Best Player in the World (Football League) — it’s Zonk


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(Csonka photo courtesy of the Miami Dolphins)

Talk of Fame Network

The best team in the old World Football League was Birmingham.

Take your pick which one.

The Birmingham Americans won the inaugural WFL championship in 1974 with a World Bowl victory over the Florida Blazers. The Americans folded after the season, and the league placed another team in Birmingham — the Vulcans — who were declared league champions when the WFL itself folded 13 games into the 1975 season.

But there was only one choice for the best player ever to come out of the WFL. Listeners and readers of The Talk of Fame Network voted fullback Larry Csonka the league’s top alumnus in last week’s poll.

Csonka, who jumped from the Miami Dolphins to the Memphis Grizzlies of the WFL in 1975, received 34 percent of the vote to nose out wide receiver Alfred Jenkins of the Birmingham Americans at 29 percent. Memphis quarterback Danny White at 16 percent, Memphis wide receiver Paul Warfield at 13 percent and Florida halfback Tommy Reamon at 8 percent rounded out the voting.

WFLguide

White and Jenkins both went on to have better post-WFL careers in the NFL than Csonka. White quarterbacked the Cowboys to three consecutive NFC title games in the 1980s and Jenkins would go to three Pro Bowls with the Atlanta Falcons.

But Csonka was the established star the WFL had hoped would give the new league an identity in 1975. He was the battering ram who helped power the Dolphins to a perfect season in 1972 and consecutive Super Bowl championships in 1972-73. He was the MVP of the second Super Bowl and enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

But Csonka only rushed for 421 yards in his WFL career and only 2,181 yards in his four post-WFL seasons with the New York Giants and Dolphins. Warfield caught 25 passes in his brief WFL career but also was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his NFL accomplishments with the Cleveland Browns and Dolphins.

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