Here’s a fact that should make Chargers fans shudder: Alworth could have spent his career with the Raiders. He was drafted by Oakland in 1962, but the Raiders traded his rights to San Diego for three forgettable players. Alworth then played nine unforgettable seasons with the Chargers, plus two more in Dallas. He was the ideal combination of speed and hands for a receiver, and his agility on the field earned him the nickname “Bambi.” Alworth led the American Football League in receptions three times, receiving yards three times and receiving touchdowns three times. He averaged 19.4 yards per catch as a Charger. He was part of the Chargers’ 1963 championship team and part of the Cowboys’ 1971 Super Bowl championship team. In 1978, he became the first AFL player inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Air Coryell needed a pilot, and Dan was the man. A third-round draft choice out of Oregon in 1973, Fouts played five nondescript seasons before uniting with coach Don Coryell four games into the 1978 season. The pairing launched the Chargers to four straight playoff appearances, starting in 1979. Fouts’ quick release and reads allowed him to thrive in Coryell’s system, which relied on timing and mismatches. The burly, bearded passer was the first to throw for 4,000 yards in three straight seasons and the third to reach 40,000 in a career. He played 15 NFL seasons, all in San Diego, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.
Seau’s decision to leave USC early paid off when his hometown Chargers made him the fifth pick of the 1990 draft. He played 13 seasons in San Diego and made the Pro Bowl in each of the last 12. Seau then played three years in Miami and four in New England, but he’s remembered best for his aggressive, sideline-to-sideline freelancing as the unquestioned leader of the Chargers defense. He rushed the passer (56.5 sacks), attacked the run (1,524 tackles) and was able to drop back in coverage when needed (18 career interceptions). The Chargers’ only Super Bowl appearance came with Seau as the star attraction, in 1994.
The Chargers traded down from top spot of the 2001 draft, and a chance to select Michael Vick, and never had a moment of regret after landing Tomlinson at No. 5. Tomlinson was brilliant in his nine seasons in San Diego, using his speed and power to gain 12,490 yards rushing. He had another 3,955 yards on 530 receptions. Tomlinson was at his best near the goal line. He scored an NFL-record 31 touchdowns in 2006, including a record 28 rushing. He was the first running back to have 100 receptions and gain 1,000 yards rushing in the same season (2003). Injuries and age slowed Tomlinson toward the end of his Chargers tenure, but he still wanted to be a featured back. The team released him after the 2009 season, and he had a bounce-back season after signing with the Jets in 2010.
Winslow, who played for the Chargers from 1979-87, was the ultimate toy for coach Don Coryell and spurred his offensive creativity to new dimensions. Coryell and Winslow redefined the position of tight end. Winslow didn’t have to stay anchored to the line to slow the pass rush. Instead, he’d be a “hot” receiver on blitzes, take quick passes, break tackles just behind the line and turn the short passes into first-down gains. He ran screens. He lined up wide to create one-on-one mismatches with undersized defenders. He was a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. Winslow was the first tight end to lead the NFL in receptions two straight years (1980-81) and was a five-time Pro Bowl pick. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.