Looking back on the illustrious career of NY Jets legend Don Maynard

NY Jets, Don Maynard
NY Jets, Don Maynard / Tim Umphrey/GettyImages

With the passing of Don Maynard on Monday, the NY Jets lost one of their greatest all-time players and the very first player to sign with the New York Titans in 1960.

Joe Namath gets a lot of the credit for the team's early success, but Maynard was also a key piece to the puzzle and carved out a spectacular Hall of Fame career as a wide receiver for the Jets.

In fact, it was Namath himself who spoke at Maynard's 1987 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony as he stated that it was Maynard who made the quarterback great and that the resilient receiver made all of his teammates around him better as well.

Don Maynard was born on January 25, 1935, in Crosbyton, Texas. He attended five different high schools, and as a senior at Colorado City High School in Colorado City, Texas lettered in football, basketball, and track.

In college, Maynard spent one year at Rice University before transferring to Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso). From 1954 through 1956, Maynard only caught 28 passes but had an average of 27.6 yards per catch.

As a running back, Maynard tallied a total of 843 rushing yards on only 154 carries for an average of 5.4 yards. He also returned punts, kicks, and played defensive back for the Miners. He ended his college career with a total of 2,283 all-purpose yards.

Maynard was selected in the ninth round of the 1957 NFL Draft by the New York Giants but was cut after one season. He then played one season in the Canadian Football League before signing with the New York Titans. The New York press initially called him an NFL reject and did not regard him as a promising prospect.

Don Maynard became one of the greatest NY Jets of all-time

Of course, Maynard would go on to prove them wrong as he became an immediate impact player for the team. In 1960, Maynard teamed with wide receiver Art Powell to become the first receiver tandem to each gain 1,000 receiving yards in a season. They both repeated the feat again in 1962.

Maynard's career really took off in 1965 when he was teamed with rookie quarterback Joe Namath. In their first season together, Maynard hauled in 68 passes for 1,218 yards.

He led the league that year as well with 14 receiving touchdowns. In 1967, Maynard topped his previous performance by accumulating 1,434 of Namath's historic 4,007 passing yards.

Perhaps the pinnacle of Maynard's illustrious career came in the 1968 AFL Championship Game against the Oakland Raiders. He caught six passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns in helping lead the Jets to victory and advancing them to Super Bowl III against the Baltimore Colts.

Unfortunately, Maynard hurt his hamstring late in the game against the Raiders and was limited against the Colts in the Super Bowl. He did play but did not have any receptions in the game.

Maynard would play a total of 13 seasons for the Jets remaining with the team until 1972. He retired after one final season with the St. Louis Cardinals. In his career, Maynard had 633 receptions for 11,834 yards and 88 touchdown receptions.

His average of 18.7 yards per catch is the highest among anyone with at least 600 receptions. At the time of his retirement, Maynard was the all-time leading NFL receiver which stood until surpassed by Charlie Joiner in 1986.

Don Maynard was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987 and will always be remembered as one of the New York Jets' all-time greats.

He was a tough and gritty player who actually played the game without a chin strap. He remains the role model of another former gritty player of the Jets named Wayne Chrebet.

Maynard is one of only 20 players to have played for the entire 10-year existence of the AFL, but the award that he was most proud of was becoming the first player to reach 10,000 receiving yards. As he stated, "others may do it but I will always be the first."

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The Jets family has lost another great individual and player, but the legacy of the tough and reliable receiver will live on. Don Maynard was a guy that his teammates could always depend on when times got rough.

Here's to number 13, gone but never to be forgotten.