Guest columnist: Why former Chiefs, Raiders great Dave Grayson belongs in Canton
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Each weekend this offseason a guest columnist weighs in with thoughts on the NFL -- past, present or future. Today we feature AFL historian Todd Tobias of Talesfromtheamericanfootballleague.com, who tells us why former Raiders' and Chiefs' defensive back Dave Grayson belongs in Canton. Tobias -- who can be found on Twitter at @TalesfromtheAFL -- is one of 15 voters on our "AFL Call for the Hall," and Grayson is one of 20 finalists.)
The American Football League is remembered as a wide-open, free-wheeling league where footballs flew far and frequently. But while offensive records were set and re-set with regularity, to say that the league lacked strong defenders would be incorrect.
Buck Buchanan, Bobby Bell, Willie Brown, Emmitt Thomas and most recently Johnny Robinson, all have a home in the hallowed halls in Canton. But there is a man who pulled down more interceptions than any of them who has yet to receive proper recognition.
His name is Dave Grayson, and he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
One of 20 finalists in the Talk of Fame Network's "AFL Call for the Hall," Grayson spent his youth competing against friends by the name of Willie West and Charlie and Art Powell. All grew up in the same southeast San Diego neighborhood and eventually made names for themselves in professional sports. Art and Willie had long and distinguished careers in pro football. Charlie played professionally, as well, but also spent time in minor-league baseball and became the No. 4-ranked heavyweight boxer of his time.
Standing at just 5-10 and weighing roughly 180 pounds, Dave Grayson was the smallest of his pals. But after 10 years of pro football, he had numbers that made him much bigger.
Grayson signed a free-agent contract with Dallas in 1961, and the Texans immediately found a spot for him in their starting lineup. He hauled in three interceptions as a rookie and returned one for a 99-yard touchdown. Grayson won his first AFL championship with the Texans in 1962, and remained in the secondary through the 1964 season before the Chiefs traded him to the Oakland Raiders for Fred “The Hammer” Williamson in one of the most lopsided trades in AFL history.
Grayson wore the silver and black for six seasons where he strengthened his case as one of the greatest defensive backs in the AFL.
Dave Grayson played through 1970, one year into the AFL-NFL merger. When he took off his helmet for the last time, he concluded a career that should have placed him in Canton five years later. A quick look at his achievements reveals the following:
· -- Six-time AFL All-Star (1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966 & 1969)
· -- Four-time All-Pro (1964, 1965, 1968 & 1969)
· -- Two-time AFL champion (1962 & 1967)
· -- Led the AFL with 10 interceptions in 1968
· -- Led the AFL with 47 career interceptions
· -- Averaged nearly 20-yards per return average and scored five touchdowns
· -- Retired as professional football’s eighth all-time leader in interceptions
· -- Averaged 25.4 yards on 110 kickoff returns from 1961-1967.
· -- Member of the AFL’s All-Time First Team
There is not much more that could be asked of a defensive back. Yet somehow Dave Grayson was never able to add Pro Football Hall-of-Fame member to his long list of accolades. Why? A quiet man who just did his job, Grayson was simply a victim of the AFL bias that ran so rampantly through the Hall-of-Fame voting process in the years after his career.
Dave Grayson lived out the remainder of his life with the same quiet success he displayed in professional football. He returned to San Diego after his playing days ended, immersed himself in a number of businesses and enjoyed his post-football life.He spent his last days in an assisted-living facility, a victim of the brain issues that are so prevalent among former players, before passing away in 2017.
Gone, but not forgotten, Dave Grayson belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even if he is not with us to enjoy the honor.