“Draft Doldrums Doom Decade”
By ED WETTERMAN
In what seemed like an answer to the prayers of their coaches and fans, the Oilers owned the first overall pick of the 1965 AFL draft.
To compound their good fortune, they also owned Denver’s first-round draft choice, which was the second overall pick in the draft, as well as a pair of second-round picks.
With four selections in the first two rounds, Houston appeared poised to finally be able to stock their roster with talented, young players for the first time since the league’s birth.
The brightest college prospect was the superstar quarterback from Alabama, future Hall of Famer and Super Bowl III winner Joe Namath.
To seal the deal further, Namath had publicly indicated that he would not play for the Oilers, so Houston had to look further for their new blood, but the story had even more drama to it than that.
In 1964, the Jets had selected quarterback University of Tulsa Jerry Rhome as a hardship pick.
The hardship draft was for players who had been in college for four years but had only played for three due to injury or transfer or some other reason. These hardship players could decide to stay in school for a fourth season or turn pro.
In the NFL, the Cowboys had also selected Rhome, and the Jets doubted they could not sign him.
The Oilers sent their first pick to the Jets for the rights to sign Rhome. Rhome accepted the deal, but then asked Dallas if they would match it, which they did.
This upset the Oilers organization, who then pulled out of the bidding, having lost both their 1964 first-round pick and the player for whom they’d dealt it.
Of course, the Jets drafted Namath and made football history by signing him to the then-largest professional football contract of $425,000.
With the second overall pick in the 1965 draft, the Oilers selected Baylor wide receiver Larry Elkins and again, as he had done in four of the last five years, owner Bud Adams was able to sign a first-round pick.
Unfortunately, Elkins suffered a knee injury and never became an asset for the Oilers.
In the second round, Houston selected offensive lineman Malcolm Walker from Rice and linebacker Ralph Neely from Oklahoma. Both players would sign with the Dallas Cowboys, and Neely would become a four-time all-pro tackle for the next 13 seasons, all in Dallas.
To make matters worse, the Oilers had signed Neely before the actual college season was over and were taken to federal court and lost the case, though they would appeal and eventually win, stating that the undated contract had been prepared at Neely’s request.
Nevertheless, this issue caused Neely to miss the Sooners’ bowl game that year, creating ill will at every turn.
Of course, Neely signed with the Cowboys afterwards, so the Oilers lost the initial case and the player.
In an attempt to shore up their running game, the Oilers took fullback Ernie Koy from the University of Texas in the third round.
A native of Bellville, Texas, Koy was also selected by the New York Giants in the NFL’s 11th round, but the Oilers were not worried he would actually sign with the Giants…until he did.
In what could be viewed as a karmic occurrence, Koy was inked by Giants assistant and former Houston head coach Pop Ivy, who was still receiving payments from his old Oiler contract and all too was delighted to steal this pick from his former employer, who had unceremoniously dumped him for the coaching bust that was Sammy Baugh.
In what had become a hauntingly familiar pattern of drafting misses, the Oilers signed a grand total of just one of their first five draft picks, just two of their top 10 picks, and would lose 13 of their 18 picks to the NFL.
The ultimate insult, though, was how few of the players whom the Oilers did ink to contracts would contribute to the team at any significant level.
The draft process had once again been horrific for the Oilers since their second season, and the team would show it in 1965 and beyond, with the Oilers managing just one winning season over the next decade.
Here are the 1965 Oiler draft picks:
- Larry Elkins – WR – Baylor – Oiler for two years • Started nine games, scored three TDs
- Malcolm Walker – C – Rice – Signed with NFL’s Cowboys • Played five seasons
- Ralph Neely – T – Oklahoma – Signed with NFL’s Cowboys • Played three seasons • Four-time All-Pro
- Ernie Koy – RB – Texas – Signed with NFL’s Giants • Played six seasons • Pro Bowl RB
- Bobby Maples – C – Baylor – Played six seasons for Oilers & 14 total seasons • AFL Pro Bowl in 1968
- Frank Molden – DT – Jackson State – Signed with NFL’s Rams • Played three seasons in NFL
- Dennis Murphy – DT – Florida – Played one season with NFL’s Bears
- Russell Wayt – LB – Rice – Signed with NFL’s Cowboys • Played one season
- Ray Ogden – TE – Alabama – Signed with NFL’s Rams • Played seven seasons in NFL
- Roy Hilton – DE – Jackson State – Signed by NFL’s Colts. • Played 11 seasons in NFL
- George Kinney – DE – Wiley College – Signed by Houston • Played one game
- Maxie Williams – G – Southeastern La. – Signed by Houston • Played one season for Oilers • Played five more for Miami
- Kent McCloughan – DB – Nebraska – Traded to Oakland. Played six seasons for Oakland
- Robert Reed – G – Tennessee St. – Signed with NFL’s Redskins • Played one season
- Bobby Felts – HB – Florida A&M – Signed with NFL’s Colts • Played three NFL seasons
- Norm Evans – T – TCU – Signed by Houston for one season • Played 14 NFL seasons
- Tony Guillory – LB – Lamar – Signed with NFL’s Rams • Played four NFL seasons
- Junior Coffey – HB – Washington – Signed with NFL’s Packers • Played five NFL seasons
- Jim Grisham – FB – Oklahoma – Never played
- Russ Mundy – HB – W.Texas A&M – Never played
- Frank Fox – T – Sam Houston St. – Never played
- Gus Brezina – G – Houston – Never played
UP NEXT – The 1965 Season, Part 3
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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