For my money, the coolest football nickname ever belongs to one-time Buffalo Bills wide receiver Elbert Dubenion. He was called “Golden Wheels.”
Come to think of it, his real name has to be one of the coolest ever, too.
Dubenion died yesterday at age 86. His death occurred on the 55th anniversary of the Bills’ victory over the San Diego Chargers in the AFL title game of 1964.
Jack Kemp was the Bills quarterback that day. Golden Wheels caught three passes for 56 yards. He rushed for nine yards in his only attempt.
That capped off a year in which Dubenion had 1139 in receiving yardage (in a 14 game season). His average yardage per catch was 27.1. As far as I can tell, in all of pro football history, only Jimmy Orr has had more yards per catch in a single season — 27.6 in 1958
Dubenion holds the record for the longest reception in AFL playoff history — 93 yards from Daryle Lamonica in 1963.
With these numbers, no one can deny that Dubenion lived up to the name “Golden Wheels.”
In some ways, Dubenion’s story typifies the AFL. He wasn’t drafted by an NFL team until the 14th round because (1) he came from a small college (Bluffton) and (2) he was 26 years old. The Cleveland Browns cut him before the season began.
That was in 1959. The AFL formed the following year, and Dubenion got his shot in Buffalo. He was an instant success, with 752 receiving yards (in 14 games) and eight touchdowns.
Dubenion played for eight years, all in Buffalo. He retired at the age of 35, becoming a scout for the Bills.
RIP, Golden Wheels.