A Hall of Fame Comparison – WALT SWEENEY

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autographed 1965 topps walt sweeney

#173 – Walt Sweeney

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 first such comparison is between Walt Sweeney of the San Diego Chargers, and two HoF offensive guards, Tom Mack and Mike Munchak.

Walter Francis Sweeney – First round draft choice of the San Diego Chargers, second player overall in the 1963 AFL Draft…  Earned his starting position in 1964, and played in 181 of 182 games during his career…  Named to nine AFL All-Star/Pro Bowl games…  Named All-AFL/All-AFC five times…

Thomas Lee MackRams’ first round draft pick, second player overall in 1966 NFL draft. . .One of only two rookies on veteran-laden team. . . Earned starting role as rookie and held left guard position for next 13 seasons. . .Extremely durable, never missed a game during 184-game career. . .Named to 11 Pro Bowls. . .All-NFL five times. . . All-Western Conference once, All-NFC eight times…

Michael Anthony MunchakOilers’ first-round draft pick, eighth player overall and first offensive lineman selected, 1982 … Earned starting left guard position, rookie season … Devastating blocker, anchored Oilers line that helped team perennially rank near top of NFL’s offensive statistical categories … Named first- or second-team All-Pro ten times … All-AFC seven times … Elected to nine Pro Bowls …

Their careers look pretty comparable to me.  Walt Sweeney has a history of drug abuse and a lawsuit against the NFL that may factor into his not being in the Hall of Fame, but looking strictly at accomplishments on the field, Sweeney looks like he belongs in the HoF.  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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7 Responses to A Hall of Fame Comparison – WALT SWEENEY

  1. Howard says:

    There are many AFL players who deserve to be inducted. But because the Leagues merged over 40 years ago, it will require special circumstances. I have argued that Ralph Wilson and Bud Adams; the only remaining original AFL owners must petition their fellow owners to allow a large contingent of AFL players to be inducted together. Sort of like Negro League players were inducted as a group.
    Clearly, as you have detailed there are many deserving AFL players not in. But because most writers were only children when the AFL existed, they are not going to make the vote happen. By the way, you can also make a case for the Old AAFL teams that were acquired by the NFL in the late 1940’s as worthy as well!

    • Todd Tobias says:

      I agree to a degree, but when guys like Benny Friedman can be voted in some 70+ years after his reitrement, and 30+ years after his death, then that throws a wrench into the plan. As well, we are talking about the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I’d bet there is someone on staff who could do a bit of research to better educate the voters.

  2. Dave Steidel says:

    Here are some other notable comparisons of NFL HOFers and AFL starts that never seem to come up in the HOF conversation – but compare their careers and stats, then YOU make the decision as to whether they are on the same playing field.
    HUGH McELHENNY – (1952-1964) NFL HOF – played in one championship at the end of his career as a backup halfback, carrying the ball only 55 times and catching 11 passes. He played for the San Francisco 49ers from 1952 through 1960. In 1961 he ran the ball 120 times for the first year Vikings and in 1963 he found part time employment with the Giants. He closed out his HOF career in 1964, playing eight games for the Detroit Lions. At his best “the king” with the swivel hips gained 916 yards in 1956 characterized by his open field running. On four other occasions (’52, ’53, ’54 and ’61) he gained over 500 yards. He was also adept at catching passes out of the backfield, catching 30 or more four times. Hugh scored 60 NFL touchdowns as well, registering 38 on the ground, 20 through the air and 2 more on punt returns. In 143 games he totaled 5281 yards on 1124 carries (4.7 yd. average) and caught 264 passes (12.3 yd. average)
    MIKE GARRETT – (1966-1973) played four years in the AFL for the Kansas City Chiefs and after the merger four more years in the AFC with San Diego. On six occasions he gained over 500 yards, twice going over 1,000 yds. In his final season, for the Chargers, he gained 467 on 114 carries. In his 104 games Mike carried the ball 1308 times for 5481 yards (4.2 yd. average) and caught 238 passes (8.4 yd. average). In five seasons he caught more than 30 passes, including three times when he caught more than 40. For his eight year career he scored 49 touchdowns, 35 on the ground, 13 via passes and 1 on a punt return. He also played on two AFL championship teams, two Super Bowls where he was on the winning side in SBIV.
    CLEM DANIELS – (1960-1968) played all but his last year in the AFL, primarily for the Oakland Raiders. A series of leg injuries cut his illustrious career short, but during the height of his playing days there was no better running in the league than Clem Daniels, After being used as a defensive back by the Dallas Texans in his rookie season Daniels found himself looking for a new home in 1961. That new home became Oakland. As a reserve back in ’61 he carried the ball only 31 times for 154 yards (5.0 yd. average). In 1962 he won a starting position and carried the ball 161 times for 766 yards. The following season (1963) he led the league in rushing and set an AFL rushing record of 1099 yards (5.1 yd. average) while also catching 30 passes for 685 yards (22.8 yd. average). For next three years (’64, ’65, ’66) Daniels never gained less than 800 yards and caught 42, 36 and 40 passes over that same time. During the Raiders 13-1 championship season of 1967 Daniels was injured in the ninth game of the season and was lost for the rest of the year. But over those nine games he carried the ball 130 for 575 yards (4.4 yd. average). Unable to fully recover from his injury Daniels was forced to retire after only 12 carries in 1968. During his time in with Oakland Daniels was the quintessential multi-purpose running back, running, receiving, returning both kickoffs and punts as well as completing four of his nine passing attempts. For his career Clem carried the ball 1146 times for 5138 yards (4.5 yd. average) which established him as the most consistent runner in league history. He finished fourth, first, third, third and second in the league in rushing from 1962-1966 and in his injury season of 1967 he finished seventh while only playing in nine games. He caught 203 passes for 3314 yards (16.3 yd. average) and scored 54 touchdowns, 30 on the ground and 24 receiving.

    JOHN HENRY JOHNSON – (1954-1964) NFL HOF – played for the 49ers, Lions and Steelers carrying the ball 1501 times for 6577 yards for a 4.3 yd average and 45 touchdowns. A fierce and powerful fullback and blocker for Joe “the Jet” Perry in SF, he also teamed with Tom “the bomb” Tracy in Detroit (1957 NFL champs) and Pittsburgh to make both the Lions and Steelers strong running teams. JH also caught a178 passes for 1328 yards and 7 touchdowns.

    Other comparisons that should be considered are NFL HOF’ers Michael Irvin, Bob Hayes and Tommy McDonald, all GREAT receivers, with the AFL’s Lionel Taylor and Charlie Hennigan. Although final numbers can be deceiving in some cases, these stats don’t lie. And if you were around to watch ALL of these men catch passes I think you’d agree that an objective point of view would have a hard time deciding which of these five stalwart receives would be drafted 1 through 5 for a fantasy team.
    McDonald – 152 games, 495 catches, 8410 yards, 17 yd. average with 84 touchdowns. Tommy caught an average of 40 passes per year ranging from a low of 7 to a high of 67.
    Irvin – 159 games, 750 catches, 11904 yards, 15.9 yd average with 65 touchdowns. Michael caught an average of 66 passes per year ranging from a low of 10 to a high of 111.
    Hayes – 132 games, 371 catches, 7414 yards, 20 yard average with 71 touchdowns. The Bullet caught an average of 39 passes per year ranging from a high of 64 to a low of 6.
    Taylor – 113 games, 567 catches, 7195 yards, 12.7 yard average with 45 touchdowns and was the first player in professional football to catch 100 passes in a season. Lionel caught an average of 63 passes per year ranging from a low of 6 to 100 while catching over 75 passes in six of his 9 AFL years – which is higher than both Hayes and McDonald’s highest years.
    Hennigan – 95 games, 410 catches, 6823 yards, 16.6 average, 51 touchdowns and was only the second player in professional football history to catch 100 in a season – pulling in 101 in 1964. Charley caught an average of 59 passes per year ranging from a low of 27 to a high of 101.

  3. AND…over the first several years of his career…Walt Sweeney was an absolute STUD on special teams (esp. the kickoff team, where the announcer intoned more often than not, “Tackle by Walt-er Swee-ney!”)

    and Todd, I’m going to try and call you early this evening (Tuesday…w/ the only [cell] # of yours that I have…), so if you don’t hear from me………

  4. Tom says:

    To compare three NFL recievers in the HOF with two AFL recievers that are not, by their numbers is some what fair, a different comparison and possibly equally valid, is to compare the talent of two AFL HOF recievers Fred Belitnikoff and Don Maynard with the talent of two non HOF AFL recievers, Art Powell and Otis Taylor. Powell had success in 1959, his rookie and only NFL season as a kick returner with the Eagles, Otis Taylor’s talent was as striking as it was obvious, just look at what he did to the Vikes. I was fortunate to see Powell play and the only word I’d use to describe his play is dominant. Lionel Taylor and Maynard, both were given little if any chance, and the littl they were, made little or no impact while in the NFL. Was Fred Belitnikoff as physically gifted as NFL reciever Gary Collins, no! not even close, Collins was 6″4 220 and could run like the wind and kick mile high punts 60″ yards with ease. Collins for some unexplained reason is a HOF snub.

    Three NFL AFL players that should be in the HOF are Johnny Sample, Ron McDole and Sherman Plunkett.

    I’m biased by my LA roots so to me “The King” is incomparable, you mention Joe Perry LA Jordan HS and Compton CC playing with John Henry Johnson Pittsburgh, Ca HS, but failed too mention that the King played in the same 49er backfield, Look at the Kings numbers in 1954, in the six games he played before he broke his clavicle he averaged 8.0 yards per carry. It was the second time since high school he broke his clavicle, a very tough injury for any player let alone a running back. In 1962 I saw 35 year old Joe Perry play at the end of his career with the Colts in the LA Coliseum and watching him hit the hole as quick as he did, made everyone else look like they were standing still. The King also shared time with JD Smith.

    The two time Olympic Decathalon gold Medalist Bob Mathias, who many consider the greatest athlete of his generation and most storied, also played football at Stanford. In 1948 at Tulare High School Mathias competed twice against LA Washigton HS’s “The King” in Track. The King won, beat Mathias both times, in the 180 LH and once in the Long Jump.

  5. Mark Speck says:

    I think Sweeney stacks up well, but I agree Todd, his lawsuit against the NFL may hurt his chances.

  6. […] comparison of Sweeney’s career against guards in the Pro Football Hall of Fame can be found HERE. Share this:ShareFacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle +1StumbleUponPrintEmailRedditDigg Filed Under: AFL, […]

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