(Paul Warfield photos courtesy of the Miami Dolphins)
Talk of Fame Network
The World Football League (WFL) challenged the NFL in the 1970s, driving up the wages for football players by signing established stars Larry Csonka, Paul Warfield, Ken Stabler, Daryle Lamonica, Calvin Hill, Bill Bergey and L.C. Greenwood away from the established league.
But many of those players signed future contracts. The WFL began operations in 1974 and many of the NFL stars would not get to the new league by 1975. So during the first year, without the big names on the marquee, the WFL struggled on the field and off. Two teams folded, two relocated and all struggled to pay their bills.
Birmingham won the first WFL championship with a World Bowl victory over Florida but the Americans had their uniforms and equipment confiscated immediately after the game to pay off debts. The league would last only 13 more games into the 1975 season before folding.
So who was the best player ever to come out of the WFL? We’ll give you five choices:
Larry Csonka, FB, Memphis. Paved a Hall of Fame career for himself with the Miami Dolphins from 1968-74, winning two Super Bowls. He jumped to the Memphis Southmen in 1975 but rushed for fewer than 500 yards before the league closed its doors. Csonka returned to the NFL to play with the New York Giants.
Alfred Jenkins, WR, Birmingham. Made All-WFL in his only season with the Americans in 1974, catching 60 passes for 21,326 yards with 132 touchdowns and a 22.1-yard average. Jenkins then signed with the Falcons, with whom he’d play for nine seasons and go to two pro Bowls.
Tommy Reamon, HB, Florida. One of the tri-MVPs of the WFL’s only complete season in 1974, Reamon set league records for rushing yards in a game (189), seasons (1,576) and in the World Bowl (83). He stayed in the WFL with Jacksonville for the abbreviated WFL season, then played an NFL season with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1977 and a CFL season with the Saskatchewan Rougriders in 1978.
Paul Warfield, WR, Memphis. Another Hall of Famer who bolted for Memphis along with Csonka and Jim Kiick in 1975, Warfield enjoyed minimal success in the WFL, catching only 25 passes before the league shut its doors. Warfield then returned to the NFL to finish out his NFL career where it started — Cleveland.
Danny White, QB, Memphis. White punted and backed up John Huarte as quarterback of the Southmen in 1974, then took over the starting job in 1975, throwing for 1,445 yards and 10 touchdowns. He moved on to the NFL and with the Cowboys in 1976 where he became the heir apparent at quarterback to Roger Staubach. He took over the job in 1980 and led the Cowboys to three consecutive NFC title games.