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.