A Hall of Fame Comparison – Fred Arbanas

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autographed 1965 topps fred arbanas

#089 – Fred Arbanas

There is a feeling among AFL fans that the American Football League players are consistently overlooked for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  In truth there are many players, the bulk of whose careers were spent in the AFL, that deserve serious consideration, if not outright induction.  In an effort to spark some discussion regarding their hall of fame worthiness, I will occasionally compare AFL players to their NFL (and Hall of Fame) counterparts. The short biographies on the NFL players have been taken directly from the Pro Football Hall of Fame website.

Today’s comparison is between Fred Arbanas of the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs, and two HoF tight ends, Mike Ditka and John Mackey

Frederick Vincent “Fred” Arbanas – 7th round draft choice, 1961 AFL draft…  Fierce blocker and solid pass-catcher…  6-time AFL All-Star, 6-time TSN All-AFL selection…  3-time AFL champion, Super Bowl IV champion…  Career record: 198 catches, 3101 yards, 34 TDs…  AFL All-Time First Team member

Michael Keller Ditka. . .Consensus All-America, 1960. . . Bears’ No. 1 pick, 1961. . .First tight end elected to Hall. . . Fast, rugged, outstanding blocker, great competitor. . .Big-play star of Bears’ 1963 title team. . . Scored final touchdown in Cowboys’ Super Bowl VI win. . .Rookie of the Year, 1961. . . All-NFL four years, in five straight Pro Bowls. . .Career record: 427 receptions, 5,812 yards, 43 TDs

John Mackey … No. 2 draft pick, 1963 … Prototype tight end with breakaway speed, ability to avoid tackles, strong blocker … Long-distance threat who scored six TDs over 50 yards, 1966 … Caught deflected pass for 75-yard TD, Super Bowl V … Career record: 331 catches, 5,236 yards, 38 TDs … Three-time All-NFL, played in five Pro Bowls … Second tight end to enter Hall

One of the things that strikes me about Fred Arbanas is his determination to overcome injury and continue to play at a high level.  He missed his rookie season of 1961, due to ruptured disks in his back.  He lost the sight in one eye after suffering a brutal mugging in 1964.  Certainly the AFL’s greatest tight end deserves recognition in Canton.  Thoughts?

Todd Tobias (789 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

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10 Responses to A Hall of Fame Comparison – Fred Arbanas

  1. Tom Flynn says:

    I am the proud owner of an Arbanas jersey so he has my vote! I would tend to think that any AFL player that was at the top of his position would deserve a bust in Canton.

    • Todd Tobias says:

      Sounds like a nice jersey, Tom! Is it a gamer, or a more recent piece?

      • Tom Flynn says:

        It’s a new authentic if that makes sense! Ordered it last year so at least it has the AFL patch that the Chiefs wear now. I’m in my mid-40s and have lived in New York City all my life but have been a Chiefs fan since I was seven when my father gave me a red football helmet with a gray facemask. I asked him which team had a helmet like that and he said Kansas City. That’s all it took! What a miserable year for the Chiefs. Sigh.

  2. Bob Stein says:

    Fred Arbanas absolutely deserves Hall of Fame status. I was a KC teammate of Fred’s 4 years and can add that his leadership in the locker room and on the field was nearly as important to the Chiefs’ success as his play. He was as much a prototype blocker-receiver tight end as Ditka and Mackey, great players deserving of their HOF status. Fred belongs in Canton as a leader in his era.

  3. Howard says:

    While I usually agree with these comparisons of AFL greats and their exclusion by the Hall of Fame being unfair, I am skeptical of this choice. I’m not knocking Fred Arbanas, I thought he was a good player. But, I would strongly argue Ditka and Mackey were two of the top five tight ends of all time. I cannot include Fred Arbanas in that group. Not to say he doesn’t belong, but, I personally think he was as good as those two.

    Just as Warren Moon and Jim Kelly are in the Hall of Fame, doesn’t mean they are John Unitas and Joe Montana either. I think some of your other choices are slam dunks, however.

  4. Jim says:

    For the 1969 season, didn’t Fred get switched to a position different from tight end? If my memory is right about that, it was yet another example of his overcoming challenges …

    • Tom says:

      Jim no Arbanas played TE his entire career, you may have him confused with EJ Holub, who moved from MLB to center. Arbanas snub of the St L Cards in 1961 led to them in 1963 drafting PFHOF TE Jackie Smith. Personally of the two I favored Arbanas. Arbanas was the quintessential player in stature, style, toughness and ability.

    • 1967 says:

      You’re correct, Jim. The Chiefs did move Fred Arbanas over to offensive tackle during training camp in 1969, least in intent (KC also moved former fullback Curtis McClinton there, similarly.)

      The idea was for former backup Reg Carolan to take over as the starter at tight end, but as it happened Reg was injured (the exhibition season as I recall) and so Arbanas returned to full-time TE duty.

  5. 1967 says:

    McClinton to TE, that is.

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