The great Lance Alworth was on hand at Chargers Park Sunday as the Bolts announced that the entire 1963 AFL Championship team will be this year’s inductee into the Ring of Honor.
Alworth spent time with Chargers.com for a wide ranging interview about the 1963 squad.
Chargers.com: This is the first time that an entire team has been inducted. What does that mean to you?
Alworth: I think it’s pretty special. With the team coming in, there are a lot of guys over the years that deserve honors but never get them. This is a pretty special thing to do for a whole team. Everybody gets that special little tap on the shoulder (to) say “Hey, you’re pretty special in 1963.”
Chargers.com: Looking back to 1962, that wasn’t a banner year for the Chargers. That was your first year with the team. You played in four games for them. The team had a losing record, which was the only time they had a losing record in the AFL. Sid Gillman, the coach, moved training camp to Boulevard, 60 miles east of San Diego. And that’s really what made that team.
Alworth: That was a great decision. I would heartily endorse it if anybody did it today. I wish the Chargers next year would do it because it brought us together, we played together and it made us a better football team as a unit. When we get together, the first thing we always talk about is Boulevard, California. We only went there one year. I wish we went there more often.
Chargers.com: 1963 was an offensive explosion for this team averaging 28.5 points per game. What really led to that success on the offensive side of the ball?
Alworth: I think it was Sid Gillman’s offense. It was the design of the offense. He was ahead of his time. In fact, a lot of the things being done today are what Sid originally started. They give other people credit, but Sid Gillman’s system is the one that started everything as far as throwing the ball is concerned.
Chargers.com: The team only lost three games that year. You only lost one game at home going 11-3 in 1963. What was the atmosphere like at Balboa Stadium on those Sundays when the Chargers were really rolling?
Alworth: Well it was not very big so there was a lot of noise going on. But the thing about playing is you don’t really hear the crowd. I never really heard the crowd when I played. I’m sure that the majority of guys that I played with didn’t. We’d hear them at the end of the ballgame. Nowadays I see guys on the field trying to get people to cheer. I can’t imagine doing it because I totally blanked out and concentrated on doing what we had to do. So I didn’t hear them much when I was playing.
Chargers.com: 1963 was your first year really playing a full season. You had 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. What was it like finally reaching that center stage point early on in your career?
Alworth: You know, I never really thought about it. My first year I played four games then tore a quadriceps muscle. I was kicking field goals with Keith Lincoln and he jerked the ball on me so I missed my first season because of that. So my second season, I was just happy to be in there playing. I knew I could play. I was just waiting for the time to come to get well so I could run.
Chargers.com: So the team goes 11-3, and there is obviously only one playoff game and that’s the championship game in the AFL. The team has home field advantage in the AFL Championship Game against the Boston Patriots. What was your mindset going into that game? Were you guys thinking you were going to rout them or did you take them seriously?
Alworth: They were one of the few teams that beat us (during the regular season). We were looking for them. We went to Boston, and they beat us 10-7 or some ridiculous number and we said this was not going to happen again. We were happy to get them here and I think we unsettled them a little bit with our wide open offense. Keith Lincoln had a fabulous day. It was great to watch.
Chargers.com: 51-10 you sent the fans home happy. At the end of the game, there is a famous picture around these parts of a champagne toast being raised. What were you guys talking about as those glasses were raised?
Alworth: I think we were all laughing so hard at one another and making a lot of noise. There are a lot of things I can’t repeat. It’s a great feeling and you share that with everybody. Some guys could drink the champagne and some can’t. I couldn’t. So it was fun. It was a great experience to be there. People are (celebrating) a year’s work and just relaxing. All of a sudden it’s over and we did it. It’s a great feeling.
Chargers.com: Finally, you know what it’s like to be at Qualcomm Stadium in the middle of the field when your number was retired. When you’re down there with your teammates and they drop down the banner and you see the 1963 team in that Ring of Honor, what do you think will be going through your head?
Alworth: I’m sure all the guys are going to say thanks Boulevard! In addition to just having a great feeling because everybody’s honored, and that’s pretty special.