“Drinking and Drafting”
By ED WETTERMAN
As the 1962 season approached, the American Football League (AFL) was still considered the country’s second-class professional football league (maybe even third-class when factoring college football in the mix).
Though no team made a profit during their first two seasons, only the Oakland and the New York franchises were on shaky ground.
The worst was New York, as owner Harry Wismer was going bankrupt and couldn’t pay many of the team’s expenses.
The great Sammy Baugh had been the head coach of the Titans and was fired for not having a playbook (a trivia tidbit that will become part of the Oilers’ story as well), to which Sammy replied, “Before you can have a playbook, you first have to have paper.”
Aside from the woes in New York, the 1961 attendance figures increased for six of the league’s eight franchises, and thanks to television, more nationwide buzz about the league was emerging as fans tuned in to watch the high-flying, wide-open offenses and their exciting style of play.
Again, the AFL went head-to-head with the NFL to draft and sign the best college players it could.
Coaches and administrators at colleges were angry and asked both leagues to postpone the draft until after the intercollegiate season was over.
The NFL had signed a new television contract with CBS for $4.65 million dollars. This extra money allowed the NFL to offer larger signing bonuses and contracts to its draftees, so AFL Commissioner Joe Foss announced that he would move his league’s draft up to December 2, two days ahead of the NFL’s scheduled draft day of December 4.
However, this announcement was a mere smokescreen for a secret draft held by AFL owners in November.
When this secret emerged, Foss feigned embarrassment and canceled the proceedings of the secret draft and rescheduled another draft for December 3.
In the re-draft, no team’s picks changed except that of back-to-back defending champion Houston, who had chosen running back James Saxton of the Texas Longhorns with the secret draft but reconsidered and nabbed defensive Ray Jacobs of tiny Howard Payne College in Brownwood, Texas.
In Oiler Blues, John Pirkle writes that very little true scouting or preparation for the draft took place inside the Oilers’ front office, and that despite promoting Don Suman to general manager, owner Bud Adams ultimately had a hand in all personnel decisions: “He [Adams]…attended the national college coach’s convention in Chicago. There, he poured coaches drinks for several days in his penthouse atop the Hilton.
Each night he asked the attendees to fill out cards with the top five pro prospects on their teams. Bud then drew out the ‘winning’ $100 responses.”
The Oilers 1962 draft class:
- Ray Jacobs, DT: played 1963-69
- Earl Gros, FB: played 1962-70
- Pete Case, G: played 1962-70
- Gary Cutsinger, DE: played 1962-68
- Bill Rice, E: not signed
- Ray Pinion, G: not signed
- Gus Gonzales, G: not signed
- Clyde Brock, T: played 1962-63
- Larry Onesti, LB: played 1962-65
- Bob Moses, E: not signed
- John Thomas, G: not signed
- Jack Collins, HB: not signed
- Royce Cassell, E: not signed
- Glynn Griffing, QB: played 1963 only
- Ken Shaffer, T: not signed
- Billy Ray Adams, FB: not signed
- Bill Miller, DT: played 1962 only
- Art Perkins, FB: played 1962-63
- Bobby Jancik, DB: played 1962-67
- Joe Bob Isbell, G: played 1962-66
- Roland Jackson, FB: played 1962 only
- Kenny Bolin, HB: not signed
- Bill Van Buren, C: not signed
- Boyd Melvin, T: not signed
- Bob Johnston, T: not signed
- Harold Havs, LB: played 1963-69
- Roger McFarland, HB: not signed
- Gary Henson, E: played 1963-64
- Ron Osborne, T: not signed
- Bob Clemens, FB: played 1962 only
- Al Kimbrough, HB: not signed
- Bernard Wyatt, HB: not signed
- Al Lederle, E: not signed
- Don Talbert, T: played 1962-71
From this list, the greatest area of need for the Oilers was clearly the offensive line: Houston drafted 13 of them but only signed four.
As is also evident from the 18 unsigned draftees, the four one-year careers, and the three two-year careers (not to mention the lack of marquee names), the Oilers floundered tremendously in this draft, which included such legends-to-be as Roman Gabriel, Merlin Olsen, Lance Alworth, and Buck Buchanan.
Although Houston would use its stockpiled talent to make one more run at the AFL title in 1962, the aftershocks of such a weak draft would be felt quickly and lastingly.
UP NEXT – The 1962 Odyssey Season, Part 2: Moving Past the Title Years
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.