The 1964 NFL Draft has gone down in history for producing the most Pro Football Hall of Fame players of any draft to date. Eleven of the 280 players selected for that season’s draft have now been enshrined in Canton.
On December 2, 1963, the NFL’s representatives that made up its 14 teams assembled in Chicago to divvy up that season’s prospects. At the same time that the NFL’s braintrust were gathering, the US was still morning the loss of President John F. Kennedy. Yet, the show went on as a “new era” dawned on the NFL. While the selections were made late in 1963, it’s considered the 1964 draft as that’s when players made their pro debuts.
Although The Windy City was home to the reigning NFL champions, the Chicago Bears, it was the San Francisco 49ers who had the first pick in the draft. The 49ers used their selection to take tight end Dave Parks from Texas Tech. However, it was the second, third, sixth and eleventh picks of the first round that left the most meaningful impact on the initial 14 selections.
Taken second by the Philadelphia Eagles, Bob Brown earned the NFL’s Rookie of the Year Award in 1964. A six-time Pro Bowler, Brown played ten seasons, spending time with the Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders; and played in 126 games. His unpleasant demeanor and constant work ethic helped to protect his quarterbacks and made him one of the most important and feared offensive lineman during his NFL tenure.
The Philadelphia Gum Company, who took over the contract for the NFL as Topps moved onto the AFL, only produced 12 player cards for each team in 1964. Due to this, Brown was not one of the 12 players to have a card produced that season. In fact, he does not appear in the team card that Philadelphia produced for the set. However, Brown’s rookie card did finally see the light of day in 1966. Standing posed – minus helmet – to take on a defensive lineman, Brown’s size is apparent. Most are under $20.
The Washington Redskins made Arizona State halfback Charley Taylor the third choice in the 1964 draft. Taylor would go one to score 540 total points for the Redskins during his time with the team. In 13 NFL seasons, Taylor score 90 touchdowns for the Redskins, and was voted to the Pro Bowl six times. Taylor went into the Hall of Fame in 1984, only seven years after retiring.
Taylor’s rookie card hit selves in 1965. Philadelphia produced card (#195) shows Taylor in uniform on a practice field running toward the camera. Quality examples start at around $50. Taylor’s 1966 card (#194), is of more note as it has a spelling error on the back. Despite spelling his name correctly two times, it was third time unlucky for Philadelphia as they spelled Taylor’s first name “Charlie”.
After landing Taylor in the first round, the Redskins followed up with Paul Krause in the second. The safety from Iowa University enjoyed 16 NFL seasons with a majority of them in Minnesota after being traded to the Vikings in 1968. Krause collected 81 interceptions in 226 games, including 12 in his rookie season. An eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time NFC champion, Krause went into the hall in 1998.
Krause’s 1965 Philadelphia rookie card (#189) shows the safety in home uniform. It is simplistic as Krause’s eyes look directly into the camera. These are available at $35 and up.
Carl Eller was the sixth pick of the draft, selected by his hometown Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings fulfilled Eller’s dream of playing for the franchise, and in turn, Eller helped produce an NFL Championship and three NFC Championships. Eller played 15 seasons with Minnesota before finishing his career with Seattle. With six Pro Bowls, 133 unofficial sacks and 23 fumble recoveries during his illustrious career, Eller was one of the key members of the Vikings’ “Purple People Eater” front four.
Despite all of his accolades, Eller was a Hall of Fame finalist 12 times before finally being enshrined in 2004. His 1965 rookie card (#105) shows the former No. 81 in midstride, dressed in the Vikings’ home purple jersey. Fairly plentiful, you can own a pretty nice ungraded example for $20-$30.
Despite being the last player selected in the first round by the Cleveland Browns, Paul Warfield was the first of the 1964 collection to go into the Hall of Fame. Eighty-five touchdowns, 8,565 rushing yards and eight Pro Bowl selections highlighted Warfield’s career.
In 1970, Warfield was part of one of the most uneven trades in NFL history, as he was sent to the Miami Dolphins for a draft pick. That pick would become Mike Phipps, who had a modicum of success with the Browns. Meanwhile, Warfield would secure two Super Bowl trophies with the Dolphins, winning Super Bowls VII and VIII. Warfield did return to Cleveland to finish out his career, however, in 1977.
Warfield did feature on a pre-rookie card made by Kahns (#51) in 1964. However, in 1965 Philadelphia produced Warfield’s official rookie card (#41), which is available in better grades for $75 and up.
While the first round featured four future hall of famers, there was one team that made out with three all to themselves during the draft. The Dallas Cowboys selected cornerback Mel Renfro 17th, wide receiver Bob Hayes 88th and Navy quarterback Roger Staubach with the 129th pick.
Renfro would spend all 14 years of his career with the Cowboys, becoming a shutdown corner and notching 52 interceptions. He was also a skilled kick returner. In all, Renfro was selected to ten Pro Bowls in his career. Renfro’s 1965 rookie card still fetches around $75-$100 in higher grades but most are much less.
“Bullet” Bob Hayes went on to be one of the Cowboys’ all-time great receivers, scoring 76 touchdowns during a career that saw him play nine season with Dallas and one with San Francisco. An Olympic sprinter before turning to football, Hayes is the only man ever to win an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring.
Hayes didn’t get a rookie card until 1966. Thanks in part to strong interest from Cowboys collectors, you’ll spend $75 and up for a nice one.
Staubach won the Heisman Trophy in 1963, becoming the final player to win the award from a military academy. Such an honor would typically lead to a player being selected much higher in the draft, yet Staubach was headed for a four-year stint in military service, including some time in Viet Nam. Despite this and the fact that he wouldn’t play until 1969, Staubach was selected by the Cowboys.
The Cowboys would become the most successful NFC team of the 1970s, winning Super Bowl VI and Super Bowl XII. It was at Super Bowl VI that Staubach was awarded the Most Valuable Player prize after completing 12 of 19 passes and throwing for two touchdowns. In all, Staubach threw for over 22,000 yards with the Cowboys in an era that saw teams favor the run over the pass. Although he was the lowest ’64 pick to be inducted, Staubach was the third of the 11 enshrinees to enter Canton.
Staubach’s rookie card in 1972 is famous for its simplicity. A posed portrait and often off-center, the card is considered one of the toughest high-grade rookie cards of the 70s, and gives the quarterback an aura of a player who was larger than life.
Chosen 29th overall, the “Intimidator” Dave Wilcox spent 11 seasons with San Francisco. The linebacker tallied 14 interceptions during his time with the 49ers making seven Pro Bowls and being voted NFL Players Association’s Linebacker of the Year in 1973. Wilcox was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
Wilcox’s rookie card is #178 in the 1967 Philadelphia Gum seet and features him in his home uniform, bent over with elbows on knees. Prior to his Hall of Fame election, you could usually find one for under $10 but now you’ll pay around $40-50 for something close to NM.
With the 110th pick in the draft, Cleveland landed Leroy Kelly, a running back from Morgan State. In ten seasons, Kelly rushed for 7,274 yards and 74 touchdowns. At the time of Kelly’s retirement in 1973 he held numerous NFL records including most games with 100 or more yards rushing (27), most consecutive games with a rushing touchdown (9) and most touchdowns in a season (20). Kelly also won the 1968 NFL Most Valuable Player Award.
Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994, 20 years after his retirement from the game. He didn’t appear on a trading card until 1967, which is a head and shoulders portrait. Nicer, ungraded examples can be had for $35-50.
Rounding out the incredible class of ‘64 is a man who was inducted, not for his playing, but for his coaching. The Detroit Lions made Bill Parcells the 89th selection of the draft. However, Parcells was released by the team before ever playing a game.
After the finish of his playing career, the “Big Tuna” turned to coaching and in 1983, after years in various capacities at the college ranks, he landed the top gig with the New York Giants.
A three win season was followed by the Giants making the playoffs in 1984 and 1985. In 1986, Parcells led the Giants to 14 wins en route to winning Super Bowl XXI. Another Super Bowl trophy followed four seasons later and Parcells solidified his name as one of the best coaches in NFL history.
Although hired by New England, the New York Jets and Dallas to repeat his successes of the 80s, Parcells was unable to replicate them. Parcells did get close, however, taking the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI where they were beaten by the Green Bay Packers.
In Parcells last playoff game in 2006, his Cowboys lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild-Card Game. Yet, Parcells legacy was firmly set. The “Big Tuna” went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013, the last of the class of ’64. When Pro Set got its license and began putting coaches in its sets, Parcells finally got a rookie card. Millions of them were produced and they’re usually available for next to nothing–even graded examples.
It is hard to fathom that one draft class could produce eleven Hall of Fame players, yet that is exactly what happened in 1964. Will there ever be another class like it? Only time will tell. However, until then, the class of ’64 will be remembered as greatest of them all.