State Your Case: Lloyd Wells was a trailblazing NFL scout


Lloyd Wells photo courtesy of Kansas City Chiefs.

If the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the final resting place for men who impacted the game in a major way, Lloyd Wells earned his right to walk through those doors. And if it is dedicated to preserving both the history of the game and the memory of the men and women who changed it, then “The Judge’’ should have a place within its halls

Because few did more to alter the face of pro football than Lloyd Wells.

A photographer by trade in Houston, Lloyd Wells became the first African-American full-time scout in pro football when Lamar Hunt hired him in the early days of the AFL-NFL wars and was instrumental in opening the door to the historically black colleges and universities that produced a flood of talent, primarily for Hunt’s fledgling AFL.

“He was an energetic, positive person who had an opportunity to help shift the views of professional football in the direction of the historic black colleges,’’ Hall-of-Fame linebacker Willie Lanier told Chiefs.com several years ago when asked about Wells’ impact on Kanas City’s 1969 Super Bowl IV championship team. “The amount of talent Wells brought in should be acknowledged. He had an approach of possibly cajoling, I might say.’’

“Cajoling’’ was as important as scouting itself between 1960-1966 when the NFL was in a talent war with the upstart AFL before the leagues merged and agreed to a conjoined draft beginning in 1967. It was primarily the AFL that began to mine the untapped source of talent at places like Grambling, Morgan State, and Prairie View A&M, Southern and throughout the HSBCs.

And no one mined it like Wells.

Even though the NFL would re-integrate its game in 1946, one year before Jackie Robinson broke the color line in major league baseball, black players — not to mention black scouts — were still a rarity in pro football’s formative years. So Lamar Hunt’s decision to hire Wells to seek talent in places long ignored by the NFL was one that literally and historically changed the face of the game.

Wells was responsible for signing eight players who went on to become All-Pros, including the backbone of the Chiefs’ defense that smothered the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7, in the final AFL-NFL Super Bowl. That team included Hall of Famers Lanier, Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan. Curley Culp and Emmitt Thomas on defense and Otis Taylor at wide receiver.

Wells’ signing of Taylor out from under the nose of the Dallas Cowboys in 1966 was an example of how competitive things were between the leagues before the merger and how important a sly and well-connected guy like Lloyd Wells could be.

Wells had known Taylor since he was a kid growing up in Houston, so when the Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles drafted him, Kansas City had a decided advantage.

In those days the NFL ran what commissioner Pete Rozelle called “Operation Babysitter,’’ which was basically legalized kidnapping. Teams around the league would take drafted players and hide them off campus in fancy hotels, keeping them away from the competition.

As far as the NFL was concerned, this was a cooperative venture. So the Cowboys were employed to squirrel away Taylor and a teammate from Prairie View named Seth Cartwright over the Thanksgiving Day holiday, even though Taylor had been drafted by the Eagles.

Wells realized he’d lost track of Taylor and got wind of where he was by first calling Taylor’s mother and, later, his girlfriend. When he found him at the Continental Hotel in Richardson, Tex., just outside of Dallas, he learned he was watched by a Dallas stock broker, sleeping in a room across the hall.

Wells was at first rebuffed by a Cowboys’ security man when he tried to visit Taylor. But the ever resilient Wells went around to the back of the building and convinced him and Cartwright to climb out the bathroom window. Both signed with the Chiefs.

A year later Taylor was averaging a phenomenal 22.4 yards per reception, and in 1969 scored a game-breaking touchdown against the Vikings in Super Bowl IV.

“If you don’t have Wells working for the Chiefs, then they don’t get Taylor,’’ recalled Michael MacCambridge, Hunt’s biographer and author of “America’s Game. “When I spoke to Lamar, he was very adamant he was not in any way attempting to be a social progressive … He just recognized Lloyd Wells would be an asset to what he was trying to do.

“It was no accident that the teams that were most successful were the teams that had the largest contingent of black players. That 1969 Super Bowl team was the first in pro football history to win a championship with the majority of the starters being African-American.’’

Central to finding … and more importantly signing … them was Wells. Every year he would travel by car throughout Texas, then up through the southeast and on to Maryland-Eastern Shore and Morgan State, searching for future stars at historically black colleges the NFL was all but ignoring. When the elder league came to recognize the talent there, the AFL had built a foundation that would help it dominate the late 1960s and most of the 1970s.

“You had other scouts going down to those schools, but they didn’t have the access or the relationships that Lloyd had,’’ recalled Baltimore Colts’ personnel director and Wells competitor Upton Bell, the son of former NFL commissioner Bert Bell. “Lloyd was really a trailblazer. He was a great scout and a relentless recruiter.’’

Hunt first met Wells at a function at Texas Southern University and quickly realized he had an eye for football talent and the adroitness and personality to sign the players he liked. In those early days many NFL and AFL teams had few, if any, full-time scouts, and none had a black scout until Lloyd Wells broke that barrier.

That alone might only qualify him as a footnote in NFL history. But when you add the players he was directly responsible for signing, including Hall-of-Famers Lanier, Buchanan, Thomas and Culp … well, as far as Hall-of-Fame resumes go, Lloyd Wells would seem to have a strong one.

 

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9 Comments

  1. Rob
    May 16, 2017
    Reply

    Lloyd Wells or Bill Nunn Ron?

  2. Sports Fan
    May 16, 2017
    Reply

    RB,
    Re: “If the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the final resting place for men who impacted the game in a major way … And if it is dedicated to preserving both the history of the game and the memory of the men and women who changed it … ”

    GREAT MUST READ Historical Facts, (as Always!) RB!

    The NFL, the PFHOF & your fellow voters need to take a much Closer look at ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals

    Well stated RB!

    SF

  3. May 17, 2017
    Reply

    Mr Wells was a gentleman that I grew to know covering the sports scene in the Greater Houston Tx area. I think Ron Borges laid out his NFL impact quite appropriately. As historic as those accomplishments are, Wells was a sports renaissance figure in several other areas.

    He traveled the world with champion Muhammad Ali as a member of his team shortly after his position was discontinued by the Chiefs. The Houston Fifth Ward product also led the effort in intergrating the press box for minority media members at the Astrodome in the late 60’s. Being an influencial writer in H-Town, Wells also led a movement that allowed Black patrons of the then Houston Colt 45’s NL home games to enter through the front entrance as opposed to the restricted rear (chicken wire fence) transpiring either in 1963 or 64. The Colt 45’s were the Astros prior to the Dome being built; opening in 1965.

    I’m certainly not attempting to overshadow his contribution to the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs in particular. But only laying a few more bricks to an already well laid foundation,

  4. Sports Fan
    May 20, 2017
    Reply

    ATTN: 48 PFHOF Selectors/Voters – (Dan Fouts – James Lofton HOF Players)
    The PFHOF
    The NFL
    The Talk Of Fame Sports Network

    Ron Borges
    Rick Gosselin
    Clark Judge
    Please advise all Selectors to read

    MUST READ
    =
    =

    “The NFL, the PFHOF & your fellow voters need to take a much Closer look at ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals”

    & for sure ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals that are STILL ALIVE!

    BJ Kissel – February 2016

    Remembering the NFL’s First Full-Time Black Scout, Lloyd Wells

    Wells was paramount in building a roster that helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl IV

    He was a man of many talents, but for Lloyd Wells, who lived a lavish life of luxury and the constant pursuit of the finer things, the legacy he left in Kansas City is one that will forever be tied to the first, and currently only, Super Bowl championship.

    It was the 1960s and Lamar Hunt and the Kansas City Chiefs hired Wells as the first full-time black scout in the NFL.

    He’s responsible for scouting and helping sign many of the players who were instrumental in the Chiefs beating the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7, back in Super Bowl IV.

    At the time he was hired, Wells wasn’t necessarily a football guy, but he was well connected with the historically black colleges and universities. He was a photographer, worked with the newspapers and was, for lack of a better way of explaining it, a close confidant of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.

    He was a man known for many things, but bringing in key members of one of the best defenses in NFL history should be near the top of that list.

    “There were three Hall of Famers from historically black colleges on our defense,” linebacker Willie Lanier said of the 1969 Championship team. That included Lanier (Morgan State), Buck Buchanan (Grambling) and Emmitt Thomas (Bishop).

    “(Wide receiver) Otis Taylor (Prairie View A&M), who is also going to be inducted in the Black College Hall of Fame in March, was another. Obviously those individuals had a whole lot to do with being able to create a competitive balance and the opportunity to win the only Super Bowl in the franchise’s history.

    “The amount of talent Wells brought in should be acknowledged.”

    For Lamar Hunt, who was running the Dallas Texans at the time, Wells was a man he had first met at a function down at Texas Southern, a guy who could potentially help his football team become better. Although it wouldn’t be until a few years later that Hunt would ultimately hire Wells, it was a decision that forever altered the now celebrated history of the Chiefs organization.

    “It was a daring hire,” Michael MacCambridge, author of “Lamar Hunt: A Life in Sports, and America’s Game,” said during a phone interview. “You have to remember, it’s not that he was just the first black scout to be hired full-time—there weren’t that many scouts around, period. Black or white.”

    That’s not to say everyone was necessarily for it, either. Bringing on Wells and signing more black players wasn’t necessarily going to go over well with everyone.

    “There were certainly people against it,” MacCambridge noted. “There was a really vicious telegram that was sent to Lamar’s father (HL Hunt). The gist of it was why are you letting your son sign all of these Negro ball players and ruin the fabric of our country?

    “He practically accused him of being a communist.”

    It didn’t change what Lamar was trying to build. He moved forward with Wells.

    As MacCambridge said in his book, “America’s Game,” Wells, aka “The Judge,” was an “ebullient, sly ladies’ man who had an angle on virtually everything.”

    “Lloyd would get in his car and just make the circuit of black colleges in Texas,” MacCambridge said. “He’d go down to the Southeast—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and work his way up. He eventually got up to Morgan State and Maryland Eastern Shore.

    “That became his beat. You had other scouts going down there, but they didn’t have the access, the history or the relationships that Lloyd had.”

    One of the relationships that Wells had was with Lanier, who was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

    “He was an energetic, positive person who had an opportunity to help shift the views of professional football in the direction of historically black colleges,” Lanier explained of Wells. “With his energetic style, he had an approach of possibly cajoling I might say.”

    Wells’ contributions can’t be understated. The Chiefs wouldn’t have won Super Bowl IV without those players.

    One of the most popular stories of Wells’ escapades and connections had to do with receiver Otis Taylor and the intrigue that surrounded his eventual signing with the Chiefs in 1965.

    At the time, the AFL and NFL were doing anything and everything they could to get players to sign with their respective leagues.

    So when the Dallas Cowboys, a NFL team who strongly coveted Taylor, came to the Prairie View campus and invited Taylor and his teammate, Seth Cartwright, to spend a nice Thanksgiving in Dallas, it was a “classic case of babysitter subterfuge,” as MacCambridge would say.

    They were essentially trying to hide Taylor and Cartwright away from the Chiefs in an effort to have both sign with them.

    “If you don’t have Wells working for the Chiefs, then they don’t get Taylor,” MacCambridge said. “When the Cowboys and the NFL essentially kidnapped Taylor and had him in the hotel in Dallas—the way Wells found him was first, he called Otis’ mother. And because she knew Wells, she gave him the phone number of Otis’ girlfriend.

    “Wells reached his girlfriend, and she knew where Otis was. That’s how Lloyd got there.”

    After initially being stopped by the Cowboys personnel men outside of the hotel, Wells eventually got Cartwright and Taylor both out of there, and they both signed shortly thereafter with the Chiefs.

    It’s one of the most popular stories of that time, and something that really showed the value of Wells, who had known Taylor and his family since before Taylor was in high school.

    The decision to bring on Wells and make him the first full-time black scout in the NFL wasn’t about anything more than trying to put together the best possible football team.

    “When I spoke to Lamar, he was very adamant that he was not in any way attempting to be a social progressive,” MacCambridge explained. “He was not trying to necessarily break down barriers. He just recognized that Lloyd Wells would be an asset to what he was trying to do.

    “It was also no accident that the teams that were most successful were the teams that had the largest contingent of black players, because they were truly looking for the best players. That 1969 Super Bowl team was the first team in Pro Football history to win a championship with the majority of the starters being African-American.”

    A lot of that had to do with Wells, who might never get the credit he deserves, but he’s a man who has earned his due.

    When the Super Bowl IV team is mentioned, Wells’ name should be right there with the others as to who really made it possible.

    Link has video:
    http://www.chiefs.com/news/article-2/Remembering-the-NFLs-First-Full-Time-Black-Scout-Lloyd-Wells/666f3804-bb16-4971-ae6e-218b52a35df7

    “The NFL, the PFHOF & your fellow voters need to take a much Closer look at ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals”

    & for sure ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals that are STILL ALIVE!

  5. Sports Fan
    May 20, 2017
    Reply

    ATTN: 48 PFHOF Selectors/Voters – (Dan Fouts – James Lofton HOF Players)
    The PFHOF
    The NFL
    The Talk Of Fame Sports Network

    Ron Borges
    Rick Gosselin
    Clark Judge
    Please advise all Selectors to read

    MUST READ
    =
    =

    Re: “If the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the final resting place for men who impacted the game in a major way … And if it is dedicated to preserving both the history of the game and the memory of the men and women who changed it … ”

    “The NFL, the PFHOF & your fellow voters need to take a much Closer look at ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals”

    & for sure ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals that are STILL ALIVE!

    HONOR WARREN WELLS THETORCH – May 2009

    Tribute to The Judge, Lloyd C. A. Wells, an NFL Scout

    Life has interesting twists and turns. A man who recorded memories and images using professional photography ends up in an assisted living facility because of Alzheimer’s Disease. He was Lloyd C. A. Wells.

    I did not know The Judge personally, but I saw him many times at Texas Southern University and around Houston, Texas. I even remember his strong voice because often he would be interviewed on KCOH Radio Station on Almeda Road in Houston.

    He had a natural talent, blending media, politics and sports.

    His gift brought him before great men. He then paved the way for others to gain access, too.

    This article will only serve as an introduction to the legendary Lloyd C. A. Wells, for his life spanned many levels and arenas.

    Wells was the first African American scout for the NFL. He was smart and tough.

    He wrote many sports articles for the Forward Times Newspaper and The Houston Informer, in Houston, Texas.

    He was thunder and lightning in the sports world because he was bold enough to advocate change. Doors of opportunity flew open after Lloyd C. A. Wells banged on them on behalf of athletes from small historically black colleges and universities such as Texas Southern University and Prairie View A & M University.

    He worked not only in the NFL, but also he was a part of Muhammed Ali’s team.

    He grew up in the historical Fifth Ward in Houston, Texas. Other great people from Fifth Ward include two United States Congressmen, George “Mickey” Leland, and Barbara Jordan.

    Wells made a great contribution to the NFL. He advocated diversity during the years when many were ill-prepared to articulate the issues. He was adept at balancing relationships to gain NFL contracts for young men who sometimes knew very little about negotiations in the NFL.

    I salute Mr. Wells who was a civil rights leader who placed emphasis on advocating change in the NFL.

    A disease may have erased his memory during his senior years, but let us not forget his contribution to NFL sports.

    My opinion is that Lloyd C. A. Wells ought to be given some type of special recognition at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He helped establish a foundation on which many NFL players now stand.

    Let us salute Lloyd C. A. Wells (1924-2005) and his contributions to the NFL.

    As an ex-Marine sergeant, Wells and other United States veterans are to be remembered and honored this Memorial Day weekend.

    Link:
    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/181610-lloyd-c-a-wells-first-african-american-nfl-scout

    Re: “If the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the final resting place for men who impacted the game in a major way … And if it is dedicated to preserving both the history of the game and the memory of the men and women who changed it … ”

    “The NFL, the PFHOF & your fellow voters need to take a much Closer look at ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals”

    & for sure ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals that are STILL ALIVE!

  6. Sports Fan
    May 20, 2017
    Reply

    ATTN: 48 PFHOF Selectors/Voters – (Dan Fouts – James Lofton HOF Players)
    The PFHOF
    The NFL
    The Talk Of Fame Sports Network

    Ron Borges
    Rick Gosselin
    Clark Judge
    Please advise all Selectors to read

    MUST READ
    =
    =

    Re: “If the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the final resting place for men who impacted the game in a major way … And if it is dedicated to preserving both the history of the game and the memory of the men and women who changed it … ”

    “The NFL, the PFHOF & your fellow voters need to take a much Closer look at ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals”

    & for sure ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals that are STILL ALIVE!

    LENNY MOON
    May 17, 2017

    Mr Wells was a gentleman that I grew to know covering the sports scene in the Greater Houston Tx area. I think Ron Borges laid out his NFL impact quite appropriately. As historic as those accomplishments are, Wells was a sports renaissance figure in several other areas.

    He traveled the world with champion Muhammad Ali as a member of his team shortly after his position was discontinued by the Chiefs. The Houston Fifth Ward product also led the effort in intergrating the press box for minority media members at the Astrodome in the late 60’s. Being an influencial writer in H-Town, Wells also led a movement that allowed Black patrons of the then Houston Colt 45’s NL home games to enter through the front entrance as opposed to the restricted rear (chicken wire fence) transpiring either in 1963 or 64. The Colt 45’s were the Astros prior to the Dome being built; opening in 1965.

    I’m certainly not attempting to overshadow his contribution to the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs in particular. But only laying a few more bricks to an already well laid foundation,

    Re: “If the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the final resting place for men who impacted the game in a major way … And if it is dedicated to preserving both the history of the game and the memory of the men and women who changed it … ”

    “The NFL, the PFHOF & your fellow voters need to take a much Closer look at ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals”

    & for sure ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals that are STILL ALIVE!

  7. Mark Gorscak
    May 21, 2017
    Reply

    Rick you need to do a Bill Nunn article also please. Both the Judge and Bill Nunn should be in the HOF! Appreciate the article!

    • Sports Fan
      May 22, 2017
      Reply

      ATTN: 48 PFHOF Selectors/Voters – (Dan Fouts – James Lofton HOF Players)
      The PFHOF
      The NFL
      The Talk Of Fame Sports Network

      Ron Borges
      Rick Gosselin
      Clark Judge
      Please advise all Selectors to read

      MUST READ
      =
      =

      Re: “If the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the final resting place for men who impacted the game in a major way … And if it is dedicated to preserving both the history of the game and the memory of the men and women who changed it … ”

      “The NFL, the PFHOF & your fellow voters need to take a much Closer look at ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals”

      & for sure ALL TRAILBLAZING Individuals that are STILL ALIVE!

      Re: Bill Nunn

      http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/news/nfl-steelers-bill-nunn-scout-super-bowl-rooney-swann-stallworth-lambert-webster-courier/15wglqtlt803l1vedz997k84a3

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