San Diego Chargers – 1962-1963
Oakland Raiders – 1964
Houston Oilers – 1964-1965
TT – Tell me about how you came to the Chargers.
BJ – Oh boy, let me see. I’m not sure who scouted me, but I came to the Chargers, I think I was drafted in the seventh round by the AFL San Diego Chargers, and in the second round by the St. Louis Cardinals. And then I was also drafted by the Canadian League. And that time there was a war between all the leagues. So I chose to go to San Diego because of the weather and it was close to home.
TT – Were you concerned at all about the league not succeeding?
BJ – No, to be honest I wasn’t. I was just happy to be part of the pro football league. I wasn’t too concerned about whether they would last or not. I kind of thought they would.
TT – By the time you were playing, a couple years into it, they had some pretty good teams and some pretty good ballplayers.
BJ – Oh yeah, they did. Joe Namath and the works.
TT – What benefits do you think you received by playing with the Chargers?
BJ – I think just having a chance to be able to play and be a part of the program. Because the NFL had a lot of strong players at the time and I figured my best shot would be with the AFL because they were young. I had a better chance of making the team or playing.
TT – Tell me about Sid Gillman.
BJ – To me, Sid was one of the best coaches I ever played for. He was a team coach. He kept the team together. And I played for several other teams and by far San Diego, with Sid Gillman, was the best as far as team unity, playing together as a family. Just, it was totally different. He was very much into team effort. Everything was team. There was no individual type thing or players. And back then they did it that was because when you came out, you could single one person out or whatever, but he was a team coach.
TT – The Chargers coaching staff had three future Hall of Fame coaches in Sid Gillman, Al Davis and Chuck Noll. Did it appear to be a knowledgeable or overly impressive staff at the time?
BJ – I don’t think nobody realized it. It was just there. I don’t think anybody realized it at the time. But when I got out of it I noticed that I could see what we had. You can appreciate the coaches that you played for. Sid, Al Davis and Chuck Noll, who I was very much in favor of Chuck Noll. He was very good. He was a good coach, too. I don’t think anybody realized it until it was all over, how much talent in coaches we had.
TT – Now you went to the Raiders in ’64.
BJ – Right. I was on a lend-lease deal to the Raiders for a year, and then they bought my contract outright. That’s when Al Davis went there, I think.
TT – How similar were the Raiders with Al Davis, to the Chargers? How much of the Charger mentality and game book did he take with him?
BJ – I don’t think it was that much different, because when I left and went there, there wasn’t too much to learn as far as formation and plays and as far as the way he ran the program. It wasn’t that much different, just different in coaching.
TT – Talk about the Rough Acres training camp in 1963.
BJ – Oh boy. Rough Acres, yeah. It was rough. It was way out in the boonies. But I think it was there for a reason. I don’t think anybody complained that much about it, we just had to work out a little time off to run into Oakland. That was pretty rough.
TT – What made the 1963 team better than other Chargers teams?
BJ – Oh boy. I don’t know. I think it was just hard work. I was drafted in ’61 and signed in ’62, and ’62 was more like a building year, it looked like. Everybody just kind of gelled together in ’63.
TT – There were a lot of injuries in ’62.
BJ – Right. And then everybody just kind of pulled together and everybody was pretty healthy [in ‘63]. We had especially good defensive personnel with Faison, Ladd, Hank Schmidt, Ron Nery. They were good defensive players, which helped a lot.
TT – Tobin Rote came in in ’63 as well.
BJ – Right.
TT – How much of an influence was he?
BJ – He was like a coach on the field. He was very good. He knew the game, and I think John Hadl learned a lot from him too, by being there. Tobin was very good, very knowledgeable as far as the game goes. He was kind of like another coach on the field, really.
TT – He’d had plenty of experience by the time he got to the Chargers.
BJ – Right.
TT – What did you like about Balboa Stadium? Was that a good stadium to play in? BJ – Yeah, but it wasn’t compared to today. It wasn’t a bad stadium. Back then, I guess the AFL was really struggling. But you know, I don’t think the players even looked at that that much. I think they really played. Everybody wanted to play, so they played their heart out, I think. And I don’t think anybody was worried about the league folding or anything. I think they were just happy to play, and they stuck with it.
TT – Did you stick around town in the off-season?
BJ – I stayed in San Diego during the off-season. It was a nice place to live, the people and everything. I had little odd jobs, and hanging around, just being there. And they also had the gym where we could work out, downtown San Diego. So it was pretty much my home at the time. I did go home now and then. I am really from Palm Springs. My hometown was Palm Springs, that’s where I grew up and went to high school.
TT – Who were some of the guys that you hung out with on the team? Who were some of your good friends?
BJ – Earl Faison and I were very tight. A guy by the name of Jerry Robinson, he was a flanker or wide receiver. Dick Westmoreland. Really, it was Earl Faison, and Jerry Robinson. That’s mostly who I hung out with. Dick Westmoreland, of course. We were pretty tight.
TT – When you were in high school or college, did you have a favorite pro player that you modeled yourself after?
BJ – There was a guy that I knew when I was in college. I went to Riverside before I transferred to New Mexico University. There was a guy, he was a fullback for UCLA, and he came and worked with me quite a bit, and I kind of admired him. He wasn’t a pro player. I can’t think of his name right now. At that time they were running the single wing at Riverside College, and he was a single wing fullback. That’s what I played before I transferred to New Mexico State. I think it was Earl Smith or something like that. I can’t remember his name. But he was a fullback with UCLA and I kind of modeled myself after him because he was very good. He taught me a lot about the game because I only played one year of high school football.
TT – Oh really? How come?
BJ – Well, my mother was kind of protective. She didn’t want me to play. And I played my last year of high school football and I had a scholarship to Riverside as a basketball player. I went there and I enjoyed football so much, they switched it to a football scholarship, and I went from there.
TT – What did you dislike about being a professional football player?
BJ – Well, I think that I can say to be in pro football is something like the service. You are drafted and they will send you anywhere they want to send you. That I didn’t like because you had no place to say, “This is my home.” You play, and if they want to trade you… I know that when I first got sent to Oakland, I had no say so whatsoever. They never talked to you about it. It was just between the managers and the coaches or whatever. They did all the negotiating. We had no say so whatsoever, back then. We had no agents or nothing to represent us. We had to represent ourselves. That was the toughest part about when I was playing.
TT – I heard Sid was a tough negotiator as well.
BJ – Oh yeah. It was kind of hard too when the coach is the general manager. It makes it kind of rough. That’s what Sid and Al Davis both were.
TT – You can understand their reasoning, from their point of view. But you can also understand how it would be tough on the players.
BJ – Right. You have to play for them and also you have to negotiate your contract. But it made it kind of rough back then. But I think back then, most of the guys were going for the no-cut, no-trade contracts because the leagues had war between each other. So you had to negotiate that way.
TT – Looking back now, what are your fondest memories of the Chargers?
BJ – My fondest memories of being a Charger is just being a part of that organization. Of all the teams I played for, I played for Denver, Oakland, San Diego, Houston… Just being part of the San Diego unity. It was just a family-type organization, where the other teams weren’t too much of a family. Everybody went their separate ways after practice or after games. But Sid made it possible. If after a game he had something going on, everybody was invited. And then in Houston and Oakland, everybody just kind of went their separate ways. They weren’t together too much. That was a big difference that I noticed.
TT – That was one of my next questions. How did the Chargers differ as an organization from the Oilers or the Raiders?
BJ – They were just more team-oriented. You were one big, happy family. And wit the other teams that I played for, you could see that that wasn’t there. I don’t think the owners or whoever put much effort into doing things together like the Chargers did. Because you did almost everything together, which made it kind of neat. You got to know everybody and it was kind of like a family-type organization.
TT – Would you say that the Chargers were your favorite team to play for?
BJ – Oh yes, definitely, yes.
TT – Other comments?
BJ – Not really. When I was playing I didn’t know there was so much segregation going on. They kind of kept that away from us. That was kind of different. And now I look back on it and you see all of these things going on with the AFL getting started. Al lot of these things I didn’t even know, but when they start talking about it, I can see what was happening and what happened to me as a player. It was pretty hard to understand after you talked about it. But when I was playing, you didn’t notice too much because it was kind of kept quiet, where we didn’t get all the bad publicity. It wasn’t printed that much.
TT – Houston still had a segregated stadium at that point, didn’t they?
BJ – Yeah. When I got traded to Houston, I didn’t want to go because of that. Being raised in California, it was a little bit better. It was still there, but going into the South, I was kind of leery about going. When I first lived there I was taken out to a place and there were words that I knew that people used, but they were just out in the open. I was just like, “Oh my God, what have I come to here?” It was still there.
TT – There wasn’t a whole lot of racial problems on the Chargers, were there?
BJ – Oh no, none. None whatsoever. You could see it more when I was with Oakland. Or more with Houston. Towards being a part of a team, as far as players go, because it wasn’t that way. Mainly with the whites, or whatever, it wasn’t there. But with San Diego, everything was there. It was really neat. It was really neat, much better. You even saw it up in Oakland, too.