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 Fred Arbanas of the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs, and two HoF tight ends, Mike Ditka and John Mackey
Frederick Vincent “Fred” Arbanas – 7th round draft choice, 1961 AFL draft… Fierce blocker and solid pass-catcher… 6-time AFL All-Star, 6-time TSN All-AFL selection… 3-time AFL champion, Super Bowl IV champion… Career record: 198 catches, 3101 yards, 34 TDs… AFL All-Time First Team member
Michael Keller Ditka. . .Consensus All-America, 1960. . . Bears’ No. 1 pick, 1961. . .First tight end elected to Hall. . . Fast, rugged, outstanding blocker, great competitor. . .Big-play star of Bears’ 1963 title team. . . Scored final touchdown in Cowboys’ Super Bowl VI win. . .Rookie of the Year, 1961. . . All-NFL four years, in five straight Pro Bowls. . .Career record: 427 receptions, 5,812 yards, 43 TDs
John Mackey … No. 2 draft pick, 1963 … Prototype tight end with breakaway speed, ability to avoid tackles, strong blocker … Long-distance threat who scored six TDs over 50 yards, 1966 … Caught deflected pass for 75-yard TD, Super Bowl V … Career record: 331 catches, 5,236 yards, 38 TDs … Three-time All-NFL, played in five Pro Bowls … Second tight end to enter Hall
One of the things that strikes me about Fred Arbanas is his determination to overcome injury and continue to play at a high level. He missed his rookie season of 1961, due to ruptured disks in his back. He lost the sight in one eye after suffering a brutal mugging in 1964. Certainly the AFL’s greatest tight end deserves recognition in Canton. Thoughts?