Saturday, February 6, 2016

Fred Williamson: "The Hammer Just Got Nailed!"

Topps football cards, 1966 1967 1968 1961 Fleer, TV Guide, Star Trek, Blaxploitation film

Super Bowl I, known originally as the First AFL-NFL World Championship Game, was played January 15, 1967 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.  In an effort to commemorate the game, NFL Films worked to reassemble every play from the game despite having to cull the footage from over 20 different sources. 

Although this game was not considered as important as the NFL Championship Game played two weeks before, Vince Lombardi was very nervous at the potential of losing to an AFL team.  The 'old guard' of the NFL was putting pressure on Lombardi – not only to win – but to win big as some lingering bad feelings between the leagues remained. Several Chiefs players were “scared to death.  Guys were throwing up in the tunnel,” according to Chiefs player E.J. Holub.  Adding to the tension, The Chief’s cornerback Fred “the Hammer” Williamson boasted to the press the week prior to the game about using his unorthodox karate forearm blows to take out Packer receivers Carroll Dale and Boyd Dowler. In one of the NFL's first shows of self-promotion, Williamson found out quickly how these things can backfire.

The first half was fairly close as Dowler left with an injury unrelated to any punishment Williamson handed out.  Surprisingly, Dowler’s replacement Max McGee lit up the All-Pro secondary of the Chiefs for 7 catches, 135 yards, and 2 touchdowns.  The 35-year-old did this despite only catching 4 passes all season, staying out all night before the game, and playing the game hungover!  By the fourth quarter, with the Packers starting to open up a commanding lead, Williamson was the recipient of a knee to the head when he tripped up Packer running back Donny Anderson on a Packer sweep.  He was taken from the field on a stretcher.  The irony of Williamson himself getting knocked out of the game only made him look more foolish as Packer players on the sideline celebrated with delight, shouting “the hammer just got nailed!"

Williamson, who had been signed as a free agent by the Steelers in 1960, played his rookie season in Pittsburgh.  After being switched to defense in training camp, he apparently was not pleased and began to play with too much aggression.  49ers Coach asked him to quit hammering his players, which is where the nickname originated.  He signed with the Oakland Raiders in 1961 and established himself as an AFL star from 1961-1965, being named to several All-Pro teams including three all star game appearances from 1961-1963.  He signed with the Chiefs in 1965 and played three seasons in Kansas City before spending his final pro season in Canada playing for the Montreal Alouettes in 1968.

After retiring Williamson began a tv and film career that started with an appearance on Star Trek and as Diahanne Carroll’s boyfriend on her show Julia.  He had film roles in the movie M*A*S*H and in several “blaxploitation” vehicles in the 1970s before settling in to typical action parts in the 80s and 90s.

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