With the recent selection of Terrell Davis to the Pro Football Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago, I took a little time to investigate the histories of some of the Hall members.
There are first-round draft choices, seconds and thirds, and certainly a lot of free agent players as well.
But interestingly, there are just two members of the Hall of Fame who were selected in the sixth-round of the National Football League draft, and both of them have huge Colorado connections.
One of them is Davis, of course, but the other sixth-round choice is a Hall of Famer who has slipped into a very unfair state of relative obscurity.
That would be Jack Christiansen, of whom Hall of Fame Vice President Joe Horrigan recently said, "It is a shame that a lot of people forget about that guy. Christiansen certainly is one of the greatest players in NFL history."
Taking a look at the stats, we once again see parallels between Davis and another Hall of Famer, with the great safety and kick returner having played a full three decades before TD.
It was a bit different back in 1951. The NFL was basically a 12-team league then, and veteran San Francisco public relations man George McFadden remembers that, "nobody covered the draft. It was done by telephone conference call, just as it is now, but after it was over we just typed up the names of draftees and sent them over to the papers, hoping they would run a small story."
Forgotten guys, but that is how it all began for Jack Christiansen, in more ways than one.
The Kansas native was orphaned at an early age and grew up in Canon City, Colorado at the Odd Fellows Orphanage. It was there that he honed his athletic talents and earned a chance to play at Colorado A&M (now Colorado State University).
When the Detroit Lions drafted Jack in the sixth round, he was the 69th player taken overall, again due to the number of teams in the league. It was a veterans' league, and nobody passed very much, but nothing kept him from making his mark.
He had a career that was similar in length to Davis'. Terrell played in 78 regular season games, and Jack played from 1951-58 with a 12-game schedule that produced just 96 regular season games. Records that confirm how many games Christiansen actually played in are not readily available. But like TD, he proved himself to be one of the greatest players on one of the greatest teams of all time.
Christiansen played eight years of pro football and was named first team All-Pro six times, earned five Pro Bowl appearances and was named to the NFL's All-Decade team for the 1950's.
It was an era of far less passing than we see today, so Christiansen's pass interception total of 46 is even more incredible than the raw total. That's 46 interceptions in an era when the run was supreme, and in a total number of games that today would come out to just six full seasons. Basically, he intercepted a pass in every other game he played.
He returned three of those for touchdowns, but he was also the first player in pro football history to return eight punts for touchdowns, as well.
Just as TD was a cornerstone to consecutive World Championships for the Broncos, Christiansen played for three NFL championship teams with the Lions. These were not the Lions of today, folks. They won the NFL title in 1952, 1953 and 1957, losing another championship game in 1954. And along the way, they invented the blitz.
Terrell and Jack shared the companionship of other Hall of Famers on their clubs as well. TD played on an offense that included John Elway, Shannon Sharpe and Gary Zimmerman, with Davis joining them as the fourth to be selected for induction.
Christiansen's Detroit teammates included future Hall of Famers quarterback Bobby Layne, running back Doak Walker, and offensive linemen Lou Creekmur (a tackle and guard) and guard Dick Stanfel. Just for good measure, the 1957 Lions added Hall of Famers fullback John Henry Johnson and center Frank Gatski for that one-season championship run. The addition of Gatski meant that Detroit had three offensive linemen who eventually made the Hall of Fame.
As Charlie Brown might say, "Good grief!"
Even without their sixth-round pedigree, both have accomplished incredible feats on the football field.
Terrell Davis is the only player ever to have been a league Most Valuable Player, and a Super Bowl MVP, and a 2,000-yard rusher, and to have seven straight playoff games, all wins, all with 100-yard rushing performances. He is the only player in history to check off all those boxes.
Jack Christiansen, meanwhile, is the first player ever to have 46 pass interceptions and score eight touchdowns on punt returns (as well as being the first to return eight punts for touchdowns), and also 11 overall return touchdowns, as he took three interceptions back all the way as well.
They both started off as sixth-round draft choices, and they now occupy elite territory in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.