Don Maynard took an odd road to stardom. It began with four productive years at tiny Texas Western College, where he was a two-time All-Border Conference halfback and track star. He was a future draft pick of the New York Giants in 1957, but played only the 1958 season with the team before moving to Hamilton in the Canadian Football League In 1959.
A year later, he became the first player to sign with the new American Football League’s New York Titans, a team that would later change its name to the Jets. The young New York team struggled for several seasons before they attained any level of respect.
Maynard, who was never known as a precise pattern runner, often had to “improvise” as one of his team’s constantly rotating crop of quarterbacks scrambled for his life. In 1965 quarterback Joe Namath arrived on the scene and the resulting chemistry that developed between the two proved to be the perfect mix.
While Maynard was a frequent standout for the Jets, he had his biggest day in the 1968 AFL Championship Game that preceded the Jets' stunning upset of Baltimore in Super Bowl III. In New York's 27-23 victory over Oakland, Maynard caught six passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. His 14-yard grab in the first period gave the Jets the lead and his six-yard catch in the fourth period proved to be the game winner.
Although he never led the league in receiving any one season, at the time of his retirement following the 1973 season, Maynard was one of only five players to record more than 50 receptions and more than 1,000 receiving yards in five different seasons. A four-time AFL All-Star, his 633 career catches for 11,834 yards were both pro records at the time.