In 1961, Billy Shaw, a 6-2, 258-pound All-America lineman out of Georgia Tech was drafted by both the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League and the Dallas Cowboys of the then-rival National Football League.
Shaw, who played both offense and defense at Georgia Tech, felt his size and speed were better suited to guard, where the Bills – who drafted him in the second-round – planned to use him. He heard that Dallas had planned to use him as a linebacker.
The fact that he went on to become one of the best and most-honored guards of the 1960s proves that he chose well. The stereotypical view of the AFL in the early 1960s was that of a pass-happy league. That, however, was not the case in Buffalo, where the Bills featured power running and a strong defense.
Equally adept at pass blocking and run blocking, his ability to pull out in front of runners was a perfect fit for the Bills. In fact, because Buffalo’s runners tended to be more durable than fast, he sometimes was able to stay in front of them to make blocks far downfield. Shaw’s speed, strength, and natural ability made him “the driving force of the offensive unit” according to his former offensive line coach Jerry Smith.
Especially effective on short-yardage scoring plays, Shaw would pull out from his left guard position followed by heavy-duty runners Cookie Gilchrist and Wray Carlton. Bills’ quarterback Jack Kemp or his super-sub Daryle Lamonica would follow the powerful trio of blockers – often untouched – into the end zone.
The Bills of 1962, 1963, and 1964 still rank among the best in the team record book for most rushing touchdowns scored in a season. A key member of the Bills teams that won AFL titles in 1964 and 1965, Shaw was named a first-team All-AFL selection five times (1962 through 1966) and also a second team All-AFL choice in 1962, 1968 and 1969.
He was selected to play in eight AFL All-Star Games and was named to the All-Time AFL Team. Named to pro football’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s, Shaw is the first Hall of Fame member to play his entire career in the AFL.