Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve Its History, Promote its Values & Celebrate Excellence Everywhere
Jon Kendle is Director of Archives and Football Information at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His biweekly columns tell unique and interesting stories starting from the league’s founding in downtown Canton in 1920 to the present day.
Another National Football League Scouting Combine is in the books. The last 40-yard dash was timed and the final interview conducted. Pro Days are now underway and the 2018 NFL Draft is just around the corner. This is the time when championship teams can be built. Scouts have been on the road all year scouring the country for the best prospects. Their days have been spent taking notes, breaking down film, watching live game action, interviewing players and coaches and cataloging notes and stats from the Combine in Indianapolis. Now, each NFL club gather their personnel departments, coaching staffs, all the information and video that has been collected throughout the scouting process and start building out their draft boards.
Over the years, many clubs have done great work building their teams through the draft. Franchises such as the New England Patriots have put together a solid system of identifying the types of player that fit their scheme. Other teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles from the NFC East all do a solid job of evaluating talent in the draft. However, arguably no club has done it better or more consistent than the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it all started in 1969 with the hiring of Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll. From 1969-74, Noll and the Steelers drafted nine future Hall of Famers: Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Mel Blount, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster.
Only 17 times since the league’s first draft in 1936 has a club drafted multiple players in the same draft who have gone on to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Steelers (1970, 1974), the Green Bay Packers (1956, 1958) and the Cleveland Browns (1957, 1964) have all done it twice. Three of the 17 (Bears, Buccaneers and Ravens) selected multiple Hall of Famers in the first round of the same draft. Four franchises hit the jackpot when they selected three or more future Hall of Fame players in the same draft. The Browns did it in 1957, under the direction of Paul Brown, when they chose Jim Brown, Henry Jordan and Gene Hickerson (a future selection). The Packers drafted Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and Class of 2018 Hall of Famer Jerry Kramer in 1958 and gave coach Vince Lombardi a great foundation to build his dynasty teams of the 1960s. The Cowboys accomplished the feat in 1964, when the brain trust of coach Tom Landry, general manager Tex Schramm and player personnel guru Gil Brandt drafted Mel Renfro and two future selections in Bob Hayes and Roger Staubach. As impressive as three Hall of Famers by the same club in the same draft is, it all comes back to the Steelers. Remarkably, they are the only franchise to ever select four future Hall of Fame players in the same draft with Swann, Lambert, Stallworth and Webster in 1974.
While neither the draft nor the scouting process is an exact science, and every year there are more draft misses than All-Pro players selected, the course of an entire franchise can be changed if it hits just right on a draft class. When a franchise can understand exactly the kind of team they want to be and what type of players they need. Each player can have the confidence to play their specific role and the T.E.A.M (Together Everyone Achieves More) begins to grow. Together the team will begin to win, and with team success, individual stats and accolades are sure to follow.
Here is the complete list of these memorable draft combinations:
Year, Team Hall of Famers (round)
1996 Ravens Jonathan Ogden (1), Ray Lewis (1)
1995 Buccaneers Warren Sapp (1), Derrick Brooks (1)
1985 Bills Bruce Smith (1), Andre Reed (4)
1974 Steelers Lynn Swann (1), Jack Lambert (2), John Stallworth (4), Mike Webster (5)
1970 Steelers Terry Bradshaw (1), Mel Blount (3)
1965 Bears Dick Butkus (1), Gale Sayers (1)
1964 Redskins Charley Taylor (1), Paul Krause (2)
1964 Cowboys Mel Renfro (2), Bob Hayes (7), Roger Staubach (10)
1964 Browns Paul Warfield (1), Leroy Kelly (8)
1963 Texans Buck Buchanan (1), Bobby Bell (7)
1958 Packers Jerry Kramer (1), Jim Taylor (2), Ray Nitschke (3)
1957 Browns Jim Brown (1), Henry Jordan (5), Gene Hickerson (7)
1957 Eagles Tommy McDonald (3), Sonny Jurgensen (4)
1956 Packers Forrest Gregg (2), Bart Starr (17)
1952 Yanks Les Richter (1), Gino Marchetti (2)
1945 Rams Elroy Hirsch (1), Tom Fears (11)
1936 Bears Joe Stydahar (1), Dan Fortmann (9)
In a countdown to the NFL’s Centennial celebration on Sept. 17, 2020, Pro Football Hall of Fame Archivist Jon Kendle shares unique and interesting stories starting from the league’s founding in downtown Canton to the present day.