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Don Maynard Biography

Career Statistics, Chronology, Further Information


American football player

Don Maynard

Former New York Jets wide receiver Don Maynard is best known for playing a crucial role in winning the 1968 Super Bowl for the Jets. Maynard began his career with the New York Giants in 1958. He played only one season with that team before being let go. After a brief stint in the Canadian Football League, he joined the New York Titans in 1960. The Titans became the Jets in 1962, and Maynard stayed on the team until 1972. His shining moment came in the 1968 AFL Championship Game, in which the Jets defeated the Oakland Raiders 27-23. During the game, Maynard caught six passes, traveling 118 yards for two touchdowns. His first touchdown was off a 14-yard catch in the first period. Maynard won the game for the Jets in the fourth period with a 6-yard catch, allowing the team to go on to the Super Bowl. He ended his fifteen-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973, with a career total of 633 receptions for 11,834 yards, a 18.7-yard average. He made 88 touchdowns during his career, scoring 530 points.

Maynard's strength as a receiver came not from running complex, preplanned patterns, but in improvising in the heat of the moment. He was named to the American Football League's All-Time Team in 1969, played in three American Football League All-Star Games, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

Donald Maynard was born in 1935 in Crosbyton, Texas. He grew up in the southwest of Texas in a succession of towns, including Denver City, Colorado City, and El Paso. His father worked in these towns as a cotton ginner, helping to process cotton for commercial use.

After starting out at Rice University, Maynard attended college at Texas Western University, where he was a star on the track team. He also played on the school football team as a halfback on offense and a safety on defense.

Maynard was drafted by the New York Giants in 1957, in time to take part in the Championship Game the Giants played against the Baltimore Colts in 1958. But 1958 was the only season Maynard played with the Giants; he was let go from the team after just one season. It was an event he had trouble understanding. As he later told Ira Berkow in the New York Times, "I couldn't understand some of the guys they kept. I could run faster backwards than they could run forwards." And as he told Mickey Herskowitz in the Houston Chronicle, "I kept a little bitterness in me. Who wouldn't? I knew I could play. And ten years later I had a chance to show them."

After a year in the Canadian Football League, Maynard became the first player signed to the new American Football League's New York Titans in 1960. The Titans became the Jets in 1962, and Maynard remained with the team until 1972. In 1968, the best year of his career, Maynard averaged 22.8 yards per catch, the best in the American Football League.

During off seasons, Maynard returned to Texas to work regular jobs. He started as a plumber, and then moved on to become math and industrial arts teacher in high school. At times he had trouble believing his success in football. As he later told Berkow, "Sometimes I'd be in a huddle in Shea Statium, and I'd look up in the stands at 63,000 people screaming, and it was thrilling. I'd kinda think, 'What am I doing here? I oughta be gettin' autographs in the huddle.'"

Awards and Accomplishments

1969 Named to the American Football League's All-Time Team
1987 Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Maynard's finest moment came during the 1968 American League Championship. The Jets were losing to the Oakland Raiders 23-20 in the final quarter when Joe Namath passed Maynard the ball. Maynard later described the play to Berkow in the New York Times. "The wind took the ball one way, and then another and I reached around about 180 degrees and caught it. My momentum took me to the six-yard line. It was a 52-yard pass play. On the next play, Joe hit me in the end zone for the winning touchdown." Looking back on it years later, Maynard recalled the play that set up the touchdown as the best of his career, a million dollar reception. The touchdown took the Jets to the Super bowl, which the team also won.

Maynard was 37 years old in 1972, and his yardages falling off, when he was let go by the Jets. It was the most painful moment of Maynard's career. "It was hard to deal with," Maynard admitted to the San Antonio Express-News's Tom Orsborn many years later. "I wanted to quit as a Jet. I climbed the walls. I got to the point where I couldn't talk about it. I was emotional to the point of crying…. I was devastated."

But Maynard's career was not quite yet over. He immediately signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, for which he played two games in 1973 before retiring. In 1987, Maynard was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Don Maynard lives in El Paso, Texas. After retiring from playing football, he went to work in an insurance company as a financial planner. By the 1990s, he headed up his own financial services consulting firm, where he was still working into the 2000s. He has kept in touch with his former colleagues in the NFL. As he told Todd Hveem in the Houston Chronicle in September, 2002, "As time goes on, you keep up with players. You get closer and closer throughout the years." One way in which Maynard has kept up with other former football stars is by playing in celebrity golf tournaments whose proceeds are donated to charities and scholarship funds. "I play about once per month whether I need to or not," Maynard told Hveem. "I love playing in these things. We always have a great time."

Sketch by Michael Belfiore

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsFootball