Apr 28, 2011; New York, NY, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks before the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

Late-Round NFL Draft Steals: 1960-1969

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Late-Round Draft Steals series and I’ll conclude it with this one. Sorry it’s not in the Wednesday-morning slot like usual but for some of the research NFL.com was redecorating and many other sites just point you back to nfl.com! Finding 60′s stats isn’t so easy, I found out the hard way, if one has no access there for whatever the reason.

This week I’m adding in the name of the #1 overall for comparison just to show that a lot of these names may or may not be people you’ve heard of. Only the most die-hard NFL historians or older fans will recognize most, but I tried to look through the list and see “if anyone’s name rang a bell.” Turns out that, yes, some of them did – if only barely.

Also keep in mind there were a LOT fewer teams then.

1960: #1 Overall: Lou Cordileone (who?)

Round 20: St. Louis Cardinals: Tom Day, OL/DE, NC A&T. This was “back in the day” when many players played both sides of the ball, but Day was known more for his defensive prowess than anything. The next-to-last player chosen, Day had a nice long career under brutal rules and equipment…”safety” at this time was for wusses. Day played 9 seasons, 7 with the Bills, and was part of a Bills defense that didn’t allow a rushing TD for 17 consecutive games over the ’64-’65 seasons and was an AFL All-Star in 1965.

Round 9: Baltimore Colts: Don Perkins, FB, New Mexico. Fullbacks were relevant 50 years ago, and Perkins was actually the 1961 NFL rookie of the year playing halback. He had broken his foot in training camp, missed the entire season, and was shipped to Dallas to play his belated rookie season in 1961. Remember, I only looked at names first, then the stats and accolades and was pleasantly surprised his name rung a bell for the right reasons. He went to 6 Pro-Bowls in his 8 productive seasons in the NFL and was an extremely consistent producer his entire career. He never ran for 1000 yards, but his career low was 614 yards in ’63 with his high coming the previous (2nd year pro in ’62) season with 945. Career stats were exactly 1500 attempts for 6,217 yards for a very respectable 4.1 yds/carry (1960′s rules, remember) and found paydirt 42 times. 6 Pro Bowls in 8 seasons is a feat rarely seen by anyone. Drafted by the Colts, he played his entire career with the Dallas Cowboys where he was the Rookie of the Year in 1961 due to his foot injury in 1960.

1961: #1 Overall: Tommy Mason (who?)

Round 17: St. Louis Cardinals: Pat Fischer, CB, Nebraska. You know, I actually do remember this guy. Can you imagine the 5-9 Fischer covering the 6-10 Harold Carmichael of the previous “steals” list? Well, that’s exactly what happened in some epic matchups on the gridiron. Fischer was undersized even for the day and would tackle Carmichael by grabbing ONE of the much larger man’s legs to force him down. He’s been on NFL films talking about it, saying “what he had to have was BOTH legs driving in order for him to run over me.” So, he would take one of ‘em away. He was a tenacious tackler with more heart than real talent, but that heart kept him in the NFL for SEVENTEEN YEARS! His first 7 were with the Cardinals, then he got shipped to Washington for the ’68 season where he played until the end of the 1977 season. The Mighty Mite gathered a whopping 56 career interceptions with 10 coming in his third season alone, so he certainly made the most of what he had. He appeared in every game on every team for his first 16 seasons with the exception of a 7 game season in 1966. When he retired, he had played a then-record 213 games at corner. He was selected to 3 Pro-Bowls (all in the 1960′s) and made the “70 Greatest Redskins” list. Not bad for a 17th-round afterthought! GREAT human-interest article on him here:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2010/06/pat_fischer_and_stickum.html

Round 14: L.A. Rams: Deacon Jones, DE, Mississippi Valley State. NOW we’re talking. Everyone’s heard of this guy. The “Secretary of Defense” led the Rams’ vaunted “Fearsome Foursome” Defensive Line that included Rosey Grier, Lamar Lundy, and Merlin Olsen. You want accolades? How about 8 Pro-Bowls, 5 First-team All-Pros, 3 Second-Team All-Pros, the NFL 1960′s All-Decade Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary Team, Rams’ Rookie of the Year Award, and a bust in Canton, Ohio’s NFL Hall of Fame? Sacks (Deacon coined the term, actually) weren’t an official statistic during his playing years, but Pro Football Weekly has him at 194.5 in his career and he had 26 (!!!) of ‘em in 1967 – a 14-game season – and would be the record-holder for sacks in a season still to this day and he’d rank third all-time behind Bruce Smith and Reggie White. Geez, these days you would have to go through 2 drafts to get him at the end of the 7th round in the second draft! Yeah, there were a lot fewer teams then, but still…he’s gotta be the #1 all-time draft steal on the defensive side of the ball…

1962: #1 overall: Ernie Banks (who?) – hint: NOT the baseball player. This one never played a single down.

Round 14: Green Bay Packers: Ernie Green, HB, Louisville. Green didn’t have a long HOF career but he did make it to 2 Pro-Bowls. Playing his entire career in Cleveland, he never had 1000 yard rushing season, but his totals aren’t that bad for a guy who only played 7 seasons. He had 3,204 yds rushing and 2,036 receiving yards and averaged a VERY healthy 4.8 ypc and 10.4 yds/rec which is almost unheard of for a RB. He had 15 TDs rushing, and oddly enough 20 TDs receiving, so he was a true dual-threat RB for the Browns as a Fullback. The other issue was that he played most of his career behind some fella named Jim Brown.

1963: #1 overall: Terry Baker (who?)

Round 20: New York Giants: Homer Jones, WR, Texas Southern. FINALLY a true Mr. Irrelevant! This last pick of the draft was great for more than one reason – they got a very productive player with a perfectly matching name. “Homer” Jones had a career avg. of 22.3 yds/rec(!!) He played his first 6 seasons with the Giants, where he had 3 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons without ever hauling in 50+ catches in any season and wound down his last year in Cleveland. For his career he had 4,986 receiving yards and 36 TDs…apparently the quintessential “Homer” threat!

Round 7: Philadelphia Eagles: Lee Roy Caffey, LB, Texas A&M. The 88th pick overall (which actually would make him a late-3rd today) was a member of the ’63 All-Rookie team, so he’d have been a steal either way you size it up. As per wikipidea, “Caffey was acquired by the Green Bay Packers in the famous ‘Jim Ringo’ trade where he became a starting linebacker and would become an All-Pro Player.” Ran a 10-flat 100-yard dash since the 1960′s NFL had not yet become P.C. enough to use the irrelevant 100-meter times. Caffey is in the Packers’ Hall of Fame and is on their All-time Team with fellow linebackers Ray Nitschke and Dave Robinson. His amazing career saw him win 3 NFL championships with the Packers, including the first two Super Bowls; of which the first he was the leading tackler with 7. He also played in the Ice Bowl.

1964: #1 overall: Dave Parks – the first productive top pick of the 1960′s, with 5,619 rec yds and 44 TDs in his career as a WR.

Round 10: Dallas Cowbows: Roger Staubach, QB, Navy. Okay, if you’ve never heard of this guy, you’re no football fan. Roger the Dodger used his scrambling ability to extend plays and make a lot of downfield throws while occasionally taking off on foot when necessary. He played 11 seasons from 1969-1979 – the hiatus being so he could serve his military commitment. He threw for rather pedestrian numbers in many ways, amassing 22,700 career yards in those 11 seasons but had a very nice 153-109 TD-INT rate with a career 57% completion rate. One should keep in mind the thuggery the defensive backs could get away with in this era compared with today. He also had 2,264 rushing yards and 20 TDs. He only had 1 good season in his first 4, meaning this particular “steal” took nearly a decade from when he was chosen to actually showing his “star” on the gridiron. He reserved his best statistical seasons for his final ones, going out on top of his game. In 1979, Staubach set career highs in completions (267), passing yards (3,586), and touchdown passes (27), with just 11 interceptions. He won the 1963 Heisman Trophy, but his Navy commitment probably is what kept him from going very high in the draft. He was a 6-time Pro-Bowler, won 2 Super Bowl rings, and unveiled his Canton bust in 1985.

1965: #1 overall: Tucker Frederickson (who?) – “Mad Dog” Mike Curtis was #2 overall, Craig Morton #4, Gale Sayers #9, and Dick Butkus #11. Ouch.

Round 13: New York Giants: Carl “Spider” Lockhart, FS, North Texas. Spider had 41 career interceptions over 11 seasons with 2 Pro-Bowls to his credit. Next time you see Phil Simms’ 22-for-25 Super Bowl XXI performance, check the uniforms. Spider died of cancer in July of 1986 and the Giants wore the “Spider Patch” all season to commemorate him.

1966: #1 overall: Tommy Nobis, LB, Texas – had a very good 11-year career with the Falcons.

Round 14: Minnesota Vikings: Howard Twilley, WR, Tulsa. “The Little Guy” as he was affectionately known by some played his entire career with the Miami Dolphins. This one’s more on name-recognition than anything, as he played WR on a bad team early, then Shula’s arrival transformed them into the juggernaut of the early 1970′s that we all remember. He was the possession receiver to the more famous and electrifying Paul Warfield’s deep threat. In 11 seasons, he only had 3,064 career receiving yards but was a good, steady, reliable player who was there when he was needed. He was the ultimate role-player at an unloved position at the time and was a member of the perfect 1972 Dolphin squad.

1967: #1 overall: Bubba Smith – yes – he IS the “Moses Hightower” of the Police Academy movies! Steve Spurrier went 3rd overall and Bob Griese 4th. I think teams began taking the draft seriously in the mid-60′s.

Round 12, #298: Baltimore Colts: Preston Pearson, RB, Illinois. Pearson’s fame came as much from defining what a “third-down back” is as much as what he accomplished on the field. He appeared in 5 Super Bowls, winning 2 of them, and had nearly as many yards receiving (3,095) as he did rushing (3,609) in his 14-year career. He had 30 TDs combine plus a fumble recovery TD and 2 KO returns. He also has the distinction of being surrounded with greats his entire career. He played behind QBs John Unitas, Terry Bradshaw, and Roger Staubach while being coached by Don Shula, Chuck Noll, and Tom Landry, respectively. His numbers may be somewhat depressed because of the trio of HOF backs he played with as well, namely Lenny Moore, Franco Harris, and Tony Dorsett.

1968: #1 overall: Ron Yary, T, USC – longtime player who had 7 pro-bowls and 6 All-Pro seasons.

Round 16, #417: Pittsburgh Steelers: Rocky Bleier, RB, Notre Dame. This 4-time Super Bowl champion played his entire career in Pittsburgh. After only 10 carries in his first five seasons, due in part to his being drafted for (and wounded in the thigh during) the Vietnam War, he finally hit his stride starting in 1974 when he got a whopping 88 carries. Finally, in his 8th NFL season, he rushed for 1,036 yards (his only thousand-yard season) while being in the shadow of fellow Steeler Franco Harris. Bleier’s story is one of personal triumph from adversity as much as anything else, but he was a top-tier backup in the latter part of his career and a great lead-blocker as well.

1969: #1 overall: O.J. Simpson

Round 11, #262: Atlanta Falcons: Jeff van Note, C, Kentucky. The famous center played pretty much all over the place in college and the pros. At Kentucky, he was a running back and defensive end, but was drafted as a Linebacker. Norm Van Brocklin moved him to Center where he played his entire 18-year career with the Falcons, making him the second-longest tenured player in NFL history with the same team. He had more Pro Bowls (6) than games missed (4) – an incredible feat over 18 years! He was inducted into the Falcon Ring of Honor in 2006 to join Jessie Tuggle, William Andrews, Steve Bartkowski, and 1966 #1 overall NFL draft choice, Tommy Nobin.

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