Category Archives: Cincinnati Bengals

>1968 AFL Rookie of the Year – Paul Robinson

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Paul Robinson grew up in the small town of Marana, Arizona, where he was a talented track athlete in addition to playing basketball and football.  He graduated from high school in 1963, and after time spent at a junior college, earned a track scholarship to the University of Arizona.  Robinson ran track for two years at the U of A, but played only one season of collegiate football before being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of the 1968 AFL Draft. Robinson’s first contract paid him a $15,000 base salary, with a $15,000 signing bonus.  For their $30,000 investment, the Bengals got themselves the AFL’s Rookie of the Year.  In his rookie year, which was also the Bengals first year in existence, Paul Robinson rushed for 1,023 yards and scored eight touchdowns, which made Robinson just the second player ever to rush for more than 1,000 yards in his first year of professional football in the United States.  The other was the legendary Cookie Gilchrist, who ran for 1,096 yards for the Buffalo Bills in 1962. After finishing second only to Joe Namath as the league MVP in 1968, Paul Robinson’s numbers dropped off in later years, but he played another six years in the AFL & NFL.  When Paul Robinson left the NFL after the 1973 season, he had carried the ball 737 times for 2,947 career rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.  He also had 90 receptions for 612 yards and two scores.  Paul Robinson spent the 1974 season with the Birmingham Americans of the World Football League, where he helped the Americans win the WFL’s only championship game before the league folded at the end of the season.

>1966 AFL Rookie of the Year – Bobby Burnett

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Bobby Burnett (#21) shown running behing Bills blockers.
In 1966, the Buffalo Bills used their fourth-round draft pick on a 6’3″, 210-lb running back from the University of Arkansas, named Bobby Burnett.  Burnett made an immediate impact on the Bills offense.  In 14 games his rookie season, Burnett rushed 187 times for 766 yards and four touchdowns.  He also caught 34 passes for 319 yards and another four touchdowns.  For his efforts, Burnett was voted onto the AFL All-Star Game, and was named AFL Rookie of the Year. Bobby Burnett was poised to begin the 1967 season right where he had left off the year before, but misfortune struck in the form of cracked ribs that he incurred during training camp. Burnett had just recovered from the rib injury, when he suffered a devastating knee injury in a game against the New York Jets. The Bills made Burnett available in the 1968 AFL Expansion Draft, and he was claimed by the Cincinnati Bengals.  The rehab on his knee took longer than hoped, and Burnett was not able to play for the Bengals in 1968.  He signed with the Denver Broncos in 1969, but played in just three more games before retiring.  Bobby Burnett finished his professional football career with 871 rushing yards, 533 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns.

>Comments on Race in the AFL – Ernie Wright

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In recognition of February being Black History Month, stories this month will pertain to racial issues in the American Football League.  The post for this week contains part of an interview

that I conducted in 1998, with Chargers and Bengals offensive tackle, Ernie Wright.  Wright was an original Charger, joining the club in Los Angeles in 1960.  He moved with the team to San Diego, where he was a fixture on the offensive line for the next several years.  Wright was picked up by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1968 AFL Expansion Draft, and played four seasons in his native Ohio, before coming back to the Chargers for his final season in 1972.  Wright was a three-time AFL All-Star, and one of only 20 men to play in all 10 seasons of the AFL.  He was successful in his post-football life, first as a sports agent, and then in operating a series of detention centers for people convicted of misdemeanors.  Ernie Wright passed away on March 21, 2007, after a battle with cancer.  read more

>Comments on Race in the AFL – Ernie Wright

>

In recognition of February being Black History Month, stories this month will pertain to racial issues in the American Football League.  The post for this week contains part of an interview

that I conducted in 1998, with Chargers and Bengals offensive tackle, Ernie Wright.  Wright was an original Charger, joining the club in Los Angeles in 1960.  He moved with the team to San Diego, where he was a fixture on the offensive line for the next several years.  Wright was picked up by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1968 AFL Expansion Draft, and played four seasons in his native Ohio, before coming back to the Chargers for his final season in 1972.  Wright was a three-time AFL All-Star, and one of only 20 men to play in all 10 seasons of the AFL.  He was successful in his post-football life, first as a sports agent, and then in operating a series of detention centers for people convicted of misdemeanors.  Ernie Wright passed away on March 21, 2007, after a battle with cancer.  read more

>They Called Him Psycho

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The 1962 Dallas Texans All-Stars.  Top – David Webster, Cotton Davidson, Abner Haynes.  Bottom – E.J. Holub, Mel Branch, Bill Krisher, Jon Gilliam, Sherrill Headrick, Paul Rochester, Chris Burford.

Sherrill Headrick was a Texan.  Born in Waco in 1937, Headrick attended North Side High School before taking his gridiron talents to Texas Christian University.  After leaving TCU, Headrick had a short stint in the Canadian Football League before he returned to Texas and began working in an oil field.

When the Dallas Texans were first signing players for their initial training camp in 1960, Sherrill Headrick was one of the men that they targeted.  After surviving training camp in Roswell, New Mexico, Headrick and settled into a linebacker position with the Texans, from which he earned All-AFL honors in his first three seasons.

Stories abound of his high threshold for pain, which combined with his intensity on the field earned Headrick the respect of his teammates, and also a nickname.  They called him Psycho.  Among the injuries sustained by Psycho that somehow did not manage to put him on the sidelines – a broken neck, infected gums and a fractured thumb.  Once when he broke a bone in his finger so badly that it was protruding from the skin, he insisted that the trainer pop it back in and tape it up so that he could continue playing.

Sherrill Headrick played eight seasons with the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs before ending his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted Headrick in the 1968 AFL expansion draft.  In 116 professional games, #69 recorded 15 interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns.

Sherrill Headrick was still a friend to fans and collectors long after his retirement.  So much so, that despite suffering the ravages of cancer that would eventually take his life on September 10, 2008, he continued to sign autographs long after most people would have given up. 

In March of 2008, I sent a 1969 Topps card to Mr. Headrick with a letter asking if he would please sign it for me.  I had not known that he was ill; if I had, I would not have bothered him with the request.  After learning of his passing later that year, I figured that he had probably been too ill to sign.  As a cancer survivor myself, I knew full-well how terribly you can feel while being treated for the wretched disease.  I had forgotten about the request until March 16, 2009, when I received the card back, autographed in Sherrill Headrick’s shaky hand.  It speaks volumes of Mr. Headrick that he would want to honor a fan’s request, even feeling as poorly as he did.  It also says something about the quality of his family that they would make sure that I received the card, after apparently finding it several months after his passing.