Monthly Archives: October 2010
>If a survey was done to name the most notable of the many San Diego-area athletes to ultimately achieve success in professional football, most people would nominate Junior Seau, John Lynch, Marcus Allen and Reggie Bush. Brian Sipe might get a nod from a few folks, and Stephen Neal could possibly get his name added to the list as well. But it would take either a student of football history or a San Diegan of the AARP set to rattle off a couple of names that are unknown to most, but were every bit as dominant in their day – Charley and Art Powell.
|Charley Powell (#87) makes a tackle against the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960.|
For the Powell brothers, their excellence in athletics began to garner attention when they entered San Diego High School. Charley grew to be a 6’3” and 230-lbs. high school senior, who played football, basketball, baseball and track & field. He graduated in 1952, the proud owner of 12 varsity letters, and promptly passed up scholarship offers from Notre Dame, UCLA and a tryout with the Harlem Globe Trotters, to play a season of professional baseball in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. After spending a year being pitched around and served a steady diet of curveballs, Charley left baseball, and at 19 years of age, became the youngest player ever to play in the NFL when he broke into the starting defensive line of the San Francisco 49ers. He gained instant notoriety when he sacked the Detroit Lions’ Bobby Layne 10 times in a single game for a total loss of 67 yards. Charley played five seasons with the 49ers, and then put his football career on hiatus to place further emphasis on boxing, something that he had also been doing professionally since 1953. Powell rose to be the No. 4-ranked heavyweight in the world, and had matches against No. 2-ranked Nino Valdes of Cuba (won by TKO), Floyd Patterson (lost by KO) and a young Cassius Clay (lost by knockout). In the midst of his boxing career, Charley went back to football and played two seasons with the fledgling Oakland Raiders of the American Football League, and ultimately put an end to his boxing career in 1965.
>Being a collector and historian of the American Football League, I occasionally run across interesting sidebars and tidbits to the players, the league and the vast world of collectibles. One such case is the situation involving a couple of former AFL’ers and their 1965 Topps football cards. Rick Redman and Larry Elkins both began their careers in professional football in 1965. Redman, a linebacker from the University of Washington, played nine season for the San Diego Chargers, from 1965-1973. Elkins, a first-round draft choice of the Houston Oilers, was a wide receiver from Baylor University, whose playing time in the AFL was from 1965-1967. Both were highly-touted players coming out of college and as such, both had their first football cards appear in the famed 1965 Topps set.
As we were wrapping up a telephone interview for my book, Charging Through the AFL, I asked Rick Redman if he would sign a few of his football cards if I sent them to him in the mail. He graciously agreed to sign, and added the following commentary about his 1965 Topps card:
“I am absolutely amazed at how many cards I get in the mail. I get probably three a week. I just can’t believe it. There’s a funny story about one of those cards. I don’t know if you remember a guy that was drafted the same time I was, by the Houston Oilers. He was a guy from Baylor and his name was Larry Elkins. He was an All-American at Baylor. In fact, we played against each other and were on several all-American teams at the same time. Well, Topps screwed up on the bubble gum cards and got our pictures mixed up on the cards. So every once in a while I’ll get a card that has his picture on it. And I’ll send it back and let the people know that they have something that they should really hang onto… You ought to try and find his card with my picture on it. I’ll sign that for you too. Every time we saw each other before a game we’d say, “You never looked so good as when you were on my card.” We always had this friendly banter back and forth.”
>When the term “Fearsome Foursome” is used by football fans, it is typically in reference to the Los Angeles Rams defensive line of the 1960s that featured Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen and Rosey Grier. That Rams’ line was a fine one indeed, but it is a common misconception that it was the only or original Fearsome Foursome. In fact, the San Diego Chargers of the old AFL featured the original Fearsome Foursome a few years earlier and 100 miles to the South. The Chargers had just settled into their new home in San Diego when the 1961 football season came rolling around. After fleeing the cavernous Los Angeles Coliseum the year before, the Chargers traded their downtown LA home for the cozier confines of San Diego’s Balboa Stadium. San Diegans were quick to adopt their new team and the many interesting players that came with it. The Chargers began the 1961 with what was believed to be the largest defensive line in professional football, a group of four men that averaged 6’ 6 ½” in height and 273 lbs. Ernie Ladd, Bill Hudson, Earl Faison and Ron Nery wreaked havoc on offensive lines throughout the AFL. Their relentless pursuit of opposing quarterbacks helped the Chargers secondary set a league record with 49 interceptions on the season. Dubbed the “Fearsome Foursome” in that first year in San Diego, the Chargers defensive line is a group that still inspires awe in the men who faced it 50 years ago.
ERNIE “GIANT CAT” LADD – Ernie Ladd was one of two rookies on the Chargers defensive line in 1961. The 6 9” and 325-lbs. defensive tackle from Grambling University was so big that opposing linemen said that he blocked out the sun. Known for his size, appetite and defensive prowess, Ladd stunned one sportswriter who made the mistake of taking him to dinner. Ladd’s nighttime nosh consisted of two shrimp cocktails, three dished of cole slaw, three servings of spinach, three baked potatoes, eight rolls with butter, four 16-oz steaks, a half-gallon of milk and three desserts. Ernie Ladd was an AFL All-Star from 1962-1965, and was voted All-AFL in 1961, 1964 & 1965.
Welcome to my new blog, Tales from the American Football League. I first became interested in the AFL in 1998, as a graduated student at the University of San Diego. While working as an intern in the archives of the San Diego Chargers, I chose to write about Sid Gillman for my masters thesis. Over the course of the next year, I learned all that I could about Sir Sidney by spending countless hours in several archives, watching any and all AFL and Chargers-related video, spending time with Gillman himself, and interviewing the Chargers of the 1960s. What developed was not only a great appreciation of Sid Gillman, but also a deep interest in the entire AFL. I became fascinated with the idea that a group of relatively young and inexperienced (though typically very wealthy) individuals could not only put together a professional league in a rather short period of time, but also that this league could challenge and eventually gain parity with the well-entrenched National Football League.