There’s a petition going around (@talesfromtheamericanfootballleague.com) to put former AFL safety Johnny Robinson in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I get it. He not only should be in, but he should have been in decades ago.
But the same is true of Robinson’s former teammate, Dave Grayson, who began his career with the Chiefs (nee Dallas Texans) and wound up with the Oakland Raiders. Like Robinson, he was named to multiple AFL all-star teams, played on a league champion, played in a Super Bowl and was chosen to the all-time All-AFL club.
But unlike Robinson, Grayson was named as a first-team cornerback. Robinson was a first-team safety. Unlike Robinson, Grayson set the AFL record for career interceptions with 47. And, unlike Robinson, Grayson has never been a Hall-of-Fame finalist.
That’s astounding when you consider the guy’s accomplishments: A six-time AFL all-star; a four-time first-team All-Pro; a two-time league champion and single-season (1968) AFL interceptions leader with 10. Furthermore, he holds the AFL record for the longest interception return of 99 yards, achieved in 1961 vs. the New York Titans, and three times ranked first or second in the league in kickoff returns.
In short, there wasn’t much Dave Grayson didn’t do … except reach Canton.
But forget the sheer numbers and accolades. Look at the impact Dave Grayson had. Before he was traded to Oakland in 1965, the Raiders had a .353 winning percentage in their first five seasons. Then Grayson showed up and Oakland went on a 61-18-5 (.772) run in his six seasons there, including three straight league championship games, and, look, I know he wasn’t solely responsible for the Raiders’ success.
But he sure helped.
In fact, it was Grayson who was moved from right cornerback to safety in 1967 to make room for Willie Brown, the only defensive back from the all-time All-AFL team named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And it was Grayson whose interception in the 1967 league title game launched Oakland to Super Bowl II.
From 1967-69 nobody in the AFL was harder to solve than Oakland, with the Raiders an astonishing 37-4-1. In fact, nobody anywhere was. The Raiders had the best record in the AFL and NFL. And Dave Grayson? He did OK, too. As a safety, he was named first-team All-Pro in 1968-69.
Those Raiders were known for their offense, and you don’t have to look far for an explanation. In 1967, they led the league in scoring, and quarterback Daryle Lamonica was named the league’s Player of the Year. Dig a little deeper, however, and you discover that wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, quarterback/kicker George Blanda, offensive linemen Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw and Art Shell — all members of the Oakland offense in the late 1960s — were named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Of course, that’s only part of the story. The Raiders excelled on defense, too, ranked first vs. the pass in 1966. A year later, they were first vs. the run, third vs the pass and second in points allowed. And in 1968, the Raiders were second in overall defense to Kansas City.
Dave Grayson was part of that defense. But Dave Grayson is not part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and, remember, this is a guy who averaged … averaged … 19.4 yards on his AFL-record 47 interceptions, returning five of them for scores.
“His career,” said Todd Tobias of talesfromtheamericanfootballleague.com, “absolutely deserves to be studied very closely and given full consideration.”
A year ago, the Professional Football Researchers Association (profootballresearchers.com) named him to its Hall of Very Good, and that’s a start. Now, it’s up to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s senior committee to go one step farther and consider Dave Grayson for Canton.
As I said, I don’t know why he’s not already there. I don’t know why someone like Johnny Robinson isn’t, either, but it’s hard not to believe there was an anti-AFL bias among NFL hardliners who voted — a bias that has kept both … and others … out.
Well, it’s time that changed. And there’s no better time than now.