One of my favorite positions in football is the wide receiver. The New York Jets have had some of the greatest wide receivers in sports history. We are currently blessed to have Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and the front line is looking better and better upon hearing the recent Head Coach reports from training camp.
Let's look at some of the New York Jets wide receivers decade by decade and remember their great contribution to the position.
The 1960's. Don Maynard was selected in the 9th round of the 1957 NFL Draft by the New York Giants but he was released in 1959. He was the first player to sign with the New York Titans in 1960 who then became the Jets in 1963. The New York press laughed at Maynard, calling him "an NFL reject". Little did the press know that the head coach of the Jets, Sammy Baugh, knew Maynard's talent from his college days at Texas Western. Combining Maynard's skill with Hall of Fame WR Art Powell, they became the first professional wide receiver duo to each gain over 1,000 yards in receptions in a season and they did it again in 1962. The number of receptions and yardage gained helped secure Maynard's place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. His name is on the New York Jets Ring of Honor.
The 70's was a somewhat dismal time for the New York Jets wide receivers. The Jets entered the 1970 season with George Sauer, a Super Bowl hero who's performance and skill was on full display in the Jets vs Colts match-up. In six seasons with the Jets, Sauer caught 309 passes for 4,965 yards and 28 touchdowns. The 1971 preseason started with a disaster, when Joe Namath was injured against the Detroit Lions. Then, quite unexpectedly, WR George Sauer retired at the very peak of his career. That is basically the end of the 1970's discussion.
If we're talking the New York Jets in the 80's, then we can't forget WR Al Toon. He was selected #10 overall in the first round of the NFL Draft. During his career from 1985 to 1992, Al Toon had 517 receptions for 6,605 receiving yards and 31 touchdowns. He was selected to the Pro Bowl 3 times, the All Pro Bowl 3 times and he was the AFC Payer of the Year in 1986. Look for his name also on the New York Jets Ring of Honor.
I can't overlook one of my favorite wide receivers from the late 70's who had extraordinary receiving yards in 1978 - Wesley Walker. He went on to play in the 80's and had an outstanding year in 1986 with 49 receptions and 1,016 receiving yards. He too is on the New York Jets Ring of Honor. Many sports writers say he was prone to injury and we can only imagine what his career would have been like if he had been healthier. Nothing to sneeze at, though, as he is amongst the best receivers in football.
The mid 90's gave Jets fans an undrafted rookie from Hofstra, Wayne Chrebet. He was a guy that everyone thought was way too small to be on an NFL team. Yeah, small in stature but oh so tall in stats; 580 receptions, 7,365 yards and 41 touchdowns in his career. I saw him inducted in the New York Jets Ring of Honor in 2014. Ladies and gentlemen, "The Green Lantern."
Last but definitely not least, let me not forget Keyshawn Johnson, a New York Jet from 1996 to 1999. His 1999 year with the Jets was just short of his best overall season in 2011 at Tampa Bay; he had 89 receptions and 1,170 yards dressed in green and white. Who can forget he was the first overall pick in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the New York Jets.
That covers four decades so I'll save the next two decades for another time.