Thursday, May 1, 2014
Epic '64 draft: One of the best ever
By Rich Cimini
This is the 50th anniversary of perhaps the greatest draft in NFL history -- 1964, which produced a record 11 Pro Football Hall of Famers. I spoke to 6 of the 10 surviving members of that class, including Bill Parcells (a Detroit Lions draft pick) for a story that appears on ESPN.com. Parcells, of course, made it to Canton for his coaching accomplishments. He didn't last long as a player, but before deciding on coaching as a profession, he actually considered an offer from Pizza Hut to start his own franchise. It's one of the interesting back stories surrounding the '64 draft.
Obviously, the New York Jets weren't part of the story because they played in the rival AFL at the time, but they definitely benefited from the amount of talent that turned professional that year. The '64 AFL draft was one of the best in team history, as it produced three key members on the 1968 Super Bowl title team -- fullback Matt Snell (first round), defensive end Gerry Philbin (third) and linebacker Ralph Baker (sixth).
All three were drafted by NFL teams, but opted to sign with the Jets. The competition was fierce between the two leagues, so fierce that teams sent "babysitters" to hang out with certain players during the draft, hoping to sign them before they inked deals with the other league. Snell was drafted by the New York Giants in the fourth round of the NFL draft, and it was big news when the local kid -- he grew up in Carle Place, N.Y. -- blew off the established Giants to sign with the upstart Jets. Parcells remembers the fallout.
"Snell was a big pawn in the chess game between the NFL and AFL," Parcells said. "The giants losing that guy snapped a lot of heads. He was a good player, he was so good."
Things really got crazy the following year, when the Jets convinced a cocky kid named Namath to sign with them.