A Hall of Fame Comparison – JOHNNY ROBINSON

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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.

autographed 1967 topps johnny robinson

#065 – Johnny Robinson

Today’s comparison is between Johnny Robinson of the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs, and two HoF defensive backs, Larry Wilson and Willie Wood.

Johnny Nolan Robinson…First-round draft choice of the Texans in 1960…  Played first two seasons at halfback… One of just 20 men to play all 10 years of AFL…Six-times AFL All-Star and First Team All-Pro… 57 career interceptions, twice led the league…Had interception and fumble recovery in Super Bowl IV, despite playing with three broken ribs…Three-time AFL champion, 1970 super bowl champion…Member of All-Time AFL First Team.

Larry Frank Wilson. . .Two-way star at Utah, No. 7 draft pick, 1960. . . Cat-like defender, exceptional team leader. . . Became NFL’s top free safety, made “safety blitz” famous. . . All-NFL six times. . . Played in eight Pro Bowl games. . .Had steals in seven straight games, led NFL interceptors, 1966. . .Once intercepted pass with both hands in casts. . . Had 52 career interceptions.

William Vernell “Willie” Wood. . .Signed as free agent, 1960. . .Soon developed into premier free safety. . .Played in six NFL championships, Super Bowls I, II, eight Pro Bowls. . .All-NFL six times. . .50-yard interception return key play in Super Bowl I. . . Career record: 48 interceptions, 699 yards, 2 TDs; 187 punt returns, 1,391 yards, 2 TDs. . .Led NFL in punt returns (1961), interceptions (1962).

Johnny Robinson is perhaps the most egregious AFL omission from the pro football hall of fame.  He was a dominant defense back, and a leader of a very tough Kansas City defense.  Johnny Robinson’s career spans nearly the exact same period as Wilson and Wood, and despite his playing 1960 & 1961 on offense, Robinson’s numbers are still much better!  Truly, there is no legitimate reason for Robinson to have no been enshrined in Canton long ago.  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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5 Responses to A Hall of Fame Comparison – JOHNNY ROBINSON

  1. Jeffrey J. Miller says:

    Hard to argue with what you’ve written here, Todd. NFL hardliners will counter your argument with the old “Yeah, but the AFL was inferior competition, meaning Robinson’s achievements aren’t as menaingful” logic. But I think that only works for the first four years of the league. From 1964 on, the AFL was at or near the level of play that you saw in the senior cicuit (despite pro-NFL guys say). If the majority of Robinson’s career was played against good competition, and he even flourished when facing the NFL (two Super Bowls and post merger), I think his case is very solid.


  3. 1967 says:

    Appears at times to be no rhyme or reason some Hall of Fame player omissions; Johnny Robinson is the epitome said. NFL bias (what I refer to as the ‘Maule the AFL’ tack) should have been dispensed with, Superbowl’s III and IV affirming.

    NFL mouthpieces like the referenced SI writer above aside, bias also exists even among AFL types, human beings every.

    I once had the opportunity to ask a quite well known (now deceased) former sportswriter (and Hall of Fame voter) from back east why former Kansas City Chiefs player Jim Tyrer was not in the HOF. I expected reference how Tyrer’s demise came about as the rationale; instead, the reply I received was “I don’t think he was that good.”

    Personal bias? An axe to grind? That a long-time and respected writer – an AFL writer to wit – would state the aforementioned left me wondering how valid the process is. I will not mention the writer’s name but believe me when I say that you have heard of him, an aspect which makes the comments his all the more puzzling (and by extension makes one wonder how many like cases exist, even among AFL proponents.)

    I don’t like to elevate one player at the expense another, especially when both are/were Hall of Fame worthy, but here’s a comparison for whatever it’s worth.

    Former Los Angeles & San Diego Charger Ron Mix is in the Hall of Fame and is well deserving (note that I didn’t say “in my opinion”; no need the addendum as his merit speaks for itself: 9-time Pro Bowler and 8-time First-Team All-Pro.)

    Mix played RT on offense for the Chargers, and reportedly held his opponents about as often as comedian/satirist Pat Paulsen held the Presidency. The great #74 played 11 years, albeit just one in the NFL. Mix was a member of 5 teams that played for a Championship, winning once.

    Not a bad resume (even if he did consort with the enemy as twere, becoming a Raider for one season 1971 ; ) Then again, former Chief Bobby Bell tried out for the Raiders too in ’75 aft leaving KC so as a Chiefs fan I can’t be too chagrined : )

    Jim Tyrer played the (arguably) more revered LT/ blind side position on offense the Dallas Texans & Kansas City Chiefs. Like Mix, Tyrer was a 9-time Pro Bowler & he was also an 6-time First-Team All-Pro. Tyrer was a member of 3 teams that played for Championships, winning twice. Tyrer played 14 years, including 5 in the NFL, with two of his All Pro honors coming there.

    Does Jim Tyrer have a case? Such is but one example among many that cry out for explanation… and enshrinement. To the player, a Hall of Fame honor must rank as the icing on the cake an career; as a fan I say the only Hall of Fame that really matters to me is the one resides in my heart & lingers in memory, forever.

    Long live the AFL!

  4. Howard says:

    Robinson is a no-brainer! Arguably a top 5-7 safety of all time. Big game assassin to boot.

  5. Richard Dyer says:

    I reviewed Johnny Robinson’s career summary and compared it to a few other defensive backs who are in the HOF I asked the question of Peter King twice but he never answered. Since he is an HOF voter I thought that he could give me a reason – even if a bad one – why Mr Robinson isn’t even being considered the past few years.

    IMO Johnny Robinson deserves to be in the HOF . . . especially when I look at his career in comparison to Joe Willie White Shoes who’s only legitimate claim is to “guarantee” a Super Bowl win . . .

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