Throwback Thursday: John Jefferson

The bespectacled one snaggin’ a Dan Fouts bomb

In my early introduction to pro football, I was fascinated with the passing game. Any team that incorporated “The Bomb” as their weapon of choice had me locked in for three hours on Sunday afternoons.

So it should come as no surprise that in the late 70’s and early 1980’s that when the game of the week on NBC involved those San Diego “SUPERCHARGERS” I was glued to my chair. The Bolts were coached by Don “Air” Coryell, whose open air offense was one of the most prolific in NFL history.

At the helm, was bearded bombadeer Dan Fouts – who probably had the strongest arm in the league at the time and was one of the best deep ball throwers in history. Fouts had a receiving corps at his disposal that would make any secondary cringe. Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow, the consistant Charlie Joiner also a Hall of Famer, along with the elusive Wes Chandler. And I can’t forget my man Chuck Muncie running the rock.

The Bolts were circa 1989 Loyola Marymount – Run and Gun, not a great defense, but an offense that would make you say uncle.

The energy in the Bolt’s offense was John Jefferson, known to Charger fans as J.J. Jefferson’s combination of speed and great hands made him a natural for Coryell’s offense. The begoggled Jefferson dazzled fans around the league with his spectacular touchdown catches and knack to run down the deep ball. One of my memories of J.J. was a game where they were in a shootout (I can’t recall the team) but Fouts led Jefferson on this deep post and the instant J.J caught the ball he ran smack into the goal post. He was knocked cold but they counted the TD, it was the craziest thing I’d ever seen.

It was receivers like Jefferson and Lynn Swann that made me work on my acrobatic catches on the smaller dudes at recess. But it came with a price it cost me a few whippings because I was putting holes in my school pants.

The 14th pick in the 1978 draft out of Arizona State, Jefferson had as prolific a college career as any receiver in recent memory. In 1975 as a sophomore, Jefferson finished with 52 receptions for 921 yards as the Sun Devils finished the season 12-0 and a Fiesta Bowl appearance – where he was named the game’s MVP. ASU would finish with a #2 ranking, the highest in their history. In 1977 J.J. was selected as a consensus All-American finishing his career with 188 receptions for 2.993 yards , both school records and an NCAA record of 42 consecutive games with a reception.

Jefferson would enjoy a fine rookie season where he would lead all rookies in toushdown receptions and earn a spot in the Pro Bowl. For the next two seasons J.J. would enjoy success in San Diego as one of the better receivers in all of football earning two more Pro Bowl berths while accumulating 17 100-yard games, 36 touchdowns and three 1,000-yard seasons as a Charger.

In 1981 Jefferson was traded to the Green Bay Packers where he would team up with future Hall of Famer James Lofton to give Lynn Dickey one of the great receiving combinations in the NFL. In Green Bay, a shotty defense proved to be the team’s demise and left them on the outside looking in come playoff time.

Jefferson would end his career in Cleveland and retire after one season. His career numbers were: 351 receptions 5,714 yards and 47 touchdowns. He was a 4-time Pro Bowler and a 3-time All-Pro selection.

Today, Jefferson is currently the Director of Player Development with the Washington Redskins.

Having shared many of the same experiences of today’s younger players, Jefferson serves as a liason helping players to properly adjust to life as a professional and even life after the gridiron.

Looking back on those days gives me a real appreciation for the players of that time. I remember the next day in school we would talk about the games and one recess each guy would pick a running back, I was always somebody like Eric Dickerson or Billy Simms. As wideout I liked Jefferson but he was always taken, so I would end up being Freddie Solomon from the Niners. On defense, my guy was Dexter Manley. At quarterback it got tricky for obvious reasons so I was either John Walton, backup for the Eagles or Vince Evans from the Bears. It was a time in my life when my love for this game was as pure as it is today.

27 Responses to “Throwback Thursday: John Jefferson”

  1. TBR,

    Nice post. I remember that team. Kellen Winslow was my first crush. Dan Fouts has been very underrated. He was good. Thanks for refreshing my memory on Jefferson. I hope your still not putting holes in your pants. LOL!

    Oh, and Solomon was pretty nice also.

  2. Spoken like a true 49’er fan Michelle 😉

    Good work TBR. Thanks for the blast…

    JJ was sick. The Chargers were an amazing with all that receiving talent. Such a shame they never to to the SB.

  3. thebrotherreport Says:

    Nah the holes stop coming once the girls started noticing. I had to become a “finesse” player after that, runnin out of bounds and all that. LOL!

  4. Sweet Jones Says:

    I still remember a one handed, tip-toes-down-in the back of the endzonre catch he made. Was almost at a 60 degree angle when he did it.

    Was my 2nd favorite WR when I was a kid (excluding hometowners Pat Tilley, Mel Gray and Roy Green) behind Lynn Swann.

  5. Mizzo,

    And you know this mannn!

  6. I was too young to watch him play, but saw a picture of him with the goggles once and thought it was great. Thanks for the throwback!

  7. HarveyDent Says:

    I don’t remember JJ too much from his Charger days but I was a Winslow/Fouts fan for life when I saw them battle the Dolphins in the greatest game I ever saw in the ’82 playoffs in Miami. I’m always surprised when writers never put that game up there with all the other great ones but it was probably because the Chargers got blown out the next week in Cincy to play the 49ers in the SB.

    Just imagine the toll that took on the Chargers to go from tropical heat and humidity in South FL to below freezing weather in Ohio. Have to play the hands that are dealt and if the Chargers’ D had been better they wouldn’t have been in that shootout in Miami and would have got to a SB before ’94. JJ was sweet but he missed out on the fun when his boys played that one.

  8. HarveyDent Says:

    YO TBR…can’t see the pics but I’ll google some of JJ to see what he was about

  9. HarveyDent Says:

    Blasphemy! Blasphemy! How could you ever leave the god that is Microsoft, blasphemer? I cast thee into the pit!


    Thanks for the tip, Mizz

  10. Anytime bruh.

  11. GrandNubian Says:

    Thanks for this reminisible (not sure if that’s a word) piece. I remember JJ, Winslow and the Chargers air show quite well. He was/is one of my all-time favorite WRs.

    BTW……during recess i would always be Lynn Swann. 🙂

  12. My dad was an editor for the San Diego Union at the time and had season tix to the Chargers. Every Sunday he and I sat in Balboa Stadium and watched one of the most amazing teams in NFL history shred their opponents. They forever colored my idea of what I thought professional football should be.

    And they would have gone to the Super Bowl if they had taken thermals to Cincy.

  13. I know it’s Friday, but thanks for the post. I’m a native San Diegan who started watching sports around the time of the JJ/Kellen/Charlie Joiner (whose wife is my soror)/Dan Fouts days.

    Air Coryell was entertaining as all get out.

  14. I was too young (and overseas) for the Charger glory days. I hear people talk about them, just a few years too young to have seen them. Instead I got stuck being a fan of the 20 yrs after their good years.

    Thanks for the article, maybe they can channel some of that old school offense this weekend.

  15. In response to Gregs comment. It wasn`t Balboa Stadium that the Chargers played in during JJs days, it was Jack Murphy Stadium. Must not have left much of an impression.

  16. Where can you find pictures of those famous catches? I don’t see any pics in this post.

  17. Shawn Lambe Says:

    The pictures are not showing up. I would love to see them. If anyone knows where I can find some good pictures of #83 (John “JJ” Jefferson), please let me know.


  18. JJ was the best receiver in the NFL at that time. Still today, no one could catch a football like he could. His work ethics were phenominal. I watched him through high school, college and throughout his pro career. His biggest fan, yep thats me, his nephew. The FIRST MAN IN NFL HISTORY TO GET 1,000 YARDS IN HIS FIRST 3 SEASONS. The second man ever to do it is still in the NFL, Randy Moss. No one had more one handed touchdown grabs than JJ. Remember the ONE HAND CATCH, Back of the endzone against the Bengals with 3 defenders around him. San Diego should have never traded him.

    Go Uncle John.


  19. JD,
    I received a game worn jersey from your uncle, the greatest receiver I ever saw play live, for Christmas in 2004. I saw him make a two finger in front of Lester Hayes that was immortalized on the cover of the S.D Union sport pages and is mounted on my wall. It was given to me from him through a friend of his named Jeff Duncan here in Colorado because I insisted on wearing my Junior Seau jersey (a reproduction unfortunately) to work every Saturday night during football season in a city full of anti Charger fans. It is one of my proudest possessions and is worn every time the Chargers play, including at the game against Denver earlier this year when they were burned by one of the worst calls ever. Who’s laughing now Shannahan? But I digress. I never had a chance to thank J.J. personally and would really like to express my gratitude. My email address is Go Bolts! One step away from a well earned Superbowl berth……..

  20. SCANNERMAN Says:

    Having watched football for oh-so-many years, I still believe that JJ was one of the best, if not the best receiver to have ever played the game. The problem was going to Green Bay and Cleveland. Had he stayed with San Diego, and continued on as he had, and there seems little doubt since Air Coryell continued on into the 80s, Jerry Rice would have company at the top of the mountain. Trading JJ away was a mistake regardless of good anyone thinks his replacement, Wes Chandler was. JJ was the first player to have a 1000 yards receiving in his first three seasons. It was a real shame that he never had the chance to become the superstar he no doubt was.

  21. Kimball Knight 87 Says:

    I happen to have some High School film of John Washington.Kimball and Roosevelt they won 15 to 14 in 1973 on a two point conversion in the fourth quarter I failed to jam the tight end on the extra point and John won the game because he lined up there on field goalsand extra points. In 1974 we tied 14 to 14 and as we could not jam him or cover him out
    wide we took advantage on extra points to give him a chance to mix it up on the inside with the big boys! We played in 12AAAAA and I was proud but not happy to see those circus catches up close. If someone has his e-mail maybe they could forward this. I can tell you if he could touch it he caught it.

  22. Boltz-Steve Says:


    Your uncle was the best receiver I have ever seen. I wish I could see the infamous catch he made in college that was talked about while he still played for us. He was kind enough to sign a card for me years back through the mail. I just got a replica jersey of his this year and will wear it all this coming year. I will never forget him burning Lester Hayes and the inspiration he brought to the crowd every time he took the field or when he’d stand up and start waving his towel above his head to get the crown going! He was totally fit for Air Coryelle! I am still ticked at Gene Klein for sending him to Green Bay. J.J. deserved a pay raise. He WAS MR. TOUCHDOWN! And had that awesome grin to boot!

    Send him San Diego’s BEST! #83 Baby!


  23. mark chisholm Says:

    Mr. Jefferson had an unfair advantage over other receivers during his heyday…his fingers are made of the same materials footballs are made of so when Fouts threw Mr. Jefferson a pass any pass it was like a magnet attracted to metal. I never remember Mr. Jefferson dropping a pass. As children, we fought to be John Jefferson…one of the best that ever did it!

  24. I absolutely loved this throwback. It reminded me of one of the most exciting players in NFL history. It is amazing that his highlights aren’t on the net anywhere. I tried to find him everywhere without any luck.

  25. david graham Says:

    John Jefferson should have realized that there was no way the owner of the Chargers (Gene Klein) was ever going to renegotiate his contract. Klein had a reputation of being a very “hardnosed” businessman to the point of being ruthless. If Jefferson had waited one more year when his original contract ran out he would have been in a much better position. As it turned out Klein was so angered at Jefferson (and determined to make an example of him-and Fred Dean for that matter) that he sent him to Green Bay (the “Siberia” of the NFL). It is tragic to think of the numbers Jefferson could have put up if he had stayed in San Diego. Jefferson said it best when he said “Jerry Rice would have had to break all of my records”.

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