Art Powell, the 1956 NCAA statistical leader in pass receiving who would become one of the top players in the American Football League, died on April 6 at age 78 in the San Diego, California area.
Mr. Powell came to San Jose State in 1956 from San Diego Junior College as a highly-regarded football and basketball player. He played on the 1956 Spartan football team and 1957 basketball squad.
In football, Mr. Powell finished first in the nation for pass receiving with 40 receptions for 583 yards and five touchdowns and sixth nationally in kickoff returns with a 23.9 yard average. The big-play threat for San Jose State gained 182 yards rushing averaging 10.1 yards per carry. His teammates included future NFL Super Bowl winning head coach Dick Vermeil and future San Jose State football head coach Claude Gilbert. Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh was a graduate assistant on the Bob Bronzan-coached Spartans during the 1956 season.
Mr. Powell played nine games for the San Jose State basketball team after the football season and averaged 10.5 points per game. He also was a high jumper on the 1956 San Jose State freshman track and field team.
The Dallas, Texas native began his professional football career in 1957 as a member of the Montreal team in the Canadian Football League. The 1959 season was his first in the National Football League playing 12 games for the Philadelphia Eagles. Mr. Powell's pro career took off in 1960 when he signed with the New York Titans of the new American Football League (AFL). After three seasons, Mr. Powell signed with the Oakland Raiders in 1963 and became the franchise's premier wide receiver of the 1960's earning All-AFL honors in each of his four seasons with the club.
Mr. Powell was traded to the Buffalo Bills in 1967 - the season the Raiders would advance to Super Bowl II with Daryle Lamonica at quarterback obtained by Oakland in the four-player trade. Mr. Powell concluded his career in 1968 with the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL.
A member of the San Jose State Sports Hall of Fame, Mr. Powell was named to the all-time All-AFL Team. He caught 479 passes, all but one playing in the AFL, and scored all 81 his touchdowns for Oakland (50), New York (27) and Buffalo (4). He also was inducted into San Diego's Breitbard Hall of Fame in 2007 for his athletics accomplishments at San Diego High and San Diego Junior College.
"What people fail to realize is I tried to live the American Dream. I reached for the sky; I refused to have somebody tell me I couldn't go where I didn't belong. Most of my career was during the 1960's and this country was going through social change. A lot of things that happened when I was playing didn't have anything to do with me; I just happened to be a part of the times. There were things that I did that other people didn't like, though those people weren't sitting in my shoes," Mr. Powell said in a 1992 Los Angeles Times interview on his pursuit for racial and social equality.
Mr. Powell is survived by his wife, Betty, four siblings, two daughters and six grandchildren. According to a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune, no memorial service is being planned.