Don Maynard, a Hall of Fame receiver from Crosbyton, Texas, near Lubbock, who made his biggest impact catching passes from Joe Namath in the wide-open AFL, has died. He was 86.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame confirmed Maynard's death on Monday through his family.
Maynard was the main target for Namath with the New York Jets, though a leg injury made him less effective in the team's stunning upset of the NFL champion Baltimore Colts in the 1969 Super Bowl. That game established the credibility of the newer league, but Maynard had proven himself long before that.
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After an unproductive one-year stint with the New York Giants in 1958, the slim, deceptively fast Texan headed to Hamilton of the CFL for 1959. Then the AFL was established, and he was the first player to sign with the New York Titans, who soon would become the Jets.
Even though the Titans/Jets went through a series of mediocre quarterbacks in their early years, Maynard made his mark, including two 1,000-yard receiving seasons. And when Namath showed up in 1965 with a record contract and huge headlines, one of the league's top passing combinations was born.
Namath's best skill was throwing the deep ball, matching Maynard's main talent. As Broadway Joe's primary target, Maynard had three seasons with at least 1,200 yards receiving in a four-year span. He caught 14 touchdown passes in Namath's rookie season, and twice more had 10 TDs in a season.
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When he retired in 1973 after one season with the St. Louis Cardinals, he was pro football's career receiving leader with 633 catches for 11,834 yards and 88 touchdowns. In 1987, he was elected to the Hall of Fame.