The 1965 NFL Draft was actually held on November 28, 1964 at the Summit Hotel on Lexington Avenue in New York City. The hotel was owned by the Tisch family (Loew’s) who are now half-owners of the New York Football Giants.
The hotel, which is now the Metropolitan Hotel, was once referred to as “the most hated hotel in New York.”
For New York Giants fans, it was the site of one in a series of frustrating NFL Drafts. That year, they held the first overall pick by virtue of their 2-10-2, their first losing record since 1953.
The Giants took who they (and many others) felt was the best and safest pick in the draft, Auburn fullback Tucker Frederickson — a no-brainer. Frederickson was a 6-foot-2, 200-pound All-American who was the MVP of the SEC as a senior.
“Tucker Frederickson was the Bo Jackson of his day,” recalled an Auburn classmate. “Boy, he was a dandy! He had power mixed with speed. He weighed 225 and in that day, he was a big back. Coach Bryant said he was gonna send him a graduation card because he was so happy to see him leave.”
The Giants needed to replenish their star arsenal after Allie Sherman began to euthanize much of his aging roster and Y.A. Tittle hung up his cleats. Frederickson was the perfect pick, a strapping kid who the Giants could rebuild around.
That year, the draft was stacked with talent. Even if a team did secure the rights to a player through the draft, there was no guarantee they would get the player under contract. The fledgling AFL was gaining in popularity and power and held their draft the very same day. Many players were selected by teams in both leagues and leveraged the leagues against each other to obtain a better contract.
That scared the Giants and much of the NFL old guard, who were operating under the league’s draconian structure. The AFL owners were a consortium of oilmen, entrepreneurs and speculators looking to grow their brands. They had the resources to outbid many of the NFL owners for players. The league had also just inked a lucrative contract with NBC to televised games (ironically brokered by Jay Michaels — Al’s father).
Frederickson was courted by the Denver Broncos, but decided to take the Giants’ offer and headed to New York.
“It was no big deal, even back then,” Frederickson said about his entrance into the NFL. “There was no hoopla, no TV coverage. It was casual; no ‘war room.’”
No one questioned the selection and wouldn’t for some years as Frederickson was a Pro Bowler as a rookie. His career then hit the skids after a knee injury kept him out the next season. He would never regain the form he had as a rookie and was out of football by 1971.
In retrospect, the Giants passed on a ton of talented players to pick Frederickson, who seemed invincible when he first got here. Little did they know, even a player of his build and character could be reduced to mere mortal status by injury. It would begin a long period of bad luck and misfortune for the Giants.
The first round of the 1965 draft went as follows: Fredrickson, followed by fullback Ken Willard (49ers), linebackers Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers (Bears), quarterback Craig Morton (Cowboys), defensive end Steve DeLong (Bears, signed with AFL), running back Donny Anderson (Packers), wide receiver Jack Snow (Vikings) and linebacker Mike Curtis (Colts).
The Cardinals selected quarterback Joe Namath with the 12th pick, but they had no shot of signing him in a bidding war with the New York Jets and Sonny Werblin. Also selected in this draft: wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, taken in the 3rd round by the Lions. Biletnikoff, naturally signed with the Raiders of the AFL and went on to become a hall of famer.
The Bears alone with the selection of Butkus and Sayers — two iconic Hall of Famers — should have been a powerhouse after this draft but they never got there. Like Frederickson, Sayers wrecked his knee, too, shortening his career.
The Giants gave Frederickson a $30,000 signing bonus and a three-year contract worth $27,500 per year. By contrast, Werblin gave Namath a $427,000 contract.
“I learned my economics lesson quick,” Frederickson said.
“I didn’t have a great athletic experience in New York, but I had a great overall experience in New York. I wish the athletic career could have been a little bit better but that’s the name of the game. One little injury and that’s it.”