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Gold Jacket Spotlight: Charley Taylor 'Underrated' No More

Gold Jacket Spotlight: Charley Taylor 'Underrated' No More

07/11/2021
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In presenting Charley Taylor for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, longtime friend Tom Skinner said Charley was considered “by a number of players in the NFL during his career as one of the most underrated players to ever play the game.”

NFL Films took it a step further, declaring in one of its features that Charley “was the most underrated underrated receiver in pro football.”

With the passing of time has come an even greater appreciation for the magnificent career of the running back-turned-receiver who retired from the National Football League as its all-time leader in pass receptions and among its most versatile players.

Charley’s career is revisited this week in the Gold Jacket Spotlight.

Selected with the third overall pick of the 1964 NFL Draft, Charley joined the Washington franchise after an All-American collegiate career as a halfback and defensive back at Arizona State. He entered the offensive backfield as a rookie and contributed immediately.

He won the league’s Rookie of the Year award after finishing the 1964 season ranked in the Top 10 in both rushing and receiving – the first rookie in 20 years to accomplish that feat in the NFL. He was sixth in rushing with 755 yards and eighth in receiving with 53 catches for 814 yards. Those 53 receptions set an NFL single-season record for running backs. He scored five times on the ground and five more times through the air.

Charley put together another solid season in 1965, earning his second Pro Bowl berth, but the team failed to achieve a winning record for the 10th consecutive season. Mired in mediocrity, Washington made another coaching change, this time bringing in Otto Graham. The Hall of Fame quarterback brought a different offensive philosophy and made a key move at midseason: He shifted Charley from the backfield to split end.

Again, the results were immediate.

Leading the NFL in receptions with 72, Charley accumulated 1,119 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. The following season, he again led the league in catches – 70 for 990 yards – with nine touchdowns in earning All-Pro honors.

“Charley made the transition [to receiver] quite well,” teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell said. “I don’t know how many people realize it, but that’s a difficult thing. … It’s totally different movements.”

Charley battled some injuries in 1970 and 1971, but returned to form in 1972 as Washington finally was becoming an NFC contender under Hall of Fame coach George Allen. He averaged 54 catches per season from 1972 to 1975 and was named to the Pro Bowl each year. He scored two touchdowns in a 26-3 thrashing of the Cowboys in the 1972 NFC Championship Game as Washington reached Super Bowl VII.

Charley retired after the 1977 season with an NFL-leading 649 career receptions for 9,110 yards (14.0 per catch) and 79 receiving touchdowns. Overall, he accounted for 10,598 scrimmage yards and 90 TDs.

He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s.

“To this day, Charley does not know how great he really is,” Skinner said in his presentation of the member of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 1984. “He did not know while he played how great he really was.”

Now everybody knows.

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