Tennessee Titans: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NFLPhotoLibrary)
(Photo by Joe Murphy/NFLPhotoLibrary) /
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148. . SS/PR. (1967-72). Ken Houston. 4. player

  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (Class of 1986)
  • NFL 75th Anniversary Team
  • NFL 1970s All-Decade Team
  • 5x Pro Bowl w/Oilers (1968-72)
  • 5x Second-Team All-Pro w/Oilers (1968-72)

Ken Houston has to be one of the best defensive backs in NFL history, and frankly, one that often goes unnoticed. He spent his first six of 14 Pro Football Hall of Fame seasons with the team that drafted him in 1967 out of Prairie A&M College. This former ninth-round selection would be transformative in both the Oilers and later Washington Redskins secondary.

Half of Houston’s stint with the Oilers came while the club was playing in the AFL. He made his first two football All-Star Games during the Oilers’ AFL Days in 1968 and 1969. Once Houston moved over to the NFL in 1970, he rattled off three more Pro Bowl nods in the post-merger era with the Oilers.

During those five-straight All-Star seasons, Houston made it on the second-team all-league roster as well. It wasn’t just at safety that made Houston so spectacular. He was an outstanding return man to boot.

In 1971, he set an NFL record of five return touchdowns in a season (four interceptions and one fumble recovery). This record stood until Devin Hester broke it as a member of the 2006 Chicago Bears some 35 years later.

Simply put, Houston was electrifying with the ball in his hands. However, he wasn’t apparently long for Houston. In 1973, the Oilers’ star defensive back and return man was shipped to the Redskin for five veterans in a blockbuster deal. Because the Redskins got the star player, they clearly won the deal. He made seven-straight Pro Bowls after landing in the nation’s capital.

Houston played with the Redskins through the 1980 NFL season before retiring at age 36. He made the NFL 75th Anniversary Team and the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team thanks to his dominance on the gridiron with both the Oilers and Redskins.

In 1986, Houston was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on his first ballot. He ended up with 49 career interceptions for 898 yards and nine pick-sixes in his career. 25 of those interception and all nine of those trips to pay dirt came while Houston was with Houston.

Even though he comes in at No. 4, Houston might have been even higher on this list if he spent the bulk of his career with the Oilers, as opposed to roughly splitting it in half with the Redskins. Regardless, he is one of the best playmakers in the defensive backfield the NFL has ever seen.