A Hall of Fame Comparison – Tom Sestak

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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 1964 topps tom sestak

#037 – Tom Sestak

Tom Sestak was a dominant defensive tackle for the Buffalo Bills.  “Big Ses,” was an anchor of the Bills line from 1962-1967, when knee injuries ended his career.  There are only six defensive linemen who played in the 1960s, who were all-league selections in three-or-more seasons – Bob Lilly, Merlin Olsen, Gino Marchetti, Deacon Jones, Willie Davis and Tom Sestak.  Of the six, Sestak is the only one that is not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

William Delford Davis. . .15th-round draft pick, 1956. . . Played Army football prior to joining 1958 Browns. . .Career turning point came with 1960 trade to Green Bay, where he became a defensive standout. . . Had speed, agility, size. . . Great team leader, dedicated, intelligent. . . All-NFL five seasons. . . In five Pro Bowls, six NFL title games, two Super Bowls. . . Didn’t miss a game in 12-year, 162-game career. . .Born July 24, 1934, in Lisbon, Louisiana.

Henry Wendell Jordan. . .Cleveland fifth-round draft pick, 1957. . .Traded to Packers for fourth-round pick, 1959. . . Became 11-year fixture at right defensive tackle. . .Quick, smart defender, specialized in pressuring quarterback. . .All-NFL six times. . . Played in four Pro Bowls, seven NFL title games, Super Bowls I, II. . .Missed only two games first 12 seasons . . . Born January 26, 1935, in Emporia, Virginia. . . Died February 21, 1977, at age of 42.

Robert Lewis Lilly. . .Consensus All-America at Texas Christian. . . Cowboys’ first-ever draft choice (1961), first Hall of Famer (1980). . . Foundation of great Dallas defensive units. . .Had unusual speed, strength, intelligence, recovery ability . . .All-NFL/NFC eight years. . . Named to 11 Pro Bowls. . .Played in five NFL/NFC title games, two Super Bowls. . . Missed just one game in 14 years. . .Born July 26, 1939, in Olney, Texas.

Thomas Joseph Sestak…17th-round draft pick, 1962…Drafted as a tight end, but moved to defensive tackle in his rookie season…Leader of defensive line that was in AFL playoffs in 1963-66…Unanimous All-AFL defensive tackle three seasons in a row…Four-time AFL All-Star…Bills defense held opponents without a rushing touchdown for 17 consecutive games…Scored three touchdowns, two on interceptions, one on fumble recovery…Member of the AFL All-Time First Team…Died April 3, 1987, at age of 51.

Tom Sestak appears to have been every bit the ballplayer that the Davis, Jordan and Lilly were.  His injury-shortened career perhaps plays against him, but he was very impressive during his time.  What do you think?

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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5 Responses to A Hall of Fame Comparison – Tom Sestak

  1. Mike Paternostro says:

    As a Bills fan TS is one of my all-time favorite players. I was a kid, but I remember him totally dominating off. lines. He has to be one of the most athletic def. lineman to ever play the game. I remember Lou Saban saying there wasn’t a DL anywhere he’d take over TS. The nfl press ripped him a new one. No complaints from fellow AFL coaches, though.
    Re great nicknames how about the Bills’ Elbert “Golden Wheels” Dubenion? He had one of the greatest seasons ever for a WR in ’64: 1139 yds on only 42 rec., 10 TD, 27.1 ypc! And when he ran the ball he had over 7yds per carry in his career to go along with his 18+ career rec. yardage. I wish this Bills incarnation had a couple of players like TS & ED.

  2. Jeffrey J. Miller says:

    Nice job, Todd. Unfortuately, Big Tom’s career was too short–done in by bad knees–to make him a serious candidate for Canton. If his knees had held up, I think we would be DEFINITELY talking about him in the same sentence as those other guys. Extrapolate those three or four seasons out into a full career, and you have Hall-of-Fame written all over this guy! Just ask Ron Mix and Walt Sweeney what THEY think.

  3. Tom says:

    His career was also shortened by a late start, he was 26. He lost four years, if not Todd you might be comparing him to the likes of players he would have begun his career with in 1958. Alex Karras, Charlie Krrueger, Jerry Kramer, Floyd Peters, Ken Gray, Chuck Howley, Wayne Walker, Erich Barnes and Johnny Sample All like Ses HOF snubs.

  4. Jeff says:

    The best defensive lineman to play in the AFL. Tom’s the man!

  5. bobbflo says:

    Tom Sestak – the best defensive lineman the AFL ever had!…Got to know him personally after his career was over, he even came to my wedding in 1984…Heart of Gold, very friendly giant of a man…ended up working for Erie County when Former team mate Eddie Rutkowski was County Executive….Died of a heart attack in his car at the ripe young age of 51…I remember being at his house once in the Colden Hills outside of Buffalo for a Superbowl Party- think it was Denver/Giants? back in the mid 80’s…He took me down to his basement – trophy mancave..I was in awe- here the guy I idolized and Im hanging out with him in his trophy place- he finally comes upstairs to the TV Room just before kickoff..He has on an Orange mechanics jumpsuit probably 2 sizes too small…and says to the crowd- “Ill always be an OLd AFL fan- Lets go Broncos!”….he was put on the bills wall of fame before any of the real HOF Inductees- he deserves a spot in Canton- maybe someday the Old Timers division will bestow such honor- he deserves!!!

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