tobin rote and george blair

Tobin Rote holds as George Blair kicks a field goal for the Chargers.

George Blair played defensive back and kicker for the San Diego Chargers from 1961-1964, before a leg injury suffered in a game against the Patriots prematurely ended his career.  Blair led the AFL in Field Goal Percentage and Extra Point Percentage in both 1962 & 1963.  During his time with the Chargers he scored 272 points (all on kicks) and intercepted five passes.

AFL – You were drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers and the New York Giants.  Please discuss your reasons for signing with the Chargers.

GB – I was drafted during my junior year at Ole Miss or at the end of that year.  Back then the teams were allowed to draft juniors as futures.  We had a couple of coaches that played with the Giants (the Poole brothers) and they would mention the Giants at times, but nothing serious.  The Giants wanted me to play on offense and the Chargers wanted me as a safety.  I felt like with all the injuries that I had playing at Ole Miss, that I just felt comfortable playing on the defensive side of the ball, and I didn’t think I had enough speed and size to help on the offense.  Besides, the Giants didn’t really contact me like the Chargers did.  I received many letters from Sid Gillman and the Chargers; and Al Davis visited me at the Sugar Bowl game.  He spent the day in my room at the hotel and stayed there during our game with Rice.  I signed with the Chargers that night after the game.

AFL – Did you get to play in the Chargers vs Oilers preseason game in Hawaii? What are some memories from that trip.

autographed 1964 topps george blair

#156 – George Blair

GB – Well, I didn’t play any defense but kicked during the game. A couple of us that played in the Chicago All-Star game were late getting to camp and missed the first game at home, so we were behind the others and I didn’t play.  I don’t really know about Keith (Lincoln), (Ernie) Ladd, and Earl (Faison).  I think Earl played…not sure.  I started practice the next week and Joe Madro, the kicking coach, came down to the defensive backs and yelled to me.  ”Mississippi, don’t you place kick ?”  That’s what he called me my four years – “Mississippi.”  I said yes, and he told me to report with him the next day and kick.  They had Ben Agajanian, and so I went down and kicked for a couple of days with Ben.  Then on Thursday while we were kicking, Ben wasn’t there.  I asked Joe where Ben was, and he told me that they cut him and I was going to kick in the up-coming game in Hawaii.  I don’t know who was more nervous, me or my holder, Bud Whitehead!  I had tried only one kick in high school or college, and that was the first game at Ole Miss my senior year at Houston….  Of course I missed it.  But I had kicked every single day we kicked back in high school and college!  My memories of Hawaii are few, but had a great time.  We really had a bunch of good players, but they were good guys also.  It was fun being around these guys, reminds me of my teammates at Ole Miss.  The game against the Oilers started and rolled along and then Coach Gilman called for the field goal team.  Well, Bud and I ran out on the field and I let him mark off the seven yards for the spot.  I told him I was ready and Bud got the snap and spotted it, and I kicked and it went right into the back-end of our center, Don Rogers.  So we ran off the field, asking each other what happened and trying to hide from Sid and Joe.  Later,  Sid called for the field goal team again and we go out and the same thing happens.  So running off the field, Don Rogers grabs both Bud and me and asked us,”What in the hell is going on back there?”  Well, Joe met us near the sideline and asked what happened.  Then he tells me to mark off the seven yards.  After that we were successful in kicking the extra points.  That first year was tough because the goal post were on the goal line, but were later moved to the back of the end zone!  My second year I started playing and kicking, so it helped my kicking.

AFL – Three of your teams played in the AFL Championships of ’61, ’63, and ’64. In your estimation, what made the 1963 team better than the others?

GB – I think with the first two years, they brought in some really good young players and they just matured…and the edition of Tobin Rote with his experience really helped.  Our defense was solid and we had some really great weapons on offense with Keith and Lance.

AFL – Who were the one offensive and defensive player that you saw during your career that most impressed you?

GB – Todd, it’s hard to look back and remember some, but I always thought Lance was really the best.  Having to cover him and the other receivers in practice made our defensive backs better.  And on defense, I still think when Earl Faison was at his best, he was the best defensive player…along with Ernie Ladd!  On defense, I really hated to see either Billy Joe or Cookie Gilchrist in the open field and have to tackle them man-on-man.  Both were a load!

AFL – The AFL seems to get overlooked by the Hall of Fame voters. Why do you think the AFL players don’t seem to get the recognition that they deserve.

GB – I really think it goes back to when we were in competition with the NFL.  Most of the owners and those that vote are NFL…..just saying some of them still think we were below them as teams.

AFL – What did you do in your post-football? What kinds of things are you doing now?

GB – After my rookie season, I came back home, was married and went to Ole Miss to finish my degree.  My second year, I coached at Yazoo City High School in  Yazoo City, Mississippi.  I coached football in spring training and the golf team in the spring.  After my last year, I was a graduate assistant coach at Ole Miss, and then came to coach here at Laurel High School in Laurel Mississippi, where I retired in 1996.  Since retiring, I’ve had two surgeries and a knee replacement.  I’ve been doing honey-do jobs around the house and enjoying my five grandchildren.