(EDITOR'S NOTE: To access the Mark Clayton interview, click on the following attachment: Ep 61: Former Dolphins WR Mark Clayton Joins The Show | Spreaker)
Little known fact about former wide receiver Mark Clayton: He’s one of only three players in league history to catch touchdown passes from Hall-of-Famers Dan Marino and Brett Favre. A star receiver for the Miami Dolphins, Clayton spent all but one of his 11 NFL seasons with Marino before joining Favre in Green Bay in 1993.
OK, so that makes sense.
What doesn’t is a lesser known fact about Mark Clayton: He has never, ever, been a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist since his retirement following the 1993 season.
“I never really made a cut,” he said on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com.
Correct. And that’s befuddling. Because Mark Clayton had more touchdown receptions (84) than Calvin Johnson (83), Reggie Wayne (82), Harold Carmichael (79), Fred Biletnikoff (76), James Lofton (75) and Art Monk (68). Plus, he averaged more yards per catch (15.4) than all but Johnson (15.9) and Lofton (18.2).
Yet everyone but Wayne is in the Hall -- including Johnson, a first-ballot choice this year -- and Wayne has been a Top-15 finalist the past two years.
Clayton was a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro who twice led the league in touchdown catches. He’s 71st in career receiving yards (8,974) and 19th in TD receptions, holds the Dolphins’ franchise records for career pass receptions and TDs, as well as receiving yards in one season, and is in the Miami Dolphins’ Ring of Honor.
So what's missing? Recognition from Canton voters, that’s what.
In 20 years of modern-era eligibility he never was one of the 25 semifinalists named annually. Now a senior candidate, he’s never been on the short list there, either … and you have to wonder why. Because Mark Clayton was one half of one of the most dangerous passing tandems of the 1980s.
The other half, Dan Marino, was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But Clayton? Forgotten by Hall-of-Fame voters. So, since we’re among those 48 selectors, we asked him to make his case for us, a request that clearly made Clayton uncomfortable.
“I’m not really big on tooting my own horn,” he said.
OK, fine. But nobody’s tooting it for him. So we asked him to continue, and he agreed.
“I believe I belong there,” he said of the Hall, “because I don’t know what else I could base it on besides the numbers and stuff. I don’t really like going back and forth with guys’ numbers, but if you look at Harold Carmichael’s numbers … he played in the same era that I did … (and) he played 13 years. I played 11. He’s got maybe a few more catches (590) than me (582) and a couple more yards (8.985-8,974). I got more touchdowns than him. But I had to share my passes with a bunch of other great players and receivers, and I still really produced.
“I don’t know what more I can say. I played the game at a high level. I went against the best of the best. So, I don’t know what would make it someone else’s turn and not mine.
"I feel like I’m definitely worthy, and I would be quite honored if I would get that call. I think that would really put the icing on my career, even though I didn’t win a Super Bowl ... Since Dan is in, I think I had a nice hand in getting him there. I feel like I deserve and I belong there, also.”
He had more than a “hand” in helping Marino get to Canton. He and teammate Mark Duper – ""The Marks Brothers" – caught a combined 140 TD passes in Miami (almost all from Marino), with Clayton accounting for 27.9 percent of Marino’s scoring passes while Clayton was with the Dolphins from 1983-92. And when Marino in 1984 set the then-single season touchdown record of 48, it was Clayton who caught 18 of them, or 37 percent.
Furthermore, when Marino was inducted into Canton in 2005, it was also Clayton he called out from the audience, telling him to run deep for one last pass. He caught that one, too.
"I was more nervous about catching that pass," he conceded, "than I was any pass I caught in football."
Mark Clayton was one of the league’s difference makers in the 1980s, with three seasons where he averaged 19 or more yards per catch (including his rookie season of 1983, when he had only six receptions) and four years where he had over 1,000 yards (he had five in his career, including 1991). Plus, he played a major role on the last Miami Dolphins’ team to reach a Super Bowl (XIX).
Yet he couldn’t make one cut for Canton? Something is wrong there, people. Mark Clayton deserves better.
“I just did my job,” he said. “I did the best I could. I didn’t play for the numbers. You hear a lot of people now talking about numbers. I played strictly for the love of the game, and I loved what I did. And I wanted to win.”