head trauma over a long period of time. "Post Concussion Syndrome" is the commonly used term and these effects have been brought to light by gridiron legends who have suffered from it following their football careers.

Hall of Famers like John Mackey and Mike Webster are two who have suffered from this type of trauma. A game thought to be so violent that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was recently seen on television contemplating banning the three-point stance from the game in an attempt to reduce head injuries.

Tyrer played in an era where offensive linemen were instructed to use their heads as weapons. They were told to bury their heads into the chests of defenders first. This was also an era where offensive linemen were not allowed to use their hands like they do in the current game. They had to put their arms in the shape of a chicken wing, as they relied on quick feet and strong shoulders to take control of their opponents.

Opposing defensive ends were allowed to use their fists back then, and the head slap move was perhaps the most used method to beat blockers. While unable to defend themselves, offensive linemen lead with their heads as they had been taught. Defenders would attempt to counteract this by dodging blockers, then slapping them upside their heads to get the blocker off balance. In doing so, they were given a clearer path to those who possessed the football.

Though Tyer regularly faced the opposing teams' best pass rushers, he was unflappable and consistent. Men like Hall of Famer Elvin Bethea, Rich "Tombstone" Jackson, Larry Eisenhauer, and Ben Davidson were just a few of the stellar defensive ends he faced each week for several seasons.

Davidson is the man who Tyrer admitted was the toughest opponent he faced. The respect was mutual. Davidson called Tyrer a "mountain of a man," though Davidson stood 6'8" and weighed 275 lbs., himself.

"He was easily the best blocker I ever faced," Davidson recalls. "He had power and finesse. He could have made an excellent guard, too. We were friends off the field, as Tyrer was all about good sportsmanship. We used to go to the AFL All-Star games together on a bus. We would joke if either he or my teammate, Hall of Famer Jim Otto, had the biggest head in football. I often would say at banquets that Tyrer basically wore a big red trash can as a helmet when he played."

Davidson believes that Tyrer has long deserved his induction into Canton, as does Bethea. Bethea was inducted himself in 2003. "Tyrer was the pioneer of big offensive tackles. He was the best blocker I ever faced. I used to try to run as fast as I could upfield to get around him, but it rarely worked. It pissed me off that I couldn't defeat him, as I could with other left tackles regularly."

Bethea also admits he feared facing Tyrer. "He was THE preeminent left tackle in all of football. All other blockers I faced in the NFL were mediocre compared to him. He would just swamp me each game to where I would be lucky to beat him even once in a game," he said.

Paul Zimmerman, a Hall of Fame voter and writer for Sports Illustrated, has long said Rich "Tombstone" Jackson was the greatest pass rusher in pro football history has long lobbied for his induction into Canton. Jackson, though he would like to be inducted, himself, also has a tremendous amount of respect for Tyrer.

"It is a travesty that Jim Tyrer has yet to be inducted into Canton," he said. "He was one of the first big offensive linemen with quick feet to play pro football. Besides having good feet, he was crafty and smart. You had to be prepared facing him, as the Chiefs won-loss record was proof of how excellent their players were. Tyrer was the top offensive lineman I ever faced, and that included the AFL and NFL."

Larry Eisenhauer, whose four Pro Bowls are tied with Bob Dee and Richard Seymour as the most in Patriots franchise history, also echoes Davidson, Bethea, and Jackson in thinking that Tyrer should have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame long ago.

"He was the best I ever faced," Eisenhauer recalls. "He was equally excellent run blocking and pass blocking. He was a very strong man, and I never looked forward to facing him. I really cannot believe he has not been inducted into Canton yet. He was the best left tackle in AFL history."

Tom Keating was a two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle who played on two AFL Championship teams. "Jim Tyrer was one of the most dominant tackles in all football," he said. "When I was with the Raiders, Ben and I rarely ran stunts against Ed Budde and Tyrer. If I went first in the stunt, Jim would close down and I was faced with 6'6" and closer to 300 lbs. I was 6'2" and weighed 247 lbs. If Ben went first(took an inside rush), I had to loop way outside and by the time I got outside, Lenny Dawson was throwing the ball. Ben and I had much better luck one-on-one with Ed and Jim."

"Jim was a excellent drive blocker and was good at hooking the defensive players," said Keating. “He deserves induction into Canton.

If Tyrer has the respect of his peers, many who are amongst the finest to ever play, then it adds to further confusion as to why he has yet been given his long awaited induction.

One theory is a lingering disrespect to the American Football League itself. NFL players were told back then that the AFL was an inferior brand of football, full of players who lacked the skills to play in the NFL.

Homer Jones, a Pro Bowl wide receiver of the New York Giants, is known as the man who invented spiking the football after a touchdown and holds the record for most yards per catch for a career. "We were told the AFL was a Mickey Mouse organization yearly to keep us from wanting to play there, even for more money. When we finally faced those guys, we realized that they were as good as us. Maybe even better in some areas," he said.

Jackson recalls his Denver Broncos played the first preseason contests between the two leagues. "We played against both the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings," he said. "We weren't always the best team in the AFL, never winning more than seven games in a season in the entire time we spent in the AFL. We were told we had no chance against the NFL, but we won both games."

The AFL has just 30 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who once played in their league. Several joined the league just before the merger, having played the majority of their careers under the NFL umbrella. Only one, Billy Shaw, was inducted despite having played his entire career in only the AFL. At his ceremony, he was forced to wear a jacket that had the NFL logo emblazoned on it.

"There may be a lingering AFL disrespect when it comes to voters," said Ed Budde, an offensive guard also on the AFL's All-Time First Team and teammate of Tyrer for eleven years. He played alongside Tyrer and went to seven Pro Bowls himself. "Jim played at a top level with great skill for a long time. His body of work is proof of his excellence, and he should be inducted into Canton," he said. Many football fans and his peers believe Budde should also be inducted, but he has somehow not yet been given this honor.

For some reason, Canton has become the NFL Hall of Fame, instead of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Though several players spent time in other leagues, the Hall of Fame seems to make sure these contributors' biographies concentrate mostly on their NFL exploits. The Cleveland Browns, who dominated the All-American Football Conference, never get their true respect as a dynasty because they came from another league initially.

There is a long list of AFL players awaiting induction into Canton to this day, as inferior modern players go in ahead of them. One theory for this is that the NFL still is upset at being forced to merge with the AFL, because the upstart league was taking viewers and money away from them. Voters living in the wallets of the NFL have chosen to ignore gridiron excellence for fear of losing their positions. Positions they no longer sit in with the pure intentions they once held.

Though many feel the way Tyrer's life ended was the reason for his exclusion from the Hall of Fame thus far, it also points out another hypocrisy of Canton. When Michael Irvin was inducted in 2007, it was met by a huge backlash from NFL fans who couldn't understand his induction ahead of Art Monk and others, because of his notorious lifestyle as opposed to the squeaky clean lifestyle of others.

The official reason given for Irvin's induction is that garnering the honor is based on a player's body of work on the field, not off of it. If this truly is the case, then it shows the flaw in logic for omitting Tyrer thus far.

"It is time to wipe the slate clean and induct him," says Davidson. "Life goes on. These types of events happen daily. We are turning him into a Pete Rose by excluding him, though everyone knows he should be in."

Depression was an issue people in Tyrer's era dealt with internally -- it was not as acceptable to seek help for it as it is today. He battled it as his business ventures failed and he struggled to keep his four children enrolled in private schools.

"We didn't make a lot of money," Davidson remembers, "so we worked extra jobs to make ends meet. I worked with several teammates as valets at a race track. We would park the customers' cars, then sprint back as a way to keep in shape. I remember one time I was riding a bus to an AFL All-Star game with Jim. I was telling him of my post-career plans of being a landlord. He proceeded to tell me of all of these plans he had. He kind of made me feel inadequate, my owning apartment buildings. I also thought perhaps he was too spread out in his interests and might be too aggressive."

As his financial situation suffered, his depression worsened to the point it led to his death.
Though none of his family members saw it coming, most acknowledged that he was depressed at the time.

"I felt my dad's mental state at the end of his life must have been impaired and that very well could have been as a result of the trauma his brain experienced during his football career", says Brad Tyer, the oldest son of Jim and Martha.

One thing all of his children have done is forgive him for that fateful day. They still love their father and hope to see Canton finally give him his long overdue earned respect. "Dad belongs there, but I am unsure if the voters will ever put him in," says Brad.

Pete Duranko was a defensive end for seven seasons with the Denver Broncos. Not only was he a friend, having had dinner with Tyrer and their wives, but he faced him several times on the field. "He was the best offensive tackle ever, and one of the best to ever have played football," Duranko says enthusiastically. "He didn't get his full recognition because he was on those excellent Chiefs teams, but he was load to deal with."

Duranko has spent his post-football career working with players who suffer from depression and also deals with his own health issues and depression. "It creeps up on you. People, especially the voters, do not understand mental illness. Jim was a strong man who did his best to hide his disease. He didn't want people to know he was depressed and preferred to try to deal with it himself. When we were in the game, if you didn't play, you'd go highway. Meaning you got released. This made you play through all sorts of injuries, especially concussions."

Duranko is yet another of a long line of players who feel Tyrer deserves induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A list that includes Hall of Famer Willie Lanier and Fred Arbanas. Arbanas, a six-time Pro Bowler and member of the AFL All-Time Team and Chiefs Hall of Fame, was Tyrer's roommate for ten years and perhaps his best friend on the team.

While many of those close to Jim Tyrer feel head injuries suffered while playing football contributed to his depression, there are some who are unsure. Al Lundstrom is Tyrer's brother-in-law and played football with him at Ohio State University. "Jim was smart, hard to move, was fast on his feet, and was also very big. Many players were unable to use the head slap on him because of his height. Though he was depressed about his financial situation, I am not convinced his depression was brought on by post-concussion syndrome," he said.

Even if he did not suffer from a head injury after his career, his accolades speak loudly for a long overdue respect that should be attained now. The voters really have no excuse nor reason not to bestow it. If it is AFL disrespect, the building clearly has a sign that says PRO FOOTBALL Hall of Fame, NOT the NFL Hall of Fame. The American Football League certainly played pro football, as their two Super Bowl wins in four meetings with the NFL prove.

No player in the history of professional football, who is able to be voted into Canton, has attained more accolades than Jim Tyrer and has failed to be inducted by the voters yet. He was named All-AFL in each of the eight seasons he played in the league

Canton is full of players with much less accomplishment and respect. Many defensive ends who faced him state he was the best offensive tackle ever in AFL history. Even better than Hall of Famer Ron Mix or eight-time Pro Bowler Winston Hill, who also awaits his induction.

If the excuse of the voters is that they have not forgiven him for how his life ended 30 years ago, they fail to realize it has been three decades and it is time to forgive. Especially having hurriedly inducted a questionable character like Michael Irvin.

If an induction into Canton truly is about what a player does on the gridiron alone, their exclusion of Tyrer becomes more ludicrous and has to bring into question what reasons the voters have used to prevent his induction.

Tyrer, himself, once described what playing offensive tackle was like. “You have to have a certain personality to be an offensive lineman. You have to be orderly, disciplined. You have to take the shots like a hockey goalie. It's a passive violence. You build up anxiety. But when you finally get a clear shot at a guy, you say, 'Take this for all of those.' ”

Not only did his opponents "Take it for all of those," but he gave it better than anyone who ever played his position in the entire history of the American Football League. He had no peer at his position. Quite simply, he was the best to ever suit up at offensive tackle for the Chiefs or the AFL. Jim Tyrer is a member of the Chiefs Ring of Honor and Hall of Fame.

As time passes, not only do we tend to forget the life of Jim Tyrer and how it ended, but we also tend to forget all of his excellence attained in the game of football. The voters of Canton can be held guilty of this, especially the Seniors Committee. A committee whose sole job is not to forget greats.

All you have to do is look at the career of Jim Tyrer to see how great he was, because it is in plain black and white print. There are few who ever played his position in the history of pro football to succeed on his level.

Of the 11 men who were voted into Canton so far as offensive tackles, nine have fewer accolades than Tyrer. Only Lou "The Toe" Groza has appeared in as many Pro Bowls, though he was named to two less First-Team All-Pro Teams. Anthony Munoz is the only offensive tackle in Canton who has more combined Pro Bowls and First-Team All-Pro honors than Tyrer.

"A travesty," as Rich Jackson states, might be too light a word for Tyrer's exclusion from Canton. Utterly disgusting, distasteful, and disrespectful may be more apt. If his own family can forgive him and move on, it is time the voters do so as well. There is no player right now in the entire history of professional football more deserving of induction into their Hall of Fame than Jim Tyrer.

Notable Players Drafted In 1961 (* Donotes Hall of Famer)

AFL Draft

6. E.J. Holub, LB, Dallas Texans
7. Earl Faison, DE, San Diego Chargers
11. Billy Shaw, G, Buffalo Bills *
15. Keith Lincoln, RB, Chargers
16. Tom Goode, C, Houston Oilers
24. Walt Suggs, OT, Oilers
25. Ron McDole, DE, Denver Broncos
27. Stew Barber, OT/ OLB, Bills
38. Jerry Mays, DE, Texans
42. Larry Eisenhauer, DE, Boston Patriots
51. Al Bemiller, C, Bills
54. Fred Arbanas, TE, Texans
58. Charley Long, G, Patriots
64. Houston Antwine, DT, Oilers
71. Bob Scarpitto, WR/ P, Chargers
96. Bob McLoud, TE, Oilers
110. Curtis McClinton, RB, Texans
119. Ernie Ladd, DT, Chargers
135. Reggie Carolan, TE, Chargers
150. Frank Jackson, WR, Texans
186. Don Webb, CB, Patriots
190. Pat Dye, G, Texans (Notable College Football Coach)
223. Chuck Allen, LB, Chargers

NFL Draft

1. Tommy Mason, RB, Minnesota Vikings
2. Norm Snead, QB, Washington Redskins
3. Joe Ruetgens, DT, Redskins
4. Marlin McKeever, LB, Los Angeles Rams
5. Mike Ditka, TE, Chicago Bears *
6. Jimmie Johnson, DB, San Francisco 49ers *
7. Ken Rice, OT, Saint Louis Cardinals
8. Tom Matte, RB, Baltimore Colts
9. Bernie Casey, WR, 49ers
11. Billy Kilmer, RB, 49ers
12. Herb Adderley, DB, Green Bay Packers *
13. Bob Lilly, DT, Dallas Cowboys *
15. Rip Hawkins, LB, Vikings
19. Myron Pottios, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
20. Bill Brown, RB, Bears
29. Fran Tarkenton, QB, Vikings *
42. Don Oakes, OT, Philadelphia Eagles
45. Charley Cowan, OT, Rams
46. Ben Davidson, DE, New York Giants
47. Aaron Thomas, TE, 49ers
69. Mike Lucci, LB, Cleveland Browns
81. Greg Larsen, C, Giants
82. Lee Folkins, TE, Packers
89. Mike Pyle, C, Browns
90. Dick Hoak, RB, Steelers
98. Irv Cross, CB, Eagles
110. Fred Cox, K, Browns
130. Joe Scibelli, G, Rams
176. Ernie McMillan, OT, Cardinals
186. Deacon Jones, DE, Rams *
197. Mike Mercer, K, Vikings
200. Ernie Wright, OT, Rams
232. Pat Fischer, CB, Cardinals
280. Jacque MacKinnon, TE, Eagles

Jim With Hank Stram

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Joe DeLamielleure Calls Out Drew Brees

Dear Drew:

At the NFL Players Association convention in Hawaii this past Sunday, you presented a resolution that would give former players two seats on the NFLPA Board of Player Representatives.

The two seats are for “non-voting members.” In my book, that’s just a bark without a bite. In fact this is nothing but window-dressing by the NFLPA to give retired players the illusion that they have some power. Retired players may be sitting at the table, but when it comes time to vote….. we have to sit quietly in the corner and watch.

In touting your amendment you said “As one team, we will fight to improve a health care system that currently only gives players five years of health care if you play three years and a plan that doesn’t cover all preventative health care for our wives”.

Did you actually say that in front of retired players? How in the world does that statement have anything to do with helping most retired players? Not one single player, before 1993, had 5 free years of health insurance after they retired, not to mention coverage for their wives!

You want retired players to be on your team. You gotta be kidding me! On every team that I ever played on, we all had the same game plan. Well, your game plan is a lot different than the one most retired players want to see executed.

Could one of the reasons you want us to join the “Team” be because the NFL Owner’s have discontinued their contributions to your Annuity Plan, Second Career Savings Plan, Tuition Assistance Plan, Health Reimbursement Account? Well, if you want us to fight for your benefits, you better start fighting for ours!

You forgot to mention in your press conference that after your 5 free years of medical benefits end, you will have a Health Reimbursement Account that will kick in. The NFL owners have been depositing $25,000 annually into your pre-tax account. Your account can increase up to $300,000, therefore you can rest comfortably knowing that this will help you pay for direct medical expenses, medical insurance premiums, and medical insurance co-pays and deductibles for all your family members including your wife!

If you really wanted the retired players to rally around you Drew, you should have mentioned something about increasing the Pension Plan, or reforming the Disability Plan, which are the top two issues that concern retired players.

So where were you when the owners recently proposed to increase retired player pension benefits by $100 Million? The money for that expense would have come from a wage cap on rookies.

Why would you want to continue a system that gave $462 Million in guaranteed bonuses to the first 32 players selected in last years draft? Those guys had never played a single down in the NFL. This year it will happen again and that is a slap in the face of all retired players who built the foundations of the NFL that you are now standing on………and benefitting from. Would your silence on this issue have anything to do with the fact that Tom Condon is your agent and that he would stand to lose millions of dollars if the rookie wage cap was put in place. I certainly hope not.

It is simply astonishing to me that you expressed your concern about better health insurance for NFL wives, especially in light of the fact that there are thousands of retired players that never received a plug nickel for post-career health insurance and a Health Reimbursement Account like the one you will have when you retire.

Some players have been denied an NFL disability and as a result, their bank accounts have been drained dry due to hospital and doctor bills. Many retired players can’t find affordable health insurance because they’re self-employed. Many others have the added problem of insurance companies dropping them, capping their annual payments, or outright denying them coverage because of (football related) pre-existing conditions.

Fortunately, you have a disability plan that can help you, should you get injured. Before 1993 there wasn’t much of a plan to speak of. If, God forbid, you should have an injury that ends your career, I guess it doesn’t hurt to know that your agent, Tom Condon, is one of the NFLPA appointments to the Board that reviews claims for disability.

This past Sunday wasn’t the first time you’ve made comments that make retired players question your commitment to improving the Pensions of retired players. Back on January 29, 2009 you made some rather insulting comments about retired players when you said “There’s some guys out there that have made bad business decisions. They took their pensions early because they never went out and got a job. They’ve had a couple divorces and they’re making payments to this place and that place. And that’s why they don’t have money. And they’re coming to us to basically say, Please make up for my bad judgment.”

Yes, there are some guys that made bad decisions, but unlike your generalized characterization, the majority of us made good decisions.

As for me, my work ethic speaks for itself. I never missed a day of practice in 13 seasons in the NFL. Since my retirement, I’ve worked every day of my life. I also worked during the football offseason too, just like many other players of my generation.

I’ve been married to my wife Gerri for 38 years. She works so we can make ends meet and also have health insurance coverage through her employer. I have 4 biological children, 2 adopted children and 3 other children that I raised and put through college and trade schools. I currently have 8 grandchildren.

Just like you, I want to make sure I can provide for my family, but it hasn’t been easy on our incomes and my current pension which is $1,247.96 a month.

Unfortunately, I received some bad advice from the union and was encouraged to take my Pension at age 45. We were given bogus information that told us NFL players were dying at a much younger age than the general population, so I did what I thought was best for my family.

Many retired players had to take their pension money out of necessity. We didn’t make the millions that you and other players now make. I should note that the NFLPA finally realized their mistake and stopped allowing retired players to take early pensions and the Social Security Adjustment Option too.

I would also like to point out that back in my playing days, we didn’t have the security of knowing that an Annuity Plan and a Second Career Savings Plan would be waiting for us after retirement. I recently read that those two funds have almost 1.5 Billion dollars in total assets, but those monies are only for the more recent generation of players – guys that played after 1993. If that money had been put into the Pension plan it could have helped ALL retired players, not just the guys that were fortunate enough to come along after all the player strikes, court battles and fighting for free agency was said and done.

In addition to your 5 free years of medical coverage and your health reimbursement account, you will also have $455,000 in your Annuity account, $132,000 in your Second Career Savings account and if you were to retire today, you would also receive a Severance Check of $145,000 and an NFL Pension which would pay you $56,400 annually at age 55.

This is all on top of the 6 year, $60 Million contract you signed in 2006, of which 20.1 million was guaranteed.

These figures do not include the moneys you also make from the NFLPA Group Licensing Program, NFL Players (the marketing arm of the NFLPA) and all of your endorsements.

Like a lot of retired players, I’m sick and tired of hearing multi-millionaire players talk about increasing their own benefits, while at the same time giving lip service to retired players.

In closing, I want you to know that I am aware of all the good things you are doing in your community and that you are very involved in raising money for charities. I too, am very involved in raising money for organizations and charities.

We both know what needs to be done to help the less fortunate and that is why I am calling on you to help the pioneers of the NFL by advocating for a significant increase in retired player pensions and instituting additional reforms to the NFL Disability Plan.


Joe DeLamielleure
NFL Hall of Fame – Class of 2003

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Roger Brown

Roger Brown
6'5" 300
Defensive Tackle
1960 - 1969
Ten Seasons
138 Games Played
3 Safeties
6 Pro Bowls

Roger Lee Brown was drafted in the fourth round of the 1960 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions, the 42nd player chosen overall. The Lions had obtained that draft pick in 1958 when they dealt Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He attended college at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, then known as Maryland State College. The school was so full of talent in an enrollment class of less than 300 students, that other teams in the CIAA (now known as the MEAC Conference) refused to play them in football and tried to get the school kicked out of the conference due to their dominance on the gridiron.

He played with such future pro players like Sherman Plunkett, Johnny Sample, Ray Hayes, and Bob Taylor while there.The team was coached by Vernon "Skip" McCain, who is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

The school stopped fielding a football team in 1979, despite placing 25 men in professional football. Five made the Pro Bowl and one, Art Shell, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In Super Bowl III, there were four alumni members from the school on the field.

Brown is the only player in school history who is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and he is also a member of the schools Hall of Fame and the Hampton Roads African American Sports Hall of Fame, the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame, and the Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame in New York

When he arrived in Detroit, he earned a starting job immediately on a defensive unit that featured Hall of Famers Dick "Night Train " Lane, Joe Schmidt, Yale Lary, and Dick Lebeau, as well as Pro Bowl players like Alex Karras, Bill Glass, Darris McCord, and Wayne Walker.

The unit of Brown, Karras, McCord, and Glass was so good, that sportswriter Bruno Kerns of the Pontiac Press dubbed them "The Fearsome Foursome". It was the first defensive line ever to be given a nickname, and the Los Angeles Rams would later adopt that moniker for their defensive line. They were backed by a secondary dubbed "The Four L's", which consisted of Lane, Lary, LeBeau, and Gary Lowe.

This defense was ranked in the top five in the NFL up until the 1965 season, even after the departures of Lane, Schmidt, Glass, and Lary. One of the biggest reasons this happened was the big Brown collapsing the middle of the pocket on every snap. But he was much more than a run stopping extraordinaire.

He intercepted a pass in both 1961 and 1963, gaining 30 yards overall. He was also a tremendous pass rusher who frequently posted double digit sack seasons. In the first of his six consecutive Pro Bowl seasons in 1962, he sacked Hall of Fame quarterbacks Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas for safeties. His two safeties in one season is still tied as a NFL record.

The game where he sacked Starr for a safety was ranked the second greatest game in Lions history by Detroit media. It happened on Thanksgiving Day, where he had six sacks by himself that game, as the team had 11 total in the 26-14 Lions win

The Lions used to play the Packers every year on Thanksgiving, but Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi refused to play again on that day. The NFL then began scheduling other teams to oppose the Lions for future Thanksgiving Day games. Perhaps the vision of Brown tossing around Fuzzy Thurston all game had Lombardi beg out of further repeats?

He was named the Outstanding Defensive Lineman in the league that 1962 season, where he had 19 sacks that was documented by a Lions coach who recorded sacks and tackles that year as a means as an incentive for the players. He was also named to the first of his two consecutive First Team All-Pro honors.

In 1965, Brown recorded the third safety of his career by sacking Starr once again in the end zone to secure a 12-7 victory late in the fourth quarter. He finished the year with 16.5 sacks. His three career safeties is tied with 17 other players as the second most ever in NFL history. His tackling the same player twice for a safety is a record.

In Brown's playing days, the NFL had two divisions called the West and East. It broke up into four divisions in 1967. "I always thought the Western Division was the toughest in football at the time," Brown remembers "We had the Colts, Packers, Bears, Vikings, Lions, Rams, and 49ers then. All really tough teams."

During this time, the Lions put together very good teams. The problem was that the Green Bay Packers was in their division and were a little better. Only the division winners would play the conference championship. The teams in second place in each division participated in the "Bert Bell Benefit Bowl" from 1960 -1969. Proceeds of the game the Bert Bell Retirement Plan, and it was used to determine who finished in third place. The Lions won the first three games also known as the "Playoff Bowl"

In 1967 he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams just before that start of the season for a first, second and third round draft pick. Those picks turned out to be Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders, Earl McCulloch, the 1968 NFL Rookie of the Year, and Jim Yarbrough.

The Rams had just lost starter Rosey Grier to a career ending torn Achilles heel injury, and needed a replacement. Hall of Fame head coach George Allen then orchestrated the trade to get Brown to join the fabled "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line in Los Angeles.

The trade couldn't have worked better for the Rams. Brown was one of ten Rams to make the Pro Bowl that year, as they finished the season 11-1-2 to win the Coastal Division. The defense was ranked first in the NFL in points allowed for the first time in franchise history. They gave up just 14 points per game, were first in interceptions and average yards allowed per rushing attempt. Their Takeaway/Giveaway Differential of plus 16 also led the league.

Brown was teamed up with Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, and Lamar Lundy along the defensive line. All were Pro Bowl players in their careers with Olsen and Jones also later being inducted into Canton. The back seven was filled with perennial Pro Bowl players like Maxie Baughn, Jack Pardee, Myron Pottios, Irv Cross, and Eddie Meador.

Though the Rams had the top rated offense that year, their job seemed simple. According to Pro Bowl running back Les Josephson, "Our job was to stay on the field long enough to make sure our defense got rest so we could win."

On a stellar defense that Brown himself says "Was maybe the best team I played on in my career", the Rams dominated their opponents all year before losing in the playoffs to the Green Bay Packers. He was named to his sixth and final Pro Bowl that year.

Around this time, he was having major success as a restaurateur. He had opened a business in Chicago a few years before that was doing very well. He had gotten into cooking while in high school, and had a knack for it. These abilities helped him keep his weight up in becoming the first man who weighed over 300 lbs in NFL history.

After a good 1968 season that saw the Rams finish 10-3-1 and out of the playoffs, his 1969 season was hampered by a broken hand. First year pro Coy Bacon stepped in and performed with excellence. Seeing this, Brown decided to retire to concentrate on his restaurants.

"Coy was a tremendous player", recalls Brown, "I was making more money in my restaurants than I was as a player. I knew I could play another three or four years at a high level, but I decided to walk away while still in good health and concentrate on my off the field ventures. Writers then said I left because of injury, but that wasn't true. I never told Merlin or Deacon why I left then, but the truth is that it was a sound business move at the time".

His last game was in the "Playoff Bowl", which the Rams had also won in 1967. The Rams won 31-0 over the Dallas Cowboys. No other player played in, nor won, more "Playoff Bowls" than Brown did and he is the only player to play in the first and last game of this event.

Because of the era he played in, sacks and tackles were not recorded statistics. His teammates all figure that Brown easily averaged double digits in sacks most of his career. Though he was the biggest man in the NFL at the time, he was extremely nimble and lightening fast off the snap of the ball.

To understand his abilities, listen to the words of Ed Flanagan. Flanagan was a four time Pro Bowl center with the Detroit Lions and San Diego Chargers who played both with and against Brown. He is now a coach for the Fairbanks Grizzlies in the Indoor Football League, and is a member of the Lions 75 Year Anniversary Team.

"He was a bear", recalls Flanagan, " He made a lot of offenses, especially offensive linemen happy, when he retired. He was really smart, tough, and worked hard. He could read what you were going to do before you did it. He had everything. He had size, quickness, and speed, and he ran a 4.8 40-yard dash. He was the consummate All-Pro. I easily put him on the level of Hall of Famers Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen. Roger should be in Canton himself."

"I remember joining the Lions as a rookie in 1965. He ran over me and through me all day in practice", he continued. "I called my dad and told him I didn't think I was going to make the team because Roger Brown was destroying me in practice every day. His head slap could knock a head off because he was so strong."

He also recalls the bond the Lions shared off the field. "Roger had a restaurant in Chicago that made excellent chicken. Quite a few of us would eat there frequently. I knew he could play several more years at Pro Bowl level when he retired, but can understand if the outside business ventures were more successful because we did not get paid much then. I was working in a brewery for Vic Wertz, who is remembered for being the All-Star first baseman who hit that baseball that Willie Mays made the famous over the shoulder catch on in the 1954 World Series."

At 6'5" 300 he was the model of what the NFL envisioned their future defensive linemen to be. Huge, strong, athletic, hard working, and smart. Of the defensive linemen already enshrined into Canton, he went to more Pro Bowls than Henry Jordan, Art Donovan, Dan Hampton, Fred Dean, Len Ford, Arnie Weinmeister, Willie Davis, and Bill Willis.

For such a big man with a target on his back bigger than most, he was remarkably durable. He did not miss a game in his career, and even played in all games in his last season even though he was injured.

His three recorded safeties was a team record at the time, that was equaled by Bruce Maher in 1967 and passed by Doug English in 1983 by one. Brown is a member of the starting unit on the Lions 75 Year Anniversary Team.

When you look at the current defensive tackles inducted into Canton, it is hard to say any are unworthy. It has been a neglected position by voters historically, with just 12 men enshrined as purely defensive tackles. It is time to right some wrongs by inducting Brown. Recent inductee John Randle got in due to his ability to get the quarterback, but he wasn't nearly the run stopping force Brown was, yet Brown as equally a gifted pass rusher. The fact the league did not record sacks in his era cannot back this claim, but it is said he had easily over 100 sacks in his career.

Some skeptics might point to the fact that neither the Lions nor Rams won a championship in his era, but that demonstrates a lack of real football knowledge. Many men reside in Canton today based purely on their teams success over their on individual abilities. Championships are won by a whole roster, not one individual. Canton is supposed to house the best individual players. If the Pro Football Hall of Fame were to stay on their inaugural mission and just do that, then Roger Brown would already be a member.

Notable 1960 Draftees * Denotes Hall of Fame Inductee

1. Billy Cannon, RB, Los Angeles Rams
3. Johnny Robinson, DB, Detroit
8. Jim Houston, LB, Cleveland
10. Ron Mix, OT, Baltimore Colts *
13. Harold Olson, OT, St. Louis Cardinals
17. Bob Jeter, DB, Green Bay
20. Maxie Baughan, LB, Philadelphia
23. Don Floyd, DE, Baltimore
24. Marvin Terrell, G, Baltimore
32. Don Meredith, QB, Chicago
35. Rod Breedlove, LB, San Francisco
37. Willie West, DB, Green Bay
40. Ted Dean, FB, Philadelphia
41. Johnny Brewer, TE, Cleveland
42. Roger Brown, DT, Detroit
44. Jim Marshall, DT, Cleveland
48. Vince Promuto, G, Washington
55. Abner Haynes, RB, Pittsburgh
56. Don Norton, WR, Philadelphia
59. Len Rohde, OT, San Francisco
63. Gail Cogdill, WR, Detroit
69. Bob Khayat, G, Cleveland
72. George Blair, DB,New York Giants
74. Larry Wilson, S, St. Louis *
75. Jim Norton, S, Detroit
86. Carroll Dale, WR, Los Angeles
88. Bill Mathis, FB, San Francisco
105. Chris Buford, WR, Cleveland
106. Don Perkins, FB, Baltimore
109. Charley Johnson, QB, St. Louis
110. Curtis McClinton, RB, Los Angeles
111. Grady Alderman, OT, Detroit
118. Mel Branch, DE, Detroit
119. Bobby Boyd, DB, Baltimore
157. Bob DeMarco, C, St. Louis
161. Jon Gilliam, C, Green Bay
162. Brady Keys, DB, Pittsburgh
178. Larry Grantham, LB, Baltimore
181. Jim Hunt, DT, St. Louis
203. Goose Gonsoulin, FS, San Francisco
229. Tom Day, DE, St. Louis

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Merlin Olsen : R.I.P. To A Rams Legend

Never before has a man come across our paths like the great Merlin Olsen, who passed away at the age of 69 years old yesterday. He was more than a gridiron great who blessed viewers with his abilities on the field as a Pro Bowl player who became the leader of the greatest defensive line in NFL history, "The Fearsome Foursome".

Merlin wasn't done entertaining America. Even long before he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982,. He had become a star actor on television in 1977 in the hit series "Little House on the Prairie", then starred in his own series called "Father Murphy".

During this time, he became a color commentator during NFL games with play by play announcer Dick Enberg. The two became fast friends and they would pair together on the NBC Network throughout the 1980's. Enberg would voice over a video tribute to his friend during a celebration of his life at a Utah State University event last year. He then starred in another show called "Aarons Way" in 1988, then transitioned to commercials. He also hosted multiple telethons benefiting children.

To understand the journey is to remember the beginnings. Born as one of nine children in a family in Utah in 1940, athletics was an important part of the Olsen household. Football was a sport that three of the Olsen boys played best. Merlin and his younger brothers Phil and Orrin all would make it to the NFL, playing together in 1976, making it one of the very few times that three brothers participated in a professional sport at the same time. Phil played with Merlin on the same team from 1971 to 1974.

Merlin attended Utah State University in college, as would Phil later on. Orrin attended Brigham Young University and their brother Clark had a son, Hans, who would later play football for BYU as well. Hans is now a renowned broadcast journalist in the Provo, Utah area.

At Utah State, Merlin quickly became a star. He was named All-Conference twice and All-American in his senior season. That year saw the Aggies lead the nation in run defense, giving up a paltry 50.8 yards per game. This allowed the team to finish ranked tenth, the only time in school history they reached a ranking that high. Merlin was named the winner of the Outland trophy after a stellar season.

He then went on to play in the East-West Shrine Game, and was named MVP. He would later be inducted into the games Hall of Fame, as well as the 75th Anniversary All-Sun Bowl Team. His exploits at Utah State are so legendary that they named their football field after him and will soon have a bronze statue of his likeness standing at the entrance of the stadium.

His jersey was retired by the school, as was Phil Olsen's, and he is a member of the Utah’s Sports Hall of Fame, both the Utah State University Sports Hall of Fame and All-Century Football Team, All-Academic All-America Hall of Fame, and is a member of the Newspaper Enterprise Association All-Time All-America Team. He was also number one of the State of Utah’s Top 50 Athletes of the Century by Sports Illustrated. Phil was listed as the 43rd best. Merlin is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

The Los Angeles Rams drafted him in the first round of the 1962 NFL draft, the third player chosen overall, becoming the first player ever from Utah State drafted in the first round in the NFL. The Denver Broncos made him the second player chosen in the first round of their leagues draft, but Olsen chose the Rams because the financial expert that he was thought it a fiscally more sound strategy to choose the Rams. He signed a contact for $50,000 in an era where the average salary was $12,000.

He immediately became a one man wrecking crew in the NFL, standing out as soon as he entered the world of professional football. He was named NFL Rookie of the Y.ear and was selected to the first of his 14 consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. No other Ram has appeared in more Pro Bowls and his five First Team All-Pro honors is tied as the most ever in team history.

No other player in NFL history has ever gone to the Pro Bowl in the first 14 years of their career, and his overall total has been matched only by Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews. He also won the Pro Bowl MVP Award in 1968.

He was lined up on the left side next to Deacon Jones. The two fed off each others excellence, forcing opponents not to be able to double team either. Lamar Lundy played defensive end from the right side, and Rosey Grier completed the quartet team in 1963. The Fearsome Foursome was born and soon was dominating the NFL.

Hall of Fame head coach George Allen was hired by the Rams in 1966, and the groups fortunes began to change upon the arrival of the defensive expert. When Grier had a career ending injury in the 1967 preseason, Allen acquired Hall of Famer Roger Brown to replace him. The unit dominated the NFL again, finishing first in the league in defense.

They continued their excellence throughout the 1960's and even added Coy Bacon to the unit. Bacon started after Brown had a injury issues, and Diron Talbert replaced the retired Lundy. The group continued their excellence, frequently placing multiple players from the unit into the Pro Bowl. Jones, Brown, Bacon, Lundy, and Grier all made the Pro Bowl as members of the Rams.

The one constant was Olsen. Even after the rest of the rest of his excellent unit retired or departed for other teams, he stayed in Los Angeles and kept leading the way. When Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood joined the team in 1971, he was given sage advice buy their leader. " Push to be great not just on every play, but with every heartbeat."

Youngblood says "When you stop and think of Merlin on the field, he accomplished things that will never be accomplished again. If it hadn't been for Merlin Olsen, I wouldn't have turned out to be the football player that he helped mold and make."

He retired after the 1976 season, the only year he failed to make the Pro Bowl. He was a first time inductee into Canton. His list of awards is astounding, and surely will never be duplicated again. When he was named NFL MVP in 1974, he accepted it "on behalf of all who toil in the NFL trenches".

He is a member of both the NFL's 1960's and 1970's All-Decade Teams, is a member of the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and was ranked number 25 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. He has also won the Walter Camp Man of the Year Award, and the NFL Alumni Career Achievement Award.

The Rams retired his jersey number and he was placed in the Saint Louis Ring of Honor even though he played his entire career in Los Angeles. He is also a member of the California Sports Hall of Fame, and was named Athlete of the Century for the state of Utah. The man must have had dozens of trophy cases to attempt to hold all of the accolades he achieved.

His charity work perhaps passes his athletic achievements. He was a true hero to countless people, and was especially dedicated to children. A father of three children and a grandfather of four, Olsen had an acute understanding of family and love for humanity.

He is still beloved and respected by his teammates. I was coincidentally working on a article on the 1967 Rams, and the Rams I was able to talk to all stated how important Merlin was to the team. I had just contacted Hans about talking to Merlin yesterday about the team, but this was unfortunately an event that never took place.

"He was ferocious and fearless on the football field and then the other probably more important aspect of his personality was he was a true gentleman,"Youngblood said. "We all know what a wonderful, tremendous football player he was, but he was so much more than that."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released this statement, "He was extraordinary person, friend and football player. He cared deeply about people, especially those that shared the game of football with him. Merlin was a larger-than-life person, literally and figuratively, and leaves an enormously positive legacy."

A legacy that will live on for decades more than just in the NFL record books or TV re-runs. This soft-spoken giant of a man has left us a legacy booming, fertile, and everlasting. Just to thank him would be a vast understatement, but would be gracious accepted by a true hero whose kindness had no boundaries.

See Ya Merlin. Thanks Again For Everything!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Canton's Voters Once Again Show They Know Nothing About Football

The Pro Football Hall Of Fame announced that seven men would be inducted into their facility, but they once again showed why the current selection process must be changed by their lack of knowledge of the game or its history.

Two players selected, Russ Grimm and Ricky Jackson, were dubious choices. Both are worthy of the selection, yet there is a long line of players more deserving. Not just players who played the same position as them, but in the overall scheme of worthiness.

Jackson was a one dimensional outside linebacker who went to the Pro Bowl six times in his career. He never was named First Team All-Pro in his career, and had just eight interceptions. Jackson was an excellent pass rusher, but that is about all he did.

Having spent 13 of his 15 seasons in New Orleans probably had a huge impact on this selection, because the Saints finally reached the Super Bowl for the first time ever this year. The other factor of the city still trying to recover from the impact of a hurricane certainly played a factor in his selection as well.

In other words, more political hogwash has plagued the halls in Canton once again.

Russ Grimm went in because the voters had yet to truly recognize the Washington Redskins famed blocking group called "The Hogs". This unit took the Redskins to four Super Bowls in 10 years, and won three. Grimm was a member of all of those teams, but he did not play in two of the victories.

Injuries had ravaged his career by his sixth year as a player. He participated in a full season just five times in his 11 year career, and was a part time starter for the last five years of his career. He went to the Pro Bowl four times, and was First Team All-Pro three times.Though he had a fine career, there are players even in his own franchise who are much more deserving.

Though there are many players who played the same position as Jackson and Grimm, with more accolades, still waiting to get into Canton, none were on the final ballot or even the initial ballot in a severely flawed selection process. Yet there was a few huge glaring omissions from the final list that these voters left out of Canton once again.

Don Coryell then retired from coaching, at the age of 62 years old, with 111 wins in 195 games overall. He is the first Coach With 100 Wins In pro And college football.

Coryell's 69 wins are the second most in Chargers history behind Hall Of Fame coach Sid Gillman, and his nine seasons with the team are also the second most behind Gillman.

Don Coryell then retired from coaching in 1986, at the age of 62 years old, with 111 wins in 195 games overall. He is the first coach With 100 Wins In pro and college football. To try and sum up this man's career or impact on football is nearly impossible. Virtually every offense today on all levels is a variation of his system.

Bill Walsh, who is a member of Canton, and Coryell also have several ties in football. Walsh used to rely on Isaac Curtis, a player Coryell coached in college, while Walsh was an assistant coach with the Bengals. Walsh also coached under Tommy Protho for one year with the San Diego Chargers, the man Coryell would replace as head coach.

While Walsh is credited with the "West Coast Offense", he started out as a student of Hall Of Fame coaches Sid Gillman, Al Davis, and Paul Brown's downfield passing philosophies.

It was Coryell who really started this offense, and refined it as each year passed during his coaching career. He turned around every team he coached from college to the pros immediately. Though most remember his days in San Diego, his time in Saint Louis also must be hailed.

He took a perennial loser, and made them a serious contender in an NFC East that was mostly dominated by the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins throughout the 1970's. He made quarterback Jim Hart a much better player and surrounded Hart with many weapons. Wide receivers Mel Gray and Pat Tilley were wide receivers who excelled along with Hall Of Fame tight end Jackie Smith in Coryell's system.

Gray holds a franchise record for having at least one catch in 121 consecutive games, and is tenth in franchise history with 351 receptions. He is fourth in Cardinals history with 45 touchdown receptions, fifth in receiving yards, and averaged an outstanding 18.9 yards per reception.

Smith is still second in career receiving yards with the team, fifth in receptions and touchdowns, and averaged an excellent 16.5 yards per catch. Tilley was a fourth-round find by Coryell in 1976, and ended up sixth in career receptions with the Cardinals, and third in receiving yards.

One other thing Coryell brought to the NFL was the use of the multi-purpose running back. Terry Metcalf was his first of many backs who did everything well. Metcalf led the NFL in total yards with 2,462 yards, which is still the best in team history.

Lionel James of the Chargers passed that total in 1985, and it is no coincidence that James was coached by Coryell in that season as well.James had 2,535 yards, a record that stood until the 2000 season and is still the third best total ever.

Coryell also resurrected the career of fullback Jim Otis. Otis joined the Cardinals in Coryell's first season after spending his first three years as a back up with the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs. Coryell turned Otis into a Pro Bowl player in 1975, after gaining a career best 1,076 rushing yards.

Factor in such other weapons like Ike Harris, J.V. Cain, Wayne Morris, Steve Jones, Donny Anderson, Ahmad Rashad, and Earl Thomas, and one can see all the fantastic players Coryell used to make Saint Louis a winner.

He also worked with Jim Hanifan in making the Cardinals perhaps the best offensive line in the league during Coryell's tenure. The line consisted of Hall Of Fame tackle Dan Dierdorf and Pro Bowl players like Tom Banks, Conrad Dobler, Ernie McMillan, and Bob Young most of the time.

They gave up just 55 sacks from 1974 to 1977, including only eight in 1975. This was the fewest allowed in NFL history, until it was surpassed by the Miami Dolphins in 1988 by one.

Though the Cardinals were an explosive offense, their defense and ownership let them down. This would be a theme throughout most of Coryell's coaching career in the NFL.

In his 14 seasons as a coach, his offenses led the NFL in net yards gained per passing attempt five times. They finished in the top five of the NFL six more times.

His teams led the NFL in passing yards seven times, and none of his teams finished lower than seventh. They led the NFL in passing touchdowns three times, and finished in the top ten nine other times. His offenses also led the league in passing attempts two times, finished second five times, and was in the top ten another five times.

But Coryell also ran a balanced attack where the run was important. Twice his teams led the NFL in rushing touchdowns, and they finished in the top ten eight more times, and finished in the top five in yards per carry three times. Twice they were in the top ten in rushing attempts and yards.

His teams led the NFL in total offense yards five times, and in the top ten another six times. Twice his teams led the NFL in yardage differential, which is the number of yards they outgained their opponents that year. His teams also finished in the top ten an additional five times in this category. Coryell's teams led the league in points differential once, and finished in the top ten another six times.

When Coryell hit San Diego in 1978, the spotlight on his genius was shining. He took wide receiver John Jefferson in the first round that year and had him become the first player in NFL history to gain over 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons.

He transformed Dan Fouts into a spectacular quarterback. Fouts became the second player in pro football history, and the first in NFL history, to have over 4,000 yards passing in a season. Fouts then would go on to pass for even more yards the next two seasons, and he became just the second player in NFL history to have consecutive seasons of at least 30 touchdown passes. Only six more quarterbacks have accomplished this feat since.

Besides his Chargers teams becoming the first to have three 1,000 yard receivers, their 1981 team had a 1,000 yard rusher in Chuck Muncie and two 1,000 yard receivers in Winslow and Joiner. Wes Chandler finished 43 yards short from joining them in the thousand yards club that year, which would have given them three receivers and a running back with 1,000 yards in one season. This is an accomplishment never duplicated in league history.

After his success with Metcalf, Coryell found other versatile backs to use in San Diego. Men like Muncie, James Brooks, Earnest Jackson, Gary Anderson, Mike Thomas, Lydell Mitchell, Don Woods, Clarence Williams, and the diminutive Lionel James all excelled in his offense.

While Coryell's critics wrongly point to his lack of championship wins, the stinginess of the owners he was employed by was a huge reason why his teams never went past a conference championship game.

While the frugality of Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell is legendary, the Chargers owner Eugene Klein was equally penurious. San Diego lost Jefferson and Fred Dean because of contract disputes. Dean left the Chargers mid-season in 1981 to go to the San Francisco 49ers because of this reason. Dean was a key reason the 49ers won Super Bowl XVI that year, and was named UPI Defensive Player Of The Year.

With Dean gone, it hurt the Chargers defense immensely. The Chargers had the best defensive line in the NFL up until then, featuring Dean and Pro Bowl defensive tackles Louie Kelcher and Gary "Big Hands" Johnson.

All three were drafted together in 1975, and had a strong bond that had the fans nickname them "The Bruise Brothers". All three would eventually join the 49ers and help them win a Super Bowl.

Don Coryell changed the way football was played. The now all too common sight on multiple receiver sets was first started by him, as are many versions of his offenses being run these days. They are all spawns of his genius.

The Redskins three Super Bowls winning teams and Saint Louis Rams two Super Bowl winning teams had his disciples run offenses that were invented by Coryell. His impact on the game will reverberate for generations to come.

Winslow stated it best when he said, "For Don Coryell to not be in the Hall of Fame is a lack of knowledge of the voters. That's the nicest way that I can put that. A lack of understanding of the legacy of the game."

Many Hall Of Fame players and Pro Bowlers were coached by Coryell in the NFL. The list of players inducted into Canton includes Dan Fouts, Winslow, Charlie Joiner, Dan Dierdorf, Jackie Smith, Fred Dean, and Roger Wehrli.

All, except Dean, called on the voters to induct Coryell in their acceptance speeches. Joe Gibbs and John Madden were disciples of his who also called for his induction in their acceptance speeches. These words from these inductees obviously have fallen on the deaf ears of the same voters who had selected them.
This is a despicable crime still perpetrated by the voters to this very day, as shown by the recent induction process. It also shows that Canton must change their induction system.

Another player who was excluded from being inducted was Ray Guy, the greatest punter in the history of football. Guy is the first punter to ever be drafted in the first round by the NFL. He went to the Pro Bowl seven times in his career, and was named First Team All-Pro three times.

At the 1976 Pro Bowl, Ray Guy became the first punter to hit the Louisiana Superdome video screen. He punted the ball over 70 yards in four of his seasons, and once booted five balls over 60 yards in one season alone. He was a versatile player who could pass the ball or run it, and he never had a punt returned for a touchdown in his career. He led the NFL in punting three times also, also kicked off for aging kicker George Blanda, a Hall of Famer, for several years.

He was an integral part of the Raiders. He also was on three Super Bowl winning teams in Oakland during his career. The highlight of his Super Bowls was in 1983. His punt in Super Bowl XVIII pinned Washington inside their 12 yard line, which led to a Raiders touchdown via a turnover the next play.

Guy is the punter on the National Football League's 75th Anniversary Team, the Super Bowl Silver Anniversary Team and as a member of the NFL 1970's All-Decade team.

If you saw Ray Guy, you must be scratching your head right now as to why he isn't in Canton already. His punts were legendary. Other teams would test the balls that he punted for helium, due to the heights his punts attained.

He was the first punter to be nominated for induction, but he still has not been selected. It brings into question the football knowledge of the voters. Some, who claim to be "purists", say that specialist do not belong because they only get on the field for a few plays each game.

After seeing placekicker Jan Stenerud inducted in 1991, there seemed to be a hope that the voters were finally recognizing the importance of special teams. Canton's reason for existence based upon what players do once on the field, and there is no doubt that Ray Guy helped the Raiders win many games and championships.

Being inducted will not get any easier for either Coryell or Guy as the years pass by, and there is the fear that they won't be alive to enjoy it. Coryell is approaching the age of 86, and Guy is 61 years old. Making them wait another year is a gamble and a sign of disregard and disrespect.

Rumors of getting retired players involved in the selection process, especially those already in Canton, has been circulated for years. These are the people who truly know who belong, especially considering there are countless voters not even knowing what positions many gridiron legends played.

It, as Winslow stated, truly shows a lack of knowledge of the current voters. It also shows the corrupt political process involved in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. A process that has wrongly kept Don Coryell and Ray Guy from still taking their rightful place.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Matt Blair

Matt Blair
6'5" 232
Minnesota Vikings
1974 - 1985
12 Seasons
160 Games Played
16 Interceptions
20 Fumble Recoveries
20.5 Blocked Kicks
6 Pro Bowls

Blair was drafted in the second round of the 1974 draft by the Minnesota Vikings, and was the 51st player chosen overall. He had went to college at Iowa State University, where he is a legend. He was the most outstanding defensive player of the Cyclones loss in the 1971 Sun Bowl, and was named All-American in his 1973 season. He was also a two time Kodak All-American team member. He is a member of the schools athletic Hall of Fame.

The Vikings started him in six games during his rookie year, and he was named to the NFL's All-Rookie Team after getting an interception and fumble recovery. Minnesota would go on to appear in Super Bowl IX that year, where Blair would block a punt leading to the Vikings only points in their 16-6 defeat.

He played as a reserve next season, but earned the starting left outside linebacker job in 1976. He had a career high five fumble recoveries and had two interceptions that year, as the Vikings made it to Super Bowl XI before losing. In the NFC Championship Game two weeks earlier, he had helped block a field goal attempt that Vikings cornerback Pro Bowl Bobby Bryant took 90 yards for a touchdown that accounted for the first points of the game.

The 1977 season saw Blair make the first of six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. His penchant for the big play was widely known throughout the league, as was his solid, steady play backed by great fundamentals. The entire defensive personnel around him changed at every position except his. He was named the captain of the defense in 1979 and held that position until he retired.

Gone were Hall Of Famers like defensive tackle Alan Page, defensive end Carl Eller, and free safety Paul Krause, along with Vikings legends like defensive end Jim Marshall, defensive tackle Doug Sutherland, linebackers Jeff Sieman and Wally Hilgenberg, and defensive backs Bobby Bryant and Nate Wright. Blair continued to be a top echelon linebacker in the league despite these massive changes.

Many other changes occurred on the Vikings offense after 1977 as well. Minnesota went to four Super Bowls between 1969 and 1976, but none after that. After making it to the NFC Championship Game in 1977, the Vikings made the playoffs in 1978 and 1980 and lost in the first round each time. Blair would not appear in a postseason game again.

It was in that 1977 season that he scored his first touchdown, which came off a blocked kick. He scored again for the final time the next season off of a lateral that went 49 yards. It set the stage for maybe the finest year of his career, which happened during the 1980 season.

He was named to his only First Team All-Pro team that year, and was named the Most Valuable Linebacker of the NFC. Blair was also being recognized for all of the work he did away from the gridiron. Working in several charities that included the Children's Miracle Network, Multiple Sclerosis Society, March of Dimes, American Cancer Society, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Lupus Foundation of Minnesota, Special Olympics, and the United Way, he was named the 1981 NFL Man of the Year. He also was the Top 10 Outstanding Young Men of America by the Jaycees in 1983. His work with the homeless and hungry has raised millions of dollars as well.

He missed the first games of his career in 1983 after becoming injured enough to miss five games. The Vikings drafted Chris Doleman in the first round before the 1985 season, and Hall Of Fame head coach Bud Grant had Blair teach him how to play linebacker and rush the quarterback from the edge. After appearing in a career low six games because of injury that year, Blair decided to retire.

The Vikings have never had a linebacker better than Matt Blair. His 1,452 career tackles still ranks second in team history. No other Vikings linebacker has intercepted more passes than him either.

Though sacks were not a recorded statistic until the 1982 season, he was known for his ability to come hard off the edge and create havoc on opposing teams. But he was more than just an excellent player who supported the run and rushed the passer. Minnesota liked to keep him on the field as much as possible, because he was so excellent defending the pass and creating turnovers on special teams as well.

His athleticism was on display in the 1975 season. The Vikings could not find a consistent punt returner that year, and used six different players that year. One of them was Blair, who took two punt returns that year. He may be the last linebacker ever in NFL history to be asked to field a punt.

His ability to block kicks was amazing. It didn't matter if it was a field goal, extra point, or punt, because he was a force each time the ball was snapped. His 20.5 blocked kicks in the regular season is a Vikings record, and this stat becomes even more spectacular when you factor in the fact Page blocked 16 more as well. In all, counting post season, he blocked 23.5 kicks. It is the second most in NFL history.

His 20 career fumble recoveries is tied as the 11th most by any defender in NFL history. What makes this statistic more impressive is the fact his teammates(Marshall, Page, and Eller) all had more in their careers. It is a testament to the Vikings defense being able to create multiple turnovers, and Blair's abilities around so many teammates who shared his proclivity to jump on loose footballs.

How the voters of the Pro Football Hall Of Fame can induct a one dimensional linebacker like Andre Tippett, while ignoring better players like Blair, shows a process full of politics where the actual play on the field is disregarded. Tippett just rushed the passer and went to the Pro Bowl a measly four times, while Blair did everything and more a linebacker could be asked to do and had more accolades.

Some may point to his six Pro Bowls and question if it is enough, especially when nine time Pro Bowl linebackers like Chris Hanburger and Maxie Baughn still await their call to the hall. What puts Blair over the top for induction over many other outside linebacker legends is his ability to play all over the field in every aspect of the game on defense and special teams.

He is a member of both the Vikings Silver and the 40th year anniversary teams, and soon will be inducted into the teams Ring of Honor. If one looks at the fact he continued his greatness long after all of the other "Purple People Eaters" had left the team, it should become quite apparent that Matt Blair deserves to be inducted into Canton.

Notable Players Drafted In 1974 ( * Denotes Hall Of Fame Inductee )

1. Ed "Too Tall" Jones, DE, Dallas
5. John Dutton, DT, Baltimore Colts
14. Randy Gradishar, MLB, Denver
19. Henry Lawrence, OT, Oakland
21. Lynn Swann, WR, Pittsburgh *
24. Roger Carr, WR, Baltimore
34. Steve Nelson, MLB, New England
35. Keith Fahnhorst, OT, San Francisco
45. Dave Casper, TE, Oakland *
46. Jack Lambert, MLB, Pittsburgh *
49. Devlin Williams, RB, San Francisco
53. Danny White, QB, Dallas
65. Dexter Bussey, RB, Detroit
67. Robert Pratt, G, Baltimore
68. Claudie Minor, OT, Denver
75. Mark van Eeghen, FB, Oakland
78. Nat Moore, WR, Miami
82. John Stallworth, WR, Pittsburgh *
89. Frank LeMaster, OLB, Philadelphia
105. John Teerlinck, DT, San Diego (Notable Coach)
116. Steve Odom, WR, Green Bay
125. Mike Webster, C, Pittsburgh *
134. Don Woods, RB, Green Bay
144. Jon Keyworth, RB, Washington
161. Noah Jackson, G, Baltimore
169. Efren Herrera, K, Detroit
174. Freddie Scott, WR, Baltimore
199. Eddie Brown, DB, Cleveland
232. Sam McCullum, WR, Minnesota
236. Ray Rhodes, DB, New York Giants (Notable Coach)
249. Don Calhoun, RB, Buffalo
250. Tom Condon, G, Kansas City (Notable Superagent)
365. Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, WR, Houston Oilers
374. Sam Hunt, LB, New England
376. Dave Wannstedt, OT, Green Bay (Notable Coach)
388. Bob Thomas, K, Los Angeles Rams