Breathtaking track man and WR played in ’70 and ’71 for the Buffs.
Caught 36 passes for 665 yards and 3 TDs, while rushing for 354 yards on 31 carries (5 TDs).
Selected in the 3rd round of the 1972 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.
Played during the prime years of the ‘Dead Ball Era’.
Had 60 catches, a league leading 1092 yards and 13 TDs in 1974.
Added another 893 yards and 9 TDs in ’75.
Had 1,111 yards, an 88 yard long, and a league leading 12 TDs in ’76.
Curiously his 24.2 yards per catch did not lead the NFL that year- despite catching 46 passes.
In ’77 posted 33 receptions for 540 yards and 6 TDs.
Continued to be a long bomb threat throughout the remainder of his career, posting an 86 yard catch in ’80 and a 99 yard TD in ’83.
Retired after the 1985 season.
Was the bridge between two eras of the Silver and Black winning Super Bowls XI, XV, and XVIII.
Played one season in the Arena Football League in 1988 for the Los Angeles Cobras.
NFL Record – 99 Yard TD reception (tied)
Pro Bowl 1974-’77
Pro Football Hall of Fame 2022
It is a testament to the Silver and Black that Branch finally is in the HoF. Long overdue, he was being held back by his ‘Dead Ball Era’ stats, a logger jam of WR with sexier stats, and a stigma against inducting too many Raiders from that era into the HoF. Frequently the most dangerous offensive player on the field, Branch’s honor was long deserved.
Cliff Branch passed away August 3rd, 2019 of natural causes. He was 71. He was posthumously was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022.
A few set needs popped up of the Albino Rhino and I figured I’d shoot these out after last getting his autograph a bit over 10 years ago. I remember fondly riding in the car away from Capital Plaza in North Austin, with my Karl Mecklenburg Starting Lineup figurine. Side note- for some reason ‘Albino Rhino’ triggered a massive traffic spike on this website a few years ago.
John Hadl was a local hero to Lawrenceville, Kansas, and he stayed close to home playing offense and defense for the Kansas Jayhawks from 1959-61.
He played multiple positions for the Jayhawks: HB, QB, P, and DB.
He set multiple records at the school and was elected as an NCAA All-American at both HB (’60) and QB (’61).
Hadl was selected by both the Lions of the NFL and the Chargers of the rival AFL in 1962.
John opted to play for the Chargers, and although he contributed to the franchise’s AFL Championship run, he was relegated primarily to splitting time or backing up Tobin Rote.
Took over the reins of the starting QB job in 1965 and led the AFL in passing yards (2798) and yards per attempt (8.0) while posting a 9-2 record.
In 1968, he led the league in a host of categories: Attempts (44), completions (208), yards (3473), TDs (27) and unfortunately interceptions- 32.
1971 saw another solid output for Hadl as he led the league in attempts (431), completions (233), yards (3075), and TDs (21).
After his swan song in 1972 when John led the NFL in interceptions (26) a second time, he’d be traded to the Rams in 1973.
Hadl had an outstanding season with the Rams leading the team to a 12-2 record as a starter, leading the team to the playoffs.
He threw 22 TDs on just 135 attempts, and his receivers went for 14.9 yards after the completion.
After 5 contests in 1974, Hadl was traded again- this time to the Packers.
The trade itself is considered one of the worst in NFL history, as the Pack gave up 5 picks to get him, including first and second round picks for the next two seasons.
Hadl struggled with the Packers mightily posting a 7-12 record over the next season and a half, throwing 15 TDs to 35 interceptions, while be sacked mercilessly 44 times.
In 1976 John joined the Houston Oilers, where he saw mop up duty behind starting QB Dan Pastorini.
Retiring after the 1977 season, John wanted to stay close to the sport.
He worked at his Alma Mater, Kansas from 1978-81 as a QB coach and as offensive coordinator, but was run out of town basically by the NCAA as they felt he was giving ‘improper benefits’ to potential recruits.
John then moved to the Rams in ’82 as an offensive assistant, before tutoring future NFL HOF QB John Elway in 1983 with the Broncos.
At his final stop he coached for the Express from 1984-85, posting a 13-23 record.
College Football Hall of Fame
Pro Bowl 1972-73
AFL All-Star 1964, 1965, 1968, 1969
Chargers Hall of Fame
I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to writing John’s bio, but it could’ve been for two reasons. First, John has a laundry list of accomplishments and accolades. One could even argue that he’s HOF worthy based on his AFL contributions. Second, it was rumored that in his final years, John was really struggling, and that perhaps his autograph was ghost signed. I did kick in 20 bucks to grease the wheels, so the hope is he actually signed these, but they look really.. fluid and not like a struggling octogenarian signed it.
John quickly became a set need based on a variety of factors that did come into play, but most importantly I loved his Topps and Upper Deck entries.
On November 30, 2022, John Hadl passed away at the age of 82. No cause of death was given.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.