Chargers countdown: 50 days until kickoff
By Dean Fioresi
There are officially 50 days left until the start of the regular season, when the San Diego Chargers take on the Kansas City Chiefs, September 11, 2016. We’re so close, yet so far. But with training camp just around the corner, things are looking up for us football fans who have felt lost without our favorite Sunday (and Monday/Thursday night) hobby.
With that being said, here’s a look at every Charger all-time who has ever worn the No. 50 as we continue to count down the days towards the beginning of the regular season.
The first documented player in Charger history to wear the big 5-0 was Ben Donnell, way back in 1960. Donnell, a defensive end, played in three games with the Los Angeles Chargers, which would end up being his only three AFL games, before he went on to run a successful construction company for 30 years. Donnell passed away in 2012 at the age of 76.
It didn’t take long for No. 50 to get picked up again, when linebacker Chuck Allen donned the number in 1961. He would continue wearing the number through 1969, where he would be named to three AFL All-Star Games, as well as helping the Chargers win an AFL Championship in 1963. He was also named All-AFL during his rookie year. Allen is a member of the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame and was named to the team’s 50th Anniversary Team in 2009. After leaving the Chargers in 1969, Allen split three seasons between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles. After retiring from playing, Allen spent 15 years as Vice President of Football Operations for the Seattle Seahawks.
In 1970, linebacker Jack Protz picked up the number, but just for one season, his only season in the NFL. He played in 14 games with the Chargers before retiring from play.
Nobody would wear No. 50 in 1971, leaving it to be picked up by linebacker Lee Roy Caffey in 1972. He would play in nine games for the Chargers before deciding to retire, ending his prolific 10-year career. Caffey was most notably a member of the Green Bay Packers who won four NFL Championships, one before the official start of the Super Bowl, then two with Vince Lombardi and Green Bay, and his final in 1971 with the Dallas Cowboys. Caffey is a member of the Texas A&M Hall of Fame, the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame and was named as an All-Pro in 1966.
Another year would pass before a player would don No. 50, when Don Goode took on the legacy. Goode, a linebacker, was the Chargers first-round pick in the 1974 NFL Draft, taken 15th overall. He would wear 50 until 1979, when he headed to the Cleveland Browns for his final two seasons. His best year with the Chargers came in 1976 when he would intercept six passes for 82 yards, both career-highs.
1980 was yet another off-year for the number, until Carlos Bradley grabbed the number in 1981, the same number he would wear in San Diego until 1985. Bradley played 51 games for the Chargers before taking 1986 off. He would finish his career in Philadelphia in 1987 spending one season with the Eagles. 1985 would prove to be the most fruitful season of Bradley’s career, where he grabbed his only two career interceptions and 2.0 of his 2.5 career sacks. Bradley is now a certified personal trainer in Philadelphia.
In 1986, Gary Plummer was signed out of the United States Football League, leading to him choosing to wear No. 50 with the Chargers. It didn’t take long for Plummer to adapt to the NFL, becoming a starting linebacker. He would spend the next eight seasons in San Diego before heading to San Francisco to end his career. Plummer finished his Chargers career with 792 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He would go on to win a Super Bowl with the 49ers in 1995, against the Chargers.
When David Binn picked up the No. 50 in 1994, little did he know he was going to become the longest-tenured player in Chargers history, taking the record for Chargers career games played (256). The long-snapper is one of three players in Chargers history to play over 200 games, joining Junior Seau and Russ Washington. Binn was named to the Pro Bowl in 2007, and was also a part of the AFC Championship team in his rookie season. Binn played with the Broncos for one playoff game in 2011 before retiring.
Dec 6, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers inside linebacker Manti Te’o (50) comes out of the tunnel prior to the game against the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium. Denver won 17-3. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Nobody would don No. 50 until 2013 when the Chargers drafted Manti Te’o with the 38th pick in the NFL Draft. To this day, Te’o has 204 career tackles along with 1.5 sacks and two interceptions. He has only continued to improve over his three NFL seasons, racking up more tackles as the years go by. With an improved defense surrounding him, one can only expect him to continue climbing up the totem pole of linebackers around the league.
Stay tuned for more offseason updates and countdowns as we continue to look forward to the beginning of the 2016 NFL season.