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Jets legend and NFL Hall of Fame receiver Don Maynard passed away Monday at the age of 86.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced his death, but no cause was indicated. Maynard was inducted into the Hall in 1987.
“He was a resilient man on and off the field — and someone that his teammates could always count on,” Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said in a statement, via the New York Post.
A two-way star at then Texas Western, now known as University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Maynard accomplished his fare share of achievements as a ninth-round selection in the 1957 NFL Draft. Maynard played 15 seasons, 13 of those coming with the New York Titans/Jets.
From 1960-72, Maynard caught 627 passes for 11,732 yards and 88 touchdowns for New York. He retired as the Jets’ all-time leader in catches, yards and touchdowns as a receiver. Maynard was the first receiver in NFL history to record 10,000 career yards, a feat he was very proud of.
“I don’t really look at it like I’m the greatest receiver,” he said at his Enshrinement. “After you play awhile, anybody can break certain records. Longevity is the key. The record I’m proudest of is being the first guy to get 10,000 yards in receptions. Others may do it, but I’m the first, and only one guy can be the first.”
Maynard of course made a living catching passes from Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath. The two played together for eight seasons (1965-72) and led the Jets to a 16-7 victory over the Colts in Super Bowl III (1969). The game is most remembered for the Jets being 19.5 underdogs and Namath guaranteeing victory.
Maynard didn’t catch a pass in the Super Bowl, but was perhaps the biggest reason the Jets got there. Maynard hauled in six passes from Namath for 118 yards and two scores in the 27-23 victory over the Raiders in the AFL Championship Game.
“Don was a great player. He made many of his teammates better football players,” Namath said, via the Hall. “Don worked with 25 different quarterbacks throughout his career, and he made most of us better football players.
“He was the man our opponents worried about, the knockout punch. Lightning in a bottle. Nitro just waiting to explode. I mean he could fly. But with the grace of a great thoroughbred. The man could flat play. He galloped through the best of the very best football players of the world.”
At his enshrinement, Maynard gave one of the great speeches, looking back on his career.
“I came to play, and I came to stay. Football was a game; Country Don was my name. I made a mark, and I became a star, with a lot of help from near and far. There are good ones and great ones, I played with and against,” Maynard said. “Thank you, good Lord, for that wonderful chance. As I played my part many times even late after dark, I don’t have to look back as I played it with my heart.
“The direction from where I came, resulted in a whole lot of fame. I played the best and I believe I passed the test. I am glad this is over; I need some rest.”