Johnny Sample was a talented, trash-talking cornerback in the 1950s and 1960s who quickly wore out his welcome on every team for which he played in the pros. Drafted in the seventh round by the Colts in 1958, the industrious Sample played on NFL championship teams in his first two seasons. From his teammate Raymond Berry, Sample learned to keep meticulous notes on his opponents, ranking the receivers and quarterbacks in the league.
After his third season in Baltimore, Sample was traded to the Steelers. However, he did not get along with Pittsburgh Coach Buddy Parker and moved on to the Redskins after two seasons. Following his third year in Washington, the Redskins brought in new Coach Otto Graham, who Sample had despised since playing for Otto in the College All Star Game eight years earlier. Sample was blackballed from the NFL and signed with the AFL’s Jets under Weeb Ewbank, his former coach in Baltimore. Sample helped the Jets win Super Bowl III in his third year in New York and then again found himself on the outs with his team and the league; his 11-year career over.
A year later, Sample wrote his autobiography, Confessions of a Dirty Ballplayer, and it remains a lively read 46 years later. For example, Sample didn’t think too highly of Vince Lombardi either, commenting on the Packer coach:
“Lombardi, for instance, devotes a lot of time to things like making sure his players all wear white shirts and ties on road trips. As if that’s really going to make a difference. Meanwhile, he treats his players like animals and they’re supposed to take it.”
One of the most interesting parts of the book was Sample’s rankings of his contemporaries. He rates quarterbacks, according to five criteria: play selection, throwing the ball, ability to run, ability to throw both hard and soft passes and withstanding intimidation. Packer QBs Zeke Bratkowski and Bart Starr did not rank too highly with Sample:
It should be pointed out that Sample never faced Starr on the field in either a regular season or preseason game after the 1960 season when he was traded from the Colts, so he never played against Starr at his mature best.
(Custom card in 1968 Topps style.)