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Don Maynard


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It's the off-season, and like everyone else I reach out to otherwise ignored places to get my Jets fix. I got to thinking about Don Maynard and realized that I haven't ever seen him in action, except for the odd Super Bowl highlight here and there.

I don't know anything about the guy; he's pretty much a mythical legend to me, like a dragon or a good Nickelback tune. A cursory glance of youtube doesn't help much either. I'm in the Midwest, so I don't have access to the public appearances, signings, etc., but it seems like the guy just doesn't show up anywhere. He's obviously not as visible as Namath (and who is?), but his relative obscurity intrigues me.

Have any of you ever seen him play, or met him? What's the deal?

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Don Maynard took an odd road to stardom. It began with four productive years at tiny Texas Western College, where he was a two-time All-Border Conference halfback and track star. He was a future draft pick of the New York Giants in 1957, but played only the 1958 season with the team before moving to Hamilton in the Canadian Football League In 1959.

A year later, he became the first player to sign with the new American Football League’s New York Titans, a team that would later change its name to the Jets. The young New York team struggled for several seasons before they attained any level of respect.

Maynard, who was never known as a precise pattern runner, often had to “improvise” as one of his team’s constantly rotating crop of quarterbacks scrambled for his life. In 1965 quarterback Joe Namath arrived on the scene and the resulting chemistry that developed between the two proved to be the perfect mix.<br />

While Maynard was a frequent standout for the Jets, he had his biggest day in the 1968 AFL Championship Game that preceded the Jets' stunning upset of Baltimore in Super Bowl III. In New York's 27-23 victory over Oakland, Maynard caught six passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. His 14-yard grab in the first period gave the Jets the lead and his six-yard catch in the fourth period proved to be the game winner.

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.

So...he was an amazing player and Namath's favorite target. Where'd he go?

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I did not become a Jets fan until 1966. I saw a few NFL games in 1965 and then in the off season I saw maynard in a Mennen deodorant commercial and I became a Maynard/Jets/AFL fan immediately. That is why he is and will always be my avatar. Anyway, he was a great WR (flanker back then). Unfortunately, he played at the same time and in the same league as a guy named Lance Alworth. So that is why he is not as well known as you would think.

Maynard had very good deceptive speed (long strides). He had great hands but could not create space like Alworth with his leaping ability/agility or Otis Taylor with his strength. He was OK at catching bad passes, but again, not as good as like an Alworth or Chrebet. He was an average route runner. He also was not very effective at running after the catch (except when he caught the ball behind the defense - then no one was going to catch him from behind). He did not have good running moves/fakes/instincts and went down easily when tackled. He was skinny and not very strong, but was tough as nails. Nobody intimidated him and back then DBs could get away with public muggings and also the AFL in the mid and late sixties had some tough characters playing cornerback who were also great athletes (Willie Brown, Jim Marsalis, Emmit Thomas, Miller Farr, Speedie Duncan, Butch Byrd, Leroy Mitchell).

He was perfectly paired on the Jets with George Sauer. Sauer was great at everything Maynard was not great at, and visa versa. All in all, he was a great player and a game breaker. And quite a character.

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