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 Houston Antwine of the Boston Patriots and two HoF defensive tackles, Henry Jordan and Merlin Olsen.
Houston Antwine – Eighth-round draft choice of the Houston Oilers in 1961, soon traded to Patriots… Became fixture on Patriots defensive line from 1961-1971, with Eagles in 1972… Six-time AFL All-Star (1963-1968)… One of the African-American players to boycott 1965 AFL All-Star Game due to discrimination… Member of Patriots 50th Anniversary Team… AFL All-Time First Team Member.
Henry Wendell Jordan – Cleveland fifth-round draft pick, 1957. . .Traded to Packers for fourth-round pick, 1959. . . Became 11-year fixture at right defensive tackle. . .Quick, smart defender, specialized in pressuring quarterback. . .All-NFL six times. . . Played in four Pro Bowls, seven NFL title games, Super Bowls I, II. . .Missed only two games first 12 seasons.
Merlin Jay Olsen – All-America, Outland Trophy winner, Phi Beta Kappa at Utah State … Rams’ No. 1 draft pick, 1962 … Big, fast, agile, smart … Stabilizing leader of famed “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line … All-NFL, 1964, 1966-1970 … All-Western Conference six times, All-NFC twice … Rookie of Year, 1962 … Picked on Rams’ all-time team, 1970 … Played in 208 games, last 198 in a row.
Houston Antwine is one of the AFL’s great unsung heroes. In fact, in researching this piece I found a fantastic quote about Antwine by Ron Borges, a columnist for the Boston Herald. “Houston Antwine was the kind of football player you don’t forget if you ever saw him, but he’s the kind few remember today because he did his playing before ESPN highlight shows existed. If they had, ‘Twine would have been a staple because he was everything you wanted in a defensive tackle — Warren Sapp before there was a Warren Sapp, but without the need for volume control.” “Twine was an anchor on a tough Boston defensive line that also featured Larry Eisenhauer, Bob Dee and Jim “Earthquake” Hunt. An exceptional ballplayer that gets overlooked at least in part, because he did not play on championship teams. Thoughts?