The San Diego Chargers will honor the greatest men to don the team's lightning bolts – the 38 Chargers Hall of Fame inductees – during Hall of Fame & Alumni Weekend at their game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Nov. 6.
The team's Hall of Fame was created 40 years ago in 1976 to honor those great athletes and contributors whose careers and accomplishments have distinguished them above all others in the storied history of the Chargers.
"The Chargers and the men on the field represent more than a football team to the people of San Diego," said team President A.G. Spanos. "Generations have grown up watching this team and the memorable performances by these great athletes. The Chargers are an institution; a lifestyle. Nothing else has shown it can unite this community and create great memories the way sports teams like the Chargers have done. And 56 years have created countless amazing memories."
The memories created by the team and these men began when the Chargers became San Diego's team 56 years ago in 1961. And it didn't take long for the young Chargers and their lightning bolt emblem to grab the attention of the football world and appropriately symbolize the spirit of the new franchise.
The original Chargers were a big-play, offensive-minded outfit that took the pro football world by storm. They played the game with abandon; a let-it-fly style that matched the lightning bolts on their uniforms. Renowned offensive performers like Lance Alworth, Paul Lowe, Keith Lincoln, Ron Mix and John Hadl were led by innovative Head Coach Sid Gillman; all members of the Chargers Hall of Fame. Alworth, Mix and Gillman are also members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Alworth was the first American Football League player inducted into that elite group.
The Chargers' band of followers grew exponentially in the late '70s and early '80s when Chargers Hall of Fame Head Coach Don Coryell's "Air Coryell" offense took flight. Air Coryell was the most explosive offense of its time and for good reason as it was loaded with Chargers Hall of Fame talent: quarterback Dan Fouts, tight end Kellen Winslow, wide receivers Charlie Joiner and Wes Chandler, center Don Macek, tackle Russ Washington, and guards Ed White and Doug Wilkerson. The defensive line was stacked as well as Louie Kelcher, Gary Johnson and Fred Dean are all members of the Hall and helped San Diego's team to four consecutive AFC West titles and trips to the AFC Championship Game in 1980 and '81. Fouts, Joiner, Winslow and Dean also were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The '90s brought a new brand of football and another memorable era in team history. Under the leadership of Chargers Hall of Fame Head Coach Bobby Ross, the Bolts made the playoffs three times in four season (1992, '94-95), including the a 17-13 victory over the heavily-favored Steelers in the 1994 AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh to earn the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XXIX in Miami. The big-play offense was controlled by Chargers Hall of Fame quarterback Stan Humphries, while the powerful defense was anchored by two more Chargers Hall of Famers in defensive end Leslie O'Neal and linebacker Junior Seau. The magnificent Seau was inducted posthumously into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year.
The fans' favorite memories in recent years cover a 10-year span from 2004-13. That period produced 104 wins and five AFC West titles. Only three teams won more games during that time. All-World running back LaDainian Tomlinson, inducted last year into the Chargers Hall of Fame, is a sure first-ballot selectee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
The San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame Members (listed by year of their induction):
1976 — Frank Buncom, LB, 1962-67; Emil Karas, LB, 1960-64, 66; Bob Laraba, LB, 1960-61; Jacque MacKinnon, TE, 1961-69 (Honorary Members, all inducted posthumously)
1977 — Lance Alworth, WR, 1962-70
1978 — Ron Mix, T, 1960-69
1979 — Paul Lowe, RB, 1960-68
1980 — Barron Hilton, Majority Owner, 1960-66; Keith Lincoln, RB, 1961-66, 1968
1981 — Ernie Ladd, DT, 1961-65; Walt Sweeney, G, 1963-73
1983 — John Hadl, QB, 1962-72
1984 — Chuck Allen, LB, 1961-69
1985 — Gary Garrison, WR, 1966-76; Sid Gillman, Head Coach, 1960-69, 1971
1986 — Earle Faison, DE, 1961-66
1993 — Dan Fouts, QB, 1973-87; Charlie Joiner, WR, 1976-86
1994 — Don Coryell, Head Coach, 1978-86
1995 — Leslie "Speedy" Duncan, CB, 1964-70; Kellen Winslow, TE, 1979-87; Russ Washington, T, 1968-82
1996 — George Pernicano, Minority Owner, 1961-present
1997 — Rolf Benirschke, K, 1977-86
1998 — Gill Byrd, CB, 1983-92
1999 — Gary "Big Hands" Johnson, DL, 1975-84
2000 — Doug Wilkerson, OL, 1971-84
2001 — Wes Chandler, WR, 1981-87
2002 — Stan Humphries, QB, 1992-97; Bobby Ross, Head Coach, 1992-96
2003 — Louie Kelcher, DT, 1975-83
2004 — Don Macek, C, 1976-89; Ed White, G, 1978-85
2008 — Fred Dean, DE, 1975-81
2011 — Junior Seau, LB, 1990-02
2012 — Darren Bennett, P, 1995-03
2014 — Leslie O'Neal, DE, 1986, 1988-95
2015 — LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, 2001-09