Fouts, Tomlinson top vote-getters for All-Time Greatest Chargers
Future NFL Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts were the leading vote-getters among the 53 players and coaches selected as the Greatest Chargers of all time during the team’s 50th Anniversary Season. More than 400,000 votes were cast online during the popular fan campaign, presented by Pepsi and AT&T.
The Greatest Chargers, who will be officially introduced on Nov. 27 at the Chargers 50th Anniversary Block Party in Downtown San Diego, include seven Pro Football Hall of Fame members, four NFL Man of the Year winners and 11 current players. The giant Block Party is part of a three-day Celebration Weekend, presented by Coors Light, set to take place Nov. 27-29, culminating when the all-time greats are introduced on the field at Qualcomm Stadium prior to the Chargers-Chiefs game on Sunday, Nov. 29.
“This is an amazing list of athletes and coaches,” said Chargers President Dean Spanos. “These names bring back so many great memories for me. It really makes you appreciate the rich history and tradition of this team and organization.”
Tomlinson, the NFL’s 12th all-time leading rusher with 12,145 yards, currently holds or shares a total of 28 team records. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first eight NFL seasons, one of only three players in NFL history to do so. Tomlinson has earned multiple honors throughout his career, including NFL MVP, NFL Player of the Year and NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2006.
“It’s a great honor, especially when you think about all of the players that have come through here throughout the 50 year history,” explained Tomlinson. “To be considered to be one of the greatest in the organizations history is a great honor and something you take pride in.”
Fouts was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. He was known for his fierce leadership and toughness while directing one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. He is the third player ever to pass for more than 40,000 yards. Fouts holds the team career record for passing attempts (5,604), completions (3,297), yards (43,040) and touchdowns (254). He was voted to the Pro Bowl six times, four times as a starter. He currently is a color analyst for CBS Sports.
“This is a great honor and a real tribute to the man who made it possible for so many of us, Don Coryell,” said Fouts. “And to be included with so many of my teammates and all of the great players that came before us and playing now makes it that much more special.”
A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Chuck Muncie was known for his smooth, powerful running style. Muncie ran for 1,144 yards and a NFL-high 19 touchdowns in 1981. He rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown in the Chargers’ epic playoff victory in Miami during the 1981 season, and followed that with 94 yards in that season’s AFC title game, known as the Freezer Bowl. He was named an All-NFL selection in 1982 and ranks second in team history for most career rushing touchdowns (43) and most in a season (19).
“For me, it’s one of the biggest honors that I have ever received,” Muncie said. “To just be nominated amongst a group of elite athletes like that is amazing for me and to be actually selected is fantastic. It’s the fact that the combination of my whole career and everything that I’ve tried to accomplish is starting to be recognized, and when you get a chance to be in a group like that, it’s amazing.”
Quentin Jammer is the current veteran leader of the Chargers’ secondary. In 2008, he broke up 19 passes and had three forced fumbles. The Chargers’ top selection and the No.5 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, Jammer has become one the league’s premier shutdown cornerbacks. He’s the epitome of consistency at the cornerback position and ranks among the team’s best tacklers and pass defenders year after year.
“It’s great to be recognized as one of the greatest players in Chargers history,” Jammer said. “There have been a lot of great players who have come through here and just to be mentioned with that group really makes me proud and happy to be recognized.”
Gill Byrd, currently in his fourth season as a coach for the Chicago Bears, compiled a standout 10-year NFL career with the Chargers. Byrd is the team’s all-time leader in interceptions (42) and interception return yards (546). He led all NFL cornerbacks in interceptions for three consecutive seasons (1989-91) and paced the Chargers in four straight years (1988-91).
“Being selected as one of the greatest Chargers in team history is an honor, it really is,” Byrd said. “In a nutshell, it means that a lot of the sacrifice, hard work, time and commitment that I put into being one of the best has paid off and I am just appreciative that I was chosen as one of the top Chargers of all time. I am honored and humbled.”
These Greatest Chargers will be honored during pre-game festivities on Nov. 29 when the Chargers take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium. All fans in attendance will receive a commemorative 50th Anniversary wrist band, compliments of AT& T.
The Chargers 50th Anniversary Block Party is set for Friday, Nov. 27 from 5-11 pm in the Gaslamp Quarter. The largest tailgate party of the year will take place on Fifth Avenue in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, between Island and J Streets. The team and the San Diego Hall of Champions have partnered on the event that will celebrate 50 years of Chargers football with live entertainment on two stages, interactive games, celebrity and player appearances and much more. Tickets to celebrate 50 years of Chargers football are just $35 and are available through www.Chargers.com as well as at the Chargers Ticket Office at Qualcomm Stadium and the San Diego Hall of Champions. Additional information is available at www.Chargers.com.
Here is a position-by-position look at the players and coaches selected by vote of the fans as well as the current members of the team’s Hall of Fame:
Billy Ray Smith
All-Time Greatest Chargers
QB Dan Fouts 1973-87
Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Third player ever to pass for more than 40,000 yards. Threw for over 4,000 yards for three consecutive seasons (1979-81), led the NFL in passing yards in four consecutive seasons (1979-1982). Career high of 4,802 passing yards during the 1981 season was an NFL record at the time. Six-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro. NFL Most Valuable Player, 1982. AFC Player of Year, 1979, 1982. Holds 17 team records.
QB John Hadl 1962-72
Led league in touchdown passes in 1968 and ’71. Recorded six consecutive 2,000-yard seasons in 1964-69. Second in team career passing yards (26,938) and touchdown passes (201) in 1972. NFL Man of the Year in 1971. Named to AFL All-Star game twice.
QB Stan Humphries 1992-97
In 1994, led the Chargers through an impressive series of victories in the NFL Playoffs that started with the Chargers defeating theMiami Dolphins, and was followed by the Chargers holding off a last-minute rally by the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the AFCChampionship. The win would send the team to their first ever Super Bowl appearance. Started for six years, making 81 starts in 88 games while completing 1,431 of 2,516 passes for 17,191 yards and 89 touchdowns. AFC Player of the Month twice.
QB Philip Rivers 2004-current
In three years as starter, led team to three straight AFC West titles and an AFC Championship Game in 2007. In 2008, led the league and set a new team mark with a passer rating of 105.5. Career record as starter, including playoffs, is 36-18 (.667) and he’s a very impressive 22-5 at home (.815). Holds team record for single-season touchdown passes (34) and became second QB in franchise history to pass for more than 4,000 yards.
RB Keith Lincoln 1961-66, 1968
In the 1963 American Football League Championship game, he accounted for 329 yards total offense as Chargers defeat the Boston Patriots, 51-10. Led team in rushing, punt return and kickoff return yards in 1963. A five-time All-American Football League selection and named AFL All-Star Game Most Valuable Player twice.
RB Paul Lowe 1960-68
In Chargers’ first-ever game, returned opening kickoff for a 105-yard touchdown. When he played, held multiple rushing team records including most seasons leading league in rushing. Still holds team record for longest run from scrimmage with an 87-yard run. All-AFL three times and named to AFL All-Time Team in 1970.
RB Natrone Means 1993-95, 1998-99
Led team and finished second in the AFC with 1,350 rushing yards and ranked second in most touchdowns in a season with 12 in 1994. Set team record with five consecutive 100-yard rushing contests in 1994. Set personal and team-high with 118 yards on 18 carries against the Dolphins in 1981. Pro Bowl selection in 1995.
RB Chuck Muncie 1980-84
Ran for 1,144 yards and a NFL-high 19 touchdowns in 1981. Rushed for 120 yards and touchdown in epic playoff game in Miami, and 94 yards in the ’81 AFC title game, known as the Freezer Bowl. All-NFL selection in 1982. Ranks second in team records for most career rushing (43) and season touchdowns (19). Three-time Pro Bowl selection.
RB LaDainian Tomlinson 2001-current
The NFL’s 12th all-time leading rusher with 12,145 yards. Currently holds or shares a total of 28 team records along with a handful of NFL all-time marks. Scored 10 or more touchdowns in all eight of his NFL seasons and is the only player in league history who can boast that claim. Four-time Pro Bowler. Earned multiple honors in 2006 including NFL MVP, NFL Player of the Year and NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
WR Lance Alworth 1962-70
First AFL player inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978. Scored on a 48-yard touchdown pass in the Chargers’ 1963 AFL Championship Game victory over the Boston Patriots. In eight AFL seasons, led the league in receiving yards and receptions three times.. Holds 12 receiving records including most career touchdowns (81), most consecutive game touchdowns (9), and most career yards (9,584). Named All-AFL seven times and is a member of the AFL All-Time Team.
WR Wes Chandler 1981-87
Ranks fifth on team’s all-time list for career receiving yards with 6,132. Recorded 22 100-yard games, and had two 1,000-yard seasons with team. Turned in one of NFL’s all-time performances in 1982 catching 49 passes for 1,032 yards in just eight games. All-NFL selection twice and All-AFC selection. Three-time Pro Bowler.
WR Gary Garrison 1966-76
At time, in 1976, ranked third among active AFC receivers with 10-year totals of 402 catches for 7,475 yards, and 57 touchdowns and ranked 22nd on list of leading NFL receivers. Had 1,000-yard seasons in 1968 and ’70. Currently holds third slot for receiving yards with 7,533 and ranks second in receiving touchdowns with 58. Selected to Pro Bowl three times.
WR John Jefferson 1978-80
In 1979, became third player in NFL history to gain 1,000 yards in first two seasons. The 13 touchdown pass receptions in his first season led NFL and tied NFL rookie record. Tied for third in NFL with 10 touchdown catches in 1979. Fourth in NFL in yards receiving in each of first two seasons. Three-time Pro Bowl selection and All-Pro.
WR Charlie Joiner 1976-86
Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996. During 11 years in San Diego, caught 50 or more passes seven times and had 70 or more receptions in three seasons. Holds team record for most career receptions with 586 and ranks second for receiving yards with 9,203. All-NFL pick in 1980 and Pro Bowler three times
TE Antonio Gates 2003-current
Leads all current NFL tight ends with 51 touchdown catches since coming into league. Ranks second in league among all tight ends with 5,066 yards and third in catches with 400. From 2004-07, led team each season in receptions, yards and touchdown catches. Four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro.
TE Kellen Winslow 1979-87
Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. In nine seasons, caught 541 passes for 6,741 yards and 45 touchdowns. Had 13 catches and blocked field goal in 1981 playoff win over Miami. Holds team record for most points in game, 30. Consensus All-Pro, 1980-82. All-AFC four times. Five-time Pro Bowler.
OT Ron Mix 1960-69
Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979. In 10 seasons, only had two holding penalties. Excellent speed and known for outstanding downfield blocking. Eight-time All-Pro Selection (1960-64, ’66-68). Eight AFL All-Star games appearances, 1962-69. Named Chargers MVP in 1962.
OT Russell Washington 1968-82
Five-time Pro Bowler and 1995 Chargers Hall of Fame inductee. Started first two years of Charger career at DT before making a transition to starting RT for 15 seasons. Gained the Chargers MVP and Lineman of Year award in ’73.
OT Ernie Wright 1960-67, 72
Named three-time AFL All-Star and one of only 20 players to play in each of AFL’s 10 seasons. Started in all 125 games in nine seasons with the Chargers. Best known for his excellent pass protection, Hall of Fame coach Sid Gillman called the tandem of Wright and Ron Mix, “The best pair of offensive tackles in pro football.”
G Kris Dielman 2003-current
Two-time Pro Bowl performer known for his tough, gritty style of play. From an undrafted defensive tackle to one of the NFL’s elite guards, won Lineman of the Year twice and became one of the staples of a Chargers offensive line that paved the way for future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
G Walt Sweeney 1963-70
A three-time Pro Bowler and six-time AFL All-Star, Sweeney became the first winner of Lineman of the Year award. Named to the second-team on all-time All-AFL team. Became famous for outstanding offensive line play and never missing a game in his career as a Charger.
G Ed White 1978-85
Earned two trips to Pro Bowl with Chargers and is member of Chargers Hall of Fame and Breitbard Hall of Fame. Named to Sports Illustrated All-pro team in 1983 and a three-time Lineman of the Year winner. When retired, his 241 games played were the most by an OL in NFL history.
G Doug Wilkerson 1971-84
Three-time Pro Bowler and member of Chargers Hall of Fame, played 14 seasons with Chargers and earned 7 Lineman of the Year awards. Nicknamed “Moosie” because of ability to get off the line of scrimmage with the aggressiveness of a bull moose, possessing great pass protection skills and ferocious run blocking ability.
C Nick Hardwick 2004-current
A Pro Bowler in 2006 and an alternate in ’07 and ’08. Anchored a line for the 2006 Charger team that scored more points than any team in franchise history. A starter since his rookie season, helped lead the way to four straight 2,000 yard rush seasons including a team record 2,578-yard season in 2006. The same year, paved the way for LaDainian Tomlinson’s MVP award.
C Don Macek 1976-89
Inducted to Chargers Hall of Fame in 2004, playing in 162 games with 150 starts in 14 seasons. Earned all-rookie honors in ’76. Teamed up with Ed White, Doug Wilkerson, Billy Shields and Russ Washington to form greatest OL in team history. Member of offensive line that led NFL in 1981-83 with fewest sacks allowed per pass attempt.
DE Fred Dean 1975-81
Named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Chargers Hall of Fame in 2009. Named AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1979 with 15.5 sacks. A two-time Pro Bowler with the Chargers who unofficially recorded nearly 100 career sacks.
DE Earl Faison 1961-66
A Chargers MVP and AFL Rookie of the Year in 1961. A five-time participant in the AFL All-Star game as a Charger; and member of the Chargers Hall of Fame. Awarded the defensive MVP in the 1963 All-star game. Is considered one of AFL’s elite pass rushers; nicknamed “Tree” for being strong, sturdy, and outstanding in all phases of defense.
DE Leslie O'Neal 1986, 88-95
Franchise’s all-time leader in sacks with 105.5 as a Charger and one of the most prolific pass rushers in team history. A two-time team MVP and Lineman of the Year and six-time Pro Bowler. Is tied with linebacker Shawne Merriman for most sacks in a single season (17).
DT Gary Johnson 1975-84
Earned Pro Bowl honors four times and named All-Pro three times; Member of Chargers Hall of Fame; nicknamed “Big Hands;” Ranks second in club history with 67 career sacks; Unofficially recorded 17.5 sacks in 1980, three years before sacks became an official NFL statistic .
DT Louie Kelcher 1975-83
Team MVP in ’77 and three-time Pro Bowler; member of Chargers Hall of Fame; teamed with Fred Dean and Gary Johnson to lead the NFL in sacks in 1980; unofficially logged 39 career sacks; fun-loving nature made him a fan favorite.
DT Ernie Ladd 1961-65
Nicknamed “The Big Cat;” Member of Chargers Hall of Fame and also inducted into World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame in recognition of his post-football career; four-time AFL All-Star; known as the biggest and strongest man in pro football during his playing days.
DT Jamal Williams 1998-current
Regarded by many as one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL today, Williams is a three-time Pro Bowl nose tackle and is the longest-tenured DL in team history. Named four-time Chargers Lineman of the Year, three-time Chargers Defensive Player of the Year and 2008 Co-MVP.
LB Chuck Allen 1961-69
Member of Chargers Hall of Fame and three-time AFL All-Star; recorded 20 career interceptions, 10th most in team history and second-highest total by a linebacker.
LB Woodrow Lowe 1976-86
Missed just one game during his 11-year playing career; 21 interceptions tied for seventh in team history and most among all Chargers linebackers; Most Inspirational Player in ’86.
LB Shawne Merriman 2005-current
Earned Pro Bowl honors in each of his first three NFL seasons. Led NFL with 17 sacks in 2006, tying Leslie O'Neal’s team record. Named Chargers Defensive Player of the Year in ’06 and posted 39.5 sacks between 2005-'07, most by any NFL player during that span.
LB Junior Seau 1990-02
Played in 12 straight Pro Bowls with the Chargers, and missed only two games in his first seven years of play. From 1990 to 2000, was the team’s leading tackler. A six-time Chargers MVP and two-time Chargers Defensive Player of the Year. NFL Man of the Year in recognition of community service in 1994. Physical and emotional leader for more than a decade.
LB Billy Ray Smith 1983-92
Played 10 seasons in San Diego and racked up 26.5 sacks and 15 interceptions in 126 games; 1987 Chargers MVP; a versatile player who played both inside and outside during his career; led team in tackles twice.
DB Willie Buchanon 1979-82
Buchanon was a two-time pro bowler and one-time all-pro. Registered 28 total career interceptions, and led the Chargers with a team-high five picks in 1981. Heading into his final season with the Bolts, Buchanon started in 128 games, including 92 in a row.
DB Gill Byrd 1983-92
Holds franchise record for career interceptions (42) and interception return yards (546). Led NFL with 27 from 1988-91. Two-time Pro-Bowl starter. Led NFL in interceptions three years in row (1989-91). Named Chargers’ Most Inspirational Players four consecutive years and inducted into Chargers Hall of Fame in 1998.
DB Rodney Harrison 1994-02
Four-time Chargers’ Defensive Player of Year. Two-time Pro Bowler. Made immediate impact on special teams, leading the team with 20 stops as rookie. Ranks third all-time with 26 career interceptions. Made NFL history in 1997 when he became the first player to score touchdowns on a fumble return, interception return and kickoff return in the same season.
DB Quentin Jammer 2002-current
The Chargers’ top selection and the No.5 overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft, Jammer has become one the league’s premier shutdown cornerbacks. He’s the epitome of consistency at the cornerback position and ranks among the team’s best in tackles and pass break-ups year after year.
DB Charlie McNeil 1960-64
Unanimous first-team All-AFL selection in 1961. Holds record for most interception yards in season (349), consecutive games with an interception (5), led league in interceptions ('61), and interception return yards in game (177 vs. Houston in ’61). Before 2007 held franchise record for 46 years with nine interceptions in season. Second with 502 career interception return yards.
K Rolf Benirschke 1977-86
Scored more points than any player in franchise history, and held 15 team records. Entered final year of legendary, 10-year career as the NFL’s third-most accurate kicker of all-time with .710 field goal percentage, hitting 130-of-183 field goals. Won five games with field goals with less than a minute left in games. Known for coming through in the clutch, overcame the biggest obstacle of his life when he beat Ulcerative Colitis in 1982.
K John Carney 1990-00
Left Chargers as most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history among players with minimum 100 career attempts. Connected on 243 of 295 field goal attempts for career percentage of .8237. Holds club record for most career points (1,076), career field goals (261), field goals in a season (34), highest field goal percentage in a season (.905), consecutive field goals (29), field goal attempts (320), and field goal attempts in a season (40). Named Chargers’ Man of the Year five times. Pro Bowl after Chargers’ Super Bowl season.
KR Speedy Duncan 1964-70
Holds numerous team records for kickoff and punt returns, including combined kickoff and punt return yards, which he set back in 1970 with 5,037. Ranks first in six different return categories, and ranks at the least third all-time in eight other return categories. Also solid defensive back. Had 21 career interceptions for 322 yards and two touchdowns, including one for 100 yards in 1967, which was an AFL record at time.
KR Darren Sproles 2005-current
One of the NFL’s most dangerous all-purpose threats, leading the league with 1,602 combined yards. Tied franchise record with 103-yard kickoff return for touchdown. In 2008 was one of only two players in NFL to rank in top 10 in both kickoff and punt returns. 25.4-yard kickoff return average ranks highest in team history among players with minimum 75 kickoff returns. Ranks first all-time for combined kickoff and punt return yards in career (5,436)..
P Darren Bennett 1995-03
Two-time Pro Bowler holds franchise records in every punting category, including most career punts (771), punts in season (95), punts in game (11), career punt yards (33,776), punt yards in season (4,248), and punt yards in game (522). Named Chargers’ Special Team Player of Year in 2000. Member of Chargers’ 40th Anniversary All-Time Team and NFL’s All-Decade Team for 1990s.
P Mike Scifres 2003-current
All-time leader in punting average (44.1) and has been among league’s best punters since rookie year in 2003. Pro Bowl alternate each of past three years. 46.1 average in 2007 was second-highest in team history. Set playoff record in ’08 by landing six punts inside 20-yard line, including five inside 10, during playoff win over Colts.
ST Hank Bauer 1977-82
Named Special Teams Player of Year two years in row (1980-81). Selected NFL Special Teams Player of Year by Cable News Network of Atlanta, Georgia in 1980. Led team in special teams solo tackles and plays. Solid running back and pass catcher.
ST Kassim Osgood 2003-current
Two-time Pro Bowler and named Chargers’ Special Teams Player of Year three years in row. Named All-NFL and All-AFC special teams player by Pro Football Weekly and Professional Football Writers of America twice. Originally joined Chargers as undrafted free agent out of San Diego State in 2003.
Head Coach Don Coryell 1978-86
In “Air Coryell”, NFL saw one of most exciting teams most productive offenses in history. Passing game transformed Chargers’ offensive attack and revolutionized scoring in NFL. Catapulted Chargers to three consecutive AFC West Division championships (1979-81) and two AFC Championship games (1980-81). Won NFL coach of Year honors in 1979. Career regular-season winning percentage of .552 in San Diego. Inducted into Chargers Hall of Fame in 1994.
Head Coach Sid Gillman 1960-69, 1971
Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame (1983) and Chargers Hall of Fame (1985). Five AFL Western Division titles and one American Football League Championship. Considered offensive genius was Chargers’ first head coach and left indelible impression on franchise and offensive football that would continues today. Boasts second-highest overall winning percentage as head coach in team history (.614)
Head Coach Bobby Ross 1992-96
Chargers enjoyed one of most memorable seasons in franchise history under Ross during 1994 Super Bowl run. Turned around Chargers team coming off last-place, 4-12 finish in 1991 and won 11 of the final 12 regular-season games to win AFC Western Division title in ’92, first playoff appearance since 1982. First head coach since Sid Gillman to lead Chargers to championship game. Inducted into Chargers Hall of Fame in ’02.