BASN NEWSROOM’S MASTER LIST – WIDE RECEIVERS
by Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor – in – Chief
(Editor’s Note: The BASN Staff and affiliated members of The Brother Man Network are putting together their top 100 Greatest HBCU Players; this is part of our process in this determination…)
PHILADELPHIA (www.basnnewsroom.com) In terms of overall impact, these are my best HBCU receivers:
1.BOB HAYES, FLORIDA A&M: While stats do matter, Hayes did something no other receiver ever did. Rather than me speak on it, I’ll let his teammate, Mel Renfro, say what needs to be said:
“Bob Hayes was singularly responsible for the creation of the zone defense.”
This is not to diminish the greatness of others; merely it is to say Hayes’ significance beyond statistics is what brings him to the top of the list. As a football player who just happened to be The World’s Fastest Man (given his track performance in the 1964 Olympics), Hayes is the first receiver to put The Fear of GAWD – in an opposing defense!
We forget sometimes that team sports are about match-ups; and that a superior advantage can initiate other avenues for overall success with the addition or subtraction of a player or players. The man known as “Bullet Bob” was a mismatch as soon as he walked onto the gridiron; and spawned a bunch of wannabees with track skills – but no hands!
While a couple did have limited blips of success, the only other receivers with an extensive track background to make its mark in football were Mr. ‘Speed Kills’ – former Oakland Raiders’ speed merchant (from the University of Colorado) Cliff Branch, and Ken “00” Burrough, who we will speak on later.
More than just a great player, Hayes forced the NFL to adapt and adjust – as he is part of a very select club: winning an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring…
2. JERRY RICE, MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE: There is track speed – and football speed; and because I have yet to see a stopwatch catch a fuckin’ football in over 30 years of covering the sport, 40 -yard times are among the most useless statistics in all of sport.
The itty – bitty school from Itta Bena, Mississippi was raising Hell as the Delta Devils were burying foes with their ‘Point – A – Minute’ offense generated by head coach Archie “The Gunslinger” Cooley in the early 1980s.
The 1985 NFL Draft gift – wrapped Rice to San Francisco and Bill Walsh in the first round. Because Rice timed out at 4.65, some screamed to the world that Walsh and the ‘Niners were reaching…
What the screamers missed, however, was not realizing that Rice played in the same offense Walsh would run – and Rice wasn’t caught from behind…until well past his 40th birthday!
His football speed translated way past ‘4.65’ and Rice’s strong hands turned slant patterns into long distance touchdowns; making him a true quick – strike weapon while – shutting up a lot of so-called ‘experts.’
We know Rice has the stats, but Hayes built the pedigree, which is why he gets the nod as Number One.
3. OTIS TAYLOR, PRAIRIE VIEW A&M: The first wideout who made size matter, Taylor was a rock – solid 6’3″ 215 – and the prototype for future Hall of Fame talent like Cris Carter and Terrell Owens.
Strong off the jam, Taylor thrived in the Bump – and – Run Era of the American Football League; and helped his Kansas City Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl IV. Averaging almost eighteen yards per his 410 receptions, Taylor, a strong blocker, was a complete player who deserves to have his bust in Canton.
4. CHARLIE JOINER, GRAMBLING: “If I throw it, you’ll be there” – the mantra for every quarterback to their ace receiver. Besides a great pair of hands, a quarterback’s best friend is being able to hit your receiver for seven yards when it’s third and six.
That is testament to the precision of the receiver, because the throw…means nothing without the catch.
Charlie Joiner brought said precision to the table, becoming a very effective route runner after switching from defense to offense when he became a Houston Oiler in 1969.
A trade to San Diego had Joiner become a cog in one of the most prolific offenses in football for its time. Led by the very overrated Dan Fouts, “Air Coryell” put Joiner in a great position to succeed. Never a burner, Joiner and his hands were always where they needed to be; and 12,000 – plus yards and 750 catches later, Joiner lands in Canton.
5. JOHN STALLWORTH, ALABAMA A&M: Arguably the greatest receiver in SIAC history, Stallworth was the perfect example of an offensive late bloomer. Lined up opposite his flashier colleague Lynn Swann, Stallworth quietly went about his business, and performed most effectively when called upon…
With the many weapons the Pittsburgh Steelers had in the 1970s, Stallworth was often an afterthought because his overall play was more steak than sizzle; fortunately for Pittsburgh, they ‘discovered’ him in time to have him become a key component of two of the four Super Bowls acquired in the 1970s.
His number representing the spot selected in the 1974 Draft, Stallworth was solid in all football aspects, and exemplary with his hands and ability to run after the catch.
6. HAROLD JACKSON, JACKSON STATE: If winning does change everything, then statistics can be thieves. When you don’t win, statistics can decrease one’s overall value. They can also make you forget things on a player’s resume’ which provide clarity on how good they were…
Jackson was one of the best receivers of the 1970s, a weapon blessed with quickness, elusiveness – and speed. Emerging as one of the league’s best deep threats with the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams, Jackson twice led the league in receiving yards, along with topping the charts in receptions and receiving TDs.
While playing through 16 seasons with mixed results, Jackson’s 18 yard average on 579 snags for over 10, 300 yards eclipses that of some recent Hall of Fame inductees at the position; but did not get to experience much post – season play.
Jackson belongs in Canton; the numbers prove that; but I guess winning doesn’t change some things.
7. WARREN WELLS, TEXAS SOUTHERN: If you are fan of the old AFL and the subject would be, “Who’s the best deep threat in the AFL?” some might say the man nicknamed ‘Bambi’ – Lance Alworth – and they would have a good argument. Ask me who was the most dangerous…and it would be the man wearing #81 in this video for the Oakland Raiders:
Warren Wells’ number should’ve been “89” – because most of the passes he caught and did damage as part of Oakland’s deadly vertical offense were ‘8’ and ‘9’ pass patterns – deep routes designed to gash defenses. Wells’ speed obliterated opponents with Daryle Lamonica’s Mad Bomber makin’ it rain…from long distance!
For three years from 1968 – 70, Wells averaged 12 TD receptions and 1100 yards receiving; with an unreal average of 26.8 yards (per catch!) in 1969, along with with 14 TDs.
Sadly, the man revered by many to be the savior of the AFL, Raiders’ owner Al Davis, would outsmart himself with the first round selection of Tennessee State QB Eldridge Dickey in 1968.
The disappointment which occurred when Davis screwed Dickey out of the starting spot because of his reluctance to start a Black quarterback (in spite of consistent reports Dickey had clearly beaten out second round draft choice Ken Stabler) and had moved him to wide receiver. This caused a major chemistry issue within the organization; Dickey and Wells would become collateral damage from the long term results, which would compromise both their careers…
Ironically, Wells came up short in one major category: he had only 158 career receptions, short of the minimum number needed to qualify for best yards -per-catch all time…
Fuck that. Wells finished with a career (and all time best) average of 23.1 yards per catch. For my money, the greatest deep threat in football.
8. KEN BURROUGH, TEXAS SOUTHERN: Imagine the size of an Otis Taylor with the speed of a Bob Hayes. Nasty combination, right? Well, that’s exactly what the NFL would experience as the League was introduced to Burrough.
At 6’4″, 210, Burrough was a space eater who could run. His sized belied how quickly he moved laterally and downfield. As a track man in college, Burrough translated his speed to the gridiron well, and, in 1975, became the only receiver in the entire League to reach the 1000 – yard mark that season, averaging 20 yards a catch with the Houston Oilers.
The problem (if you can call it that) was Burrough’s presence in the Era of The Running Back. The Oilers’ heavy reliance on Earl Campbell kept them a ‘run first’ team, making Burrough a lesser option in their offensive philosophy. Although Houston played well during this era, the thought of quarterback Dante Pastorini using Burrough more often might have changed a couple of those post – season scores versus the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It’s not Burrough’s fault, but one gets the feeling his skills were wasted on Houston. Recognized and inducted into The Black College Football Hall of Fame in 2016, Burrough’s talent still merits discussion as to whether a similar bust goes up in Canton.
9. HAROLD CARMICHAEL, SOUTHERN: No doubt size does matter; but for a receiver, hands matter more. In the world of match ups in team sports, any advantage is a good one – especially when you’re an innovator.
You don’t normally connect the words “fade pattern” with Carmichael, but 6′ 8″ versus anything inside the red zone equaled ‘Advantage, Eagles.’ Carmichael was also extremely effective working the slip screen and once slanting in on a route, he was very difficult to miss as a target.
The lanky receiver perfected this during his time playing for Philadelphia since being selected in 1971. While Carmichael was tall, he had to have more than that goin’ on to be able to eke out a career. Yards after the catch became his trademark, as Carmichael led the league in receptions and at one time held the record for the most consecutive games with at least one reception (127).
With 590 receptions and nearly 9,000 yards over a distinguished career, Carmichael has been quite overlooked when it comes to post – career honors as many of the Old Skool players (1965 – 1985) have been.
10. JOHN TAYLOR, DELAWARE STATE: When it comes to dynasties, there is one consistent truth; there is always one guy you sleep on when breaking down the elements of sustained success.
On the Pittsburgh Steeler teams of the 1970s, John Stallworth was the X-factor as a go-to option. The San Francisco 49er teams of the 1980s always had a little extra “sting” on offense thanks to the large hands and unique skill set of a Hornet named John Taylor.
Drafted by San Francisco in the third round of the 1986 Draft, Taylor showed great fluidity in and out of his breaks, and was a smooth route runner. Like his HBCU teammate, Jerry Rice, Taylor played faster than his forty – time. He also was a significant contributor on special teams, ranking among the top punt returners (led league in return yards in 1988).
Taylor feasted on the one-on-ones offered him due to the depth of the ‘Niners offense, always making the defense pay. His deceptive stride belied his quickness; once out in the open, Taylor would be long gone…
A vital contributor to three of San Fran’s Super Bowls, Taylor’s flawless pattern killed the Cincinnati Bengals in 1988 as the last second snag from Joe Montana iced the victory.
Taylor made the All – Decade Team of the 1980s, and was selected to the 2019 Class for the Black College Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Second only to The Best:
Donald Driver, Alcorn State
Yancey Thigpen, Winston – Salem State
Jimmy Smith, Jackson State
Eric Truvilion, Grambling State
Sammie White, Grambling State
Willie (Jake) Reed, Grambling State
Donald Narcisse, Texas Southern (Canadian Football League)
Frank Lewis, Grambling State
Trumaine Johnson, Grambling State
Oronde Gadsden, Winston – Salem State
Always outnumbered…never outgunned.
Copyright (c) 2019 Michael – Louis Ingram all rights reserved.