CHICAGO – Completing its countdown of the 25 Greatest Receivers in AFL History, the Silver Anniversary Committee has announced the five greatest receivers in Arena Football history.
The Committee, which consists of longtime League executives, coaches, media members and former players, was asked to weigh in on which receivers best displayed excellence on the field, showcased the highest level of talent and meant the most to their teams.
1. Eddie Brown
“Eddie Brown was the truth. He was a guy that wasn’t that fast, but he had unbelievable hands.” –Sherdrick Bonner, former Arizona Rattlers quarterback
“He had the strongest hands of any receiver I have ever known.” –Ari Wolfe, longtime AFL play-by-play announcer
“I don’t remember ever seeing him drop a pass in the end zone.” –Mike Hohensee, Iowa Barnstormers Head Coach
He was known as “Touchdown” for a reason. The two-time AFL Offensive Player of the Year and one-time MVP always found a way to get to the end zone. He still holds the AFL records for most touchdowns and points in a single game (nine scores for 54 points). Brown had seven seasons of 1,000 receiving yards or more, with the first coming as a rookie in 1993. The career Firebird had his best season in 1999, leading Albany with 138 receptions for 1,858 yards and 45 receiving scores. His offensive prowess that season guided the Firebirds to victory in ArenaBowl XIII and his performance in that game was one of the greatest in the history of Arena Football. His 185 receiving yards set an ArenaBowl record and earned him Offensive Player of the Game honors. When he retired in 2003, he left the game as its all-time leader in every major receiving category. Brown was voted the Greatest Player in AFL History by the AFL Historical Committee in 2006 and was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2011.
2. Damian Harrell
“Damian is probably the best pure receiver of the group just because he had the ability to focus in on that particular part of the game.” –Tom Goodhines, Philadelphia Soul General Manager
“He was a true professional. A smart, fierce competitor with great hands.” –Mike Dailey, former Head Coach of the Albany/Indiana Firebirds and Colorado Crush
A five-time All-Arena selection, Harrell possessed a combination of size and concentration that went virtually unmatched during his playing career. A rookie in 1999, Harrell began to come into his own when he joined the Toronto Phantoms in 2001. That marked the first of his AFL-record nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. It was also the first year he recorded 20 touchdowns or more in a season, a feat he accomplished eight times in his career, tying him with Chris Jackson and James Roe for the most in AFL history. When he joined quarterback John Dutton and the Colorado Crush in 2003, Arena Football fans knew something special was about to happen. At one point, Harrell enjoyed a streak of 78 consecutive games with a receiving touchdown, easily setting the AFL record. In 2005, Harrell caught 122 passes for 1,486 yards and 41 touchdowns and was named the League’s Offensive Player of the Year while helping the Crush to an ArenaBowl XIX victory. The following season, he rewrote the record books, catching an unprecedented 60 touchdowns and scoring an AFL-record 366 points en route to his second consecutive Offensive Player of the Year award. Harrell spent the 2008 season with the Chicago Rush and joined the Milwaukee Iron in 2010, where he recorded his fifth career 100-catch season. He retired following the 2011 season as a member of the Milwaukee Mustangs, immediately transitioning into an assistant coaching role with the team. Harrell ranks second in AFL history in touchdowns (361) and points scored (2,172), and first in receptions (1,164), receiving yards (15,128) and receiving touchdowns (357). He will be eligible for the AFL Hall of Fame following the 2014 season.
3. Chris Jackson
“From a pure talent standpoint, CJ was one of the best ever.” – Sherdrick Bonner, former Arizona Rattlers quarterback
“He was unique, he would always get right up on the defender and with a simple move of his hips, would smoothly find open space.” – Ari Wolfe, longtime AFL play-by-play announcer
Jackson set the AFL on fire as a rookie with the Los Angeles Avengers in 2000. In his debut season, he recorded nine consecutive 100-yard games and totaled 91 receptions for 1,325 yards and 26 touchdowns before being named the League’s Rookie of the Year. In 2003, he became the first player in AFL history to win both the Rookie and Offensive Player of the Year awards in a career. In his 2005 debut with the Georgia Force, Jackson became the 11th player in AFL history to record 1,000 career points. During his three seasons with the Force, he set numerous single-season franchise records, including points (306), receptions (145), receiving yards (1,915) and receiving touchdowns (47). When he became a free agent following the 2007 season, Jackson elected to join the Philadelphia Soul. With the Soul in 2008, Jackson set single-season franchise records for points (294), receptions (140) and receiving touchdowns (49), and was named Offensive Player of the Year for the second time in his career. He was also selected Offensive Player of the Game in ArenaBowl XXII, the only championship win of his 10-year career. He rejoined the League in 2011 for the Arizona Rattlers playoff run. In his first game in nearly three years, Jackson recorded six catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns. His efforts propelled the Rattlers to ArenaBowl XXIV, where he was named Offensive Player of the Game for the second time in his career. During his tenure in the League, Jackson recorded eight 1,000-yard seasons and had a streak of 52 consecutive games with a receiving score, both of which are the second-highest marks in League history. He reached the ArenaBowl with three different franchises and was named Offensive Player of the Game in his two final appearances. He ended his career with more postseason receiving touchdowns (45) than any player in AFL history and ranks second all-time in receiving touchdowns (325) and postseason points (278), and third in AFL history in receptions (1,004), receiving yards (13,378) and postseason receiving yards (1,743). He will be eligible for the AFL Hall of Fame following the 2014 season.
4. Barry Wagner
“He was so tough to defend because he played so tall.” –Tim Marcum, winningest Head Coach in AFL history
“Barry was, in my mind, the ‘Shaq’ of Arena Football. He was, simply put, a dominant, aggressive player; often a man amongst boys. Barry would just run over or blow defensive players up. He challenged defenses to slow him down, much less stop him, with a superb combination of sheer size, body control and strength, coupled with massive and strong, but soft hands.” –Jim Foster, Arena Football Founder
Wagner played 16 years of Arena Football and holds just about every record there is to own. An eight-time All-Arena selection and winner of the Ironman of the Year award for six consecutive seasons, Wagner was perhaps the greatest two-way player in the history of the game. He was also was of the greatest pure receivers. At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Wagner played strong, routinely outmuscling defenders on his way to the end zone. As a rookie with the Orlando Predators in 1992, Wagner orchestrated what has become known as the “Miracle Minute,” when he caught two touchdown passes and a game-winning two-point conversion, recovered an onside-kick and made the game-saving tackle, all in the final 60 seconds against the Detroit Drive. In 1993, he began a streak of seven consecutive seasons with 1,000 receiving yards and 20 touchdown catches. A perennial playoff participant, Wagner caught more postseason passes (175) and recorded more receiving yards (2,228) than any player in AFL history. With seven ArenaBowl appearances to his name, Wagner also holds the AFL record for most championship game receptions in a career (33). He finished his career as the AFL’s all-time leader in points (2,490) and touchdowns (410) and ranks second in AFL history in receiving yards (13,363). Wagner was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2011.
“I researched George LaFrance. I wanted to be George LaFrance.” –Hunkie Cooper, AFL Hall of Famer and former Arizona Rattlers receiver
“George was a graceful, silky smooth jaguar with amazing slight of body moves, combined with deceptive speed. He was very difficult to defend on any play, but his long ball, down field receptions – which usually netted six points – were a pure pleasure to watch.” –Jim Foster, Arena Football Founder
LaFrance was one of the pioneers of Arena Football. In 12 seasons, LaFrance tallied 622 receptions for 8,888 yards and 195 touchdowns. The MVP of the League as a member of the Detroit Drive in 1989 and 1991, LaFrance was a member of an AFL-record eight ArenaBowl teams, leading his squads to five championships and earning three game MVP awards. His best statistical season came with the Tampa Bay Storm in 1996, when he recorded 100 receptions for 1,258 yards and 30 touchdowns. LaFrance is tied with former teammate Stevie Thomas for the most touchdown receptions in ArenaBowl history with ten receiving scores in his career. He was the first player in League history to reach 20,000 career all-purpose yards and retired in 2000 as the League’s all-time leader in nearly every receiving category. He was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2011.
25 Greatest Receivers in Arena Football History
1. Eddie Brown
2. Damian Harrell
3. Chris Jackson
4. Barry Wagner
5. George LaFrance
6. James Roe
7. Hunkie Cooper
8. Calvin Schexnayder
9. Steve Thomas
10. Mike Horacek
11. Randy Gatewood
12. Lawrence Samuels
13. Siaha Burley
14. Cory Fleming
15. Greg Hopkins
16. Kevin Swayne
17. Dwayne Dixon
18. Gary Compton
19. Marcus Nash
20. Darryl Hammond
21. Will Pettis
22. Herkie Walls
23. Gary Mullen
24. TT Toliver
25. Jesse Schmidt
Bold Italics = Storm great
Italics = played with Storm at some point