(Phil Simms photo courtesy of NY Giants)
Talk of Fame Network
This week marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most important NFL drafts in history, the first held between the merged NFL and AFL in 1967.
That not only meant an end to the cold (and sometimes hot) war between the rival leagues that cost franchise owners millions in the battle for new talent but also the beginning of the merger that would lead to the Super Bowl and a lucrative new age in pro football.
This year’s draft featured two blockbuster trades that allowed the St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles to move up to the No. 1 and 2 spots to take quarterbacks Jared Goff of Cal and Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State. But that was nothing compared to what happened in 1967 when four of the first eight players taken hailed from the same school — Rick Gosselin’s alma mater, Michigan State.
The late Bubba Smith was the first overall pick, followed by teammate Clint Jones second, George Webster fifth and Gene Washington eighth. No school since has had four of the top eight picks of a draft, and to mark that historic event our Talk of Fame Network guys visited with Jones, who recalled his disappointment that the days of an NFL-AFL bidding war were over.
“It really took a lot of money out of our pockets,’’ Jones said. “I’m sure that was their intention. I didn’t have an agent. I went in (to negotiations with the Minnesota Vikings) with my mother to see (then Vikings’ GM) Jim Finks…We didn’t have all the hype that’s here now. It was like winning the lotto. It was a phenomenal experience.’’
Jones said he and his teammates had no friendly competition over who would be taken first because Jones had inside information.
“That wasn’t even in our consciousness,’’ Jones recalled. “I knew Don Shula (then Baltimore’s head coach) was going to draft Bubba Smith. He came and took me and Bubba out to lunch. He told me he’d made up his mind. Bubba reminded him of Big Daddy (Lipscomb).’’
Jones knew because Shula told him, information unlikely to have been released during this week’s draft where one of the biggest names taken in the first round was Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. He was selected by the Denver Broncos to be the heir apparent to the legacy Peyton Manning built there.
Lynch visited the show and said he believes being 6-feet-7 is not a detriment, pointing out the last NFL quarterback his size to start was last year’s Bronco backup Brock Osweiler, who just signed a $100-million deal to lead the Houston Texans.
“I’ve never considered being tall a bad thing,’’ Lynch said.
Apparently, neither did John Elway and the Broncos.
With quarterbacks a hot topic, the guys also chatted with CBS analyst and former Super Bowl quarterback Phil Simms. Simms ranked the available quarterbacks and concluded he liked Wentz first, Lynch second and Goff third.
“I wouldn’t put Goff’s arm with the other two,’’ Simms explained.
Simms also talked about the big jump Wentz now faces going from North Dakota State to the NFL, comparing it to his from Morehead State to the Giants, one of the NFL’s signature franchises.
“I came out for my first press conference and I saw more reporters than at all four years at Morehead State,’’ Simms recalled. “Wow!’’
The guys also discuss the news of the day, including the reaffirmation of Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his alleged involvement in the Deflategate scandal and the indictment on misdemeanor domestic abuse charges against Johnny Manziel.
Host Clark Judge states the Hall of Fame case for former Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil and historian John Turney of Pro Football Journal stops by to analyze that 1967 draft. In Turney’s mind, Alan Page should have been the overall No. 1 not Bubba Smith. He also offered up his top five selections from that draft: Page, T Rayfield Wright, S Ken Houston, G Gene Upshaw and LB George Webster..
Co-host Ron Borges puts Clark and Rick through their paces during the weekly Two-Minute Drill and they conduct a rigorous and often roaring debate over the decision to reverse the ruling in the Brady/Deflategate case with ESPN commentator and Hall-of-Fame senior voter John Clayton.
The show can be heard on 80 radio stations around the country as well as on its iTunes podcast, by using the TuneIn app and asking for Talk of Fame Network or by simply going to our website, talkoffamenetwork.com, and clicking on the microphone icon.