“The 1961 Roster”
By ED WETTERMAN
The 1961 Oilers roster featured some outstanding players who achieved great things in the second year of the franchise.
The team received a major boost from several St. Louis (formerly Chicago) Cardinals who moved from the NFL to play for the Oilers.
Although the second Houston roster boasted strong lineup of starters, it had a relatively weak bench, which proved challenging throughout the season.
- QB George Blanda: At age 34, Blanda threw 362 times for 187 completions, 3,330 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions while also serving as the kicker. Blanda was also named to the All-AFL first team.
- HB Billy Cannon: Cannon led the Oilers in rushing with 200 rushes for 948 yards and six touchdowns, and he added 43 receptions for 586 yards and nine touchdowns.
- FB Charley Tolar: In replacing Dave Smith as a starter, Tolar rushed 157 times for 577 yards and four touchdowns, and he added 24 catches for 219 yards and one touchdown.
- WR1 Charley Hennigan: Hennigan returned for another great season with 82 catches for 1,746 yards and 12 touchdowns. This single-season record for yards would not fall until Jerry Rice and Isaac Bruce both topped it in 1995.
- WR2 Bill Groman: The duo of Hennigan and Groman were deadly to other team’s defenses. Their combined season yardage of 2,921 yards would not be topped until 1995 by Herman Moore and Brett Perrimen of the Detroit Lions. Groman had 50 receptions for 1,175 yards, 17 touchdowns, and rushed once for two yards and a touchdown.
- TE Bob McLeod: Drafted to replace John Carson, he had 14 receptions for 172 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie campaign.
- LT Al Jamison: He returned for his second year as a starter and was awarded with first-team All-AFL honors, playing in all 14 games.
- LG Bob Talamini: He also returned for his second year as a starter and played in all 14 games.
- C Bob Schmidt: He came from the NFL’s New York Giants to start for the Oilers for the next three years, earning All-AFL honors in 1961, 1962, and 1963.
- RG Hogan Wharton: He returned for his second year as a starter and played in all 14 games.
- RT Rich Michael: He also returned for his second year as a starter and played in all 14 games.
On defense, the Oilers started:
- LE Dalva Allen: He returned as a starter.
- LDT Orville Trask: He also returned as a starter and snagged one interception.
- RDT Ed Husmann: He had played many seasons for the NFL’s Cardinals and in the Dallas Cowboys’ inaugural season before joining the Oilers. He made second-team All-AFL in 1961 for the Oilers.
- RE Don Floyd: He returned as a starter and was named to the All-AFL team.
- LLB Doug Cline: He returned as a starter and had one interception on the season and one safety.
- MLB Dennit Morris: He returned as a starter and was selected to the All-AFL team, and he notched one interception.
- RLB Mike Dukes: He returned as a starter and had one interception.
- LCB Tony Banfield: He became a starter in his second season, playing in all 14 games. He had 8 interceptions for 136 yards and was a 1st Team All-Pro and selected to his first Pro Bowl.
- RCB Mark Johnston: He returned as a starter and grabbed four interceptions on the season, and he was selected for All-AFL honors.
- FS Jim Norton: Norton moved from LCB to FS for the 1961 season, where he grabbed nine interceptions. He also served as punter.
- SS Fred Glick: Glick left the NFL’s Cardinals to play for the Oilers in 1961, where he became a starter and had four interceptions for 28 yards.
Other players of note:
- WR Willard Dewveall: Dewveall was hurt in preseason and only played in seven games in the 1961 season. However, when healthy, he was quite productive with 12 receptions for 200 yards with a 16.7 average and three touchdowns.
- QB Jacky Lee: Lee was a vital cog as a backup, starting three games and throwing 127 times for 66 completions, 1,205 yards, 12 touchdowns, and six interceptions.
Although they entered it as defending champions, and although its end would bring them another title, the Oilers’ 1961 season would not start off well, to say the least.
Ed Wetterman is a native Houstonian and lifelong Oiler fan/historian. He is a teacher, genealogist, game creator, and writer who lived and died on Sundays with the Oilers. Ed has created many games such as “East Texas University: Degrees of Horror” and written short stories such as “HellFighter,” published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Football has always been one of his greatest passions. He experienced the highs and the lows of being an Oiler fan, and like many others, he was crushed when the Oilers left Houston. Writing for Miss Ya Blue! gives him an outlet for his Columbia Blue love.
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