A Hall of Fame Comparison – PAUL LOWE

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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 1962 fleer paul lowe

#80 – Paul Lowe

Today’s comparison is between Paul Lowe of the San Diego Chargers/Kansas City Chiefs and two HoF running backs, Paul Hornung and Gale Sayers.

Paul Edward Lowe – Took first kickoff in Chargers history (preseason) back 105 yards for touchdown…  Fluid runner with breakaway speed…  AFL MVP in 1965, two-time All-AFL…  Rushed 1,026 times for 4,995 yards (4.9 avg.) and 38 touchdowns, 111 receptions for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns…  Averaged 22.4 yards on kick off returns…  AFL All-Time First Team member…

Paul Vernon Hornung – Heisman Trophy winner, All-America at Notre Dame. . .Bonus draft pick, 1957. . .Multi-talented clutch player, at best inside 20-yard line. . .NFL Player of Year, 1960, 1961. . .Led NFL scorers three years with record 176 points in 1960. . .Career stats: 3,711 yards rushing, 130 receptions, 760 points. . .Tallied record 19 points in 1961 NFL title game. . . Played in two Pro Bowls. . .

Gale Eugene Sayers Kansas All-America. . .Exceptional break-away runner. . .Scored rookie record 22 TDs, 132 points, 1965. . .Led NFL rushers, 1966, 1969. . .Named all-time NFL halfback, 1969. . . All-NFL five straight years. . .Player of Game in three Pro Bowls. . .Career totals: 9,435 combined net yards, 4,956 yards rushing, 336 points. . . NFL lifetime kickoff return leader. . .

I find Paul Lowe to be an interesting player in regards to hall of fame credentials.  To his detriment, Lowe shared a backfield with Keith Lincoln, and had Lance Alworth split out wide, in addition to Don Norton and Dave Kocourek.  Had Lowe not had to share the ball with these other stars, his numbers would have been even better.  Additionally, his head coach always though pass-first, which took away more potential carries.  Still, Lowe was perhaps the most graceful runner the AFL had, was a threat every time he touched the ball, and he amassed nice career statistics.  I had known that Sayers did not have huge career statistics, but frankly I was shocked to see how unimpressive Hornung’s numbers were, especially given that he played on a running team, and his scoring totals are nearly doubled by the points he tallied as a kicker. Granted, he played very well in many championship games, and was still a great player, but his numbers do not scream “Hall of Fame.”   Thoughts?

Todd Tobias (781 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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4 Responses to A Hall of Fame Comparison – PAUL LOWE

  1. 1967 says:

    The Hall of Fame is not (always) about mere statistics (your examples Sayers & Hornung affirming, Lowe as well.) Even taking into consideration the era those three played in (fewer games, less teams & at least seemingly finer competition due smaller roster size/only the creme de la creme eligible to compete compared say 2013), voting is about impact & perception (i.e., plain old subjective bias.)

    That players who each gained less than 5,000 yards rushing could even merit HOF consideration today would be laughable. As proof, I think of fine players such as Terrell Davis & Priest Holmes: high impact but brief burning flames. They haven’t been nor perhaps ever will be enshrined; if only there was just a simple, uniform selection process but alas there isn’t, running backs as other.

    We can eliminate Championship teams as a measure (least a consistent one) because Sayers played on none, while Hornung played on several; Lowe one. That Billy Shaw remains the ‘only’ AFL player in the Hall of Fame who never played in the NFL is fact & has been recognized; that he had to wait some 30 years after he last played to be enshrined is just incomprehensible – he is not alone in that slight, as others today the ‘omission’ category.

    Inconsistency is legion: as a Chiefs fan, that I see Lynn Swann in the Hall of Fame with lesser stats than Otis Taylor puzzles, more Championships (a team measure) apparently carrying the day his case. which makes the omission of Johnny Robinson compared Larry Wilson an outrage, as the former Chief s S trumps the NFL’r in both measures… the list goes on and on.

    I leave it to Bob Dylan: ‘The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind’…

  2. Howard says:

    Interesting post! It is surprising a bit that Paul Hornung is in the HOF. He was the original “Golden Boy” and a Heisman winner. He was a great player for his day. Probably a borderline pick at best. If he played for the Redskins or heaven forbid The Broncos, he would be barely remembered.
    Gale Sayers was the Sandy Koufax of football. He had a short phenomenal career. The most exciting athlete that I remember. His legs went in one direction, his hips in another. He could stop on a dime and then accelerate like a rocket. just an amazing athlete. A knee injury in 1968 or 1969 basically made him a mortal.

    I did not see Paul Lowe play. His numbers are impressive. I tend to be skeptical of early AFL offense numbers, as I do not think the AFL defenses was very good until about 1964/1965. But that is my opinion. But since the NFL absorbed all of the AFL statistics into their own upon the merger, then the HOF should accept Lowe’s numbers and admit him.

  3. Tom says:

    All one needs do is watch him on film, his run in the 1963 AFL championship game is on Youtube. After WWII when Paul Lowe’s family moved from Homer Louisiana to Compton, Ca, Paul lost a year of school. In 1960 Paul was a 24 year old rookie, essentially loosing two years of play and in 1962 lost a third due to injury. Who’s to say what Lowe would have done with three extra years, they were his earliest and potentially his best and may have cost him 3000 APYds. In 1958 the SFO drafted Leon Burton and then cut him and kept Jim Pace, a year later 1959 Pace was out of football and Lowe was cut by SFO who kept CR Roberts, Dicky Moegle and Lenny Lyles. The following year Moegle and Lyles were gone from SFO and by 1961 CR was as well. One can only speculate what the outcome would have been if Lowe would have come up in 1958 and competed against Burton and Pace for a roster spot, would Lowe have made the team? Imagine Lowe and JD Smith in the same backfield for 10 years, it would have been Thunder JD Smith and Lightning Paul Lowe. and both now with busts enshrined in Canton.

    • I agree ! ! I watched Lowe on You Tube last night, and that man had some moves ! ! !

      As I’ll be commenting on the Chargers vs. Packers running back comparison (March 18, 2013), you had to be a Chargers fan, an AFL follower, or a serious student of the game to know about Lowe and Lincoln. I fit that third category, as I began reading about football as a kid in the late ’70’s.

      I knew about Lowe and Lincoln early on because they were excellent running backs for a team that played in five AFL Championships, winning one–and that by a score of 51-10. Yes, I cast my vote for Paul Lowe for The Hall of Fame.

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