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HOUSTON
OILERS

American Football League
Charter Members


Click HERE to see the 1961 AFL season

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Record image courtesy of
David Mann

   

          The Houston Oilers were the first champions of the American Football League, playing in tiny but fabled Jeppesen Stadium.   Their first draft choice in 1960 was LSU's Heisman Trophy-winning and All-America halfback  Billy Cannon.  With stars like Cannon and quarterback George Blanda, flanker Charlie Hennigan, running back Charlie Tolar, and guard Bob Talamini, they appeared in the first three AFL Championship games.  They won the first two (1960 and 1961) over the Chargers, and lost the third in 1962, only after a classic double-overtime game against the Dallas Texans, at the time the longest, and still one of the best professional football championship games ever played.  The Oilers won their AFL Eastern Division titles with offense, in 1961 scoring a professional football record 513 points with Blanda throwing for 3,330 yards and a record 36 touchdowns.   Billy Cannon led the league in rushing with 948 yards, and another  record was set when Charley Hennigan totaled 1,746 yards receiving.

          In 1961, the Oilers were the first AFL team to sign an active NFL player away from the other league, when wide receiver Willard Dewveall left the Bears to join the champion Oilers.    The following year, Dewveall caught the longest pass reception for a touchdown in professional football history, 98 yards, from Jacky Lee, against the San Diego Chargers.   

         The Oilers won the Eastern Division title again in 1967, then became the first professional football team to play in a domed stadium, when they moved into Houston's Astrodome for the 1968 season.

         
The Oilers were considered by some to be the cream of the league's crop.   Houston qualified for AFL postseason action a total of five times (1960, 1961, 1962, 1967 and 1969). They won two titles and played for two more. In all, the Oilers won four AFL Eastern Division championships in the AFL's 10-year existence. 

Houston Oilers in the American Football League Hall of Fame

Elvin Bethea
George Blanda

Billy Cannon
Larry Carwell
Miller Farr
Don Floyd
Bill Groman
Charlie Hennigan
Ken Houston
Bobby Jancik

Charlie Joiner
Ernie Ladd
Jacky Lee
Wahoo McDaniel

Ron McDole
Jim Norton
Bob Talamini
Lionel Taylor
Charlie Tolar
George Webster

Bud Adams**
Don Klosterman

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Standing: John Breen (Director of Player Personnel), Bud Adams (Owner), Don Suman (General Manager), Dave Smith, Tony Banfield, Orville Trask, Ed Husmann, Al Jamison, Billy Cannon, Dalva Allen, George Shirkey, Jack Laraway, Don Floyd, George Blanda, Joe Spencer (Assistant Coach), Walt Schlinkman (Assistant Coach), and Wally Lemm (Head Coach).
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Middle Row: Mark Johnston (#41), Mike Dukes, Julian Spence, Dennit Morris, Bob Talamini, Ron Botchan, Jacky Lee, Dick Frey, Claude King, Freddie Glick, Doug Cline, Jim Norton, and Bobby Brown (Trainer).

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Bottom Row: George Greene (Equipment Manager), Bob Kelly, Bob Schmidt, Hogan Wharton, Bob McLeod, Bill Groman, Charlie Hennigan, Rich Michael, Charley Tolar, Willard Dewveall, John White.
                 (Team photo courtesy of Jack Laraway) 

 

Houston Oilers ~ 1960 season American Football League Champions.  Images provided by Dave Tunge, son of Harry Tunge

 

Jacky Lee QB - 1959 University of Cincinnati uniform.  Lee played all ten years of the AFL. Bill Groman WR - 1960 - Led the AFL in receiving yards. Tony Banfield DB - 1961 - AFL All-Star 1961, 1962 and 1963. Ed Husmann DT - 1962 - AFL All-Star 1961, 1962 and 1963. Willard Dewveall WR - 1964 - In 1962, caught longest TD pass ever, 99 yards from Jacky Lee, against the Chargers. Sid Blanks RB - 1964 - AFL All-Star. Scott Appleton - 1965 - Oilers' first-round draft pick in 1964, 6th overall. Walt Suggs T - 1966 - AFL All-Star 1967 and 1968. Ode Burrell RB - 1967 - AFL All-Star 1965. Sonny Bishop G - 1968 - AFL All-Star. Jerry Levias WR - 1969 - Oilers' second round draft choice, from SMU.
Click on images for a larger view.

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AFL author/fan Todd Tobias found this beautiful set of 1965 Oilers Team-Issue Photos.  They bear facsimile autographs, click to enlarge and read the players' names.

See Todd's AFL blog at http://www.talesfromtheamericanfootballleague.com/

 
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The Oilers' George Webster prepares to hit the Bills' O.J. Simpson

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TONY BANFIELD

       Tony Banfield was an original Houston Oiler.  A defensive back, he played college football at OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY, and played professionally in the American Football League for the Oilers from 1960 through 1963, and in 1965.  In 1962, he returned a blocked punt 58 yards for a touchdown in the Oilers' 32 - 17 defeat of the Oakland Raiders. He was an American Football League All-Star in 1961, 1962 and 1963, and played in the first three AFL Championship games, winning the title in 1960 and 1961.

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GEORGE BLANDA

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RealPatch10Year.gif (2119 bytes)George Blanda was an "NFL reject". Yeah, right!!

           Just like George Washington was a "British reject"!    The NFL Bears thought the University of Kentucky's Blanda wasn't good enough to be a quarterback and wanted him to be a place kicker only. But in 1960, the formation of the American Football League led to Blanda's signing by the Houston Oilers as a quarterback and kicker. He went on to lead the Oilers to the first two league titles in AFL history, and he won AFL Player of the Year honors in 1961. Blanda once passed for 7 TDs in one game, and 36 in a season, 1961. For three staight years, 1963 through 1965, he led the league in pass attempts and completions.

         Blanda was in the top ten for attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns for seven straight years.  He was a four-time member of the American Football League All-Star team. He had two 400-yard passing days for the Oilers: a 464-yard effort against the Buffalo Bills on October 29, 1961, with four touchdown passes (winning 28-16); and 418 yards three weeks later against the Titans of New York, this time with seven touchdown passes in a 49-13 victory. 
          In 1967, when Blanda was almost 40, he left the Oilers but the Oakland Raiders saw him as a contributing backup passer and a dependable kicker, so they picked him up. At Oakland, he was a clutch kicker and a valuable "reliever" who pulled games out if fellow Hall of Famer Daryle Lamonica was unavailable or ineffective.
  He went on to become the oldest quarterback to start a title game, and the oldest pro football player, with the longest career, 26 years. He remains a strong supporter of the AFL heritage, recently saying: "That first year, the Houston Oilers or Los Angeles Chargers (24-16 losers to the Oilers in the title game) could have beaten the NFL champion (Philadelphia) in a Super Bowl," Blanda further said: "I think the AFL was capable of beating the NFL in a Super Bowl game as far back as 1960 or '61. I just regret we didn't get the chance to prove it."
          Blanda was one of only 20 players to play all ten years of the AFL and one of only three who were in every regular season AFL game their teams played, 140 straight.   He is the placekicker on the All-time All-AFL Team.   Blanda is also in the University of Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame.

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A member of the
American Football League
Hall of Fame

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BILLY CANNON

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RealPatch10Year.gif (2119 bytes)Billy Cannon, the All-American and 1959 Heisman Trophy winner from Louisiana State University, was one of the American Football League's most celebrated combatants. He had an uncommon combination of brute strength with the speed of a sprinter. In 1960, his signing by the Houston Oilers followed a fierce bidding war that began when Oilers owner Bud Adams met Cannon in the end zone following LSU's Sugar Bowl victory, and ended in court, with the AFL winning against the NFL. That put the fledgling league on the football map. Cannon, at halfback, scored an 88-yard touchdown on a pass from George Blanda in the first AFL Championship game, a 24-16 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. He scored the only touchdown in the Oilers’ repeat victory over the (San Diego) Chargers in the second-ever AFL Championship game.

         Cannon amassed 2,043 all-purpose yards in 1961, and led the league in rushing. He played for the Oilers from 1960 through 1963 and went to the Oakland Raiders in 1964. Al Davis converted him to a tight end during the 1964 season, and he finished his career as one of the best players of all time at that position.  Cannon made the AFL All-star team as a halfback in 1961, and as a tight end in 1969.  As a tight end, he averaged 15.5 yards per catch, which is better than the greatest tight ends of any era.
          In 1967, Cannon scored 10 touchdowns receiving. He scored 64 touchdowns in his career, 47 of them receiving. He played in a total of six American Football League Championship games, winning twice with the Oilers and once with the Raiders. Cannon is one of twenty players who played the entire ten years of the American Football League.

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A member of the
American Football League
Hall of Fame

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MILLER FARR

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       Miller Farr attended Wichita State University, lettering in football and track. In his senior year, he led the nation in kickoff and punt returns. He was a first round draft choice by the Denver Broncos in 1964, then went to the San Diego Chargers for 1965 and 1966. He played defensive back for the Houston Oilers from 1967 through 1969. During the 1967 season, Farr was the American Football League co-leader in interceptions with 10 (t - Westmoreland, Janik). Despite a bout with hepatitis, he intercepted two passes for touchdowns in one game in 1968. He led the AFL in interception touchdowns that year and was selected all-AFL and All-Pro. A three time American Football League All-star, Farr established an AFL record for the most touchdowns on pass interceptions in a game (2) and tied the AFL record for a season (3).  He was selected to the All-Time All-AFL second team.

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A member of the
American Football League
Hall of Fame

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DON FLOYD

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       Don Floyd was a wiry defensive lineman who earned All-America honors at Texas Christian University and stayed in Texas for his professional career.   He was a draft choice of the American Football League's Houston Oilers in 1960, the league's first year, and was selected as a defensive end on the American Football League All-Star team in 1961, 1962 and 1963. In the early 1960s, Floyd was among the best.   Lining up primarily as a defensive end, he used a combination of strength and speed to establish a presence to be accounted for by the opposition on every play.
       Floyd played in four American Football League Championships, helping the Oilers win the league's first two titles in 1960 and 1961.    Don Floyd is on the Oilers' All-Time Team.

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A member of the
American Football League
Hall of Fame


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FREDDY GLICK

       Freddy Glick of Colorado State University was an anchor on the Houston Oilers defense from 1961 through 1966.  In his first year with the team, he made four interceptions in the regular season and one in the Oilers' victorious AFL Championship game over the San Diego Chargers.   In a game in 1962, he made or assisted on a total of 27 tackles against the Buffalo Bills (five against Cookie Gilchrist) in a 17-14 win.  Glick led the league in 1963 with an all-time American Football League record 12 interceptions, and was an AFL All-Star in 1962, 1963, and 1964.

(click here for more)

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BILL GROMAN

       Bill Groman of Ohio's HEIDELBERG COLLEGE was an original Houston Oiler and an early AFL star.  He played in the first three AFL Championship games, emerging as a winner in two. 
       He led the league in yds/catch in both 1961 and 1962 (20.5 and 23.5), and was All-AFL both years, playing in the first AFL All-Star Game, held after the 1961 season. 
He had more yards receiving (1,473) in a rookie year than any other player.  He had TD receptions in eight consecutive games in 1961, one shy of the record.  He has the record for most TD receptions in his first two years, 29.
      He played for the Denver Broncos in 1963, then was traded to the Buffalo Bills for their AFL Championship years of 1964 and 1965.  In his six years in the league, Groman played in five AFL Championship Games.  He is the only player in Professional Football history to earn four American Football League Championship rings.

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A member of the
American Football League
Hall of Fame

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CHARLIE HENNIGAN

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AFL Standard Contract

       Charlie Hennigan, from Louisiana’s Northwestern State University, joined the Houston Oilers in their first year, 1960, after having worked as a schoolteacher.  He scored the first touchdown in Oilers history, but played in only 11 games. After a promising rookie season, in 1961 he started all 14 games and established himself as a superstar in the American Football League by gaining 1,746 yards receiving, a record that stood for 34 years. One of quarterback George Blanda’s main targets, Hennigan was the first professional football player to catch more than a hundred passes in a single season (101 in 1964) and to twice gain over 1,500 yards in pass receiving (1961 and 1964).
           At retirement, Hennigan held the all-time record for most games (11) in a season with over 100 yards receiving.  Hennigan had the All-time AFL single game record of 272 yards receiving, against the Boston Patriots on October 16, 1961. He was an
American Football League All-Star five straight years, 1961 through 1965, and is a member of the All-Time All-AFL second team.  He went on to a successful career with a Doctorate in Education, and as a motivational guru with his Hennigan Institute.

          Hennigan was the first to surpass 1,500 yards receiving in a season (1,746 in 1961) and still holds Professional Football records for: Most Consecutive Games, 100 or More Yards Pass Receiving, 7; and Most Games, 200 or More Yards Pass Receiving, Season, 3.  In 1962 against the Patriots, he had a 202 yard game on just eight receptions.
          In FULL COLOR FOOTBALL ~ The History of the American Football League,
George Blanda pointed out that the AFL's great defensive back  Willie Brown was originally with the Oilers, but that he was let go because he couldn't cover Hennigan in practice.  Brown went to the Broncos and later the Raiders.  In the Oilers' last game of 1964, against the Broncos, Hennigan needed nine receptions to break the all-time mark of 100 in a season, set the year before by Denver's Lionel Taylor.  Hennigan caught his nine, against Willie Brown, who is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Blanda questions why isn't Hennigan as well?  See
http://henniganforthehall.com/

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A member of the
American Football League
Hall of Fame

 

Guitar presented to Charlie Hennigan's son Steve, inscribed by George Blanda's son George, in commemoration of Charlie Hennigan's record-breaking 101 receptions in 1964.

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JIM NORTON

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       Jim Norton of the University of IDAHO signed as an original Houston Oiler in 1960.  Although he intercepted only one pass in his first year, he went on to become the American Football League’s all-time interception leader. During his first starting season, in 1961, he snared nine passes and punted with a 40.7 yard average. In a tight defensive duel in the AFL title game, his four booming punts helped Houston beat the San Diego Chargers, 10-3.
       In 1962, nursing a slim half-game lead in the Eastern Division in Week 12 of the season, Norton personally tormented Denver quarterback Frank Tripucka.  Jim killed three Bronco drives with interceptions as the Oilers stole a 34-17 victory, eventually reaching the Championship Game for the third straight year.   That thriller for the AFL crown was the league's longest game, a double-overtime contest won by the Dallas Texans, 20-17.
       As a defensive back, Norton was a steady tackler with a nose for the football. His play earned him
American Football League All-Star honors for 1961, ‘62, ‘63, and again in 1967, when he scored the only touchdown of his career, returning an interception 56 yards. He played 126 consecutive regular-season games with the Oilers, every game of his nine years in the league, as well as four AFL Championship games.  His number 43 was retired by the Oilers, acknowledging his club-record 45 career interceptions and 519 punts.

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A member of the
American Football League
Hall of Fame

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BOB TALAMINI

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       Bob Talamini, a stout, 6'1", 250-lb. lineman, earned third-team All-SEC honors at the University of Kentucky and was drafted by the Houston Oilers of the American Football League. He personally saw the league develop from the first Oiler's training camp in 1960 to the day his second team, the Jets, knocked off the NFL's "unbeatable" Baltimore Colts in 1969.
       Hall of Famers George Blanda and Billy Cannon benefited from his blocking as the Oilers won the first two AFL Championships.   Talamini made first-team All-AFL in 1962 and was a regular at American Football League All-Star games, selected to six straight, through 1967.  He anchored an offensive line that gave Blanda time to set passing records that would last for decades and opened holes for the likes of Cannon, Charlie Tolar, Sid Blanks and Hoyle Granger to run through.   Talamini, Don Floyd and Jim Norton were the last of the original Oilers.    He was selected to the All-Time All-AFL second team.
       After two AFL crowns and three Eastern Division titles, Talamini watched the club rebuild and win the division again in 1967.  The Oilers fell one game short in 1967, but Talamini got to realize his dream the following year when he was released and picked up by the New York Jets. Opening holes for Matt Snell and blocking defenders away from Joe Namath, Bob played a vital role in the shocker that changed pro football forever, stuffing the Colts in the third World Championship Game.

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A member of the
American Football League
Hall of Fame

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CHARLIE TOLAR

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       Charlie Tolar of Northwestern State University of Louisiana was an early American Football League star.  One of the most popular figures in the early days of the league, the 5-6, 210-pounder had dozens of nicknames, including "the Human Bowling Ball", and was named to AFL All-Star Teams in 1961, 1962 and 1963. Tolar helped Houston win the first American Football League championship in 1960 and repeat in 1961.  The team finished as runners-up in 1962, when he was the team's Offensive MVP as the first Oiler to exceed 1,000 yards rushing, with 1,012 on a league record 244 carries.   He is among the top ten all-time rushers in the American Football League, and was named to the Oilers' Thirtieth Anniversary Dream Team chosen by fans in 1989.  At Northwestern, Tolar was twice Gulf States Conference MVP and still holds four school records.

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A member of the
American Football League
Hall of Fame

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GEORGE WEBSTER

       George Webster, as a defensive back who created the 'roverback' position, is listed as one of the top 100 players (#31) at his Alma Mater,   Michigan State University and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.   After being selected by the Houston Oilers as the fifth player overall in the first round of the 1967 draft, Webster's position was changed.  In an exhibition game against the Cowboys, opposing qb  Don Meredith completed a square-out to "Bullet" Bob Hayes, a former Olympic speedster. Hayes thought he had broken into the open, but was brought down from behind by #90, Webster, a linebacker.  
      Webster started at left linebacker and made 15 tackles in his first AFL game. He made his first pro interception that year, helping the Oilers win the Eastern Division title.   He was part of a defensive unit that held opponents under 200 points for the season.   Webster averaged more than ten tackles a game, and was named AFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was also first-team All-AFL that year, as well as in 1968 and '69.  He is a member of the All-Time All-AFL Team.

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A member of the
American Football League
Hall of Fame

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K. S. 'BUD' ADAMS, JR.

RealPatch10Year.gif (2119 bytes)Bud Adams was one of the original members of the "Foolish Club", eight men whose vision created the American Football League.  He and Lamar Hunt were the first to commit to the new League.  Adams helped establish the league by fighting and winning the battle with the NFL for LSU's All-American Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon.  His franchise, the Houston Oilers, appeared in four AFL championship games, including the first three, becoming the league's first champions in 1960, repeating in 1961, and losing the third championship game only after the classic 1962 double-overtime battle against the Dallas Texans
 

        Adams also was in the minority of AFL owners who believed that the American Football League should not merge with the NFL, as the AFL was turning the tide in the football wars; in the draft, in signings, and fan support.  He was one of four men who owned an AFL franchise for the entire ten years.

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A member of the
American Football League
Hall of Fame

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Last revision: 05 November 2014 ~ Angelo F. Coniglio, nospam.RemembertheAFL@aol.com
 

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