Kick re­turner was ag­ile on the field, tune­ful in locker room

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS WEEKEND - By Mike Klinga­man mike.klinga­man@balt­ twit­­man

The punt sails sky­ward, then falls to­ward the wait­ing arms of the Colts’ kick re­turner as would-be tack­lers close in. Does Alvin Haymond sig­nal fair catch? Never. In­stead, Haymond grabs the ball, feints left, darts right, eludes a wave of flail­ing arms and jit­ter­bugs his way up­field for a healthy gain.

As he trots to the side­line at Me­mo­rial Sta­dium, Haymond passes quar­ter­back Johnny Uni­tas. Though a man of few words, Uni­tas ac­knowl­edges the run­back. “Hey, man, good job,” he says. Time and again, that scene played out dur­ing Haymond’s four years in Bal­ti­more. From 1964 through 1967, the Colts went 42-11-3, in part be­cause of his stel­lar work on spe­cial teams, or sui­cide squads. Twice, in 1965 and1966, Hay­mon­dled the NFLin punt re­turns with 750 to­tal yards. A threat on kick­offs as well, he av­er­aged 30.7 yards per run­back in 1965.

Fear­less field­ing punts, Haymond rarely called for a fair catch, gam­bling that his quick­ness would side­step trou­ble.

“For the most part, with one or two moves, I could beat the guys who were right on top of me,” he said. “Run­ning that fast, they couldn’t re­act fast enough to lay a hand on me. Some­times it back­fired and I got my bell rung just as I caught the ball. But of­ten I gained enough yards to give the of­fense good field po­si­tion.”

Now74, Haymond — a re­tired high school coach and ath­letic di­rec­tor — leads a quiet life in San Jose, Calif. The man who once gal­va­nized Colts fans with his dar­ing moves en­joys fish­ing for large-mouth bass on the shim­mer­ing lakes of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Foot­ball took its toll on No. 30, who has un­der­gone knee and hip re­place­ments as well as surg­eries to his back, neck, shoul­der, el­bow, hand and wrist.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been cut up,” he said. Yet he still works out daily and flirts with his play­ing weight of 195.

An 18th-round draft pick from South­ern, Haymond wowed the Colts staff on his ar­rival at train­ing camp in 1964.

“The first day, I ran 40 yards in 4.5 sec­onds,” he said. “A coach asked, ‘Can you do that again?’ So I did.”

In four years in Bal­ti­more, Haymond gained 2,074 yards on run­backs but never scored.

“I got caught from be­hind a num­ber of times,” he said. “I didn’t have the en­durance to stretch it out.”

As a de­fen­sive back, he had nine in­ter­cep­tions, re­turn­ing two for touch­downs. Against Wash­ing­ton in 1965, Haymond stole a pass from the Red­skins’ Sonny Jur­gensen and raced 30 yards to the end zone. There, he did some­thing no NFL player had ever done: He spread his arms in cel­e­bra­tion.

“Why? Ju­bi­la­tion, I guess,” he said. “I just rolled the ball off my fin­ger­tips and threw my hands in the air as if to say, ‘Look at me, y’all.’ ” Coach Don Shula was not amused. “What do you think you’re do­ing?” he ranted on the side­line. “I was happy, Coach,” Haymond said. Never again, Shula vowed. “To him, it was un­sports­man­like con­duct,” Haymond said. “To­day, no­body would think twice.”

Dealt away in 1968, he con­tin­ued to ex­cel. With the Los An­ge­les Rams, he led the NFL in punt-re­turn yards in 1969 and kick­of­fre­turn yards in 1970. Two years later, play­ing with Wash­ing­ton, Haymond reached the Su­per Bowl, then re­tired in 1974. His best mem­o­ries? “The re­la­tion­ships with the play­ers,” he said. “With the Colts, we’d sing in the locker room — me, [run­ning back] Tony Lorick and [re­ceivers] Wil­lie Richardson and Neal Pet­ties. We’d break out into stuff by the Plat­ters, the Temp­ta­tions and the Mir­a­cles. We re­ally har­mo­nized. And when we sang, Uni­tas was the first per­son there to lis­ten. He loved it, man.” Of­ten, Uni­tas took part — in his own way. “John would lip-sync the tunes we were singing, right along with us,” Haymond said. “Watch­ing him mouth the words to ‘My Girl,’ well, I just fell down laugh­ing.”

Alvin Haymond twice led the NFL in punt-re­turn yards while with the Colts, in 1965 and1966.

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