Monthly Archives: March 2012

>1961 AFL Rookie of the Year – Earl Faison

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Though known primarily for his offensive genius, Sid Gillman used the Chargers’ first pick in the 1961 AFL Draft on a strapping defensive end from the University of Indiana, named Earl Faison.  Faison grew up during the Jim Crow era in Newport News, Virginia in the 1940s and 1950s.  While discussing his what he might do with his future, Faison’s coach told him, “Earl, the way I see it, there are three fields that you can go into after high school – tobacco, cotton and football.” Faison used his 6’5″, 265-lbs, and highly athletic body to get out of Virginia.  He starred at UI, and was an all-america selection his senior year, played in the East-West Game, the Hula & All-American Bowls and the College All-Star earned a starting position at left defensive end for the Chargers, joining a defensive line that included Bill Hudson, Ron Nery, and fellow rookie, Ernie Ladd.  They made up the original Fearsome Foursome. Statistics were not kept for tackles and quarterback sacks in the 1960s, but by all accounts, Faison had a tremendous rookie season.  As a result of the relentless pressure that the San Diego defensive line kept on opposing quarterbacks, the Chargers defensive secondary, dubbed the “Seven Bandits,” set a league record by hauling in 49 interceptions over the 14-game season, a record that still stands today. Faison had two interceptions himself. The post-season recognition came to Earl Faison in the way of an “All-Pro” designation by Sport Magazine, an AFL Rookie of the Year selection and an invitation to play in the AFL All-Star Game. Earl Faison played six seasons in the AFL, all but six games of which were with the San Diego Chargers.  Though considered a durable player who was in all 14 games in four of his six seasons, a back injury ended his career prematurely.  In his book, Crash of the Titans, author William Ryczek quoted the New York Titans offensive tackle Buddy Cockrell, “Faison was the best pass rusher I ever played against.  He was real strong and had lots of speed.  He’d get down in that sprinter’s stance and he was hell to block.”  Cockrell’s linemate, Dewey Bohling, agreed.  “Earl Faison was the hardest person for me to control.  He was not only good, he was mean.  [Ernie] Ladd was more easy-going.  Faison had a mean streak in him.  He’d go out of his way to try to hurt you.  Ladd was a good ballplayer, but he wasn’t half as mean as Faison.”

>1960 AFL Rookie of the Year & Most Valuable Player – Abner Haynes

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People remember the Boston Red Sox outfielder, Fred Lynn, as the winner of major league baseball’s Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in the season of 1975.  The Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki duplicated the feat in 2001.  But few sports fans recall that Dallas Texans’ running back, Abner Haynes, won the American Football League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in the league’s inaugural season of 1960. Abner Haynes is a Texas native, who played his high school ball at Lincoln High School in Dallas.  From there he moved on to North Texas State University.  He was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the 1960 American Football League draft, but immediately traded to his hometown franchise, the Dallas Texans.  Haynes quickly earned the starting halfback position, and the rest, as they say, is history. There is not a lot that Abner Haynes didn’t do in 1960.  He led the AFL in rushing attempts (156), yardage (875) and touchdowns (9), also in punt return yardage (215) and average (15.4).  Additionally, he finished in the top 10 in the league in kick off returns, receiving and scoring.  In the Player of the Year balloting, Haynes received 14 of 32 votes cast by a poll of the press, beating out the Chargers’ Jack Kemp, who received 10 votes. Haynes also won the AFL’s Rookie of the Year Award.  Though the league did not hold an all-star game in 1960, Haynes was named to the official all-league team.  Abner Haynes played eight seasons in the American Football League, with the Dallas Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.  He retired after the 1967 season with 4,630 rushing yards on 1,036 attempts (4.5 average) and 46 touchdowns.  He also caught 287 passes for 3,535 yards and 20 touchdowns.  Haynes was named to the AFL’s All-Time Second Team.    

>1961 Golden Tulip Chargers

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1961 Golden Tulips Chargers Ron Mix card
In the early 1960s, AFL teams were attempting spread the word about “The Other League,” and were holding promotions of all sorts.  One method that was nearly always popular, especially with younger fans, was player trading cards. 
Back of a standard Golden Tulips card
While Topps and  Fleer were distributing their bubble gum sets on a national basis, many smaller, regional sets were produced that were dedicated to an individual team.  The 1961 Golden Tulip Chargers set is one such issue.  The cards, which measured 2″x3″ and were distributed in the San Diego area, came inserted into bags of Golden Tulip Potato Chips, one card per bag.  Though the cards were housed in a cellophane sleeve, most are found today with oil stains from the greasy chips. The complete set of 1961 Golden Tulip Chargers cards consists of 22 cards.  The two most-prized cards in the set are of quarterback Jack Kemp, and hall of fame tackle, Ron Mix.  The other players in the set are Ron Botchan, Howard Clark, Fred Cole, Sam DeLuca, Orlando Ferrante, Charlie Flowers, Dick Harris, Emil Karas, Dave Kocourek, Bob Laraba, Paul Lowe, Paul Maguire, Charlie McNeil, Ron Nery, Don Norton, Volney Peters, Don Rogers, Maury Schleicher, Ernie Wright and Bob Zeman.  Botchan, Ferrante, Laraba, Schleicher and Zeman were never featured on regular-issue Topps or Fleer cards, and thus the Golden Tulip issue represents a rare opportunity to find them on cards. The backs of all Golden Tulip cards are identical, and advertise a contest to win tickets to Chargers games.  Additionally, they speak of an opportunity to receive an 8″x10″ photo of Chargers players.  By mailing in five cards of a particular player, you would then receive back your 8″x10″ photo of the same player.  These blank-backed photos, now referred to as Golden Tulip Premiums, are exceedingly rare, and amongst the most desired of all regional AFL issues.
Maury Schleicher Golden Tulips Premium
The Golden Tulip Chargers premiums were only produced in 1961, the Chargers first year in San Diego.  Other companies produced Chargers premiums in later years, including the Golden Arrow Dairy Milk Caps, Union Oil Prints, and of course, the Coca-Cola Bottle Caps.

>1969 AFL Rookies of the Year – Greg Cook & Carl Garrett

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The American Football League had two rookies of the year in 1969, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, Greg Cook, and the Boston Patriots running back, Carl Garrett. Greg Cook, a strapping 6’4″, 220-lb quarterback with the University of Cincinnati, was the fifth players selected overall in the 1969 draft, taken by the Cincinnati Bengals.  Cook immediately took over the starting quarterback position with the Bengals, and though a shoulder injury initially kept him out of three games, he still threw for 1,854 yards and 15 touchdowns.  Cook averaged a phenomenal 18 yards-per-completion in 1969, 9.41 yards-per-attempt, and was named an AFL Rookie of the Year.  Despite his success, Cook’s shoulder underwent several surgeries over the years, and he was never the same.  In fact, Greg Cook only played in one more professional game in his career.  In 1973, Cook entered a game and threw three passes, completing only one, for 11 yards.  He remained a member of the Bengals through 1974, but never played again. Greg Cook passed away in January, 2012, due to complications with pneumonia.  “Greg was the single most talented player we’ve ever had with the Bengals,” said Bengals president Mike Brown said in a statement. “His career was tragically short due to the injury. Had he been able to stay healthy, I believe he would have been the player of his era in the NFL.”

Carl Garrett, a running back out of New Mexico Highlands, was selected by the Boston Patriots in the third round of the 1969 draft, the 58th player taken overall. Garrett made an immediate impact on an otherwise lackluster Patriots offense. He rushed 137 times for 691 yards and five touchdowns, and led the AFL with a 5.0 yards-per-attempt average. He also had 29 receptions for 267 yards and two scores. Among his post-season honors were playing in the AFL All-Star Game, and being named Rookie of the Year, along with Greg Cook. read more

>1968 AFL Rookie of the Year – Paul Robinson

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Paul Robinson grew up in the small town of Marana, Arizona, where he was a talented track athlete in addition to playing basketball and football.  He graduated from high school in 1963, and after time spent at a junior college, earned a track scholarship to the University of Arizona.  Robinson ran track for two years at the U of A, but played only one season of collegiate football before being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of the 1968 AFL Draft. Robinson’s first contract paid him a $15,000 base salary, with a $15,000 signing bonus.  For their $30,000 investment, the Bengals got themselves the AFL’s Rookie of the Year.  In his rookie year, which was also the Bengals first year in existence, Paul Robinson rushed for 1,023 yards and scored eight touchdowns, which made Robinson just the second player ever to rush for more than 1,000 yards in his first year of professional football in the United States.  The other was the legendary Cookie Gilchrist, who ran for 1,096 yards for the Buffalo Bills in 1962. After finishing second only to Joe Namath as the league MVP in 1968, Paul Robinson’s numbers dropped off in later years, but he played another six years in the AFL & NFL.  When Paul Robinson left the NFL after the 1973 season, he had carried the ball 737 times for 2,947 career rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.  He also had 90 receptions for 612 yards and two scores.  Paul Robinson spent the 1974 season with the Birmingham Americans of the World Football League, where he helped the Americans win the WFL’s only championship game before the league folded at the end of the season.