WR ART POWELL:  STATS, FACTS

Presented by Frank Cooney

Arthur Lewis Powell (February 25, 1937 to April 6, 2015) was a dazzling wide receiver in the National and American Football leagues from 1959–68, when his production rated among the very best in the history of the game.

That span includes seven 14-game seasons during which he totaled 458 catches for 7,669 yards and 77 touchdowns, including five years with more than 1,000 yards and two within 200 yards of that mark. His career included 479 catches for 8,046 yards and 81 touchdowns in an era that allowed defenders to manhandle receivers all over the field.

In the history of pro football, Powell’s .77 touchdowns receiving per game is No. 2 and his 5.98 catches per touchdown is No. 3. 

Art Powell was one of nine siblings in a San Diego family legendary for producing multisport athletes. More on that later.

First, here is a list of Powell’s ample credentials for induction into Pro Football Hall of Fame:

TD Catches per Game: No. 2 in Pro Football History

Now 55 years since playing his final pro football game in a league more than 100 years old, Art Powell remains No. 2 in history for most touchdowns receiving per game. In his 105 games at wide receiver, Powell’s 81 touchdown catches put him at .77 per contest. That is second only to the legendary Don Hutson (.85). Yes, well ahead of such honored stars as Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Jerry Rice and any others one might mention. 

On the top-ten list, Powell is the only player eligible for the HOF who is not inducted. Davante Adams is still active and Dez Bryant’s last season was 2020.

The List

(Hall of Fame players indicated in green)

1. Don Hutson, 85.34% (99 TD catches 116 games) from 1935 to 1945: HOF

2. Art Powell, 77.14% (81 TD catches in 105 games) from 1959 to 1968 (eligible 50 years)

3. Randy Moss, 71.56% (156 TD catches in 218 games) from 1998 to 2012: HOF

4. Terrell Owens, 69.86% (153 TD catches in 219 games) from 1996 to 2010:  HOF

5. Marvin Harrison, 67.37% (128 TD catches in 190 games) from 1996 to 2008: HOF

6, Davante Adams, 65.41% (87 TD catches in 133) from 2014-current; (Active)

7. Jerry Rice, 64.99% (197 TD catches in 303 games) from 1985 to 2004: HOF

8. Dez Bryant, 63.02% (75 TD catches in 119 games) from 2010 to 2020: (Ineligible)

9. Lance Alworth, 62.50% (85 TD catches in 136 games from 1962 to 1972: HOF

10. Calvin Johnson, 61.48% (83 touchdowns in 135 games) from 2007 to 2015: HOF

Frequency of TDs: No. 3 in Pro Football History

Powell is third in pro football history in frequency of touchdowns, with one every 5.9 catches, behind only Paul Warfield and Tommy McDonald.

On the list of top ten players in that category, Powell is the only one not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

The List

(Hall of Fame players indicated in green)

1. Paul Warfield (1964-1977) – Catches per Touchdown: 5.03, TDs: 85, Catches: 427 HOF

2. Tommy McDonald (1957-1968) – Catches per Touchdown: 5.89, TDs: 84 Catches 495 HOF

3. Art Powell (1959-1968) – Catches per Touchdown: 5.90, TDs: 81 Catches: 479

4. Don Hutson (1935-1945) – Catches per Touchdown: 5.92, TDs: 99, Catches: 488 HOF

5. Lance Alworth (1962-1972) – Catches per Touchdown: 7.38, TDs: 85, Catches: 627 HOF

6. Elroy Hirsch (1946-1957) – Catches per Touchdown: 7.95, TDs: 60, Catches: 477 HOF

7. Charley Taylor (1964-1977) – Catches per Touchdown: 8.22, TDs: 79, Catches: 649 HOF

8. Bob Hayes (1965-1975) – Catches per Touchdown: 8.39, TDs: 71, Catches: 594 HOF

9. Raymond Berry (1955-1967) – Catches per Touchdown: 8.64, TDs: 68, Catches: 589 HOF

10. Steve Largent (1976-1989) – Catches per Touchdown: 9.07, TDs: 100, Catches: 819 HOF

Yards Receiving per Game: No. 1 Before Rule Changes

With more than a century of pro football data dutifully logged, Powell still stands eighth in most yards receiving per game at 76.6 yards per (counting players with at least 100 games). Think about it, eighth among the thousands who gave it a try. 

The seven men ahead of Powell on this list — Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, Marvin Harrison, DeAndre Hopkins, Torry Holt and Tyreek Hill — all played after the turn of the century under the protection of liberalized rules favoring the health, well-being and prolific production of receivers. Four were active in 2022 or are available free agents as of May 2023: Jones, Brown, Hopkins and Hill

Only Powell and Lance Alworth (75.5, 1962-1972, tied for tenth with Jerry Rice) played before the one-chuck rule in 1978, the first of several changes that limited a defender’s contact on a wide receiver. 

The List

1. *Julio Jones (155 games, 2011-2022): 87.9 yards per game

2. Calvin Johnson (135 games, 2007-2015): 86.1 yards per game

3. *Antonio Brown (146 games, 2010-2021): 84.22 yards per game

4. Marvin Harrison (190 games, 1996-2008): 82.7 yards per game

5. *DeAndre Hopkins (145 games, 2013-2022): 77.9 yards per game

6. Torry Holt (173 games, 1999-2009): 77.4 yards per game

7. *Tyreek Hill (108 games, 2016-2022): 77.2 yards per game

8. Art Powell (105 games, 1959-1968): 76.6 yards per game

9. Jerry Rice (284 games, 1985-2004): 75.6 yards per game

t-10. Andre Johnson (193 games, 2003-2016): 74.9 yards per game

t-10. Lance Alworth (136 games, 1962-1972): 74.9 yards per game

*Notes: Julio Jones played for the Tennessee Titans in 2022 and as of May 2023 is a free agent. Antonio Brown quit during the 2021 season with Tampa Bay, missed 2022 but is angling to sign as a free agent for the 2023 season. DeAndre Hopkins played the last four seasons for Arizona, who cut him May 2023. He is a free agent actively seeking another team. Tyreek Hill is active with the Miami Dolphins. Odell Beckham Jr., who did not play in 2022, signed with the Baltimore Ravens for the 2023 season. From 2014-2021, Beckham averaged 76.7 yards receiving per game, which would be a tenth of a yard better than Powell but OBJ has not reached the 100-game minimum. 

Great Athletes: A Family Tradition

Art was born in Dallas but raised in San Diego in a family of multisport superstars, most notably his father Elvin and older brother Charlie. 

Back in Texas, Elvin was a Black tennis champion, a scratch golfer and a teammate on Satchel Paige’s barnstorming baseball team, a relationship he maintained when the team made a swing through the West.

Charlie was a legendary prep star who earned 12 Letters at San Diego High, a feat that remains unequaled, in baseball, basketball, football and track. He turned down offers from the Harlem Globetrotters, got bored playing minor league baseball and, despite no college experience, played pro football for a decade with the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders.

Charlie was barely 20 years old as a rookie with the 49ers when he sacked Detroit quarterback Bobby Layne 10 times in one game—that’s right, 10 times. This was before they kept sacks as an official stat.

But Charlie’s real love was boxing, where he worked his way into a No. 3 ranking as a heavyweight and fought a guy named Cassius Clay, who would become Muhammad Ali. 

Art’s younger brother Jerry received a football and basketball scholarship to Michigan State and later played wide receiver and returner in the World Football League.  

So, what about Art?

Art Powell managed to create a substantial legacy of his own, competing in baseball, basketball, football and track. He averaged 30 points on the San Diego High basketball team and, like his older brother, was scouted by the Harlem Globetrotters. He went on to San Diego Junior College and scored 55 points in one basketball game but left abruptly when recruited by San Jose State to play football and basketball. 

With the Spartans, Powell led the nation with 40 catches while playing halfback in 1956 and was doing well in basketball when suddenly decided to play for pay. He wrote a letter to the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. Powell was 20 years old in 1957 when he caught 33 passes for the Argonauts, including five touchdowns. But he was required to play offense, defense and special teams and didn’t enjoy the workload.

That opened the door for Powell to be drafted by the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in 1959. Oddly, he played only as a defensive back and returner as a rookie. In 1960 Powell boycotted a preseason game because Black players were not treated equally as White players. It was the first of several instances in which Powell stood firmly against segregation. His social activism often overshadowed a brilliant career with the New York Titans (later the Jets) and Oakland Raiders.

After football, Powell was successful in the oil industry. Art passed in 2015, less than a year after the death of his brother Charlie. He was survived by Betty, his wife of 49 years, daughters Teri and Tracy, brothers Ellsworth, Jerry and Tony, sister Carmen and six grandchildren.

Teri married former professional basketball player Brian Tayler, and their son, Art’s grandson, Bryce Taylor, played college and pro basketball, continuing the family tradition.