CLASS OF 2006
Begun in 2002, the Hall of Very Good seeks to honor outstanding players and coaches who are not in the Hall of Fame.
Teams: New York Giants 1948-1961
Bio: Charlie Conerly had an outstanding career at the University of Mississippi as he led the Rebels to their first SEC championship in 1947 and was a consensus All-American and SEC Player of the Year. His time at Ole Miss was interrupted by service in the Marines during World War 2. He was drafted by the Redskins in 1945 but returned to Mississippi and was the property of the Giants by the time he turned pro in 1948. Conerly was the UP’s Rookie of the Year and set NFL rookie records for completions, attempts, completion percentage and lowest interception percentage, with the completion and attempt marks the highest ever by a rookie in the 12-game era. Many of his passing marks from 1948 are still Giants’ franchise records for a rookie despite the expansion to 14 and 16 game seasons. The Giants finished second in 1950-52 and Conerly made the Pro Bowl for the first of two times in 1950. His play was uneven, however, as head coach Steve Owen resisted a full-time commitment to the T-formation, preferring instead the A and other archaic offenses. After a poor season in 1953 for both him and the Giants, Conerly retired. He was wooed back by new coach Jim Lee Howell and guarantees the Giants would employ the T full-time. By 1956, the Giants were the best team in the NFL as they routed the Bears in the Championship Game, 47-7. They won three more conference titles during Conerly’s career but lost each time. Conerly was named second team all-pro and Most Valuable Player by the AP and NEA in 1959 when he led the league in passing and guided the Giants to the best record in the NFL.
Teams: San Diego Chargers 1962-1972, Los Angeles Rams 1973-1974, Green Bay Packers 1974-1975, Houston Oilers 1976-1977
Bio: After an outstanding college career that later saw him picked by the Topeka Capital-Journal as Kansas University’s player of the century, John Hadl was selected in both the AFL and NFL 1962 drafts. Hadl signed with the San Diego Chargers and shared quarterback duties with Tobin Rote for several years including San Diego’s championship season of 1963. Hadl became the number one quarterback in 1964 and the Chargers made it back to the AFL title game in 1964 and 1965, losing both times to Buffalo. Hadl and Lance Alworth were one of AFL’s best passing combinations, hooking up for 459 completions and 81 touchdowns. Hadl led the AFL in passing yards in 1965 and passing yards and touchdowns in 1968 when he was also the league’s overall passing leader. He also led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns in 1971. He was a four-time AFL all-star (1964, 1965, 1968, 1969) and he was named to the Pro Bowl twice (1972, 1973) after the NFL-AFL merger. Hadl was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in 1973, where his aerial magic continued. He anchored the NFL's top ranked offense and was a first-team all-pro selection that season. He was traded to the Green Bay Packers during the 1974 season for five draft choices, and was traded again to the Houston Oilers in 1976 for whom he played for his final two seasons. Hadl’s career numbers include 33,503 passing yards and 244 touchdown passes. He pursued a coaching career beginning in 1978 with his alma mater and also served as the quarterback coach for the Rams, Denver Broncos, and the USFL's Los Angeles Express from 1982-85. In 1983, he was inducted into the Los Angeles Chargers Hall of Fame.
Teams: Chicago Bears 1958-1959, Dallas Cowboys 1961-1973
Bio: Chuck Howley suffered a knee injury that was so serious in 1959, his second year with the Bears, that he retired at the end of the season. He made a comeback in 1961 but did so with the Cowboys as the Bears traded him for two draft choices. The comeback proved so successful that Howley was one of the best outside linebackers in football for the next 12 years. Howley was one of the first big pieces Tom Landry added as he built the Cowboys into a powerhouse. In 1966, Dallas began their decades’ long run as an elite team with Howley and the Doomsday Defense leading the way. That season marked the first of five in a row that Howley earned first team all-pro honors and he was named to the second of six Pro Bowls. Howley was strong against the run and pass. His six interceptions in 1968 are the second most in a season by a linebacker, he had five in 1971 and finished his career with 25. Team-wise, the Cowboys regularly finished first or among the leaders in many defensive categories during Howley’s career such as when they allowed only three rushing touchdowns in 1969 and the fewest yards per run in 1968 and 1970. Howley was outstanding in Super Bowl VI when Dallas smothered the Miami offense and in Super Bowl V when he was MVP, the only time a player from the losing team has done that. Football historian John Turney says Howley is deserving of an outside linebacker spot on both a hypothetical all-NFL/AFL 1960s team and the NFL all-1960s team. Being unfairly bypassed for the latter has likely cost him a place in the Hall of Fame.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Teams: Detroit Lions 1958-1962, 1964-1970
Bio: Well-known for his post-football acting career, Alex Karras was also one of the great defensive tackles of all time. He joined the Lions just as their championship run ended after winning the 1957 Outland Trophy at Iowa. Detroit had some good teams but didn’t make the playoffs until Karras’s final season. In their film evaluation project, football historians Ken Crippen and Matt Reaser said Karras “was extremely quick off the ball and showed excellent quickness to chase people down … even on the opposite side of the field.” They added that he was “excellent in both a one-gap and two-gap position”, “quick to shed blocks” and consistently “able to get good pressure on the quarterback.” Green Bay’s Hall of Fame guard Jerry Kramer, who played against Karras twice a season for 10 years, regularly spoke about how great an opponent Karras was. Detroit’s defense was especially good in 1960, 1961 and 1962 when the Lions finished second behind the dynasty Packers all three years. Detroit beat Green Bay three times in those years including a memorable game in 1962 when Karras and fellow tackle Roger Brown wreaked such havoc that the game has been known ever since as the Thanksgiving Day Massacre. Though a contemporary of all-time greats Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen, plus Hall of Famer Henry Jordan, Karras nonetheless was a consensus first-team all-pro four times in 1960-62 and 1965. He earned second team honors five other times and missed one of his peak years in 1963 when he was suspended for gambling. That suspension has likely kept him out of the Hall of Fame, though he was one of three defensive tackles selected to the all-decade team of the 1960s along with Lilly and Olsen. Karras was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020 fourteen years after he was elected to the Hall of Very Good.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Teams: Los Angeles Rams 1953-1955, Baltimore Colts 1956-1960, Pittsburgh Steelers 1961-1962
Bio: “Big Daddy” was his name, football was where he found his fame. Eugene Lipscomb earned the nickname from his size and tenacious play throughout his ten year NFL career. Standing at six and a half feet tall and nearly 300 pounds, the opposition had to frequently double-team him. Big Daddy was famous for using his size to throw the blocks away and attack opposing ball carriers. Lipscomb was a key player on two championship teams for the 1958 and 1959 Baltimore Colts. He teamed with Hall-of-Famers Art Donovan and Gino Marchetti to form one of the great defensive fronts in NFL history. The Colts had the league's top ranked rush defense during both title runs, yielding just over 100 rush yards per game. Lipscomb originally signed as an undrafted free agent with the Los Angeles Rams. Instead of playing college football, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps and played for his base team. By his sophomore season with the Rams, Lipscomb earned a starting role. In 1956, he was claimed off waivers by the Colts, where his career took off. With the Colts, Lipscomb was named first team all-pro by at least one major media outlet in 1958, 1959 and 1960 and was a Pro Bowl selection in both 1958 and 1959. The Pittsburgh Steelers were seeking veteran defensive talent and traded for Lipscomb in 1961. He was named first team all-pro by the NEA in 1961 and to the Pro Bowl in 1962. During the off-seasons, he trained as a wrestler to stay in shape. Lipscomb's career came to a tragic halt as passed away in 1963 from a drug overdose. In 2019, he was a finalist for the NFL's 100th Anniversary Team.
Position: End, Halfback
Teams: New York Giants 1951-1961
Bio: Kyle Rote was an all-around halfback and end selected first overall in the 1951 NFL draft out of Southern Methodist. He was second in the 1950 Heisman Trophy voting and kicked an 84-yard punt in the 1949 Cotton Bowl that is still a major bowl game record. His outstanding footwork and receiving skills allowed him to star for the New York Giants for 11 seasons including in which he was team captain. Rote set numerous Giants records in his career. At the time he retired, he was the team’s all-time leading receiver with 300 receptions, 4,805 yards and 48 touchdowns. He also ranked second in touchdowns and fifth in points. During his career, the Giants played in four NFL Championship Games, winning in 1956 in a 47-7 rout of the Chicago Bears. The team also had three second-place finishes and just one losing season. Rote was named to four consecutive Pro Bowls from 1953 through 1956 and two second-team all-pro selections in 1956 and 1960. Rote was quarterback Charlie Conerly's favorite target and the duo teamed with Hall of Fame back Frank Gifford to power New York's offense. Rote's best statistical season was his last, in 1961, when he caught 53 passes for 805 yards, and seven touchdowns. He was a leading figure in the early efforts of the NFL Players Association and served as its first elected president. After two years as the Giants' backfield coach, Rote worked for many years as one of NBC’s top football color men, first in the AFL and then the NFL. He also wrote several books on pro football. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1964 and was part of the all-time Giants’ team named in 1995.
Teams: Detroit Lions 1952-1955, Washington Redskins 1956-1958
Bio: Dick Stanfel had about as good a 7-year career as anyone who ever played pro football. In five of those seasons, he was a consensus or unanimous first team all-pro. He was one of the first-team guards selected by the Hall of Fame to the all-decade team of the 1950s. And he played on NFL championship teams in 1952 and 1953 with Detroit. After being drafted into the army while attending junior college, Stanfel starred for the University of San Francisco on a team that included four future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He joined the Lions in 1951 but missed that entire season after being injured in practice that summer. He became a starter in 1952 on a line with Hall of Famer Lou Creekmur and veteran Vince Banonis that was the backbone of the team. The Lions won back-to-back titles and Stanfel was first team all-pro for the first time in 1953. He did so again in 1954 despite missing five games because of injury as the Lions won the West again, though they lost the title game. After another injury-plagued season in 1955, Detroit traded Stanfel to Washington in a transaction initiated by Redskins head coach Joe Kuharich, Stanfel’s coach at USF. Stanfel made the trade a good one for Washington as he was first team all-pro the next three years even though the Redskins were not above .500 in any. He retired after the 1958 season at the top of his game and began a 35-year second career as a line coach. Among the linemen he coached in college and the NFL were Nick Buoniconti, Myron Pottios, Bob Brown, Jim Ringo, Forrest Blue, Jay Hilgenberg, Jim Covert and Willie Roaf. Stanfel was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016 ten years after he was elected to the Hall of Very Good.
Position: Wide Receiver
Teams: Kansas City Chiefs 1965-1975
Bio: Best known for his game-sealing 46-yard touchdown reception in Super Bowl IV, the sure-handed Otis Taylor played ten decorated seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs. Drafted out of Prarie View A&M in 1965 by both the NFL's Eagles and the AFL's Chiefs, Taylor chose to sign with Kansas City. He became a full-time starter by his second season in 1966. In what was a banner year, Taylor caught 58 passes for 1,297 yards, eight touchdowns, and led the league with an average of 22.4 yards per reception. Taylor earned first-team all-AFL honors, aiding the Chiefs in their run to Super Bowl I. He was also named to the AFL All-Star team. He continued his success in 1967, leading the AFL with 11 touchdown receptions and second-team all-AFL honors. Injuries limited Taylor for the next several seasons, but he regained peak form in 1971. Former teammate, quarterback Len Dawson always said, “If you got the pass to Otis, you knew he'd catch it”. Dawson frequently connected with Taylor, and he led the NFL with 1,110 receiving yards, powering Kansas City to a 10-3-1 record. Taylor was named to the Pro Bowl and selected as a first-team all-pro that season, as well as in 1972. He retired in 1975, ranking second on the Chiefs' all-time receptions list with 410, second in receiving yards at 7306, touchdowns with 57, and 100-yard games with 20. Taylor totaled two 1,000 yard receiving seasons and four seasons with greater than 50 receptions. He is also the all-time leader in AFL receiving touchdowns. He was elected to the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1982.
Teams: Baltimore Colts 1958, Green Bay Packers 1959-1967
Bio: There have been few if any guard tandems in pro football history as good as Fuzzy Thurston and Hall of Famer Jerry Kramer. Thurston was a rookie back-up who played sparingly for the 1958 champion Colts and came into his own under Vince Lombardi’s system of Run to Daylight and the famous Green Bay sweep. He is one of the Packers who played on all five championship teams of the 1960s and one of four players, along with Forrest Gregg, Herb Adderly and Tom Brady, to play on six NFL championship teams. The Packers most frequently ran their sweep to the right so Thurston had to pull from his left guard spot to lead Paul Hornung or Jim Taylor. Because of great technique and quickness off the ball, Thurston was able to pull as well as anyone. With Thurston leading the way, Taylor was able to total 6,069 yards rushing, 66 rushing touchdowns and a 4.94 average in a 5-year span (1960-64), and both he and Hornung won MVP awards. In Championship Games, Thurston and his linemates manhandled the Eagles in 1960 to the tune of 223 rushing yards and 5.3 per rush in a losing effort. The Packers rushed for another 181 yards in a dominating win over the Giants in 1961, 204 yards in defeating Cleveland in 1965, topped off by 160 yards in Thurston’s last game, a blow-out of the Raiders in Super Bowl II. With three Hall of Fame linemates, honors were hard to come by but Thurston was a first team all-pro in 1961 and 1962 and received some second team recognition in three other seasons. He was part of the fifth class elected to the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975.
Deacon Dan Towler
Teams: Los Angeles Rams 1950-1955
Bio: Often referred to as “the greatest running back you don't know,” Dan Towler was one of the most consistent runners during his six seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. A product of Donora, PA, Towler attended local Washington & Jefferson College, where he was a two-time All-American. From 1951 thru 1954, he ranked among the top four in rushing each year. His 6.8 yards per rush was second most ever by a pro back in 1951. In 1952, he led the NFL with 894 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns, and 74.5 rushing yards per game, while averaging 5.7 yards per rush. A member of the famed “Bull Elephant” backfield, Towler joined Paul “Tank” Younger and Dick Hoerner, leading Los Angeles' sturdy, top ranked, ground attack. The trio averaged 220 pounds apiece, and consistently bowled over and through opposing defenses. Throughout his career, the Rams either had the top ranked or second ranked offense, largely due to this pulverizing ground game. Towler's tenure with Los Angeles was one of the most successful runs in franchise history. The Rams played for the 1950 NFL title, won it in 1951, and never won less than eight games. The Rams drafted him in the 1950 NFL draft in the 25th round with pick #324. He made four consecutive Pro Bowls (1951-1954), and was a first-team All-Pro in 1952. He received second-team honors in 1951, 1953, and 1954. Due to injuries, he retired in 1955. Towler finished his career with 3,493 rushing yards, 43 rushing touchdowns, and 5.2 yards per carry. He earned both a Master's degree in Theology from USC and a PhD in education, became a minister and served on the local school board for over 26 years.
*Voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after induction into the Hall of Very Good.
June 18-21, 2020
Pro Football Hall of Fame