John Mackey was a second round pick, 19th overall, of the Baltimore Colts in the 1963 NFL Draft. Physically strong at 6’2’’, 224 pounds, Mackey not only had the ability to block and run through tackles when the ball was in his hands, but he had the kind of breakaway speed not yet seen at his position.
By 1965, his third year in the league, Mackey was making his presence felt. He hit full stride in 1966 as he was revolutionizing the way teams would use and view the tight end position in the future. That season he caught 50 passes for 829 yards and hauled in a career best nine touchdowns. Amazingly, six of his nine touchdown plays were from more than 50 yards.
Here is a look back at how Mackey stretched opposing defenses for six long touchdown receptions in 1966:
1. Sept. 18: Down 16-0 in the second quarter to the Minnesota Vikings, Johnny Unitas connected with Mackey on an 83-yard touchdown catch and run to pull closer. The Colts went on to win 38-23. Game Stats: 6 rec., 143 yds, 2 TDs.
2. Sept. 25: With 28 seconds left before halftime Unitas hit Mackey for a 57-yard touchdown pass that extended Baltimore’s lead over the San Francisco 49ers to 16-7, en route, to the Colts second consecutive win. Game Stats: 3 rec., 76 yds, 1 TD.
3. Oct. 9: Trailing the Chicago Bears 27-10 in the fourth quarter, Mackey and Unitas hooked up for a 79-yard touchdown play to bring the score within 10. The Colts comeback attempt fell short as Baltimore lost, 27-17. Game Stats: 2 rec., 89 yds, 1 TD
4. Oct. 16: For the fourth week in a row (Baltimore had a bye during Week 4) Mackey recorded a touchdown reception over 50 yards when he hauled in a second quarter pass from Unitas and took it 51 yards for a score in Baltimore’s 45-14 blowout win over the Detroit Lions. Game Stats: 4 rec., 54 yds, 1 TD
5. Oct. 30: The Colts scored first when Unitas hooked up with Mackey on an 89-yard pass play from in the first quarter of their 17-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Mackey’s output that day helped Unitas compile 252 yards passing as he broke the NFL record for career passing yardage. Game Stats: 5 rec., 132 yds, 2 TDs
6. Nov. 20: Unitas was intercepted five times by the Lions defense and Baltimore inserted backup quarterback Gary Cuozzo. The Colts almost pulled out a come from behind victory with a fourth quarter 64-yard touchdown pass from Cuozzo to Mackey to close within three. Detroit added a field goal and won the game 20-14. Mackey’s touchdown reception from Cuozzo was the only one of his nine from ‘66 not to be thrown by Unitas. Game Stats: 4 rec., 91 yds., 1 TD