No. 35 features an early Super Bowl hero, but not the way you’re thinking
The New York Jets are set to come to Las Vegas’ NFL Draft podium nine times between April 28 and 30. In celebration and anticipation, Jets X-Factor looks back at the finest names chosen in their respective current slots.
We close out the Jets’ second-round selections by looking back on the greatest 35th overall selections of all time.
Let’s watch Fran Tarkenton light up NFL defenses like Christmas trees for a couple minutes, shall we? I think I shall. pic.twitter.com/4DvVChCEAx
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) June 11, 2020
1961: QB Fran Tarkenton, Boston
Ah, the Patriots…lucking into football legends beyond the first round long before Tom Brady, it appears.
Fran Tarkenton went in the fifth round of the 1961 AFL Draft but opted to sign with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Though many of his fellow passing legends from the era have been passed by modern representatives on the NFL’s statistical ledgers, Tarkenton continues to rank among the top 15 in career passing yards (47,003, 14th) and touchdown passes (342, 11th).
Those marks were earned over an 18-year career that saw separate tenures in Minnesota sandwich a five-year stint with the New York Giants (1967-71). Tarkenton won the MVP award at age 35 (1975) and also made a name for himself as one of the first dual-threat quarterbacks. His 3,674 yards on the ground were the best in league history (now sixth) upon his departure in 1978.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed Tarkenton during the 1987 ceremonies.
The longest offensive play from scrimmage in the first 14 Super Bowls (tied in SB13) pic.twitter.com/S2wz6ozYGM
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) January 17, 2022
1963: TE John Mackey, Jets
The Jets drafted an early Super Bowl hero with their fifth-round choice in the 1963 AFL Draft.
Ironically, John Mackey instead came through for the opponent in Gang Green’s championship hoist, the Baltimore Colts, the NFL representative who chose him 19th overall in the NFL edition.
When the Colts, placed in the newly formed AFC, partook in the first merged Super Bowl against the Dallas Cowboys in 1971, Mackey earned a 75-yard touchdown when Johnny Unitas’ pass was tipped by two players. It was the longest play from scrimmage in Super Bowl history until Jim Plunkett’s 80-yard toss to Kenny King guided the Oakland Raiders to victory a decade later.
Mackey, a Roosevelt, NY native and Syracuse alum, put up 15.8 yards per reception, second-best in NFL history amongst NFL tight ends behind only fellow Canton inductee Jackie Smith.
“The Nigerian Nightmare.”
He weighed 260 and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds.
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) December 13, 2018
1987: RB Christian Okoye, Kansas City
Christian Okoye didn’t play as long as some of the other names on this list, but undoubtedly made a sizable impact.
It took Okoye only six years to become the Chiefs franchise’s all-time leading rusher (since passed by Jamaal Charles), picking up 4,897 yards and 40 scores. His unlikely NFL success came after he immigrated from Nigeria, gaining fame at Division II Azuza Pacific for his blazing speed at an unusual size (6’1, 260 lbs.).
Okoye’s pixelated doppelganger became equally renowned. The virtual Okoye, starring in the video game “Tecmo Super Bowl” for the Nintendo Entertainment System, was notoriously hard to tackle, giving Bo Jackson an apparent run for his digital money.
Mike Alstott was a WRECKING BALL!
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) December 22, 2018
1996: FB Mike Alstott, Tampa Bay
A three-time team MVP at Purdue, Mike Alstott bucked the trend of becoming a blocking fullback, instead becoming one of the most dominant hard-yardage gainers in NFL history.
Living up to his nickname of “A-Train”, Alstott remains one of the most recognizable faces in the history of the Buccaneers, pacing the mid-90s franchise rebrand to the tune of 71 touchdowns over 11 seasons (a team record broken by Mike Evans last year).
Appropriately, Alstott helped open what’s arguably the biggest win in Tampa football history, scoring the opening touchdown of the 48-21 Super Bowl XXXVII demolishing of the Raiders in 2003.
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) February 23, 2021
2003: Charles Tillman, Chicago
Who is “Charles”, you ask? He might’ve become better known by his nickname “Peanut” (a moniker bestowed by his aunt) in the latter stages of his career, but he made sure receivers knew his name through physical means.
Throughout a 13-year NFL career, all but one season with the Bears, Tillman became renowned for his ability to force fumbles while also becoming a dominant coverage threat. The “Peanut Punch” was deadly enough to the point where Tillman holds the NFL record for most fumbles forced in a single game (4) and most in a single season (10, sharing with Robert Mathis and Osi Umenyiora).
Following his retirement after the 2015 season (which saw him contribute to the Carolina Panthers’ run to Super Bowl 50), Tillman became an FBI agent.
Other notable 35th picks:
- 1974: T Keith Fahnhorst, San Francisco
- 1983: S Wes Hopkins, Philadelphia
- 2001: TE Alge Crumpler, Atlanta
- 2009: LB James Laurinaitis, St. Louis
- 2011: QB Andy Dalton, Cincinnati
- 2013: TE Zach Ertz, Philadelphia
- 2014: G Joel Bitonio, Cleveland
- 2018: RB Nick Chubb, Cleveland
- 2020: RB D’Andre Swift, Detroit
- 2021: RB Javonte Williams, Denver
Draft Countdown Series
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
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