Alworth retired number provides closure

On November 20, the San Diego Chargers will retire former star receiver Lance Alworth's number 19 when they host the Buffalo Bills. For the graceful receiver known affectionately as "Bambi" it will bring some closure to his career, as explained in an exclusive interview with

"I'm pleased and happy," Alworth said. "More than anything it just sort of gives me a chance for closure, because when I retired I didn't get to say goodbye to the people in San Diego because I was traded before that to Dallas. So it's a special time for me because I do get that opportunity finally."

Alworth was known for his blistering speed and graceful stride, he had 542 receptions for 10,266 yards (an 18.9 average) and 85 touchdowns and caught at least one pass in each of the AFL games he played, a then record 96 regular-season-game streak that was broken in his first game following the AFL-NFL merger. After being traded to Dallas he scored the first touchdown of Super Bowl VI, a 24-3 conquest of the Miami Dolphins.

Alworth was the first American Football League player elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. An All-AFL selection in seven of his nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers, he averaged more than 100 yards per game from 1964 to '66. He is proud of his AFL days and the stamp they put on pro football.

"We had great coaches in the AFL," Alworth opined. "With Al Davis and with Sid Gilman and of course Sid had the system that's now being used today - what they call the West Coast offense. It was really started by Sid Gillman years and years ago."

Alworth also noted the passing this year of another AFL coaching legend - former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Hank Stram.

"A great coach," Alworth stated. "We enjoyed competing against him. He was great and Kansas City was one of our rivals and that was a lot of fun."

Things have changed in pro football - most notably the money that players earn.

"I wouldn't be worried about numbers I'd put up today. I'd be loving all the cash," Alworth quipped. "It's amazing and it's a lot of fun to watch the guys receive a lot of money."

In this era of no bumping downfield and of quarterbacks throwing 30 to 40 passes a game who many passes would Alworth snag.

As many as they would throw to me," he said, "Yeah, this era would be fun. You have to play by the rules of the era when you play and they can't put an asterisk on everything. It's one of those deals where everybody plays by the rules and then they're judged accordingly. Hey I loved my time and I enjoyed playing and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

The time Alworth spent with the Chargers is special to him; the All-America out of Arkansas was instant box office for a new league that was establishing itself through the pass. He put together seven straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons (1963-69).

"Lincoln and Lowe and we had Norton and Kocourek," Alworth recalled. "We had some great athletes. We had some great interior lineman - Mix, Ernie Wright and Walt Sweeney. We had a great defensive team when I was playing with Ernie Ladd and Earl Faison and all the guys we had. There were not many teams that had the physical ability that we had."

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