>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.
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.


3 Responses to >The Amazing Abner Haynes

  1. Tom says:

    Abners numbers are off the chart.. Jim Brown scored 43 Tds his first three seasons Abner scored 44 Tds in his first three seasons and nearly 10,000 all purpose yards his first six. Torus game with specialty players and kickoff rule changes these are numbers that may never be seen again.

    • Big Tex says:

      If the great North Texas Look Magazine All American (Division 1) RB Abner Haynes had gone to the Dallas Cowboys he would have been Coach Tom Landry’s first NFL Hall of Fame inductee in Cowboy Country. The guy was that good. The late Kansas City Chief’s owner Lamar Hunt said that “Abner Haynes was the first bonafide superstar in the American Football League.”

  2. Zac Reisner says:

    I remember as a high school kid, seeing Abner Haynes make a spectacular run for a touchdown while playing for the Chiefs. I can’t remember the opponents, but it was about a 40-yard run in which he was hit and tackled by almost every member of the opposing at least once and sometimes twice, and yet he managed to spin, highstep, hop, hurdle, shoulder past or stiff-arm his way out of every tackle and amazingly almost walked into the endzone as if he were stepping out his front door to pick up the morning paper. Just incredible. He wasn’t a high impact or power smashmouth runner like Jim Brown, or Packer’s full back Jim Taylor, but a finesse master of elusive high technique and agility, like Gale Sayers. Trying to tackle him was once likened to competing in a greased pig contest, he was so slippery. Great fun to watch

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