Houston is a great city for football and the city has an outstanding tradition with the Oilers of the AFL and NFL and then the Houston Texans who play in the city now. Whether it’s on the field, or off the field, the fact of the team’s great gameplay and seeming god-like knowledge of strategy has made many question – what seems to always make this team different?
Interestingly enough, Rick Smith – the general manager of the Texans from 2006-2017, would tell you that it was the team’s comradery built off the field by bowling, playing poker, and even participating in team laser tag in Houston is what made “the stuff” of the Texans just a little bit different than the competition.
Whatever it may have been, be it bowling or firing a beam of light at teammates back, we thought it would take a look at the best receivers in Houston NFL/AFL history. Players are ranked based only on their contributions to the Oilers and Texans. Longevity, dominance and the players’ contributions to the team’s success are all taken into consideration.
4. Charley Hennigan (1960-1966)
The Houston Oilers won the first two AFL titles after the league was formed in 1960 and Hennigan was a major reason for the team’s success.
Hennigan went to five Pro Bowls with the Oilers and was named All-Pro three times. He led the AFL in receiving yards in 1961 and again in 1964, combining with George Blanda to five Houston one of the most explosive offenses in the AFL.
His best season came in 1961 when Hennigan caught 82 passes for 1,746 yards and 12 touchdowns in 14 games. That was an average of 21.3-yards per catch, an average that poor interim head coach Romeo Crennel would have gladly taken on the field after the year the Texans just had.
In 1964, he caught 101 passes a new AFL record. He also caught the first touchdown in Oilers history and caught nine passes for 114 yards in the Oilers to AFL title game wins.
3. Ernest Givens (1986-1994)
The Houston Oilers ran the run and shoot offense in the late 1980s and early 1990s and Ernest Givens helped make Houston one of the most consistent in the league.
In nine seasons with Houston, Givens caught 542 passes for 7,935 yards and 46 touchdowns. He reached the Pro Bowl after the 1990 and 1992 seasons and enjoyed his best season in 1990 when he caught 72 passes for 979 yards and nine touchdowns.
Givens came up big for the Oilers in the playoffs, catching 60 passes for 774 yards and eight touchdowns in 10 postseason games. Although Houston never won the Super Bowl, Givens always gave them a chance to emerge victorious.
His touchdown celebration became known as “The Electric Slide” and got him featured in many highlight packages.
2. Drew Hill (1985-1991)
Hill joined the Oilers in 1985 after spending five seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. He was a precise route runner and dangerous receiver who caught 480 balls for 7,477 yards and 47 touchdowns with Houston during their Run and Shoot Era.
Hill had five seasons of 1,000-or-more yards with the Oilers with four of them coming after his 30th birthday. That was an NFL record at the time that was later broken by Jerry Rice.
His best season came in 1991 when he caught 90 passes for 1,109 yards. He also played in nine playoff games for the Oilers. The young superstar continues to be missed by fans today.
1. Andre Johnson (2003-2014)
Andre Johnson was the most consistent and dominant receiver in Houston pro history. He spent 12 seasons with the Texans and caught 1,012 passes for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns.
The former Miami (Florida) star earned Pro Bowl honors seven times and was named an All Pro twice. Twice he led the NFL in receptions including a career best 115 receptions for 1,575 yards and eight touchdowns in 2008.
His size and toughness made him difficult for defenders to cover. He holds nearly every Texans career receiving record.
Johnson has been added to the Texans ring of honor and the Houston and Texas Sports Hall of Fames.
He is likely to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame shortly after he is eligible.