Iconic Professional Football Hall of Fame player Don Maynard, one of the first originals to bring color and legitimacy to the fledgling American Football League and one of the greatest receivers not only in Jets / Titans history but in the annals of professional football, has died at age 86, just 15 days before his 87th birthday.
Maynard, who entered the NFL and AFL wearing his cowboy boots and proudly wearing his Country nickname, had a demeanor about him, which manifested in a healthy dose of pride in his accomplishments as one of the game’s great pass-catchers, yet a charming laugh and self-effacing nature towards the players, teams and fans he has met throughout his career.
His autobiography, after all, was titled “You Can’t Catch Sunshine,” and he said he told Namath when they first met in 1965, “Joseph, I’m going to make you a better quarterback and you’re going to. make me a great receiver. “
Still, he said upon his induction into the Jets’ inaugural Ring of Honor class: “I’m just honored to be there, proud and grateful and all that.”
“Don was a great player. He made a lot of his teammates into better football players,” Namath said. “He was the man our opponents worried about, the coup de grace, the lightning in a bottle, the nitro begging to explode. I mean he could fly, but with the grace of a great thoroughbred. The man could play flat. He galloped through the best of the best footballers in the world. “
“My thoughts and prayers are with Don’s daughter, Teri, his son, Scot, and all of his family,” said Jets president Woody Johnson. “We have lost someone very impactful, on and off the football field. I want his candor and his authenticity and his passion for the game and certainly for the New York Jets.”
“Don was really Texas all the way,” said Frank Ramos, the Jets’ longtime public relations manager. “He was very popular with his teammates. He was a really good player.”
Neglected in the early years
Maynard was the proverbial of the late bloomer, in part because of his nomadic school and football education. With his father, a Texas / Oklahoma cotton broker, his family was constantly raising the stakes and he attended five different high schools. He graduated from Colorado City (TX) High where he discovered his athletic talents as a football / basketball / track letterman.
Remaining in the Lone Star State for college, he spent a year at Rice, without playing football, then three years at Texas Western College (now UTEP), when he was primarily a running back and had only 28 receptions – but for 27.6 yards / catch.
Maynard (6-0, 180) was drafted by the Giants in the ninth round (109th overall) of the 1957 NFL Draft and rebounded on football in his first three seasons. He played 12 games for the Giants in 58, rushing more times (12) than he caught assists (5) and even kicked off overtime against the Colts from Weeb Ewbank in ” The greatest game ever played “. After the Giants released him during training camp in 1959, he spent a season with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, catching a pass for 10 yards.
Sammy Baugh, the first head coach of the New York Titans, knew a few things about Maynard, having opposed him as the head coach of Hardin-Simmons in Abilene, TX, so he brought Maynard back to New York. and made him the first signer of the Born Titans in 1960.