Category Archives: Abner Haynes

>1960 AFL Rookie of the Year & Most Valuable Player – Abner Haynes

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People remember the Boston Red Sox outfielder, Fred Lynn, as the winner of major league baseball’s Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in the season of 1975.  The Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki duplicated the feat in 2001.  But few sports fans recall that Dallas Texans’ running back, Abner Haynes, won the American Football League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in the league’s inaugural season of 1960. Abner Haynes is a Texas native, who played his high school ball at Lincoln High School in Dallas.  From there he moved on to North Texas State University.  He was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the 1960 American Football League draft, but immediately traded to his hometown franchise, the Dallas Texans.  Haynes quickly earned the starting halfback position, and the rest, as they say, is history. There is not a lot that Abner Haynes didn’t do in 1960.  He led the AFL in rushing attempts (156), yardage (875) and touchdowns (9), also in punt return yardage (215) and average (15.4).  Additionally, he finished in the top 10 in the league in kick off returns, receiving and scoring.  In the Player of the Year balloting, Haynes received 14 of 32 votes cast by a poll of the press, beating out the Chargers’ Jack Kemp, who received 10 votes. Haynes also won the AFL’s Rookie of the Year Award.  Though the league did not hold an all-star game in 1960, Haynes was named to the official all-league team.  Abner Haynes played eight seasons in the American Football League, with the Dallas Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.  He retired after the 1967 season with 4,630 rushing yards on 1,036 attempts (4.5 average) and 46 touchdowns.  He also caught 287 passes for 3,535 yards and 20 touchdowns.  Haynes was named to the AFL’s All-Time Second Team.    

>The AFL’s First All-Star Game

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Two weeks after the Houston Oilers defeated the San Diego Chargers by a score of 10-3 in the 1961 AFL Championship Game, the league’s best and brightest gathered in San Diego to participate in the AFL’s first all-star game.  The all-star squads represented either the AFL’s Eastern or Western Divisions, consisted of 29 players, and were led by the coaching staffs of that year’s division winners, the Chargers and Oilers. 
Balboa Stadium during the first AFL All-Star Game
The all-star teams trained at local military facilities during the week leading up to the game, and on January 7, 1962, met at Balboa Stadium in this first all-star classic.  Some 20,973 fans attended the game after paying $5 and $3 for reserved seats, while general admission was only $2.  The AFL honored San Diego’s many servicemen and women, by giving them a $1 discount if they presented their active duty cards.
Texans All-Stars
Back Row – David Webster, Cotton Davidson, Abner Haynes
Front Row – E.J. Holub, Mel Branch, Bill Krisher, Jon Gilliam, Sherrill Headrick, Paul Rochester, Chris Burford
The captains (Jack Kemp and Bud McFadin of the West, and George Blanda and Fred Bruney of the East) met at midfield, and the coin flip resulted in the West kicking off, while the East chose to defend the south goal.
Chargers All-Stars
Back Row – Charlie McNeil, Dick Harris, Jack Kemp and Don Norton
Front Row – Bill Hudson,Earl Faison, Dave Kocourek, Emil Karas and Ernie Wright
The action was fast and furious, and the East opened the scoring with a 32-yard field goal by George Blanda on the Eastern squad’s second possession.  From that point forward, the game was a battle between two potent offenses, with most of the action coming from the arms of quarterbacks, Blanda and Cotton Davidson. When the final gun sounded, the West had won by a score of 47-27.  Blanda had thrown for 163 yards and two touchdowns, and in a performance that earned him Outstanding Player honors, Cotton Davidson led the West to victory with 239 passing yards and three touchdowns. 
Abner Haynes (l), Cotton Davidson (c) and Sid Gillman (r) in the winner’s locker room.
San Diego played host to the first three AFL All-Star Games, before the game was to be held in New Orleans in January, 1965.  That game was moved to Houston shortly before being played due to racial discrimination suffered by many of the all-stars while in New Orleans. 

>The Amazing Abner Haynes

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Abner Haynes avoids Buffalo’s Arch Matsos in the 1962 AFL All-Star Game.
1.  Who was originally chosen by the Minneapolis-St. Paul franchise in the 1960 AFL Draft, but then immediately traded to the Dallas Texans? 2.  Who earned both the 1960 AFL Rookie of the Year honors and the 1960 AFL Most Valuable Player Award, after capturing the AFL rushing title that season? 3.  Who still owns the Kansas City Chiefs record with 19 (13 rushing, six receiving) touchdowns in a single season, though he accomplished the feat nearly 50 years ago? 4.  Who had more rushing touchdowns (46) than any other player in AFL history? 5.  Who was a four-time AFL All-Star and four-time All-Pro in just eight seasons? Answers to 1-5 – Abner Haynes
1960 Fleer
Abner Haynes was drafted by teams in the AFL, NFL and CFL as a senior running back out of North Texas State (now the University of North Texas).  He chose to play for the Dallas Texans of the AFL, mainly because of their proximity to his home.  Haynes enjoyed immediate success with the Texans, earning league MVP and Rookie of the Year honors, as well as leading the league in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns in 1960. Haynes followed up his spectacular rookie season with similarly dominant years in 1961 and 1962.  Over the two-year span he rushed for 1,890 yards, averaged 4.7 yards-per-carry, and twice led the league in rushing touchdowns.  He was also among the league leaders in kick and punt returns.  The Dallas Texans were the AFL Eastern Division Champions in 1962, and beat the Houston Oilers in the AFL championship game.
1962 Fleer
Much is said about Haynes’ flub in overtime of the 1962 AFL championship game.  Texans coach, Hank Stram, was aware of strong winds at Houston’s Jeppeson Stadium, and so he instructed Haynes to choose the side of the field facing the stadium clock, which would give the Texans the wind at their backs, if he won the coin toss. Haynes won the coin toss and inadvertently told the referee, “We’ll kick to the clock.” But by stating the words “We’ll kick,” he had forfeited possession of the ball, and allowed Houston to choose which end zone to defend. It proved inconsequential in the end, because the Texans defense held the Oilers scoreless, and won the game on Tommy Brooker’s field goal 2 minutes and 54 seconds into the second overtime.  It is unfortunate that fans remember that incident better than they do Haynes’ play that day, as he scored the Texans’ only two touchdowns, on a 28-yard pass reception and a two-yard run.
1963 Fleer
After three years of battling the new Dallas Cowboys and the NFL for legitimacy and fan support, Haynes and the Texans moved to Kansas City and re-invented themselves as the Chiefs.  The season, however, was quickly tainted by the death of rookie flanker, Stone Johnson, who suffered a broken neck and later passed away after attempting to throw a block on a kickoff return.  Johnson’s death particularly affected Haynes, as the two had been very close.  Haynes’ numbers took a dip in 1963; he rushed for only 352 yards on 99 carries over the season. Haynes rebounded in 1964, and teamed with running back Mack Lee Hill to rush for a combined 1,255 yards.  Haynes averaged 5-yards-per-carry and scored four touchdowns.
1965 Topps
The 1965 season brought Abner Haynes to the Denver Broncos, who had secured the star running back in a trade with the Chiefs for linebacker/punter Jim Fraser.  Haynes teamed with Cookie Gilchrist in the Broncos’ backfield, but was used more to catch passes out of the backfield.  Though his rushing numbers were the lowest thus far in his career in 1965, Haynes hauled in 26 pass receptions and led the league in kick-off returns with a 26.5-yard average.  He also returned punts. The Denver Broncos knew they were heading for a rough season when 17 rookies made their final 40-man roster in 1966.  Their problems were compounded when fullback Cookie Gilchrist left the team, and the Broncos were forced to play two halfbacks in the backfield, Haynes and second-year star, Wendell Hayes.  The results were disastrous, and the AFL’s second-best ground team of 1965 gained only 1,173 yards in 1966.  Haynes had his worst year-to-date, averaging just 2.3 yards-per-carry.  He continued to produce in other ways though, and hauled in 46 pass receptions and posted a 25.4 yard on kick-off returns. Haynes played his last year of professional football in 1967, splitting time between the second-year Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets.  Though his overall rushing yardage was down to 346 yards, he still averaged 4.8-per-carry and rolled up 569 yards on special teams.
1967 Topps
Abner Haynes retired from the game with 1,036 carries for 4,630 yards (a 4.5 average) and 46 touchdowns.  He caught 287 passes for 3,535 yards (a 12.3 average) and 20 touchdowns.  He had 3,110 return yards on punts and kick-offs, and scored two special teams touchdowns.  Haynes was a gifted, multi-talented player speed and moves in the open field made him a legendary figure of the old AFL. Hank Stram, Haynes’ coach with the Texans and Chiefs said it best.  “He was a franchise player before they talked about franchise players,” praised Stram. “He did it all — rushing, receiving, kickoff returns, punt returns. He gave us the dimension we needed to be a good team in Dallas.”
All-Star MVP Cotton Davidson looks on as Abner Haynes shakes hands with Sid Gillman after the January 7, 1962, AFL All-Star Game.  Haynes scored touchdowns on an 11-yard run and a 66-yard punt return.