16. WFL defectors – Anthony Davis, Steve Thompson, John Elliott, Bob Parrish, Mike Taylor
A majority of people reading this probably either weren’t born yet or don’t remember much about the World Football League. In the mid-1970s, this rival football league poached many NFL players. At the time, it was huge because the WFL offered big contracts, and aside from teams losing good players, the upstart league almost blew up the NFL’s salary structure.
Several prominent players signed contracts with WFL teams. Some played (i.e., Larry Csonka and Paul Warfield). Others signed but never took a snap, such as Ken Stabler, Curley Culp, and Bill Bergey. Because of the volatile finances of several WFL franchises, teams folded or could afford to hold up their end of the contract.
The Jets lost several very good players to the WFL. The defections of Steve Thompson (DL), John Elliott (DL), Bob Parrish (DE), and Mike Taylor (LB) almost gutted the Gang Green front seven. Parrish was a three-time Pro-Bowl selection who played 85 games in green and white.
Of the four, Taylor, who the New York Jets selected in the first round of the 1972 NFL Draft, hurt the most. Two years later, he jumped ship to the Detroit Wheels. A former All-American at the University of Michigan, Taylor was signed to spearhead, Detroit’s defense. Too bad the Wheels could only win one game. None of the four defectors played in the NFL again.
Anthony Davis was a loss that can’t be quantified. A two-sport star, he won five national championships while at USC, two for football and three for baseball. In 1974, Davis was the runner up to Archie Griffin for the Heisman Trophy. The Jets selected him the following year in round two. Unwilling to meet his salary demands, Davis signed with the Southern California Sun.
He led the WFL in rushing with 1,200 yards and had 1,816 all-purpose yards. Davis also had 18 touchdowns in 12 games, accounting for 133 points. When California folded the following year, he became the CFL’s first million-dollar player. But his career was all downhill after 1975.