Favorite AFL Images – The Fearsome Foursome

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fearsome foursome

As much as I like Lance Alworth, I have typically enjoyed watching good defense more than good offense.  Just a personal preference of mine.  The 1961 San Diego Chargers had a smothering defense that was led by their line of Ron Nery (80), Ernie Ladd (77), Bill Hudson (79) and Earl Faison (86).  Linebacker, Chuck Allen, was also in the first season of his long career in ’61.  While quarterback sack totals were not kept then, the Chargers defensive front forced quarterbacks to throw 49 interceptions (in a 14-game season), a record that still stands.  This famed Chargers defense had a couple of nicknames – the line was called the Fearsome Foursome (prior to the Los Angeles Rams), and the backfield was dubbed the Seven Bandits.

Todd Tobias (790 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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12 Responses to Favorite AFL Images – The Fearsome Foursome

  1. Buzz Ponce says:

    As usual, great post, Todd. Interestingly, as I mention in the book Finding Frank: Full Circle in a Life Cut Short, the term Fearsome Foursome actually predates the American Football League and was first used to describe a defensive unit for the New York Giants, not the Los Angeles Rams, as is popularly thought.
    As recounted in Chapter 16:
    Although the New York Daily News ran a feature story way back in 1957 profiling the New York Giants’ defensive group and headlined, “A Fearsome Foursome,” it wasn’t until the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers came along in 1960 that the term gained popular acceptance. The Fearsome Foursome saw several different versions with the Chargers, but in 1961-62 was composed of behemoth lineman Ernie Ladd, defensive end Earl Faison, and linemen Ron Nery, and Bill Hudson.

  2. Howard says:

    It would be cool if there were some videos of the Chargers defensive unit from the early 1960’s. There is a 1963 AFL Championship game highlights video that is mostly showing highlights of the offense.

    Certainly if just based on size, they were an entertaining defense. Not sure if Sid Gillman actually thought of defense as part of the game.

  3. Wayne Tietz says:

    I wish the 63 Chargers would of played the 63 Bears for the World Championship. I always thought that the Chargers would of won.

  4. Paul Beaver says:

    I was 16 years old in 1961 and I saw the San Diego Chargers play the Dallas Texans in the Cotton Bowl.

    Both teams entered the playing field thru a ramp below the South End Zone
    stands where all the kids went to cheer and boo the players.

    When the Chargers came through, the kids said nothing because they were kinda awed by the size of lineman Ernie Ladd, defensive end Earl Faison, and linemen Ron Nery, and Bill Hudson.

  5. billd says:

    Great picture of both the players and the fans right on top of the action at old Balboa Stadium. Also pictured is #34, safety Bob Zeman, who had 8 interceptions in the 61 season. Bob had two stints with the Chargers and had a long career coaching at the collegiate level and in the NFL.

  6. The 60 and 61 chargers were tuff”’ as pineknots—but just couldn’t stop Blanda-Cannon and the oilers –I watched both those Championship games–sad we don’t have them on film. The 61 game may be the hardest hitting game ever.

  7. SAD Emil Karras speared Billy Cannon in the back and pretty much screwed up his career.

  8. Kevin Carroll says:

    As Mr. Yerby said, “The ’61 game may have been the hardest hitting game ever.”
    A dozen players were helped off the field that day, six of whom were knocked unconscious. Two of the injured required knee surgery and a total of nineteen teeth were lost.

    The Oilers’ team physician for the game was Dr. James Whitehurst. Whitehurst, who at the time had worked the sidelines at pro and college games for over a decade, declared after the contest, “I never witnessed a more brutal or punishing game than that one.”

  9. Tom Fischer says:

    As I recall the Bills had a heck of a def. frontline with Tom Sestak, Ron McDole, Jim McManaway and Tom Day.

  10. Loved the San Diego Chargers, just a ton of big name stars. Alworth, Lincoln, Hadl, Ladd and Faison to name a few. I used to follow them by watching them on TV and buying football cards as I wsa in the age five to fifteen bracket during its hayday. My mother god love her bought our first color TV and had it delivered one hour before the Charger/Bills championship game I want to say like 1963 ? feel free to correct my guesstimate.

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