(Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)
By Rick Gosselin
Talk of Fame Network
Ed Budde’s football talent has always been easily recognizable.
Michigan State gave him a scholarship out of high school. Those who saw him play in college identified him as an All-America blocker in 1962, and those who scout pro talent made him a Top 10 pick in both the AFL and NFL drafts in 1963.
Those who watched him practice named him the offensive captain of the 1963 College All-Star team — a team that would go on to shock the defending NFL champion Green Bay Packers that summer.
Those who competed against Budde voted him to five All-Star Games in the AFL and three more Pro Bowls after the merger with the NFL. He also became the first offensive lineman in either league named Offensive Player of the Week for a 1968 game against Oakland when an injury-riddled pass receiving corps forced the Chiefs to run right at — and eventually over — the Raiders.
Those who watched him play left guard voted Budde to the all-time All-AFL team. He also wears a Super Bowl ring.
Budde’s talent and accomplishments have been easily recognizable to everyone … except the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Despite a sterling career, Budde has never been a finalist for Canton. The other guard on the all-time All-AFL team (Billy Shaw) has long since been enshrined, but Budde continues to wait — 39 years now and counting.
“It would be a nice honor if it comes,” Budde said.
It may have been a decision Budde made in 1963 that has cost him that bust.
So coveted a player was Budde that the Detroit Lions sent a scout to baby-sit the Michigan State All-America during the NFL draft. It was at the height of the signing war between the two leagues. and Detroit wanted Budde’s assurance that he would sign when the Lions drafted him with the 12th overall pick.
Except that the Philadelphia Eagles selected him fourth overall. Then the Dallas Texans took Budde eighth overall in the AFL draft. The contract offers were identical, so Budde called former Michigan State offensive lineman Norm Masters for his advice. Masters was a member of the Packers.
“I told Norm I needed to run something past him,” Budde said. “I said the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Texans offered me the same thing — $8,000 (signing bonus) and $15,000 a year. There was about a five-second hesitation and I said, `Norm, are you still there?’ He said, `Yes. Hey, I’m only making $14,000, and I’ve been in the league for five years. Sign a contract now before anyone changes their mind.’”
Budde’s next call went to his former Michigan State teammate Fred Arbanas, who won an AFL championship in 1962 as the starting tight end with the Texans.
“He said it was a new league, a more exciting league, more wide open, more passing,” Budde said. “He talked about ‘Bambi’ (Lance Alworth) and all these great receivers. I was impressed with what I saw when I went down there.”
So Budde signed with the Texans, who would move to Kansas City and become the Chiefs in 1963. He became a walk-in starter for the most successful franchise of the AFL era and went on to play 14 seasons. But that became his problem — he started his career in the AFL.
The start-up AFL was considered inferior to the NFL in the 1960s. Even back-to-back Super Bowl conquests by the Jets and Chiefs at the close of the decade could not change that thinking — at least not in the eyes of the Hall of Fame.
Nineteen of the 22 players selected to the first team NFL all-decade team for the 1960s have been enshrined in Canton. Only nine of the 22 players selected to the first-team AFL all-decade team for the 1960s have been enshrined, and two of them went in as senior candidates, Shaw and linebacker Nick Buoniconti.
The Texans had one of the great drafts in history in 1963, selecting five players who would become key contributors on two Super Bowl teams. Four of them would become AFL all-stars, and two of them would become Hall of Famers — defensive tackle Buck Buchanan and linebacker Bobby Bell.
A great draft would become that much greater with a third Hall of Famer — and Ed Budde was all of that in his career. Everyone noticed, though, except the Hall of Fame.