In 1979, the Chargers used their first-round pick, No. 13 overall, on a tight end from Missouri. Kellen Winslow would go on to become a record-breaking tight end and one of the best players to ever play the position.
A knee injury cut short his rookie year, but his 1980 season is one of the best by a tight end to this day. That season, he caught 89 passes for 1,290 yards and nine touchdowns. Though his numbers came as a product of Don Coryell’s offense, the NFL was nowhere near the throwing league then that it is now.
In 1981, he caught 88 more passes and became just the second tight end in history to lead the league in receptions. He’s also one of just three players to ever catch five touchdown passes in a game, another NFL record.
Had injuries not cut his career short, his numbers would have been even more impressive. Still, he accomplished just about everything there is to accomplish at the top-level, including making the Pro Bowl five times and being elected to the Chargers Hall of Fame.
When the NFL put together its 75th Anniversary Team, Winslow joined Mike Ditka as the two tight ends on that team. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
However, when you think of Winslow, you’ll almost always think first of the image of him leaving the field in Miami, basically being helped off by teammates, following his performance in the game that is simply known as the ‘Epic in Miami’.
In that game, a 41-38 overtime victory for the Chargers, he caught 13 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. The 166 yards stood as a playoff record for tight ends for over 30 years. He also blocked a field goal that ended up sending the game to overtime.
In addition to his statistics in that game, it was made all the more impressive by the fact that he was treated during the game for multiple injuries as well as dehydration.
He literally left it all on the field in that game. His performance is one that young players will be able to look to for inspiration for eternity.