Bob Carroll of the Professional Football Reseachers Association carefully watched over the production of the article, "A Gleam of Dawn" written a couple of years ago. He also did the illustration of Warren Wells.
"A Gleam of Dawn" was written under my real name. It is republished in an attempt to share some of the history of a senior Oakland Raider, who some recognize as one of the greatest wide receivers on Oakland's squad.
The honor of having limited exposure to this great athlete, Warren Wells, has broaden my awareness of the challenges and struggles of celebrity in the NFL, and with the Oakland Raiders. The hope is that the young Oakland Raiders will focus on the lessons to be learned and the pitfalls to be avoided. Wells was almost at the peak of his career when unusual circumstances stormed through his life.
In 2007 after 27 years of no contact with Wells, I was compelled to contact him. At that time, I felt strong enough to deal with some rather painful issues that clouded the life of my college friend.
Even now, I sometimes shed tears when I think about all that Wells has endured. Even more tears are shed when I read of the calamities that have clouded the lives of many active and retired NFL players and other athletes.
Recently the owner of a restaurant invited me to show him some of my articles, an oil painting soon to be completed by V. Corona, and pictures of Wells.
Southern Delight, a fine restaurant, located on Washington Boulevard in Beaumont, Texas has a display of many of the great athletes from the Golden Triangle, in the Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange area of Texas.
Floyd Dixon, the owner of the restaurant wanted to display some of my articles on his wall. I told him I preferred he considered displaying a picture of Wells and this article to commemorate the contributions Wells made on the playing field.
I mentioned to him the research started on about sixteen other senior athletes from the Golden Triangle area in Texas.
Wells has been called the prototype wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders.
John Madden, the Raiders winningest coach, reportedly said that Wells was one of the most talented athletes he coached. Dixon reminded me of that comment.
On this day, may we celebrate the collaborations that have helped produce this article. It is never too late to say "Thank you."
This writer is grateful to have learned some very special lessons from Bob Carroll, Gene Upshaw, Bud Johnson, Coach Black, and others who have passed away.
Gratitude is expressed to Pastor C. L. Jackson, Pastor Thomas Jones, Pastor G. Lee, Pastor T. Wilson, R. Wells, Warren Wells, and others who encouraged me in this sportswriting project.
Thanks to B/R for giving me a place to publish and to engage in forums on sports. So much has been learned from my colleagues on the B/R website.
The fresh air and new hope of the Oakland Raiders being restored to a more honorable place in the NFL is like a ray of sunlight, a gleam of dawn, giving both the fans, retired Oakland Raiders and others a feeling of renewal.
The Article - A Gleam of Dawn
A Big Game in 1970
In 1939, Duke Ellington gave Billy Strayhorn directions to get to Ellington’s house by the New York City subway: “Take the ‘A’ Train.” In December 1970, I gave Warren Wells the same directions to get to Brooklyn Heights to bring me tickets to one of the big games between the Raiders and Jets. Wells found his way to make the delivery on Orange Street in Brooklyn Heights. I found my way to Shea stadium to witness a professional football game.
Wells had told me that he had a great year in professional football and he wanted me to see him play. I had never watched him play at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. I was too busy struggling to make A’s in mathematics, but I sensed there was something special about Warren. His eyes were dark, and he had a fearless gaze that was unsettling to those who did not know him.
At the game I personally witnessed one of the greatest catches in Wells’ career.
In Shea Stadium on December 6, 1970, on a cold, wet day the Jets were dominating the game. The stakes were high that day, for the Raiders wanted a shot at first place in the Western Division, the playoffs, and a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
Something miraculous happened at a time when the clock was showing eight seconds remaining. The score was 13-7 on the fourth down at the Jets 33-yard line. People started jumping, screaming, and yelling. I was too short and had to stretch to see what had happened.
I knew Warren was far out close to the goal, for he always had that knack to get out there near the goal fast, but everyone was jumping, and yelling all around me. Daryl Lamonica threw a long pass into the endzone, and although there was a crowd in the area Warren Wells caught the football in what I recall was almost a horizontal position. After that, all it took was George Blanda’s kick to win the game with a final score of 14-13 in the Raiders favor.
All state receiver in high school
Under the legendary coaching of Clifton Ozen at Beaumont Hebert High School in Texas, Wells was an all-state receiver in 1959.
So many talented high school athletes came from the Golden Triangle Area (Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas) that Wells was considered average, according to a quote in 1997 in the Austin-American Statesman by Enous Minix, assistant to the late Clifton Ozen. “Wells was one of the dozens of talented athletes whose roots were in the old Prairie View Interscholastic League, once the governing body of Black high schools in Texas.”
TSU Football led by Coach Alexander Durley
We encountered each other again in February 2007.
He said to me quietly, for Wells always did have a quietness about him, “We met in the Nabrit Science building in 1962, and I was on my way to Mrs. Corinne Newell’s mathematics class.”
I was amazed because I am analytical and he was both analytical and seemed to have a photographic memory, even at 65 years old. He was an elementary education major with a football scholarship.
The year we met was the year that Coach Alexander Durley led the TSU team to an overall 7-3-0 (W-L-T), and finished second in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, followed by an overall 7-3-0, ranking second again in 1963 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
In 1963 Wells was the “Seasonal Scoring Leader,” grabbing 71 points with those gifted hands. In career receiving, Wells ranks 13th in the TSU data with 21 TDs, 80 catches, totaling 1,398 yards. In 1963, Wells had 37 receptions, totaling 849 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Herman Driver had more receptions (39) that year , but Wells exceeded him in yards by 203, while Driver had eight TDs in that year.
In 1964, Wells was drafted by the Detroit Lions, and I remember him coming to the TSU campus, telling me that he was going to give his bonus to his family so that they could purchase a new home.
Behind those piercing eyes was a kind-hearted man, who put his family first. He was born in Franklin, Louisiana, November 14, 1942. His loving parents Henry and Julia Wells raised four sons, and a daughter.
His brother Oscar Wells passed away in 1982, and that loss grieved him. He left Houston in 1982, and resides in Beaumont, Texas near his brothers, Russell and Tony and in regular fellowship with other members of his extended family. Some saw him as a man to be feared on the football field, and perhaps in life, but I always saw a gentle man, strong but sensitive.
Wells was drafted in the 12th round, pick 160 in 1964. His potential was not evident to Detroit, and the US Army interrupted his career. He was stationed in Alaska in 1965-1966., receiving an honorable discharge.
His determination and discipline prepared him for a position with the Oakland Raiders. Scout Lloyd Wells helped him get to the Oakland Raiders. Lloyd Wells, one of the first African American scouts in professional football knew Wells at Texas Southern and had faith that Wells would emerge as an outstanding wide receiver. Wells played 56 games with the Raiders (nine with the Detroit Lions), scoring a career total of 258 points with 42 touchdowns.
The numbers tell a story
Now after more than 38 years, Wells statistics still look impressive.
For example, in 1969 he had 1,260 yards, and average of 26.8 and 14 TDs. According to the data and videos, Wells career was short but illustrious; his moves were graceful and he could “cut” or change direction like no other player during his prime. His nickname was “War Horse” and his long, slender legs galloped to the goal line, making him one of the most respected wide receivers in professional football.
Wells had movie-star looks, which attracted a lot of distractions and caused some legal and personal challenges.
According to a January 17, 1982 article, written by Dwain Price, of the Beaumont Enterprise, “Warren Wells was a target, gullible toward its (Oakland’s) swift talkers. He met Jewel Barksdale, wife of former Baltimore Bullet Don Barksdale, one night at a party which she (Jewel) invited him to by calling his home. The article states “My wife said I’d gotten a call from Jewel and that I was invited to a birthday party.” Mrs. Barksdale, whom he was aware was married at the time, displayed extreme interest in him.”
In the article Wells stated that the lady made advances toward him at a party and the two left in Warren’s ’69 Riviera and stayed out until 4 a.m.
Don Barksdale was in the media and rather astute. He, too, was a professional athlete, who was successful in radio and who owned nightclubs in Oakland.
Wells’ nightmare began.
The accusations and trauma of the event has taken a toll on him. The article continues, “Wells frequently cashed his checks at Don Barksdale club,” and Barksdale’s wife was bold enough to willingly leave the party with Wells. Bubba Smith is quoted as saying, “Everybody in Oakland knows about it (the actual truth contrary to Jewel’s accusations).” The legal battles that ensued caused his career to be truncated.
Others affirm that he has paid his dues to society, but the world ceases to forget, although it may forgive.
In 1971, Wells' wife filed for and was granted a divorce, and the article quotes him, “That left me broke.” “I fell about 25 feet overboard after that and had to start from the bottom,” he said in the article. Those close to him know that he has never completely recovered from those past episodes. Presently, Wells, at 65 years old, has a supportive group of friends and relatives who chauffeur him to church, to community activities, and to vote.
Wells’ career was short, but spectacular.
What is to be remembered is his contribution to professional football as a team-minded player with the Oakland Raiders. We salute the contributions of Mr. Warren Wells, whose main focus was to get to the goal and have a victory —a touchdown!
Wells still ranks among the best wide receivers in professional football. His numbers tell the story, his record has stood the test of time. The robustness and radiance of his career statistics are a gleam of dawn in a life dimmed by shadows of social challenges, yet the dawn has illuminated the past, and may inspire some in the future.
A final question posed to Wells on June 29, 2008: “Which game was the best in your career?” He retorted, with a stern gaze, “All of them.”
Written by JBG
Member, Professional Football Researchers Association
Member, National Association of Mathematicians
Developer, The WW House, 2728 Goliad Street, Beaumont, Texas 77701
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