SUPER POLL 50 | 21: Don Maynard’s ‘greatest game’ helped Jets stun Colts in Super Bowl III

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 29: New York Jets' Joe Namath (right) and Don Maynard are surrounded by reporters after winning the AFL Championship, 27-23, over the Oakland Raiders. (Photo by Dan Farrell/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Our series on ASN’s 50 greatest NFL championship competitors of the past 50 years continues with No. 21 Don Maynard, originally published on Jan. 28.

Don Maynard did not have a memorable Super Bowl III from a highlight-tape perspective. But the Texas Western (now UTEP) alum treasures his memories of the game, in which the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts, 16-7.

“I did my job,” Maynard told Sid Rosenberg in an Oct. 1, 2013 Tales from the American Football League Legends Look Back segment. “I had the greatest game in the world. I got out wide to the right side and I made them double and triple me and they had to play my game.

Don-Maynard-21“I got so wide they had to play zone coverage and I still beat ’em twice, one time I missed by a couple of inches for a touchdown and in the third quarter, I caught one hanging on the end zone. It would have been another touchdown, if the football field had been six inches longer.”

Maynard’s ability to draw the Colts defense outside allowed George Sauer to snag eight passes for 133 yards.

Maynard, who was Joe Namath’s favorite target, didn’t have a single reception in the game. Suffering from a hamstring injury, Maynard was a key figure in the Jets run to the Super Bowl, scoring the winning touchdown on a 6-yard catch in the fourth quarter of the 27-23 AFL Championship win against the Oakland Raiders. The New York Daily News listed the play the greatest in Jets history.

For the 1968 season, Maynard caught 57 passes for 1,297 yards and 10 touchdowns. And there’s this: “I’m the only plumber,” he told N.J.com in 2014, “that caught a pass from [Joe] Namath.”

Maynard, who began his career with the New York Giants in 1958 after signing for $7,500, said he once earned $8,500 working as a plumber in the offseason. He started at Rice University and finished at Texas Western and was drafted by the Giants in the ninth round of the NFL draft.

He played one season with the Giants before playing in 1959 with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. In 1960, head coach Sammy Baugh made Maynard the first player that he signed to the American Football League’s New York Titans, who became the Jets in 1963. He played all 10 of the AFL’s seasons.

While most players consider the Super Bowl the pinnacle of their career, Maynard, an 80-year-old Hall of Fame receiver, had a little different take on his experience.

“The Super Bowl is a real relaxed time for all of us,” he told Rosenberg. “The AFL Championship is the biggest game. … All the guys down there knew that if we just showed up, we were gonna get the loser’s share of the money. But if we played a little extra hard and didn’t make any mistakes … why, we could win the winner’s share, and that’s what we did.”

And how much was that? The Super Bowl III-winning Jets each received $16,000 compared to $7,500 per player for the Colts.

 


Above: New York Jets’ Joe Namath, right, and Don Maynard are surrounded by reporters after winning the AFL Championship, 27-23, over the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 29, 1968, at Shea Stadium in New York. (Photo by Dan Farrell/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Middle: Don Maynard did it all at Texas Western, now UTEP. He could run, catch, return kicks and even kick extra points. In his three-year college career, Maynard amassed 2,283 all-purpose yards. He rushed for 843 yards, returned kicks for another 525 yards, returned 10 interceptions for 142 yards and recorded 773 yards receiving. (Courtesy of UTEP Athletics)

Jill R. Dorson

Jill R. Dorson is a freelance writer based in San Diego.