Chargers By The (Jersey) Numbers: #15

Jersey #15 is quite different from jersey #14.  It's not a retired number, and while a legendary player has worn it with the Chargers....he wasn't with the team very long.  Actually, none of the nominees were with the team for more than four seasons.  So for possibly the only time between now and #22, we have a close race!  Your nominees and winner after the jump.

One-year guys:

  • David Archer - David played in six NFL seasons, starting for two less-than-stellar seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.  He was a backup quarterback with the Chargers in 1989, completing 5 of 12 passes and throwing an interception.  After getting cut by the Chargers, Archer had a long and successful career in the WLAF and CFL.
  • Jon Brittenum - In 1968, a 24 year old Brittenum was a backup quarterback with the San Diego Chargers.  Although he started no games, he completed 9 of his 17 passes and threw 1 TD to go with 1 interception.  I have no idea what happened to him after that.
  • Toni Fritsch - In 1971, Tom Landry, coach of the Dallas Cowboys, went to Europe looking for strong-legged soccer players.  The first city he went to was Vienna, and the first player he tried was Fritsch.  Though hardly speaking any English at all, Fritsch decided to take a chance.  He accepted the offer, moved to the US and joined the National Football League team as a placekicker.  In 1972, he won the Super Bowl with his team, and remains the only Austrian having done so. In 1976, he switched to the San Diego Chargers, kicking in five games with the Bolts and making only 6 of 12 field goal attempts.  He later became one of the league's most accurate kickers as a Houston Oiler.
  • Mike Mercer - Mercer spent the first half of his decade-long career as a Punter/Kicker and the second-half as a placekicker only.  In 1970, Mercer made 12 of 19 field goals for the Bolts and added a handful of punts to boot (I'm assuming he spent a game filling in for an injured punter).  Mercer went to the 1967 Pro Bowl as a kicker for the Bills.
  • Todd Philcox - Todd was a backup quarterback in the NFL for nine seasons, mostly with the Cleveland Browns.  In 1997 he appeared in 2 games as a Charger, completing 16 of 28 passes and throwing an interception.

Contenders:

  • Don Breaux - Don played two seasons with the Chargers as a backup quarterback, but only saw the field in the 1965 season.  As a Bolt, Breaux completed 22 of 43 passes and threw 2 TDs against 4 interceptions.
  • Ray Wersching - Yes, that Ray Wersching.  Ray was signed by the Chargers in 1973 as an undrafted free agent and was the starting placekicker for four seasons.  In 51 games with San Diego, Wersching made 47.1% of his kicks and 90.4% of his extra point attempts.  After being replaced by Rolf Benirschke, Ray signed on with the San Francisco 49ers and the rest is history.  From Wersching's Wikipedia:

In Super Bowl XVI, Wersching tied a Super Bowl record by kicking 4 field goals, and his team won 26-21. He won another Super Bowl ring with the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX, who defeated the Miami Dolphins, 38-16. When he retired, Wersching held 49ers records for points, field goals and extra points. He is the twelfth player in NFL history to score 1,000 points in a career. Ray had a unique kicking style as in upon crossing the out of bound line onto the field he always looked down never raising his head until after the kick.

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via www.wheatstatecardz.com

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via latimesblogs.latimes.com

Jack Kemp, QB. With a haircut you could set your watch to, and a brain that made him even more famous after football, Kemp was without a doubt one of the best quarterbacks of his era.  First, the stats:

Year Team Record Comp% PassTD INT QB Rating RushTD
1960 LAC 9-3 52 20 25 67.1 8
1961 SDC 12-2 45.3 15 22 59.2 6

 

To avoid any confusion, LAC stands for "Los Angeles Chargers".  Those numbers may not seem like much in today's pass-happy league, but they were impressive.  Double-impressive considering he was a rookie in 1960.  In 1960 he was a first-team All Pro and in 1961 he was a Pro Bowler.  In a boneheaded attempt to "hide" Kemp after he broke his finger in 1962, coach Sid Gillman placed Kemp on waivers.  He was claimed by the Buffalo Bills, who only had to pay a $100 waiver fee to get him.  He was the starting QB for the Bills for six seasons afterwards, making the Pro Bowl in five of those seasons.

However, for all his accomplishments in the AFL, Kemp is probably best known for his own political career.  He spent eighteen years as a part of Congress before a presidential bid in 1988.  After losing due to a messy campaign, Jack was named to George H.W. Bush's cabinet as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  Kemp later ran as the Vice Presential candidate for Bob Dole in the 1996 election against Bill Clinton.

The timing of Kemp's death, January of 2009, is especially upsetting considering the AFL celebration that will go on throughout the 2009 NFL season.  Kemp is one of the two or three greatest quarterbacks in AFL history and was a big part of the Chargers' early history.  We'll remember him here, as he will represent Chargers jersey #15.

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