The Soul Of The Game: Butch Byrd

When football fans and historians talk about big physical cornerbacks who dominated wide receivers in yesteryear, several names come up. Dick “Night Train” Lane, Mel Blount, Lester Hayes and Herb Adderley come to mind. Yet history has always been slanted toward players before the AFL-NFL merger.

byrdOver in the AFL there were some great players history has overlooked.We’ve already taken a look back at Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and now need to do so with Butch Byrd.

He starred on the 2 time defending AFL champion Buffalo Bills at right cornerback. The Bills were the most dominant defense in the history of the AFL. Byrd only played 6 of his 8 seasons in the old league yet was an all star on 5 occasions. He was nudged out by David Grayson and Hall of Famer Willie Brown for cornerback on the All Time AFL Team.

Byrd could cover and could hit. He finished his career with 40 interceptions, returning 5 for touchdowns. An excellent defender whose hitting and coverage makes Byrd a “Soul of The Game defender.

Long live the AFL! Thanks for reading and please share the article..

One true friend to Taylor Blitz Times is AFL historian Ange Coniglio. His website RememberThe AFL is a permanent link on Taylor Blitz and the best reference point for everything about the American Football League.

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SUPER BOWL IX CHAMPION 1974 PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The first NFL championship in 42 years where the game ball was given to Steeler patriarch, the late Art Rooney. It had been a long time coming for all the decades of despair this team had been through. From the war time merging with the Philadelphia Eagles to form the “Steagles”. To the failed ability to recognize quarterback talent by cutting future Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Johnny Unitas. Nothing good had happened for this organization for decades.

Enter Chuck Noll.

superbowlixNoll was hired to be the Head Coach after serving under Don Shula’s Baltimore Colts regime in 1969. His last game with the organization was the loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. By then Noll was defensive coordinator after serving for years as a defensive line coach, most notably with the early 60’s San Diego Chargers in the AFL.

They say the player is the father to the coach a man becomes and Noll had been a lineman in his playing days. So instead of building his team first with a quarterback or featured runner, he drafted defensive tackle Joe Greene. He would build his defensive masterpiece from the ground up. A point often forgotten is the selection of LC Greenwood in the 10th round that same year.

A closer look at the front of the ring.

A closer look at the front of the ring.

In 1970, quarterback Terry Bradshaw was selected as the #1 overall pick. They finally had their quarterback of the future but the chief building block was Noll’s defense and in particular his defensive line. Five years later they were the best in pro football and came to be known as “The Steel Curtain”

Of course the Steelers had the great class of 1974 to put the finishing touch on what would become a football dynasty. However a look back and you can truly see how Pittsburgh’s first NFL championship had AFL roots.

If the AFL hadn’t been around to offer Chuck Noll his first coaching job at the professional level in 1960, would he have been in place to take the Steelers job in 1969?? Also look at the make up of the Steeler team from a draft and racial standpoint. Mining talent from historically black colleges and smaller schools was an AFL trait, not an NFL one. What Noll did in Pittsburgh was recreate the San Diego defensive line of the early 1960s he wasn’t allowed to in Baltimore.Steel_Curtain_Time_Magazine

  • Joe Greene – North Texas St.
  • LC Greenwood – Arkansas AM & N
  • Ernie Holmes – Texas Southern
  • Dwight White – East Texas State

So think of Joe Greene as a latter day Earl Faison or Ernie Ladd who had come from Grambling. By the time we include the late quarterback “Jefferson Street” Joe Gilliam from Tennessee State, Mel Blount from Southern, and John Stallworth from Alabama A&M, this team resembles the 1965 San Diego Chargers or 1969 Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL more than it did the 1968 Baltimore Colts.

super-bowl-logo-1974Many former players have talked about the racial quota that existed in the NFL back when. Well along with Vince Lombardi and Hank Stram, Chuck Noll broke that system for good and let talent flourish. First the Steelers took $1 million to move in with the AFL teams to form the AFC in 1970 with the league merger. Than Chuck Noll built the best AFL team he could through the draft

In doing so he brought Pittsburgh a championship it so desperately sought. It would not be the last.

RIP Coach Noll

RIP Coach Noll

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This bauble was what each player and coach received after their 16-6 win vs the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX.

SUPER BOWL IV CHAMPION 1969 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Super Bowl IV in ancient Tulane Stadium, the scene for Kansas City’s 23-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the last ever AFL game. The merger followed this game and to have the score after 4 games: AFL 2 wins, NFL 2 wins, was poetic justice since the two leagues battled for a decade. So many ironies during this era it’s hard to choose where to begin…but we have to start somewhere right?

sbiv

We’ll start with an epilogue I posted with the 1966 Chief’s AFL Championship ring on the origins of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings and the irony of those two teams facing each other in the last ever game of the AFL.

The AFL was originally going to have a franchise in Minnesota and in a move of espionage out of James Bond, cold war, double agent dealing, the NFL told the owners of that franchise to stay quiet and at the last minute award them an NFL franchise in 1960 to try to sink the new league. The AFL couldn’t’ operate with only 7 teams. Fittingly the last game in the history of the AFL, Super Bowl IV, Kansas City beat Minnesota 23-7 to offer some payback.

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What happened to the team that would have been in Minnesota you ask? They went west and became the Oakland Raiders the Chiefs main rival. As irony would have it, they too bested Minnesota in a Super Bowl winning the 11th edition 32-14. So when you think of the Vikings of the 70’s and their 4 Super Bowl losses, karma caught up to them for what happened in 1960…folks I can’t make this stuff up.

sbiv2This game was significant because NFL loyalists still weren’t giving the AFL its due after the crushing loss in Super Bowl III. Thought it was just a fluke. One of the great things about the AFL was its close camaraderie between the players and teams, knowing they were only part of an overall league fighting for their respect. They each played their part and they represented their league.

Joe Namath recalled when the New York Jets returned to their hotel after beating Baltimore in Super Bowl III, he could remember being greeted by Emmitt Thomas, Buck Buchanan, and Willie Lanier (Chiefs) as told on HBO’s History of the AFL circa 1995. Len Dawson (Chiefs QB) was also in the stands for the Jets monumental win over Baltimore so to have this group carry the banner into the last Super Bowl and last game in the AFL’s history had personal weight, league-wide weight, and TOTAL legitimacy for the AFL’s legacy with another win.
sbiv3Another significant point to this team is that this was the first Super Bowl champion that African American’s comprised half their roster and had the first Mexican American QB to get a ring in Tom Flores. However the 1969 Minnesota Vikings sported the first Mexican American to quarterback his team to the Super Bowl in Joe Kapp (never understood why they don’t have larger Hispanic followings with these significant historic backdrops).

The Minnesota Vikings had departed with Fran Tarkenton and brought Joe Kapp (California Bears) from Canada to play quarterback. He threw ugly passes and played football from his gut and as a fearless leader who avenged a playoff loss the year before against Baltimore. In 1968 the Colts were regarded as the greatest team with the greatest defense ever. The Colts beat Minnesota 24-14 in a divisional playoff match where they sacked and hit Kapp repeatedly.

In 1969, game 2 he threw for a record 7TDs in a rematch with the Colts to wrest the NFL dominance mantle from them winning 52-14. The Vikings went on to finish the season on a 12 game winning streak and break the Colts 1968 defensive record of 144 points allowed with 133. The 12 game winning streak to finish the season was the longest the NFL had seen in 35 years. Yikes, they were steamrolling to the Super Bowl…all they have to do was win this last game.

Kansas City, like Green Bay before them resembled what future NFL teams would look like. That defense with Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell, and Jim Lynch at the linebacker spots. Two that are in the Hall of Fame (Bell and Lanier…in fact Bobby Bell was the first outside linebacker inducted into the Hall of Fame) and one that should be in Jim Lynch. Jim Marsalis, and Emmitt Thomas at the cornerback spots. To imagine Emmitt Thomas, think of a little lighter Mel Blount. Johnny Robinson and Patrick Kearney were interchangeable safeties.

Then you have the front four: Aaron Brown, Jerry Mays (AFL all decade team member), Buck Buchanon, and Curley Culp were as physical as the Steelers of the 70’s with less notoriety because they played in the AFL. They made it to the big stage this day. All this before I get into Hall of Famer Len Dawson and WR Otis Taylor who should be…then versatile Mike Garrett, Warren McVea, and Robert Holmes running the ball as a group. This was a complete team and one of the most powerful Champions ever.

Thanks for reading and by the way if you wanted to see Super Bowl IV in its entirety, click the link “Super Bowl IV” at the start of this article.

Enjoy

SUPER BOWL I RUNNER UP 1966 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

The first AFL Super Bowl representative was the 1966 Chiefs, by virtue of a 31-7 burial of MY Buffalo Bills who were trying to 3-peat in the AFL.  With a little bit of luck the Cowboys would best the Packers and the Chiefs could play the Cowboys in Super Bowl I…..uh, sorry Green Bay wasn’t having it besting the Cowboys 34-27 in the NFL Title game.  Then those Packers went on to beat Kansas City in Super Bowl I 35-10.  So why am I talkin’ about Dallas??  Would you believe there is a history?

1loserThe KC Chiefs had moved from Dallas to Kansas City back in 1963 and even though they were AFL Champions, Lamar Hunt (AFL Founder) moved the team to not compete with the Dallas Cowboys.  The NFL, conservative and slow to expand, placed a new franchise in Dallas in 1960 since Lamar Hunt would have a team there.  They were even more shiesty with what they did with the Minnesota territory…yet we’ll get back to that…

AllDecalsDuring the 1960s, war raged between the NFL and AFL, these two principles from Dallas who both lived there crossed paths several times and were architects, in clandestine, about a possible merger between the two leagues.

They even met once at Love Field in Dallas under the Texas Ranger statue to talk about it right before Hunt boarded a plane for Houston to meet with Bud Adams and other AFL owners to vote Al Davis AFL Commissioner where the war for players escalated 10 fold. This act and subsequent talent drain included signing players from the other league (free agency LOL) that finally brought each side to the table.  At the meeting to announce the merger did you notice that Tex Schramm (Cowboys) and Lamar Hunt (Chiefs) flanked NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle at that conference?

So it would have been something had the Chiefs faced the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl I.  Uh, but you see there was this team from Green Bay and…Uh…well, LOL let’s just say they weren’t going to be denied.  So with that, this ring is for the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs formerly known as the Dallas Texans for reaching Super Bowl I.

 

super-bowl-logo-1966EPILOGUE: About that Minnesota thing… The AFL was originally going to have a franchise in Minnesota and in a move of espionage out of James Bond, cold war, double agent dealing, the NFL told the owners of that franchise to stay quiet and at the last minute award them an NFL franchise in 1960 to try to sink the new league.  The AFL couldn’t operate with only 7 teams.  Fitting that the last game in the history of the AFL, Super Bowl IV, Kansas City beat Minnesota 23-7 to offer some payback.

What happened to the team that would have been in Minnesota you ask?  They went west and became the Oakland Raiders, the Chiefs main rival.  As irony would have it, they too bested Minnesota in a Super Bowl winning the 11th edition 32-14.  So when you think of the Vikings of the 70’s and their 4 Super Bowl losses, karma caught up to them for what happened in 1960… The fact that the Vikings first and last Super Bowl losses came courtesy of these two teams is more karma than ironic. Folks I can’t make this stuff up.

The Soul Of The Game – Fred Williamson

The helmet Fred "The Hammer" Williamson wore with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The helmet Fred “The Hammer” Williamson wore with the Kansas City Chiefs.

When you think of the wild west scoring of the AFL, you think of long bombs, high scores, quarterbacks going for broke. Well, someone had to be deployed to stop those receivers and that’s where Fred Williamson comes in.  He was the “original” AFL shut down corner with the Oakland Raiders when he arrived in 1961.

There just isn’t a lot of footage on Fred Williamson’s early days. NFL Films didn’t acquire a lot of the old footage until after the merger agreement of 1966 so they exclusively used Kansas City Chiefs footage.

However he was an AFL All Star in 1961, ’62, and ’63 and was chosen 1st team All Pro in 1962 and 1963. Consider the fact he achieved All Star status with 5 int. with 58 yards in returns for a 2-12 Raider team. His best season was in 1962 which was his first as an All Pro, he intercepted 8 passes returning them for 151 yards and a touchdown. This he achieved on a 1-13 Raiders team that had two coaches and preceded Al Davis. In an 8 team league where the Raiders finished last on offense and second to last on defense, he was 1st team All Pro and the only player on the team to achieve any honors.

An autographed pic of Fred Williamson with Al Davis. He was the first guy to wear white shoes, not Joe Namath. Joe came into the AFL in 1965 when Williams stopped playing for the Raiders in 1964.

An autographed pic of Fred Williamson with Al Davis. He was the first guy to wear white shoes, not Joe Namath. Joe came into the AFL in 1965 when Williams stopped playing for the Raiders in 1964.

Those are high numbers for a cornerback who played for a team that was always behind and teams were running the clock out on them.

After intercepting 25 passes for the Raiders for 4 years, Williamson became a Chief and finally played for a winner. He teamed with all time AFL interception leader S Johnny Robinson to form arguably the best secondary in AFL history.

For all the talk of the “point a minute” reputation of the AFL, the 1966 Chiefs were dominant on defense. In a 14 game season teams threw away from “The Hammer’s” side of the field. So much so that both safeties Robinson and Bobby Hunt intercepted 10 passes each and the team grabbed 33 as a unit.

In the AFL Championship Game, the two time defending champion Buffalo Bills were eyeing a three-peat when Williamson nearly beheaded receiver Glenn Bass. It took the fight out of the Bills much like the Mike Stratton hit on Keith Lincoln in the 1964 championship, knocked the fight out of the Chargers giving Buffalo the momentum and emotional advantage.

Fred’s hit should have been remembered in the same light…

Fred “The Hammer” Williamson was the AFL’s version of the shutdown corner if there was one. Had the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl I his legend would be greater and might have his inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

The Chancellor Of Football’s Take: Hall of Fame Voting

The Pro Football Hall Of Fame in Canton, Ohio

When I learned that Jerry Kramer was skipped over as a senior nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I just had utter contempt for the sportswriters who seem to be the gatekeepers of history. It felt like they were going to work against the groundswell of support for Kramer and the passion from fans talking about his exclusion. I think the selection committee needs to have a few more wrinkles thrown into the mix.

Sure there are personal reasons as to why I would think a player deserves to be in the Hall and is the foremost problem with the voting. There is no way to ignore your own thoughts or feelings about a person’s nomination being put before you. There will be partiality. You’ll remember that last year (______) didn’t vote for my guy so I won’t vote for his this year. That is human nature. So you have to do it by a committee there would be no other way.

Chancellor.halloffameWhen I think of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I think of a treasured museum for everyone who ever played the game, at ANY level, could appreciate. The ongoing history to the greatest sport there is and the telling of that story. Don’t tell me that Emmitt Smith is the greatest if you can’t tell me who Jim Brown was, or OJ Simpson, Ernie Nevers, or who Steve Van Buren was. Someone saying he didn’t see Bronko Nagurski or Red Grange isn’t enough. There are books, the Taylor Blitz Times or more important this incredible museum housing all this history. That’s what makes this building significant.

hof_gallery_visit-1With it’s enshrinees and special wings to memorable moments, the 92 year history of the NFL, the 10 years of the AFL, and early football pioneers before the NFL, come to life. This is where fathers get to teach sons moments in history… Like the famous “wristband” of Baltimore Colt running back Tom Matte from the 1960s. When injuries to the Colts quarterbacks pressed Matte into service, Don Shula supplied him with a “wristband” with the play calls on it for him to remember. That is how he got through the game as a fill in quarterback.

Not only does that legacy live on to this day with every NFL quarterback wearing one, but right now as you read this…there is a father or mother teaching their son that story and looking at the actual “wristband”. What dreams and goals will that kid aspire to upon learning that and tossing the ball with his father the next day?? What if that kid grows up to be the next Dan Marino or Johnny Unitas??

chancellor.blackcollegeThis is why it is important the players, coaches, innovators, owners and their stories should be here to be told. Its for us to relive moments and future generations to learn how things came to be. The special men who were the embodiment of  the very spirit of football.

Which brings us back to The Chancellor’s thoughts on the matter. A few things should be changed which would allow for a  smoother selection process. First things first… we couldn’t just turn the vote over to the fans. This would significantly cheapen the situation and dumb it down to just a popularity contest. We would just have Dallas Cowboys or Pittsburgh Steelers enshrined from this point on…so this one gets thrown out yet not entirely…

The first item to be changed is there should be 30 Hall of Fame players involved in the voting. Who would be better at this than those players who played with or against players coming up for nomination?? How has it gone this far without their inclusion?? A Hall of Famer would best know what another Hall of Famer would look like and play like. Here a nominee would need a majority vote. These votes are confidential…

Secondly, scale back the number of non football playing voters to 30, which would include the Chancellor, and these accounts along with enshrined members would be a better panel to debate who is a Hall of Famer than not. Those writers would be able to hear accounts from the inside that they wouldn’t be aware of without hearing from those players peers. Here a nominee would need half of the vote to make it. Not only that…there needs to be new blood in this pool with the advent of successful blog writers and historians in the mix, the terms for limitation to be on this committee should be 7-10 years. These votes aren’t confidential…

ryan.ronLast would be one where the fans would have a vote. A write in candidate with a specific number of write in votes by the fans and former players. That number to be determined and the fans (who are the paying customers) would have a little say. Number to be determined later by a committee.

If this were to be done there would be a better selection process and those voting would be held accountable for their vote. Why have the Hall of Famers votes confidential?? They belong to an exclusive club. Its like the Ray Nitschke luncheon. That is not for us… that is for those players who belong to that club to share in it’s exclusivity about what it means to be there and how they are their brother’s keeper. They don’t have to share who they think should be in and why. They do so with a vote.

My feelings on the selection process has been this way for many years yet I had the chance to see it from the other side. Those of you who have been following this blog know that I have my own nominations for players who should be in the Hall of Fame. One of the first articles I wrote was on Jerry Kramer last year on July 26th. Now I’m not exactly sure as to where it took place but I shared many videos of the 1960’s Green Bay Packers here and on Facebook. I came to know Alicia Kramer who spearheaded a great campaign to help her father get inducted to his rightful place. She asked me to be an administrator to the facebook page Jerry KramerHOF to which I was honored.

Seriously, I read two of his books as a kid including Distant Replay, which is one of the reasons I love and write about Pro Football. The fact that he had read and enjoyed a few of my stories on Facebook were a reciprocal part of the journey and why I share with other fans what is on my mind about football and the history of the game.  I contributed as often as I could with videos and such and wrote a letter to “The Hall” pleading for his nomination. I remember uploading the 1968 Green Bay Packers America’s Game to the page. To be right there from the start of that page and watch her work grow to include Hall of Fame members lending their support and passionate fans as well, it is something incredible to be a part of.

When the senior nomination came back without Jerry Kramer’s name on it, I took it personally…and still am. There were countless letters written by enshrinees such as Lem Barney, Jim Kelly, Bob Lilly, Dave Wilcox just to name a few yet Kramer’s nomination comes down to writers over former players?? No way. All the while from my first article to placing it on my Facebook page several times, at least one person would ask “Jerry Kramer is not in the HOF?” every single time.

I also shared an email exchange with Kevin Greene when he didn’t make the finalist round this year. These players who deserve their legacies to be secured earned this right. Those gatekeepers to history need to be guarded more by the enshrinees themselves than writers. That is what I learned from this last year through Alicia’s work. If it were up to them, Kramer wins by a landslide. Yet its time for forward and positive energy. Onward to 2013 and his certain nomination.

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Dedicated to the memory of Hall Of Fame Member Steve Van Buren who passed away last week. RIP You were a great running back and a true warrior of the game. Thank you!!

Other articles on who The Chancellor thinks should be in the Hall

Kevin Greene

Chuck Foreman

Lester Hayes

Tom Flores

Cris Carter

Everson Walls

Terrell Davis

Randy Moss

Sterling Sharpe

Robert Brazile

Drew Pearson

Cliff Branch 

Ken Stabler

Ken Riley

Corey Dillon

Roger Craig

Andre Reed

Edgerrin James

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