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Ring of Honor: Maynard Was a Great Catch

Don Maynard doesn't pop up on TV nationally or in the New York market a lot to do interviews or hawk products. He prefers the slower pace and the wide-open space at his Texas and New Mexico homes. And with all the hype and hullabaloo among wideouts in today's game, simple things can sometimes be forgotten.

So we'll state it one more time, before Maynard is inducted into the Jets' Ring of Honor on Monday night:

Maynard was and remains one of the greatest AFL/NFL wide receivers ever.

"Any honor anybody gets is hopefully deserving, and the other side of it is that it's a great honor to be in this first class," Maynard told recently. ""I'm just honored to be there, proud and thankful and all that."

Maynard's still-franchise-leading totals include 627 catches for 11,732 yards and 88 touchdowns. He finished with 11,834 yards, which is 18th all-time in pro football history, and those 88 TDs are 10th all-time.

Besides those impressive career stats, he holds the kind of distinction that makes him perhaps the Ted Williams of NFL receivers. Only five players in pro football history have ever had two 200-yard receiving games in the same season. Maynard was the last to do it, in 1968, the Jets' Super season.

"I wasn't aware of that. Thank you," Maynard said. "My daughter and son hollered at me the other day that one of the sports networks showed that myself and Jim Brown were tied for the most touchdowns scored by anybody in the Sixties, in that 10-year period. I wasn't aware of that either. I never looked up stuff like that."

But Maynard is proud and grateful to hear those measures of his prowess, and in return he is masterful at telling stories from back in the day. Just a short conversation reveals these unknown or little-known nuggets:

■ Some 20 years before Bill Walsh "invented" the West Coast Offense, Maynard said the Jets were running it in 1965. "All we called it was Slot Right or Slot Left," he recalled. "That told certain guys where to go. Matt Snell caught more passes than I did out of it, just to prove that point. We called it the Slot or the Spread. And that was the offense that Dutch Meyer and Matty Bell at TCU were coaching back in 1935."

■ In an era when wideouts used to wear seven cleats on each shoe, Maynard had Puma soccer shoes custom-made for him in West Germany with a 24 cleats in each shoe. "The sole was flexible so when you rounded your pass patterns, it was kind of like driving a car, making a 90-degree turn and you're not slipping," he said. "I wore cleats half the length of other receivers. They kept my legs fresh."

■ He even said he was the one who coined the phrase "wide receiver," to help a reporter who had some difficulty figuring out if he was a split end or a flanker. "I told him, on the formation right I'm the flanker and on the formation left I'm the split end. So if you want to get right down to it, let's call it the wide receiver on the left and the wide receiver on the right. So that became the terminology and that's what it says my position is on my Hall of Fame ring."

Along with the great stories are the great games. Maynard had those two 200-yarders in '68, at Kansas City in the season opener and at Oakland in "the Heidi Game," and he had 50 100-yard games total as a Jet.

So the numbers of 6-for-118 and two touchdowns don't sound terribly impressive, except when you consider that those were Maynard's numbers in what he calls "the most important game of all that the Jets ever played," beating the Raiders, 27-23, for the AFL title and their pass to Super Bowl III.

Those games, those stories and more will be told and retold this coming weekend and on Monday night during halftime of the Jets-Giants game, when one of the greatest receivers in the game will be recognized once again by Jets fans of all ages.

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