Whenever there are discussions of great receivers or great Jets, the name of Don Maynard almost never comes up — or worse, it comes into the conversation as an afterthought. Why?!
Unquestionably the best receiver to ever to wear the green-and-white, Maynard is only one of two Jets in the NFL Hall of Fame — that guy from Beaver Falls who threw him the ball and won a championship with him, being the other. He is also only the Jets all-time leader in every receiving category, and simply the greatest big-play weapon the team has had. Ever.
In addition, his jersey is only one of three that have ever been retired by the team; again, you already know the other two — Namath and Klecko.
But for some reason — maybe because he played before much of the current fan base got to see him, or has kept a low profile since retiring — he never seems to get the credit due him. Heck, it’s taken until the third time around for him to even get inducted into the esteemed TJB Hall of Fame!
This, my Jets brethren, is a glaring oversight that we hope to amend a bit with this (overdue) enshrinement of number 13 into the TJB Hall of Fame.
The very first player to join the New York Titans franchise in 1960, he is also one of the longest-tenured stars in team history, playing for the Jets for 13 seasons.
During those 13 seasons — a few of them for a struggling expansion franchise — Maynard was the unquestioned go-to guy, the player the team could count on to make the big play. In what was possibly the game where they needed his game-changing skills the most, the 1968 AFL championship game against Oakland, Maynard delivered the performance of a lifetime, snaring 6 passes for 118 yards and 2 TDs. And although he didn’t catch a pass in that improbable win over the Colts in Super Bowl III, he was on the field, drawing coverage and freeing up George Sauer for a big day, contributing mightily to that hailed championship.
Known as a player who liked to improvise while running routes, Maynard was a highly respected player on the field. He was a five-time All-Pro (1960, ’65, ’67, ’68 & ’69) and a four-time AFL Pro Bowl selection (1965, ’67, ’68 & ’69).
Although I was alive when he played for the Jets, I was very young and have no personal memories of Maynard’s playing prowess. And because of the era he played, there isn’t a lot of highlight films out there. But I do have the record book to testify to his special place in NFL history, as well as AFL history — he is a member of the All-Time AFL Team.
As mentioned, he is the Jets career leader (or close) in every critical receiving category.
- Receptions: 633 (40th NFL all-time; 1st NYJ all-time)
- Yards: 11,834 (18th NFL; 1st NYJ)
- Receiving TDs: 88 (10th NFL; 1st NYJ)
- Yards/reception: 18.7 yards/reception (23rd NFL; 2nd NYJ)
- Receiving yards/game: 63.6 (27th NFL; 2nd NYJ)
- Most receiving yards/game in NYJ history: 228 yards (11/17/68 vs. Oakland)
- Most receiving yards/season in NYJ history: 1,434 (1968); also is responsible for 4 of the top 5 seasons in receiving yards in NYJ history.
And again, all these totals were totally amassed in the era of 14-game seasons, and back in an era when the modern passing game was just beginning to take off — teammate Joe Namath was the first QB to pass for over 4,000 yards in 1967, with 1,400+ of them belonging to Maynard, who averaged a staggering 102.4 receiving yards/game that season.
Even more amazingly, Maynard didn’t the join the Titans/Jets and start his true NFL career until he was 25, playing one season with the Giants as a returner (netting 84 yards on 5 receptions) and spending the 1959 season with Hamilton of the CFL.
If Maynard’s numbers don’t sound overly impressive, try to keep them in context. From his NFL Hall-of-Fame bio:
Although he never led the league in receiving any one season, at the time of his retirement following the 1973 season, Maynard was one of only five players to record more than 50 receptions and more than 1,000 receiving yards in five different seasons. A four-time AFL All-Star, his 633 career catches for 11,834 yards were both pro records at the time.
Simply, just because you never saw him play doesn’t mean he wasn’t amongst the very best in NFL and AFL history.
Jets fans like to grumble that we get no respect. Well, if there is any player who more embodied a lack of respect than Don Maynard, I don’t know who it is.
Here’s hoping this modest tribute atones for some of that. Congratulations!