Well, this is certainly a difficult challenge!
Try naming just five of YOUR favorite men to suit up in lightning bolts! Can you do it?!
Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes one say “Yeah, I like him!” Does it matter if it is an “old school” guy where they played more smashmouth football? Or one from the “new” era where it seems like statistics seem to be the norm?
Either way, we all have our favorites for whatever reason. Maybe it’s how they seemingly just fly down the field as if on wings. Perhaps it’s how that one guy is just ALWAYS busting through the offensive line. Could it be the brashness or confidence that reaches us? You all know what you appreciate about the players you can’t wait to see take the field.
Here’s my list of my top five “old school” Chargers, though there were many choices!
Punter for the Chargers from 1994 to 2003, Bennett was formerly an Australian Rules football player. One always knew two things about him: he had the BIGGEST kicking leg and he did not shy away from hitting an opponent if need be. You just knew that Bennett was going to give his team the best field position possible! It was something to see when that ball left his foot and caught air!
Lionel “Little Train” James:
Gosh, this guy was special! He was only in the league for five short years, but he left his mark! Small in stature at 5’6″ and 171 pounds, James was THE smallest running back when he came into the NFL in 1984. His best season was in 1985 when he established three records for a running back.
James led the AFC with 86 receptions and set the bar at 2,583 all-purpose yards including 1,027 receiving yards. I remember watching him squirt through holes and run along the sideline. He had so much power in those legs and he was quick; defenders had difficulty stopping him. Sadly, his stellar career ended due to a degenerative hip injury.
Ha, gotcha on this one! Who could forget the Tongan TE who literally was responsible for scoring the go-ahead touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers to get the Bolts into the 1994 playoffs?! Yes, I know that Dennis Gibson broke up a Neil O’Donnell pass with mere seconds on the clock.
Pupunu had two stints in San Diego (1992-97, 1999). One of the other reasons I and other fans liked him was because of his touchdown celebration: he would pretend that he was opening a coconut and then hoisted it skyward as if drinking from it. I’d venture to say that some folks might have thought he was opening and drinking a beer!
Undoubtedly, the BEST nose tackle to ever suit up for the Blue and Gold. “Ja-mal” was a big, hulking man at 6’3′ and 348 pounds. He was a tackling machine and one of my favorite guys to watch on defense not named Junior Seau. Eleven seasons in San Diego saw the huge but quick man wreak havoc against opposing offenses by collecting 240 tackles, defend 18 passes, force three fumbles plus a lone touchdown and interception apiece.
He was not only an outstanding defensive lineman for the Chargers, he was also considered one of the most elite nose tackles in the NFL in his day. I would always get a kick out of watching that huge body shove it’s way into the middle. Jamal meant business!
As a defensive end, O’Neal was another adept tackler for the Bolts. Voted Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1986 he racked up 12.5 sacks prior to losing almost two years due to a knee injury. It was week seven of the ’88 season before he took the field again. His stats weren’t great that year (four sacks/28 tackles) but he was on his way. His performance that season made it possible for him to make his first Pro Bowl appearance.
By the time his career in San Diego was completed, per Pro Football Reference his numbers were: six Pro Bowl selections, 572 tackles, 105.5 sacks which made him the team leader in that category; forced 18 fumbles while recovering nine, two interceptions and a touchdown. O’ Neal is currently tied with Lawrence Taylor at 13th all-time as they both have 132.5 sacks in their careers. Yet another great defenseman for the Chargers.
Gill Byrd – Safety 1983-1992; played every position in the secondary (LCB/SS/FS/RCB), 42 INTs (4x in Top 10)
Stan Humphries – Quarterback 1992-1997; only QB to lead team to Super Bowl (’94), he also guided them to 10 fourth quarter comebacks to go with 12 game-winning drives. He retired as a result of sustaining four concussions in 22 months.
Charlie Joiner – Wide Receiver 1976-1986; aged 39 when he hung up his cleats, Joiner was one of Fouts’ favorite targets to the tune of 586 receptions, 9,203 yards and 47 TDs.
Kellen Winslow – Tight End 1979-1987; in addition to his memorable “Epic in Miami” performance, Winslow was a five-time Pro Bowler. He also placed in the Top 10 in these categories: receptions (4x), receiver (3x), and receiving TDs (4x). He had some gaudy numbers for a guy who only played in 109 games: 6,741 yards on 541 catches with 45 of those being TDs. After just eight years in the NFL, he, too, was forced to retire due to injury.
Keep an eye out for a list of my current players!
Thank you for reading!