Fred Biletnikoff

Fred Biletnikoff
No. 14, 25
Position: Wide receiver
Personal information
Date of birth: (1943-02-23) February 23, 1943
Place of birth: Erie, Pennsylvania
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight: 190 lb (86 kg)
Career information
High school: Erie (PA) Technical Memorial
College: Florida State
NFL Draft: 1965 / Round: 3 / Pick: 39
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Receptions: 589
Receiving yards: 8,974
Receiving touchdowns: 76
Player stats at
Career CFL statistics
Receptions: 38
Receiving yards: 470
Receiving touchdowns: 4

Frederick S. Biletnikoff (born February 23, 1943) is a former professional gridiron football player and a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame. He was a wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders in the American Football League (AFL) and National Football League (NFL) for fourteen seasons and later an assistant coach with the team. He retired as an NFL player after the 1978 season and then played one additional season in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for the Montreal Alouettes in 1980. While he lacked the breakaway speed for deep pass receptions, Biletnikoff was one of the most sure-handed and consistent receivers of his day. He was also known for running smooth, precise pass routes.

Biletnikoff attended Florida State University, where he played college football for the Florida State Seminoles football team and earned consensus All-America honors after leading the country in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns as a senior. The Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the most outstanding receiver in NCAA Division I FBS, is named in his honor.

Through his pro career, Biletnikoff recorded 589 receptions for 8,974 yards and 76 touchdowns, and had a league record 10 straight seasons of 40 or more receptions. He accomplished these numbers at a time when teams emphasized running over passing. With the Raiders, Biletnikoff played in the second AFL-NFL World Championship game—retroactively known as Super Bowl II—and in Super Bowl XI, in which he was named the game's MVP in a victory over the Minnesota Vikings. In 1969, he was selected to the AFL All-League Team, and in 1972 he was a first-team All-Pro. He also played in three American Football League title games, two AFL All-Star games, five AFC championship games, and four Pro Bowls.

Early years

Born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania,[1] Frederick Biletnikoff was the son of Russian emigrants who arrived in the U.S. during the Russian Civil War. In Erie, Fred Biletnikoff attended what was then Technical Memorial High School, now Central Tech, whose athletic field now bears his name. In high school, Biletnikoff excelled in football, basketball, baseball, and track, earning first team recognition his senior year on Pennsylvania's all-state football and basketball teams. He was later honored along with other high school football greats Tony Dorsett, Joe Montana, and Mike Ditka to Pennsylvania's all-time first team.


Turning down other notable offers, Biletnikoff chose to attend Florida State University in Tallahassee. He missed several games during his first varsity season in 1962 with a broken foot. He played on both sides of the ball his junior season, leading the team in receptions and interceptions and taking an interception 99 yards for a touchdown off a pass thrown by George Mira of Miami, a record which stood until 1987, when Deion Sanders broke it by one yard. As a senior in 1964, Biletnikoff led the nation in receiving yards, with 1,179, and receiving touchdowns, with 15, and finished second in receptions (70) and scoring (90).[2] One of his touchdowns came in the first quarter against the Florida Gators, which helped the Seminoles earn their first victory in the in-state rivalry, 16–7.[3] The Seminoles finished the year with a 36–19 victory over Oklahoma in the Gator Bowl, in which Biletnikoff set school records with 13 receptions for 194 yards and four touchdowns.[4] He was a consensus pick for the 1964 College Football All-America Team, receiving first-team honors from four official selectors: the Associated Press,[5] Central Press Association,[6] Football Writers Association of America,[7] and Newspaper Enterprise Association.[8] He was Florida State's first consensus All-American in football.[4] Biletnikoff compiled 100 receptions for 1,655 yards and 20 touchdowns in his career with the Seminoles, which at the time were all school records.[2]

Professional career

After graduating from FSU, he was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the 1965 AFL Draft, 11th overall and by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the 1965 NFL Draft, the 39th overall selection. Biletnikoff signed with the Raiders, where he played for fourteen seasons. With Oakland, he was nicknamed "Coyote", and "Doctor Zhivago" because of his Russian heritage.[9] In 1966, he caught his first touchdown pass, thrown by quarterback Tom Flores, who later became the Raiders' head coach the season after Biletnikoff was released by the team.[10]

Although he lacked the breakaway speed to be a deep threat, Biletnikoff's precise pass routes and sure hands made him one of the most consistent receivers of his day,[11] and a favorite target of Raiders quarterbacks Daryle Lamonica and Ken Stabler. "I like catching passes," he explained. "And I like playing outside. I would be lost if I were ever told to do anything on a football field except catch passes."[12] Through his career he recorded 589 receptions, and had a league record 10 straight seasons of 40 or more receptions from 1967 to 1976,[13] since surpassed by many players.

Biletnikoff popularized the use of Stickum,[14] an adhesive that many players applied to their hands to assist with catching and gripping the ball. He would apply the substance all over his body and uniform prior to a game, a practice that was later picked up by Raiders cornerback Lester Hayes after Biletnikoff introduced him to it.[15][16] The use of Stickum was banned by the NFL in 1981.[17]

After a slow start, Biletnikoff's production increased significantly with Oakland's acquisition of quarterback Daryle Lamonica in 1967. That year, he caught 40 passes for 876 yards and five touchdowns and led the league with an average of 21.9 yards per reception. He was invited to play in the 1967 AFL All-Star Game.[18] In that year's AFL championship game, Biletnikoff had two receptions for 19 yards in the Raiders' 40–7 blow-out win over the Houston Oilers.[19] In Super Bowl II against the Green Bay Packers, he caught two passes for 10 yards as the Raiders were defeated 33–14.[20]

Biletnikoff recorded his first and only 1,000-yard receiving season in 1968, when he caught 61 passes for 1,037 yards and six touchdowns. The following season, in 1969 he caught a career-high 12 receiving touchdowns. He was an AFL All-Star for the second time and earned first-team All-AFL honors from the AP, Newspaper Enterprise Association, Pro Football Writers of America, The Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly, and New York Daily News.[18]

Biletnikoff was released by the Raiders prior to the 1979 season.[10] After a year off, he played one season in the Canadian Football League, with the Montreal Alouettes in 1980. In his lone CFL season, Biletnikoff caught 38 passes, second-most on the team, for 470 yards and four touchdowns.[21]

Coaching career and later life

Biletnikoff began his career in coaching soon after his retirement from playing. He served on the coaching staff of the Orange Glen High School (1982), Palomar College (1983), Diablo Valley College (1984), Oakland Invaders (1985), Arizona Wranglers (1986) and Calgary Stampeders (1987–88). In January 2007, Biletnikoff retired as the wide receivers coach for the Oakland Raiders, which had been his role for 18 seasons starting in 1989.

Hi younger brother Bob was a starting quarterback for the University of Miami in the mid-1960s.[22]


Biletnikoff was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988 and was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1991. The Fred Biletnikoff Award, awarded annually to the best wide receiver in college football since 1994, was named in his honor. In 1999, Biletnikoff was ranked number 94 on The Sporting News' list of the "100 Greatest Football Players".[23]

See also


  1. "Fred Biletnikoff". Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  2. 1 2 "Fred Biletnikoff College Stats". Sports-Reference. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  3. Martin, Buddy (November 22, 1964). "Eager FSU Bombs Gators". Ocala Star-Banner. AFN. p. 25. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  4. 1 2 Nohe, Patrik (July 19, 2013). "FSU All-Time Countdown - No. 14 - Fred Biletnikoff". Miami Herald. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  5. "Butkus Again All-American". Eugene Register-Guard. December 4, 1964. p. 1B. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  6. Johns, Walter (November 30, 1964). "Captains' All-America Honors 2 Irish Stars". Evening Independent.
  7. Gangi, Ted. "FWAA All-America" (PDF). Archived from the original on January 17, 2015.
  8. "Tide's Wayne Freeman Wins All-America Honors". The Tuscaloosa News. November 17, 1964. p. 9. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  9. Toomay, Pat. "Part 2: The wild and the innocent". ESPN. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  10. 1 2 "Raiders waive Biletnikoff". Lawrence Journal-World. Associated Press. June 12, 1979. p. 13. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  11. Smith, Don (1996). "Fred Biletnikoff: "I like catching passes."" (PDF). The Coffin Corner. 18 (5). Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  12. "(Not So) Fast Freddy". Pro Football Hall of Fame. February 23, 2010. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  13. "Raiders in the Hall of Fame - Fred Biletnikoff". Oakland Raiders. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  14. Plaschke, Bill (January 14, 2001). "Stickum Up!". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  15. "Stickum: They Both Use It". Reading Eagle. Associated Press. December 26, 1974. p. 44. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  16. Kaplan, Emily (July 14, 2015). "History of the NFL in 95 Objects: Stickum". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  17. Chadiha, Jeffri (August 9, 2007). "Notorious image sticks with these Raiders". ESPN. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  18. 1 2 "Fred Biletnikoff Stats". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  19. Bock, Hal (January 1, 1968). "Oakland romps past Houston, 40-7; meets Packers in Super Bowl Jan. 14". Youngstown Vindicator. Associated Press. p. 55. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  20. "Super Bowl II - Oakland Raiders vs. Green Bay Packers - January 14th, 1968". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  21. "Fred Biletnikoff". CFLapedia. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  22. "Bob Biletnikoff Leads Florida's Back Selection". Ocala Star-Banner. Associated Press. November 10, 1964. p. 10. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  23. "Sporting News Top 100 Football Players". Democrat and Chronicle. August 15, 1999. p. 3D. Retrieved November 21, 2016 via

External links

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