1960’s Rookies

Players whose careers began in the 1960s

Carroll Dale – Carroll came up with the Rams while Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch was still in the front office. He was traded to the Packers before the 1965 season, embarking upon three straight championships as one of Bart Starr’s favorite targets. A religious man, Carroll was the Packers team chaplain, and he cleverly used that position while negotiating a contract with Vince Lombardi. Before the money, players negotiated their contracts themselves.

Goose Gonsoulin – What happened to the first pass ever thrown in the American Football League? Goose Gonsoulin intercepted it, that’s what. Goose liked firsts: he was the first member of the Denver Broncos, the first player to go from starting in the AFL to starting in the NFL, and a member of the Broncos inaugural Ring of Fame class.

Dick Frey – Dick’s dream was to play pro football. Yet his high school coach only played him one play. He followed his dream by playing JuCo ball before transferring to Texas A&M. Dick played military football and coached high school football for almost 10 years before he got his first pro tryout. He was a 30-year old rookie with the original Dallas Texans, and won the AFL championship in 1961 as a Houston Oiler, proving dreams can come true.

Irv Cross – Irv was recognized as one of the top athletes in the league by his peers. As Brent Musburger recently told us, “You ask Dick Vermeil or any other of the old football guard, and they’ll tell you what a tremendous athlete Irv Cross was.” Brent should know, as he covered Irv’s football and track feats for the university newspaper while they both attended Northwestern. Ironically, they ended up covering football together as part of the original NFL Today cast.

Garland Boyette – Linebacker St. Louis Cardinals 1962, 63, Houston Oilers 66-72 Garland played for legendary coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling. He made the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent, and was the first African-American to play middle linebacker, a position often referred to as the “defensive quarterback” in those days. He overcame racist hate mail asking whether he was smart enough to play the position to make two Pro Bowls.

Mick Tingelhoff – Mick played center for the Vikings from the time Kennedy was president until after Jimmy Carter was halfway through his term, without missing a game. That totaled 240 straight games, with a run of 7 consecutive All-Pro seasons.

Lee Roy Jordan – A small town South Alabama kid who grew up to play for Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide and Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys. How small of a town? All of his classes from kindergarten though high school were in the same building.

Tony Lorick – Born and raised in Los Angeles, Tony won several “Player of the Week” awards in high school, earning him unlimited free tacos at Hall of Famer Tom Fears’ restaurants. Fears later became Tony’s head coach with the New Orleans Saints. Before that, Tony shared the huddle with Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry and Lenny Moore as the starting fullback on the Baltimore Colts. He passed away in February 2013.

Carl Eller (HOF) – Agile and quick, Carl often looked like he lined up in the offensive backfield. He won the George Halas award in 1971, the equivalent of today’s Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Dan Reeves – His famous touchdown pass in the Ice Bowl makes complete sense when you find out that Dan played quarterback in college. He learned to play running back, a position he’d never played before, in training camp to make the Cowboys. Dan picked the position up fast enough to lead the league in touchdowns in 1966. Coach Landry named Dan a player/coach in his later years, paving the way for a successful coaching career after his retirement. (Bonus points if you knew Coach Reeves attended South Carolina.)

Walt Garrison – Dan Reeves’ roommate was nicknamed “The Cowboy’s Cowboy” due to his off-season job on the pro rodeo circuit. Walt nearly took a junior college rodeo scholarship instead of his football scholarship at Oklahoma State. The decision point? His father convinced him four years of college was better than two.

Ken Houston (HOF) – Ken’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer who made All-Pro a whopping 12 times in his career. Ken retired with the most interceptions returned for touchdowns in a career, a mark that wasn’t broken until 2001.

Bob Griese (HOF) – Bob took Purdue to its first Rose Bowl game before quarterbacking the Miami Dolphins to their only two Super Bowl championships. His remarkable career was cut short by a shoulder injury, but not short enough to keep him out of the Hall of Fame.

Elvin Bethea (HOF) – Elvin was a state track champion in New Jersey, but his grades kept him from accepting Villanova’s track scholarship. He played football at North Carolina A&T instead, impressing Cowboys executive Gil Brandt enough to say he would pick Elvin in the first round of the draft. When the Oilers called Elvin to tell him they had drafted him, a confused Elvin quipped, “I’m waiting for the Dallas Cowboys to call.”