1964 draft was one to remember

Leroy Kelly

Paul Warfield sat in his dormitory on the Ohio State campus -- room 910, Park Hall -- listening to news updates for several hours on a transistor radio. Charley Taylor was sleeping in his apartment at Arizona State. Bob Brown was photographed at the Waldorf Astoria hotel on the day he was drafted, although he can't remember why he was in New York when the draft was held in Chicago.

A fuzzy memory is understandable. After all, it was 50 years ago, long before the NFL draft was a "lights, camera, action" event with red carpets, green rooms and bro hugs with the commissioner.

There was nothing grandiose about the way in which Warfield, Taylor and Brown entered the league, but they sure left it in style. They're among the 11 Pro Football Hall of Famers from the 1964 draft -- 10 legendary players, one legendary coach in Bill Parcells. No draft in history boasts more Hall of Famers than the Class of '64.

The Elite 11.

"It's mind-boggling to think that many Hall of Famers came from one year," Warfield said. "Whether it was a run of luck or just fate, I don't know. But you're talking about a lot of great, great players."

On the morning of Dec. 2, 1963, with the country still in the throes of grief after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, representatives from the NFL's 14 teams gathered in the ballroom of the Chicago Sheraton on Michigan Avenue. With no time restrictions -- the phrase "on the clock" still wasn't part of the vernacular -- the 20-round draft lasted 21 hours, 43 minutes, the longest continuous NFL draft in history.

It ended the following morning at 6:47 a.m. It was a new day, a new era for the NFL.

No one could've predicted greatness for the Class of '64. Who knew? This was before draftniks and mock drafts. Mel Kiper Jr. was only 3 years old, just a toddler with Big Board dreams. But history shows the 11 Hall Of Famers combined for 68 Pro Bowl appearances and nine Super Bowl championships.

The select group includes a "Captain Comeback" (Roger Staubach), an Olympic sprint champion (Bob Hayes), a Purple People Eater (Carl Eller) and the most prolific ball hawk in history (Paul Krause). Let's not forget about Leroy Kelly, Mel Renfro and Dave Wilcox.

The team that benefited most from the draft was the Dallas Cowboys, who picked Staubach, Hayes and Renfro. Not coincidentally, they were the NFC's most dominant team in the 1970s. The Washington Redskins scored with Taylor and Krause, but after four seasons they traded Krause to the Minnesota Vikings, who already had Eller. The Cleveland Browns hit it big, too, choosing Kelly and Warfield, who, like Krause, is best remembered for what he accomplished with his second team, the Miami Dolphins.

Imagine 11 Hall of Famers out of a 280-player draft. Not a bad ratio.

"Isn't that something? It's unbelievable," Krause said.

The biggest losers were the New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions, none of which drafted a Pro Bowl player, let alone a Hall of Famer -- akin to shopping at Tiffany's and having to settle for the prize in a Cracker Jack box. Oh, they picked some good players, but those players opted for the rival league, the AFL.

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