Lance Alworth is widely considered to be one of the best players in the American Football League (AFL) and Los Angeles Chargers history.
He would eventually be referred to as Bambi because of his slender frame and ability to move and leap like a deer.
In addition to his time with the Los Angeles Chargers, he would spend the final two seasons of his career with the Cowboys.
Alworth was drafted in the first round of both the 1962 AFL and National Football League (NFL) drafts. The AFL’s Oakland Raiders would take him with the ninth overall pick in that league’s draft before trading him to the Chargers. The NFL’s San Francisco 49ers would take him eighth overall in that league’s draft.
While his rookie season only saw him catch four passes, he would come into his own during the 1963 campaign. That would be the first of seven straight years in which he would catch at least 50 passes and amass over 1,000 yards receiving. The 1963 team would defeat the Boston Patriots 51-10 to win its only AFL title.
In 1965, he had 1,602 receiving yards and caught 14 touchdown passes, which were both career highs. He caught 73 passes in 1966 to establish a career-high in that category.
Although these numbers may seem pedestrian by today’s standards, Alworth accounted for more than 50% of the Chargers’ total passing yards in 1965. His 14 touchdown catches were one more than the Bills had as a team that entire year.
The Dallas Cowboys Era
In 1971, the Chargers would trade Alworth to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for three players. During the 1971 regular season, Alworth would catch 34 passes for 487 yards and two touchdowns, which was his worst season since his rookie year from a statistical standpoint. However, he would catch a touchdown pass in Super Bowl VI in a game that the Cowboys won 24-3.
During his final season, Alworth was little more than a role player who started in only half of the 14 games that he appeared in. He would finish the year with 15 catches for 195 yards and two touchdowns. In two postseason games, he added three catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Hall of Fame Induction
In 1978, Alworth became the first player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame based on his production with an AFL team. As most football fans know, the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, which means that he was a member of the NFL for only three seasons.
Despite playing during a team when teams struggled to pass the ball well, Lance Alworth put up numbers more suited to the modern era of football.
According to Pro Football Reference, his statistical output compares favorably to 21st-century stars such as Randy Moss and Terell Owens, who were also inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He will also likely be remembered fondly by Chargers fans for his role in helping the team win its first and only AFL title.
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