Denver Bronco Legends: Goose Gonsoulin and East Coast Bias

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In what was to be the very first player transaction in Denver Broncos history, the team traded Fullback Jack Spikes of TCU to the Dallas Texans — now the Kansas City Chiefs — for Baylor defensive back Austin “Goose” Gonsoulin. This occurred right after the 1960 draft. 34 years later, Gonsoulin would be one of the original four Ring of Fame inductees for the team.

In Brian Howell’s book, he reports that the 1960 Broncos Media guide listed a scouting report on Goose. It was printed before Gonsoulin had even played a game in the Mile High city. It said that Austin,

“Had the size, speed and great hands to make him a potential great as a Defensive Back. Can do everything well and has amazing reactions in pass coverage.”

That proved to be prophetic, as Goose had seven Interceptions in his first three games, and finished his rookie year with a still franchise record 11 picks in 1960. He had a career long 64-yard “Pick Six” at Bears Stadium in a Week 5, 44-7 stomping of the Raiders in 1962.

That’s right. Goose was the first actual “Ball Hawk” Safety the Broncos had. In that inaugural season, the team ended up with a 4-9-1 record but they won their first contest. It came against the Boston Patriots and Goose had two picks to help Denver defeat the Patriots 13-10 at Nickerson Field, where the Boston Braves used to play.

His 1965 Topps football card had this to say on the back:

“When this aggressive player doesn’t “blitz” the quarterback, he lays back and pilfers off their passes. Like an uncaged tiger, he swarms all over the field causing the offensive team mayhem.”

Goose played in an era before the high dollar contracts and Free Agency made instant millionaires out of rookies. Most players held other jobs during the offseason and Austin spent his first two in the Army Reserves.

Gonsoulin’s career in Denver came to an unexpected abrupt end in 1967. The Broncos had hired Lou Saban to replace interim coach Ray Malavasi. Goose was a team captain, had yet to re-sign with the team and Training Camp. He drove up to Denver and was staying in a hotel when he got a call saying he had been placed on waivers. Coach Saban never talked with him, it just came out of the blue. Needless to say Goose was upset. He felt that he’d been good to the team and deserved a little courtesy about the whole ordeal.

Saban replaced him with (1967) 16th round Draft pick Jack Lentz. Austin’s Goose wasn’t cooked yet though. He had more left in the tank and signed with the San Francisco 49ers. Gonsoulin started only seven games in 1967 and finished with 3 Interceptions in an injury-filled season that turned out to be his last in the NFL.

Goose Gonsoulin spent 7 years as the Broncos Right Safety, with 43 Interceptions including 2 for Touchdowns. He had one Punt Return and a Kick Return of 38 yards. Gonsoulin’s amazing durability and toughness enabled him to start 61 consecutive games at one point in his career.

Some of Goose’s distinctions:

  • AFL All-Star in 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1966.

  • 2nd team, All-Time All-AFL

  • A member of the American Football League Hall of Fame.

  • All-Time AFL interception leader (43)

  • Inducted with the Inaugural Class to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame

Bronco Records held by Gonsoulin:

  • 2nd Most Career Interceptions (43)

  • Most Interceptions in a Season (11, 1960)

  • Tied for Most Interceptions in a Game (4) O’Neal, 2001 – Brown, 1964 – Gonsoulin,1960

  • Most Interceptions in a Season by a Rookie (11), 1960

  • Most Interceptions in a Game by a Rookie (4) at Buffalo, 9/18/60

Goose Gonsoulin might be the first Broncos to have been snubbed by the Hall of Fame committee’s “East Coast Bias.” There are 25 Defensive Backs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Goose finished his 8 career with 46 Interceptions in 108 games. That is a 5.75 per year average and one Interception every 2.34 games. Here is how he stacks up against the 25.

Pos. Player INTs TDs Years Seas/Avg Games Avg/Gm
S Jack Butler 52 4 9 5.78 103
S Goose Gonsoulin 46 2 8 5.75 108 1 every 2.34 games
S Jack Christiansen 46 3 8 5.75 89
DB Emlen Tunnell 79 4 14 5.64 167 1 every 2.11 games
CB Lem Barney 56 7 11 5.09 140
S Paul Krause 81 3 16 5.06 226 1 every 2.79 games
CB Night Train Lane 68 5 14 4.86 157
DB Tom Landry 32 3 7 4.57 82
Yale Lary 50 2 11 4.55 133
S Ronnie Lott 63 5 14 4.50 192 1 every 3.05 games
CB Emmitt Thomas 58 5 13 4.46 181
CB Dick LeBeau 62 3 14 4.43 185 1 every 2.98 games
CB Mel Blount 57 2 14 4.07 200
CB Herb Adderley 48 7 12 4.00 164
S Willie Wood 48 2 12 4.00 166
S Larry Wilson 52 5 13 4.00 169
CB Rod Woodson 71 2 15 3.91 238 1 every 3.35 games
CB Deion Sanders 53 6 13 3.78 188 1 every 3.55 games
DB Mel Renfro 52 3 13 3.71 174 1 every 3.35 games
S Ken Houston 49 9 14 3.50 196
CB Willie Brown 54 2 16 3.37 204
CB Mike Haynes 46 2 14 3.28 177
CB Jimmy Johnson 47 2 16 3.13 213
DB Don Shula 21 0 7 3.00 73
CB Roger Wehrli 40 2 14 2.86 193
CB Darrell Green 54 6 20 2.70 295

 

Now, lets compare the Goose with the six Hall of Fame inductees from his era. You can see that he has better production than all of them.

Pos. Player INTs TDs Years Seas/Avg Games Avg/Gm Career Span
S Goose Gonsoulin 46 2 8 5.75 108 1 every 2.34 games 1960-67
CB Dick LeBeau 62 3 14 4.43 185 1 every 2.98 games 1959-72
CB Herb Adderley 48 7 12 4.00 164 1960-72
S Willie Wood 48 2 12 4.00 166 1960-71
S Larry Wilson 52 5 13 4.00 169 1960-72
CB Willie Brown 54 2 16 3.37 204 1963-78
CB Jimmy Johnson 47 2 16 3.13 213 1961-76

How about the seven Hall of Famer’s who, like Goose, were strictly Safeties.

Pos. Player INTs TDs Years Seas/Avg Games Avg/Gm
S Jack Butler 52 4 9 5.78 103 1 every 1.98 games
S Goose Gonsoulin 46 2 8 5.75 108 1 every 2.34 games
S Jack Christiansen 46 3 8 5.75 89 1 every 1.93 games
S Paul Krause 81 3 16 5.06 226 1 every 2.79 games
S Ronnie Lott 63 5 14 4.50 192 1 every 3.05 games
S Willie Wood 48 2 12 4.00 166 1 every 3.45 games
S Larry Wilson 52 5 13 4.00 169 1 every 3.25 games
S Ken Houston 49 9 14 3.50 196 1 every 4 games

Again we see Gonsoulin has comparable statistics.

Is there room for Goose Gonsoulin in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? I sure think so. It only proves the aforementioned theory of “East Coast Bias,” one that has omitted several other Bronco players such as Randy Gradishar, Billy Thompson, Karl Mecklenburg and Terrell Davis among others.

Go Broncos!

– Kaptain Kirk

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