Having discussed the least "honorable" members of the Chargers' Ring of Honor, it's now time to discuss the biggest snubs. Let's jump straight into it:
It's an absolute joke that Leslie isn't a member of the Chargers' Ring of Honor. A first round pick in 1986, Leslie wasted no time in becoming an important part of the Chargers defense, as he registered 12.5 sacks in his rookie season en route to winning the NFL Defense Rookie of the Year award. He won that award despite blowing out his knee in Week 14, which actually wiped out his entire sophomore season in addition to the prematurely ending his rookie campaign.
Upon his return from injury, Leslie was the beast we all remember him as, rattling off six Pro Bowl seasons over a seven year span. Leslie was also an integral part of the Chargers Super Bowl run, putting up 12.5 sacks and forcing two fumbles in the '94 season.
All in all, Leslie O'Neal is the Chargers' all-time sack leader at 105.5. In fact, the gap between Leslie O'Neal and second place on the Chargers' all-time list, Shaun Phillips, is more sacks than Shawne Merriman put up in his entire career.
More laughable than O'Neal's blatant snub was the even more egregious snub last season, when the Chargers allowed fans to select the next Chargers' Ring of Honor player from a short list of eligible players...and Leslie wasn't even on that list (which ultimately resulted in Darren Bennett's selection over Natrone Means and Anthony Miller)!
Leslie O'Neal actually has a reasonable, albeit fringe, argument for entry into the NFL Hall of Fame; his inclusion in the Chargers' Ring of Honor should be a no-brainer.
Kenny Graham is another player who should be a no-brainer for inclusion in the Chargers' Ring of Honor. Though he only played for the Bolts for six seasons, from 1964-1969, Graham was a star defender (at Strong Safety) each season. From 1965-1969, Graham was either a Pro Bowler or a 1st team All-Pro in every season.
Graham's prowess as a defensive back was so prolific in this period that he's actually a member of the AFL All-Time Team, and has been referred to as the hardest hitter in the league at the time by Jets great Emerson Boozer. Yet, somehow, he's not a member of the Chargers' Ring of Honor.
In fact, there are only two defensive backs that have ever been inducted in the Chargers' Ring of Honor: Gill Byrd and Speedy Duncan (whose induction was probably related to special teams skill as much as it was his defensive back skill). I'm not sure if there's some sort of institutional bias against defensive backs (or why that would be the case), but I am sure that Kenny Graham should be in the Chargers' Ring of Honor.
Dick Harris's career as a Charger started fast as he made two All-Pro teams in '60 and '61. (Note: Harris is the only Chargers DB to be named to two All-Pro teams). However, after suffering an injury in 1964, he lost his job to Speedy Duncan. Upset with not starting, Harris retired at the end of 1965.
Given the lax standards set at the inaugural induction, and Harris's production for the early Chargers teams, it's a wonder how Harris was left off. As morbid as it sounds, if Harris had died between the time he played for the Chargers and the team's inaugural induction in 1976, he's probably a member of the Chargers' Ring of Honor. I don't necessarily think that Harris's production is entirely deserving of the nod, but I do think he was snubbed in that initial Ring of Honor class considering the other former Chargers players that got in.
Only one Chargers linebacker can boast about having more games played and carAV than Woodrow Lowe: Junior Seau. Over an 11 year span, Lowe started 151 games for the Bolts and intercepted more balls (21) than any Chargers linebacker ever. Sacks and tackles were not recorded until 1982 and 1994, so we have to go off anecdotal evidence...but Lowe was known as a good run stuffer and a decent blitzer to go along with his clear ball hawking skills.
In 2010, Lowe was inducted into the Alabama Hall of Fame for his three All-American seasons in the 70s; it's about time he was inducted into the Chargers'Ring of Honor.
Billy Ray Smith
A first round pick by the Chargers in 1983, Billy Ray Smith spent his entire career as a San Diego Charger, playing in the third most games of any Chargers linebacker. Over those 125 games, Billy Ray compiled the 4th best carAV for a Chargers linebacker, while providing the team with roster flexibility: Billy Ray played several different linebacking positions as a Charger, bouncing outside for several seasons (including a double-digit sack performance in 1986) after playing as a Mike linebacker at the beginning of his career.
Billy Ray was a 2nd team All-Pro in 1989 (according to the now-defunct N.E.A.) after being the team MVP in '87 and the Chargers' defensive POY in '85 and '86.
Perhaps Billy Ray is now best known for the radio show he co-hosts on AM 1090 every evening, but he should be better remembered for his solid Chargers career and for pulling real-life Veronica Corningstone (ie. Kimberly Hunt) before the legend of Ron Burgundy ever existed. While I don't think he was necessarily a superstar with an overwhelming case like Leslie O'Neal, I think Billy Ray stacks up favorably against several players who are members of the Chargers' Ring of Honor, and is justified if he feels a little snubbed.