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An All-American football player at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1961, Lance Dwight “Bambi” Alworth was the first player from the American Football League (AFL) to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Lance Alworth was born on August 3, 1940, in Houston, Texas, to Richard R. Alworth, an oilfield construction executive, and Elizabeth L. Parrish Alworth, a teacher. When he was a child, his family moved to Hog Chain, Mississippi, where his father’s company, Humble Oil, had an operation. At high school in nearby Brookhaven, Alworth won fifteen letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track.
The New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates both offered Alworth contracts to play professional baseball, but his father persuaded him to pursue a football scholarship so that he could receive a college education.
Because the University of Mississippi would not allow married students on the football team (Alworth had married while he was still in high school), Alworth chose UA, where he played for Frank Broyles. Alworth starred as a running back and led the nation’s college players in punt return yardage in 1960 and 1961. A marketing major, he was named an Academic All-American in 1961.
In 1962, Alworth joined the San Diego Chargers of the AFL, where he was moved from running back to flanker. One of his teammates started calling him “Bambi” because he had a baby face and could run like a deer, and the nickname stuck for the rest of his career.
Alworth missed most of his rookie season with a torn muscle in his right thigh, but he became a star in 1963, his second season, when he caught sixty-one passes for 1,205 yards and eleven touchdowns. He was named to the All-AFL team for seven consecutive seasons, 1963 to 1969.
The Chargers traded him to the Dallas Cowboys in 1971. He retired after two seasons in Dallas. During his professional career, he caught 542 passes for 10,266 yards and eighty-five touchdowns.
Alworth had two children with his first wife, Betty Allen. They divorced in 1969, and he married Marilyn Joyce Lewis Gallo the following year. They had three children, only one of whom survived infancy. They divorced in 1979, and he married Laura Churchill in 1997.
After retiring from football, Alworth’s first business venture, an industrial real estate firm, ended in bankruptcy. In 1976, he founded a mini-storage company, All-Aboard Mini Storage, Inc., which now owns twenty-six storage facilities throughout California.
In 1984, Alworth was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. His number, 19, was retired by the Chargers in 2005, and in November of the following year, Alworth served as honorary Arkansas captain for the UA game against Tennessee at Fayetteville.
For additional information:Mendell, Ronald L., and Timothy B. Phares. Who’s Who in Football. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1974.
Porter, David S., ed. Biographical Dictionary of American Sports: Football. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987.
Smith, Don R. Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Time Greats. New York: Gallery Books, 1988.
Ralph HickokNew Bedford, Massachusetts
Last Updated 6/23/2014
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