There is a feeling among AFL fans that the American Football League players are consistently overlooked for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In truth there are many players, the bulk of whose careers were spent in the AFL, that deserve serious consideration, if not outright induction. In an effort to spark some discussion regarding their hall of fame worthiness, I will occasionally compare AFL players to their NFL (and Hall of Fame) counterparts. The short biographies on the NFL players have been taken directly from the Pro Football Hall of Fame website.
Today’s comparison is between Art Powell of the New York Titans/Oakland Raiders/Buffalo Bills, and two HoF wide receivers, Raymond Berry and Tommy McDonald.
Arthur Louis “Art” Powell – Played defensive back in the NFL before switching to receiver with the Titans… Four-time AFL All-Star and AFL All-Time Second Team member…Caught 479 passes for 8,046 yards, 81 touchdowns… Career ratio of touchdowns to receptions 1 to 5.9… 16.8 yards-per-reception average… Third-most prolific pass receiver in AFL behind Lionel Taylor & Don Maynard.
Raymond Emmett Berry – Formed exceptional pass-catch team with Johnny Unitas. . .Caught then-record 631 passes for 9,275 yards, 68 touchdowns. . .All-NFL in 1958, 1959, 1960. . .Elected to six Pro Bowl games. . .Set NFL title game mark with 12 catches for 178 yards in 1958 overtime game. . .Colts’ 20th-round future choice in 1954.
Thomas Franklin “Tommy” McDonald – Eagles’ third-round draft pick, 1957. . . Career statistics: 495 receptions, 8,410 yards, 84 touchdowns. . . Selected to six Pro Bowls. . .Scored 56 touchdowns in 63 games, 1958-1962. . .Career ratio of touchdowns to receptions 1 to 5.9. . .Led NFL in reception yardage and touchdowns, 1961. . .Ranked sixth all-time in receptions, fourth in yards receiving and second in touchdown catches at time of retirement.
Art Powell seem to me to be one of the more blatant oversights in regards to hall of fame recognition. Powell had a reputation for being surly, which has possibly factored against him with sportswriters. Additionally, he was a strong-willed and outspoken African-American man at a time when being so was not readily accepted. However, Powell’s (and teammates) boycott of games in segregated Mobile, Alabama, and New Orleans helped break down racial barriers in the South. Perhaps that factored against him in his early years of eligibility, but surely should work in his favor? Thoughts?