"Don was the first guy I saw," says Grantham, another of the original Titans who has become one of Maynard's closest friends and most fervent admirers. "He had those long sideburns and he was sitting on one of those old New England stone walls wearing cowboy boots, Levi's, a big Western hat and a belt with a huge brass buckle. The belt had number 13 on each side where it rode the hip and the word "shine" across the back of it. The whole thing was unreal. I mean, where was the rodeo?"
Maynard is as innovative a dresser on the held as off it. He seeks a streamlined freedom of movement. The result offers little more protection than one would find on a racing greyhound. The ear flaps of his helmet are specially molded to fit snugly over his wide cheekbones, and so he needs no chin strap. His shoulder pads have been carved down to an almost transparent shell of plastic and foam rubber. The front of the pads extends far enough over his rib cage to allow him to dispense with rib pads. Maynard would as soon wear chains as the heavy, long-sleeved jerseys worn by most of his Jet teammates. His are made of a lightweight mesh and usually have short sleeves. Most players use leather belts, but Maynard's is made of a stretchy elastic. He wears cutdown, kangaroo-skin soccer shoes with about 20 cleats (the conventional football shoe has seven) because he has decided they are easier on his legs and provide greater traction. When sleekly decked out for action, Maynard somewhat optimistically estimates that he carries five pounds less uniform than any other wide receiver in the NFL.
From the very beginning, Maynard put on a good show. Aside from his speed, he possessed a deceptive change of pace, and while he tended in his early years to be a bit loose running patterns, he has long since learned to cut them with disciplined assurance. He grabbed passes deep or he curled back and caught them short. It was virtually impossible to blanket him one-on-one. In his first AFL season he caught 72 passes, most of them from Quarterback Al Dorow. In subsequent years he shared receptions with such fine wide receivers as Art Powell, Bake Turner and George Sauer, but still kept up an average of more than 50 catches a year. He tied for the AFL lead with 14 touchdown catches in 1965 and two years later he led in total yardage with 1,434. Maynard broke Berry's career record for total distance in December 1968 and has been lengthening the record ever since. He is now up to 11,816 yards.
While establishing this solid public reputation as a pass catcher, Maynard is also privately recognized as an alltime thrift champion. "He used to write down everything he spent in a little notebook," recalls Bill Mathis, another original Titan who is now a stockbroker. "Like 'Newspaper, five cents, subway token, 15 cents.' "
Tight budgeting was understandable during those early days with the Titans. Payday was always a gamble. The players never knew whether the check a) would arrive at all or b) could be cashed before it bounced. The comparative prosperity of playing with the Jets has not gone to Maynard's head, however. A couple of years ago he brought a pro celebrity golf tournament to a stand-still when he disappeared after sending his drive over a hill. For an interminable time, the marshal didn't give the all-clear sign. Grantham, playing right behind Maynard, could not imagine what the holdup was until he reached the top of the rise and spotted his buddy. "He had his boots off," says Grantham, "and he was wading around in a pond pulling out old golf balls. 'Lookee here,' he yelled out, pleased as a kid. 'I've found half a dozen.' "
Through the years Maynard has tried, with little success, to pass his sense of economy on to teammates. He used to call Mathis "Bird" simply because it was the running back's devout wish to own a Ford Thunderbird. In virtually every city the team played, the two would tour showrooms together. "Don't spend all that money on a sports car, Bird," Maynard would tell Mathis. "Get yourself a Fairlane."
Maynard himself arrived at training camp in Peekskill, N.Y. in 1963 driving a turquoise, 8-year-old Ford coupe that he had fitted out to operate on butane instead of gasoline. One teammate called it the " El Paso Flame Thrower." Back home in El Paso the Flame Thrower, with 160,000 miles to its credit, still stands in the Maynard driveway. "Heck, you get the same mileage with butane as you get with regular gas, and it costs a whole lot less than gasoline does," Maynard says. "Besides, it doesn't pollute the environment, and your engine will last five times as long."
The fact that Maynard performs this automotive engineering himself is just a small sample of his versatility. He has taught math, industrial arts, government and world history in high school, and has earned a plumber's license, an achievement that took five years of apprenticeship.
As Grantham explains, "When Don believes in something he goes all out." One time, for example, Maynard dove fully clothed into an icy motel swimming pool to win a $75 bet. Another time, although neither alcohol nor tobacco has ever touched his lips, Maynard guzzled cleaning fluid just to prove a point.
This happened in connection with a distributorship he had for a cleaner named Swipe. Speaking at a Lions Club gathering in Peekskill, Maynard decided he needed a dramatic demonstration to prove that Swipe was nontoxic, so he poured himself a glass and chug-a-lugged it before the startled Lions. "I knew it would never make me sick," Maynard says, "but it did make the inside of my mouth pucker up and feel like cotton wool. I had to go to practice that afternoon with ice cubes in my mouth."