SI Vault
Gwilym S. Brown
July 23, 1973
With a minimum of fanfare, Don Maynard of the Jets has combined wits, speed and a distaste for unsponsored brawling to become his game's alltime top receiver
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July 23, 1973

Oh, How Gently Flows This Don

With a minimum of fanfare, Don Maynard of the Jets has combined wits, speed and a distaste for unsponsored brawling to become his game's alltime top receiver

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Late in the 1968 season Maynard promised to end his abstention from alcohol and take a glass of champagne if the Jets won the Super Bowl, but when the time came to pay off after the momentous upset of the Colts, he balked. Grantham demanded that he make good on his promise. Maynard thought for a moment, then shook his head. "I didn't say which Super Bowl," he said.

Maynard just as stubbornly refuses to lose his temper. "Don is such an easygoing guy, even under the worst circumstances," Grantham says, "that I can think of only one time he really got hot. That was in a game against Buffalo a few years ago when one of their defensive backs was hitting him late and getting in a lot of cheap shots. Suddenly on a play down near their goal line, Don hit this guy from the blind side with his forearm, knocked his helmet off and left him lying there in the end zone until his teammates came out and lugged him off."

The story is an exaggeration, according to Maynard. "It didn't happen like that," he protests. "The play was a quarterback roll-out, and my job was to block this guy. I hit him a good lick, but it wasn't until afterwards I even knew it was the same guy who had been beating on me. Maybe I smiled a little, but I don't believe in retaliation. It's always the guy who retaliates who gets caught and penalized, never the original sinner. You can lose ball games that way."

More representative of Maynard is a story concerning a game against Denver. A defensive back first interfered with Don on a pass play, then he clobbered Maynard on the side of the head and finally he spat obscenities at him. Shocked, Maynard addressed himself to the referee. "You should throw this dirty player out of the game," he said. "He's a disgrace to football. He's a disgrace to his family."

Some years back in a game against Buffalo both teams poured out on the field and started to brawl. Maynard, who was standing next to Mathis on the New York bench, talked him out of joining the fight. "Let's just stay here, Bird, and watch," he said. "We've got the best view in the house."

Perhaps it is because of his unflamboyant temperament that Maynard has never reaped the recognition that other wide receivers like Berry, Lance Alworth, Bob Hayes, Paul Warfield or even his former teammate Sauer have enjoyed. When the AFL closed up shop after 10 years and merged with the NFL, Maynard, along with Alworth, was named as a wide receiver on the league's alltime team. But in no single year had Maynard been voted to the first-string all-AFL team. Charley Hennigan of Houston was named three years, Powell, who went from the Titans to Oakland, made it four times, Alworth seven times and Sauer twice. Obviously, it takes a while—like a decade—for Maynard to grow on people.

In comparing the abilities of Berry and Maynard, both of whom he has coached, Ewbank points out that Berry, who was not fast, relied on his moves and precisely run patterns to get free, while Maynard has always been able to count on his speed. "Raymond was usually tackled the instant he caught the ball," says Ewbank. "Give Don a step and he's gone." Berry averaged 14.7 yards gained on his 631 receptions; Maynard's career average is 18.7.

Maynard is also particularly skillful at setting up a defensive man for the kill. "Don knows exactly what he can do," says Ewbank. "When he comes back and reports that a cornerback can be beaten, he doesn't just say "throw it.' He explains exactly what pattern should be run and where the ball should go, and you can bet it's going to work."

A good example of this occurred in the 1968 AFL championship playoff against Oakland that put the Jets in the Super Bowl. Since early in the first quarter Maynard had been making a move inside on Cornerback George Atkinson without cutting back to the outside. Midway in the fourth quarter, with the Jets trailing 23-20, Maynard told Namath that he knew he could beat Atkinson deep. Maynard made his usual move inside on Atkinson, but this time cut back to the outside, got a step on his defender and caught the pass for a 52-yard gain. One play later Maynard made a diving catch of a Namath bullet in the Raider end zone, and the Jets were in the Super Bowl.

Maynard's spectacular night against Oakland last December suggests that he can, as Ewbank says, run forever. But as Marilyn Maynard points out, "When you've been around for 15 years, injuries become a big part of your life." Still fast, lean and fit, Maynard thinks he can survive one or two more years in the NFL. His only worry is whether the urge to play will stay with him that long. Each year he grows increasingly reluctant to pull up stakes in El Paso and move north with a family that includes his daughter Terry, 14, and son Scott, 11, and into the small, modest apartment they rent on Long Island during the season. With income from investments and savings swelled from years of parsimonious budgeting, a tie-distributing business and promotional work for an El Paso clothing company, Maynard is comfortably fixed outside of his Jet salary of roughly $45,000 a year.

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