History

NY Jets: Looking back on the career of Al Toon

Jun 9, 2021, 8:00 AM EDT
NY Jets, Al Toon
NY Jets, Al Toon / Tom Berg/Getty Images
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When looking back on the history of the NY Jets, there are constant reminders of the fact that the team has not won a Super Bowl since 1969. In fact, in the entire history of the Jets, they have qualified for the playoffs only 14 times.

However, there was a period of time from 1981 to 1986 where the Jets actually qualified for the playoffs in four separate seasons. In addition, they won three playoff games and even advanced to the AFC Championship Game in 1982 against the Miami Dolphins.

In the mid-1980s the Jets assembled a team that was very capable of putting points on the board. Led by their quarterback Ken O'Brien, running back Freeman McNeil, and wide receiver Wesley Walker, the Jets ranked as a top-10 offensive unit for several years.

As well as those players performed, the Jets' most potent offensive weapon during that period of time was wide receiver Al Toon.

Al Toon established himself as one of the best players in NY Jets history.

In his somewhat shortened career with the Jets, Toon would become one of only two players in NFL history to play less than 110 games and catch over 500 passes — the other player being Kellen Winslow Sr.

Al Toon was selected 10th overall in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft. Prior to that, he was a standout receiver at the University of Wisconsin.

Toon set school records for receptions (131), receiving yards (2,103), and receiving touchdowns (19) in his three years with the Badgers.

Toon also displayed excellence in track and field setting several school records in the triple jump. He qualified for the Olympic trials in 1983 and was named Wisconsin's Male Athlete of the Year in 1984.

Al Toon made an immediate impact with the Jets. In his rookie season in 1985, Toon was the Jets' second-leading receiver with 46 receptions for 662 yards.

He was an integral part of the team's success and in the Wild Card Playoff loss to the New England Patriots, he caught nine passes for 93 yards. Toon would go on to play in four postseason games for the green and white.

It was in his second year that Toon's career would really take off as he established himself as one of the elite receivers in the NFL. In 1986, Toon caught 85 passes for a career-best 1,176 yards. He was selected to the first of three consecutive Pro Bowls and was named AFC Player of the Year.

At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Toon utilized his size, speed, and jumping ability to his advantage as an NFL wide receiver. He quickly developed a reputation for being a player who was willing to go over the middle and make the tough catches in traffic.

Toon had his best season in 1988 as he led the NFL with 93 receptions. Overall, Toon would play his entire eight-year career with the Jets and ended up catching 517 passes. He ranks third all-time in franchise history behind only Don Maynard (627) and Wayne Chrebet (580).

Al Toon is remembered as a classy player and a guy who would never showboat after making a catch. In fact, he refused to even spike the ball after scoring a touchdown. Whereas many players enjoyed being in the spotlight, Toon would duck the attention that he deserved.

Unfortunately, it was Toon's fearless style of play that would eventually lead to his career-ending prematurely at the age of 29. Toon suffered at least nine concussions during his playing days and in retirement was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome.

There are many who believe that if Toon had stayed healthy, he would have been destined for greatness and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Toon's first five years in the league compared very favorably to that of the great, Jerry Rice.

Rice was drafted in the same year as Toon and both set the standard for excellence at the wide receiver position. From 1985 to1989, Toon had 355 receptions compared to 346 catches for Rice. Injuries would eventually take their toll on Toon whereas Rice would go on to play well into his 40s.

In 2011, Al Toon was inducted into the Jets Ring of Honor and was also selected to the Jets All-Time Four Decade Team.

In retirement, Toon has been very successful in many different business venues. He has served on the Board of Directors for the National Guardian Life Insurance Company and is one of the founding members of Capitol Bank.

Toon's son Nick was also a standout wide receiver at the University of Wisconsin and was drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. He would go on to play four years in the NFL.

Al Toon was the Jets leading receiver for six consecutive years and never caught less than 57 passes in a season. He remains a fan favorite to this day and his jersey is always well represented at MetLife Stadium.

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Fans of that era will always remember the loud chants of TOON! Al Toon stands out as an all-time Jets great and as a guy who played the game with modesty, heart, and passion.

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