American Football Database
John Jefferson
No. 83     
Wide Receiver
Personal information
Date of birth: (1956-02-03) February 3, 1956 (age 66)
Place of birth: Dallas, Texas
Career information
College: Arizona State
NFL Draft: 1978 / Round: 1 / Pick: 14
Debuted in 1978 for the [[{{{debutteam}}}]]
Last played in 1985 for the [[{{{finalteam}}}]]
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Receptions     351
Receiving Yards     5,714
Touchdowns     47
Stats at
College Football Hall of Fame

John Jefferson (born February 3, 1956) is a retired American football wide receiver in the National Football League (NFL). He was selected out of Arizona State University in the first round of the 1978 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. He played three seasons in San Diego, where he became the first NFL player to gain 1,000 receiving yards in his first three seasons. He was traded to the Green Bay Packers after a contract dispute with the Chargers, and later finished his playing career with the Cleveland Browns.


Jefferson played at Arizona State University from 1974 to 1977. Jefferson's breakout year occurred in his sophomore season (1975) when he led the Sun Devils with 52 receptions and 921 yards receiving on the way to a perfect 12-0 season and an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl, where he was also named Most Valuable Player. ASU finished second in the national polls, its highest ranking in history.

A consensus All-American selection in 1977 and two-time All-Western Athletic Conference pick, Jefferson concluded his career with an NCAA record 42 consecutive games with a reception. He remains the ASU leader in career receptions with 188 and career receiving yardage with 2,993. Recognized as Arizona Amateur Athlete of the Year in 1977, he was twice selected as the Sun Devils Most Valuable Player and led the team in receiving all four years. The 1977 campaign was the Sun Devils' last in the WAC; in 1978, ASU and their in-state archrival, the Arizona Wildcats, joined the Pacific-10 Conference.


San Diego Chargers

After his senior year at Arizona State, Jefferson was drafted fourteenth overall in the 1978 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. Jefferson made an immediate impact in the NFL, finishing his rookie season with 56 receptions for 1,001 yards and a league-leading 13 receiving touchdowns. He set the Chargers' rookie record for yards receiving, which stood until Keenan Allen's 1,046 in 2013.[1] Jefferson appeared on the cover of the August 20, 1979 issue of Sports Illustrated along with the heading "The Touchdown Man."[1] He was a consensus All-Pro in each of the next two seasons and led the NFL in receiving yards (1,340) and receiving touchdowns (13) in 1980. Particularly of note, in a September 14, 1980 Overtime game against the Oakland Raiders, played in San Diego, Jefferson out-leaped Lester Hayes for a throw from Dan Fouts. Jefferson landed at about the Oakland 3-yard line. Hayes stood over Jefferson, stunned that Jefferson had taken the ball away. Jefferson had the presence of mind to roll on the ground into the end Zone, sealing a 30-24 San Diego Chargers' overtime victory. He became the first receiver in league history to gain 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons.[2] While in San Diego, Jefferson also became known as the "Space-Age Receiver" due to the futuristic-looking goggles he wore.[3]

Green Bay Packers

Due to a contract dispute with the Chargers, Jefferson was traded to the Green Bay Packers in 1981.[4] With the Packers, Jefferson starred opposite future Pro Football Hall of Fame wideout James Lofton. Jefferson, Lofton, and tight end Paul Coffman teamed up with quarterback Lynn Dickey to give the Packers one of the most explosive passing attacks in the NFL at the time; however, a defense which hovered near the bottom of the league relegated Green Bay to three 8-8 finishes and a second-round playoff appearance during the strike-shortened 1982 season. Jefferson completed his career with the Cleveland Browns in 1985. Jefferson would appear in four Pro Bowls during his career. He, along with Charlie Joiner, Kellen Winslow and Wes Chandler (who replaced him on the Chargers) represented one of the most potent receiving corps of the early 1980s, known as Air Coryell. Jefferson was known for making spectacular catches with his body control and great hands.[5][6][7]

Cleveland Browns

Later years

After his retirement, Jefferson graduated from Arizona State in 1989 with a B.A. in History. He was inducted into the Arizona State Hall of Fame in 1979 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

He has remained active in the football community; after retiring, Jefferson became an assistant coach at the University of Kansas and was the director of player development for the Washington Redskins until the end of the 2008-2009 season.


Career Arizona State Statistics

  • 1974: 30 receptions, 423 yards, 1 TD.
  • 1975: 52 receptions, 921 yards, 6 TDs
  • 1976: 48 receptions, 681 yards, 5 TDs
  • 1977: 58 receptions, 968 yards, 8 TDs
  • Totals: 188 receptions, 2,993 yards, 20 TDs


  1. Gehlken, Michael (December 29, 2013). "Keenan Allen sets record during win". U-T San Diego. Archived from the original on January 5, 2014.
  2. "Jefferson deal finally sealed". The Vancouver Sun. Associated Press: p. F4. September 23, 1981.,1350484&dq=john-jefferson+1000+first&hl=en. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  3. Chad Finn's Touching All The Bases: San Diego Super Chargers!
  4. "Air Coryell" - Pro Football Hall of Fame
  5. Deitsch, Richard (1998-08-17). "John Jefferson, San Diego Wide Receiver". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
  6. Zimmerman, Paul (2001-10-12). "NFL Mailbag - Dr. Z". CNNSI. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
  7. Jaworski, Ron (2010). The Games That Changed the Game: The Evolution of the NFL in Seven Sundays. Random House. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-345-51795-1.

External links