(Joe Namath photo courtesy of the New York Jets)
(Willie Lanier photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)
The American Football League was the most successful of the leagues that sprouted to challenge the NFL.
The World Football League lasted only two seasons, the USFL just three and the All-American Football Conference four. The AFL lasted 10 years, landing some serious blows to the NFL’s pride early on by signing such college stars as Joe Namath, Lance Alworth, Johnny Robinson, John Hadl, Ron Mix and Ed Budde — all of whom had been first-round NFL draft picks.
The AFL landed more serious blows to the rival NFL later in the 1960 decade, winning the final two Super Bowls between the two leagues. The New York Jets shocked the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III and the Kansas City Chiefs schooled the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.
The AFL teams proved they could play with the NFL’s best teams — and the AFL players proved they were as good or better than the NFL players of the 1960s. So who was the best player produced by the AFL? In this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll, we’ll give you five Hall of Famers to choose from — two defenders from the Chiefs, a quarterback from the New York Jets, a wide receiver from the San Diego Chargers or a cornerback from the Oakland Raiders.
So who do you like?
Namath put the NFL on the map in 1965 when he spurned the St. Louis Cardinals to become the highest-paid player in football in signing with the Jets — then guaranteed and delivered that Super Bowl victory over the Colts.
Alworth passed on the chance to play with the San Francisco 49ers to sign with the Chargers. Nicknamed “Bambi,” Alworth averaged better than 20 yards per catch three times in his career and finished with an 18.9-yard average, 13th best in NFL history.
Willie Lanier and Buck Buchanan anchored one of the greatest defenses of all time. The Chiefs are the only Super Bowl champion defense to lead the league across the board in total, scoring, run and pass defense. Joining Buchanan and Lanier in the Hall of Fame off that defense were defensive tackle Curley Culp, outside linebacker Bobby Bell and cornerback Emmitt Thomas.
Willie Brown intercepted 54 passes in his 15 seasons and was one of the AFL originators of the bump-and-run coverage technique with the Raiders.
So who do you like? Vote now: