(Alworth photo courtesy of the San Diego Chargers)
(Cappelletti photo courtesy of the New England Patriots)
Talk of Fame Network
The third installment of The Talk of Fame Network’s “Out of Their League’’ series explores life in the American Football League through the eyes of Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Lance Alworth and the league’s all-time leading scorer, Gino Cappelletti.
Al Davis considered Alworth the greatest receiver he’d ever seen -- and he saw Jerry Rice. That’s high praise indeed but well deserved for someone who still holds the record (along with Calvin Johnson) for the most games (5) with 200 or more receiving yards. The difference between him and Johnson is Alworth did it FIVE DECADES AGO.
Alworth was the first AFL player elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He also was a member of the AFL’s All-Time team, the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team and the University of Arkansas’ All-Century team. A No. 1 pick of the 49ers and a No. 2 pick of the Chargers, Alworth chose San Diego when San Francisco balked at matching the Chargers’ no-cut contract offer.
“The 49ers said they didn’t give no-cut contracts,’’ Alworth recalled. “It was the last conversation we ever had.’’
Too bad for them.
Alworth was All-AFL seven times, starred on San Diego’s 1963 AFL championship team and later joined the Dallas Cowboys for the final two seasons of his career following the AFL-NFL merger. He played on Dallas’ Super Bowl VI championship team as well, but of all his thrills none topped a game he spent in the stands rather than in the end zone.
“Super Bowl III,’’ Alworth said when asked what was the most key moment for the AFL’s survival. “I was in the stands that day. Everybody said we couldn’t play with them. I wasn’t surprised (that the Jets upset the NFL champion Baltimore Colts).’’
Alworth said he was happy when he learned the two leagues would merge but not because it meant survival for the AFL’s eight teams.
“I just wanted to play against them,’’ he said of the NFL. “I didn’t care if there was a merger or not. We did have something special.’’
Cappelletti agreed the AFL was a special league and he should know. He is one of only 20 players to have played all 10 years of the AFL’s existence (1960-1970) and one of only three never to miss a game. He scored the league’s first points on a 37-yard field goal on Sept. 9, 1960 for the Boston Patriots. They were far from the last.
Cappelletti ended up with 1,130 points, including 42 touchdowns as a receiver, after having been shifted from defensive back following his first season in Boston.
Cappelletti recalled what it meant to play in that inaugural game against the Denver Broncos and remembered one night against the Dallas Texans when a fan in a khaki jacket ran into the end zone and knocked down a last-second pass headed for Dallas’ Chris Burford to preserve a Patriot victory. Nobody noticed him until they saw him on film the next day.
“The fans were all lined up around the field,’’ Cappelletti recalled. “Here comes this guy…he cuts right in front and gives it the wand and circles right back into the crowd. Incredible.’’
The same can be said of the AFL, a remarkable league that AFL historian Todd Tobias discusses with our Hall-of-Fame guys as well. Tobias picks the most important moments in league history and names the five players he believes the Hall of Fame has unjustly forgotten.
“I wanted the AFL to continue,’’ Cappelletti said when asked about the 1970 merger with the NFL. “Two of the owners did too. Al Davis (who owned the Raiders and was serving as AFL Commissioner at the time) and Sonny Werblin (who owned the Jets). We’d risen from the ashes. We were belittled a lot… (But) in total Super Bowls it was 2-2.’’
In addition to recalling the AFL’s glory days, host Clark Judge states the Hall-of-Fame case for Jacksonville Jaguars’ tackle Tony Boselli, a 1990's all-decade player who has been lost in the retirement shuffle. Ron Borges’ “Borges or Bogus’’ segment dissects the NFL’s annual pre-season carnage that this year cost the Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson and has decimated several other potential playoff teams.
The Hall-of-Fame guys also forecast who the likely nominee will be in the 2016 HOF contributor category, while also debating some dark horse candidates.
Ron and fellow senior committee member Jeff Legwold of ESPN-Denver explain what went into the committee’s decision to nominate 1950's all-decade lineman Dick Stanfel for a third shot as a Hall-of-Fame finalist as well as the choice of Oakland Raiders’ quarterback Ken Stabler. In addition, ESPN's John Clayton joins the party to take us on a tour around the league.
Hear all that and much more at Talkoffamenetwork.com, on iTunes, the TuneIn app or on the 80 radio stations carrying the show Wednesday nights from 8-10 pm and again on weekends throughout the Yahoo Radio network.