Why is Johnny Robinson not in the Hall of Fame?

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1961 Topps Johnny RobinsonThere is a feeling amongst fans of the American Football League that players from the AFL get overlooked by the voting committees of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Everyone has their own favorite player that they feel has been shorted in the voting process.  Typically fans argue the hardest for a player from their home team.  But when the hall of fame becomes a topic of conversation amongst the more unbiased of AFL fans, one name is generally agreed upon by all as the one man most deserving.  That player is Johnny Robinson of the Dallas Texans & Kansas City Chiefs.

Johnny Robinson played in the same offensive backfield at LSU as Heisman Trophy winner and Houston Oilers first-round draft choice, Billy Cannon.  Robinson was the first round selection of the Dallas Texans in the 1960 AFL Draft, and it was as a running back, sharing the backfield with Abner Haynes, that Robinson spent his first two seasons in professional football.   He was a serviceable, if not spectacular back, and rushed for 658 yards and six touchdowns while catching 76 passes for 1,212 yards and nine scores in two years.

Entering into his third year in the league, the Texans moved Johnny Robinson into the defensive backfield, and he quickly made a home for himself at safety.  His success was immediate and enduring, and when Robinson retired after the 1971 season, he had made his mark as perhaps the greatest defensive back in AFL history.  Take a quick glance at this following list of Johnny Robinson’s accomplishments, and explain to me why this man does not have his name enshrined with the greats of the game in Canton, Ohio.

  • He was a six-time AFL All-Star (1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968)
  • He was a six-time First-Team All-AFL/All-Pro selection (1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970)
  • He was a defensive leader on the AFL Champions Texans & Chiefs of 1962, 1966 & 1969
  • He was a defensive leader on the Super Bowl IV champion Chiefs, and recovered a fumble and pulled down an interception in Super Bowl IV despite playing with three broken ribs that he suffered in the AFL Championship Game the week before.
  • He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Time AFL First Team
  • He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Team of the Decade – 1960s
  • He is a member of the Kansas City Chiefs All-Time Team, the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, and the LSU Hall of Fame.

When asked who he believes has been most snubbed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, hall of fame member Lance Alworth told me, “Johnny Robinson of the Chiefs.  He was the best defensive back I ever played against.  He’s my man.”

There is no such thing as a perfect voting system.  There will always be a deserving player somewhere that get overlooked for one reason or another.  But when the athlete in question is the caliber of Johnny Robinson, then his exclusion becomes less an issue of circumstance and more an egregious omission.  Johnny Robinson deserves to have his bust in Canton, amongst his Chiefs teammates, Buck Buchanan, Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier, Emmitt Thomas, Len Dawson, Jan Stenerud, coach Hank Stram and owner Lamar Hunt.

Todd Tobias (775 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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16 Responses to Why is Johnny Robinson not in the Hall of Fame?

  1. Robinson was also one of only twenty men two play in the American Football League for its entire ten-year existence. Look at the following comparison of Robinson and Larry Wilson ****of the NFL****, who was inducted years ago.

    Larry Wilson played for the NFL’s Cardinals from 1960 through 1972, a total of 169 games. He made the NFL Pro Bowl 8 times. He had 52 career interceptions and 44 career points. In 1966, he had 10 interceptions. He did a minor amount of punt/kickoff returning, rushing, or receiving. He played in one meaningless post-season game, the laughable NFL “Runner-up Bowl”, in 1964. He was inducted to the “pro football” hall of fame in 1978, six years after he retired, one year after he was eligible.

    Johnny Robinson played for the AFL’s Texans/Chiefs from 1960 through 1971, a total of 164 games. He was an AFL All-star six times and made the Pro Bowl once, after the leagues merged. He had 57 career interceptions and 108 career points. In 1966, like Wilson, he also had 10 interceptions. He averaged over 13 yards on 24 punt/kickoff returns, had over 600 yards receiving in each of his first two years, and a 4.4 yard rushing average on 150 carries. Unlike Wilson, Robinson saw meaningful post-season action. He played in three league championship games, his team winning all three. He played in two super bowls, his team going 1 – 1. In Super Bowl IV, playing with three broken ribs, he had an interception, helping the Chiefs defense hold that year’s version of “the greatest team in history” to seven points. He was eligible for the hall of fame in 1976.

    Robinson had more interceptions, more points, one less “pro bowl” and three more championship rings than Larry Wilson!

    The NFL-oriented selectors overlooked his accomplishments because he played in the AFL. Now, Robinson’s a “senior candidate” and although the former selectors may have been replaced, their replacements are too young to remember Johnny. What a travesty!

    • Scott Matteson says:

      As a child, I spent many a Sunday at Municipal Stadium watching my beloved Chiefs battle other teams in the greatest league ever. Johnny Robinosn was the defensive glue that held together arguably one of the best defensive groups ever. He certainly has the credentials to belong in the HoF and I think it will take someone of Clark Hunt’s stature to stand before the committee and make the case for his selection

  2. Mark Palczewski says:

    Without a doubt, Johhny Robinson is one of the most deserving players NOT in the HOF. He has the stats, all-star selections, post-season accomplishments, and he played a huge role when his team beat the NFL in 1969. What more could he have done? I am a huge Buffalo Bills and an old AFL Chargers fan but I am unbiased enough to see this is a gross injustice.

  3. Todd Tobias says:

    Ange and Mark, you guys both hit the nail on the head. There are several more AFL guys that deserve to go in, but I think Robinson is the one that stands out the most. I just don’t understand how he has been overlooked.

  4. Todd Tobias says:

    Interesting thought, Scott. I wonder why the Hunt family has not taken up the charge in Johnny’s case?

  5. […] week we discussed how Texans and Chiefs defensive back, Johnny Robinson, has been overlooked for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Ironically, there is a […]

  6. Howard says:

    Robinson is a no-brainier for HOF. Great player, who was involved in several key games during his career. I believe that any AFL player who was All-AFL 1st team for three or more years should automatically be inducted in HOF.

  7. Robert Skaltsis says:

    Thanks to you Todd for the forum , and to you Ange for the persuasive , fact based argument .
    Johnny Robinson is one of many deserving AFL stars to be utterly snubbed by the Pro Football Hall Of Fame . I sincerly hope that justice will be done for Johnny ( albiet too late for him to see ) He was an amazing leader on an all-time great defense … I also feel that Gino Cappelletti of the Boston Patriots has all the credentials of a HOFer . Time is growing short for some of the great AFLers , and I would love to see satisfaction achieved for the Other league within their lifetimes . ( After all it is the Pro Football Hall Of Fame , not the National Football League Hall Of Fame ) … Both Johnny’s , and Gino’s cause should be joined in a letter writing assault on the Pro Football hall Of Fame , and it’s selection committee(s)…. Ange , Perhaps you could lead the charge ?

    • Todd Tobias says:

      You are very welcome, Robert. I am not sure what it will take to finally get those deserving AFL’ers inducted into the Hall of Fame. Gino is another great name, and one who is very deserving of induction.

      • Howard says:

        I’ve had a conversation with Ange about this. My suggestion is that Ralph Wilson and Bud Adams, the two remaining original AFL owners would have to make an emotional appeal to the owners stating that a group of AFL All Stars be inducted as a special group. Ange’s reply was that Adams and Wilson “are too busy counting their money; they are not as passionate as they could be. It’s not easy getting into the HOF. Even Jerry Kramer is not in.

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  9. […] Tobias A question that all AFL fans have… Why is Johnny Robinson not in the Hall of Fame? http://www.talesfromtheamericanfootballleague.com There is a feeling amongst fans of the American […]

  10. […] stand, Dallas’s Special Teams suddenly silenced the Los Angeles Memorial Colosseum when Johnny Robinson returned a very poor punt 36 yards into the Chargers end zone and brought the Texans to within a […]

  11. Tommy Hollier says:

    How could Johnny Robinson possibly be overlooked for so long with the incredible stats he had.

  12. Ray Collins Jr says:

    Johnny Robinson should be in the Hall of Fame he played with my father Ray Collins with the Texans at which he retired after 11 years of pro football.Dad always said Mr Robinson was the best Defensive back in his day.There are many players of old that deserve the Hall of fame status.But as politics play a big roll it is who you know

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