State Your Case: Jerry Mays

One of six Chiefs named to the all-time AFL team

(Published October 2019)

Jerry Mays wanted to stay home to play his football.

It may have cost him a shot at the Hall of Fame.

Mays was an All-Southwest Conference defensive tackle at SMU who was drafted in 1961 by both the Dallas Texans of the AFL and the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL. The Texans were established, having finished 8-6 in their inaugural season in 1960. The Vikings were an expansion team that would begin play in 1961.

It was an easy choice for Mays, who played both his high school and college football in Dallas. He’d stay home. It turns out he was able to stay home for just one season. Team owner Lamar Hunt moved the franchise in 1963 from Dallas to Kansas City, where they became the Chiefs.

Mays became a great player for Kansas City. He helped the Chiefs become the winningest team in AFL history, capturing three AFL titles and a Super Bowl. Mays was a first- or second-team All-AFL choice in eight of his nine seasons and played in six AFL All-Star games at two different positions – two at tackle and four at strongside end. He played tackle in his first three years, then moved out to end in 1965.

Mays was one of six Chiefs named to the all-time AFL team. But when it came time to vote on the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Mays and so many others discovered they played in the wrong league.

Had he signed with Minnesota, Mays would have become a member of the Purple People Eaters, regarded as one of the best defensive fronts ever with a pair of Hall of Famers in end Carl Eller and tackle Alan Page. And the Hall of Fame likes NFLers – at least the NFLers from the 1960s.

Of the 22 position players selected to the first-team NFL all-decade team of the 1960s, 21 of them now have busts in Canton. Of the 22 position players named to the all-time AFL team (essentially, the league’s all-decade team of the 1960s), only 10 have busts in Canton — and three of them were elected as senior candidates after their 25-year window of modern-era eligibility expired.

Clearly the AFL was viewed as an inferior league by the Hall of Fame selection committees of the 1970s and 1980s, which explains the blanket snub. This despite the fact the upstart AFL finished the 1960 decade on equal footing with the NFL, winning the last two Super Bowls. The Chiefs played in two of the first four Super Bowls and Mays was a team captain for both of them.

Playing against Hall of Fame tackle Forrest Gregg in the first Super Bowl, Mays made seven tackles in a loss to the Packers. Then playing against Hall of Fame tackle Ron Yary in Super Bowl IV, Mays made four tackles in the upset win over the Vikings. Mays collected 2 ½ sacks in the three-game post-season on the way to the franchise’s only Super Bowl championship and added 64 ½ more sacks in his career in regular season play.

Mays never missed a game in his 10-year career with the Chiefs, playing 147 in a row including playoffs. He retired after the 1970 season, his one season as an NFLer. He played in the Pro Bowl that year – giving him seven total all-star game appearances. But he has since been forgotten. Mays passed away of cancer in 1994.

The entire first-team NFL all-decade defensive line from the 1960s has been enshrined in Canton – Willie Davis, Deacon Jones, Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen. Jones, Lilly and Olsen all went in on the first ballot. But none of the four defensive linemen from the AFL’s all-time team have been discussed as a finalist, much less enshrined – Mays, Gerry Philbin, Tom Sestak and Houston Antwine.

And that’s a whiff on the Hall of Fame’s part. There were great players in the AFL in the 1960s who would have been great players regardless of the league. Jerry Mays was one of them.

1 Comment
  1. Jerry Mays, Jr. says

    Thank you, Rick. I am late in discovering it, but I appreciate your thoughts and insight.
    -Jerry Mays, Jr.

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