Antwine Always Gave His Best

Some were bigger, few were stronger and several were faster. But there wasn't another defensive tackle in the old American Football League who came to play the way Houston Antwine did.

"For my money," said former San Diego Chargers coach Sid Gilman during Antwine's playing days. "There's no better defensive tackle in pro football."

Antwine played his college football at Southern Illinois where he was also a NAIA wrestling champion. That wrestling ability would serve he well in professional football.

Like a lot of former AFL stars Antwine took a circuitous route before winding up with the Boston Patriots in 1961.

"I was drafted by the Detroit Lions and when I went there I had fixed in my head that I wanted to play defense," Antwine recalled. "They were looking for an offensive lineman. After my college season that year I had gone to Tucson and played in the "Little All-American Bowl Game" and there I slipped a disk in my back. I was recovering from that during the whole summer. And I thought that my movements had been compromised because of the back injury. As an offensive lineman you had to do a lot of twisting and cutting and pulling and I thought that I would be at a disadvantage.

"Basically I was fighting to play defense. I didn't evaluate the situation thoroughly - Detroit had massive Roger Brown and Alex Karras as defensive tackles so there was no real room for me at tackle. They traded me to Dallas for an offensive lineman and I thought when I went to Dallas I was going to play defense. But I went through the same thing with Dallas and the Houston Oilers had drafted me in the AFL. I went to Tom Landry and told him I didn't want to play for Dallas anymore and they gave me my release. I went down to Houston and they gave me a proposal of playing on their taxi squad. I didn't like that too well so I told them to forget it and then I got a call from Mr. McKeever from the Patriots. He said we need everything come here and let us take a look at you and you can probably get what you want here."

It turned out to be a great move for Boston and for Antwine.

"It turned out to be a great move for me" Antwine gushed.

Antwine played in Boston from 1961 through 1969 and wound up being named to the All-Time AFL team that was selected by AFL members of the Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

"I really appreciate that," Antwine said. "That is a really, really great honor."

The Patriots of the early 60's were known for their defense. Coached by Marion Campbell the Patriots used the blitz to great advantage. The utilized the talents of middle linebacker Nick Buoniconti and safety Ron Hall.

Antwine was usually double and triple teamed up front which made the Boston blitz very effective.

"The Patriots used that to their advantage as far as our blitz's were concerned," Antwine said. "They would shoot me in a place expecting a couple of people to converge there. That would leave somebody uncovered."

Antwine used his wresting prowess to great advantage.

"It was very helpful," Antwine reminisced. "The wrestling that I did I think had a lot of carry over as far as football is concerned. I learned a lot as far as balance is concerned. Wresting is an individual sport and when you get on the mat it's just you and your opponent. I learned a lot about extending yourself and giving all the effort that you could and getting done what you had to get done."

Boston's high water mark during Antwine's career was the 1963 season when they faced San Diego in AFL championship game and lost 51-10.

"Well you know we went out to San Diego to play the game. Antwine said. "We left Boston and the weather in Boston was really lousy and we go to San Diego and it's warm and it's nice and it's vacation weather. And I think most of the players lost their aim or their purpose for being out there. But we relaxed and we got thumped."

Antwine sums up his career in Boston this way. "I feel that I gave Boston what I had. I didn't hold anything back. Football was what I did. I worked on my craft in practice - I worked on moves, I worked on everything. The harder I worked in practice the better I played."

Like most AFL players Antwine is fiercely proud of what that league accomplished.

"The AFL actually gave pro football one heck of a lift." Antwine observed. "Before we came on the scene football had started to drag a little bit. The NFL did two running plays and a pass and then they would punt. We added a lot of excitement and a lot of fire to the game."

Antwine following his football career worked for 20 years with the Federal Government as parole officer. He is retired and living in California and spends a lot of time on the golf course.

George Von Benko

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