Guest columnist: Art Powell was more than a star; he was a "touchdown machine"
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Each weekend this offseason a guest columnist weighs in with thoughts on the NFL -- past, present or future. Today we feature historian and frequent contributor John Turney of Pro Football Journal, who tells us why former star receiver Art Powell should be one of the 10 members announced next week in our "AFL Call for the Hall.")
At 6-feet-3 and 211 pounds, Art Powell (Philadelphia, 1959; New York, 1960-62; Oakland, 1963-66; Buffalo, 1967; Minnesota, 1968) was a big man for a wide receiver. But he could run.
In fact, he was ahead of his time.
Outside of Lance Alworth, Powell stood out on film more than anyone with his combination of size, speed and strength. He most certainly could play today and be an All-Pro. His hands might not have been as good as Alworth, Charlie Hennigan or Lionel Taylor, but they were more than adequate.
I mention that because Powell is one of 20 finalists in the Talk of Fame Network’s “AFL Call for the Hall," an exercise to determine the 10 best AFL players NOT in Canton. But if one were to have a "scout's pick" among the four wide receivers on the board, it would likely be Powell.
He was a five-time AFL All-Star and was a four-time All-AFL pick, with one a consensus choice. He ranked third in AFL history with 8,015 yards, behind Hall-of-Famers Don Maynard (10,289) and Alworth (8,976), and he was second in yards per game behind only Alworth. Plus, he was third in catches behind Lionel Taylor and Maynard.
Most importantly, his 81 touchdown receptions were second only to Maynard (he had 84). And consider this: Of the AFL’s top 20 single-season touchdown reception marks, Powell has five. Alworth has four, and no one else has more than two.
Art Powell was a touchdown machine. That was his calling card.
“I am not interested in receptions, I want touchdowns,” he told Murray Olderman in 1965. “I never felt I was a selfish player, but I believe you should go out her and do your best.”
Of the AFL wide receivers that have Hall-of-Fame cases, let’s consider their “peak” or prime years – that is, what they averaged during their best seasons:
-- In Powell’s seven-season prime (1960-66), he averaged 65 receptions, 1,096 yards, 16.7 yards per catch and 11 touchdowns.
-- Gino Cappelletti. In 1961-67, he averaged 40 catches for 623 yards. 15.7 yards per catch and six touchdowns.
-- Charlie Hennigan —During his prime (1960-65), he averaged 64 catches, 1,085 yards, 17.0 yards a catch and eight scores.
-- Lionel Taylor —In his prime (1960-65), he averaged 85 receptions, 1,071 yards,12.6 yards per catch and seven TDs.
-- Otis Taylor —From 1966-73), he averaged 45 catches, 811 yards, 18.0 yards a catch for six touchdowns.
And now for the two AFL stars in the Hall of Fame:
-- Lance Alworth. From 1963-69, he averaged 64 catches for 1,250 yards, 19.5 yards per reception and 11 TDs.
-- Don Maynard. From 1960-69, his averages were 65 catches, 1,229 yards, 18-8 yards per reception and 10 TDs.
As you can see, Art Powell had Hall-of-Fame production. Only he and Alworth averaged 11 TDs per season in their primes, and only Maynard and Alworth averaged more yards per season, though Hennigan and Lionel Taylor were close.
Outside of Alworth and Maynard, it seems clear the numbers favor Art Powell as the next AFL receiver in line for the Pro Football Hall of Fame,