Elvin Bethea

Elvin Bethea
Bethea playing for the Oilers in 1979
No. 65
Position: Defensive end
Personal information
Born: (1946-03-01) March 1, 1946
Trenton, New Jersey
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight: 260 lb (118 kg)
Career information
High school: Trenton (NJ) Central
College: North Carolina A&T
NFL Draft: 1968 / Round: 3 / Pick: 77
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Tackles: 691
Sacks: 105
Touchdowns: 1
Player stats at NFL.com

Elvin Lamont Bethea (born March 1, 1946) is a former American football defensive end who played his entire career with the Houston Oilers. He played for North Carolina A&T State University and was the first person from that school to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 2003.


Bethea was born in Trenton, New Jersey, and played high school football and track at Trenton Central High School.[1] He set the New Jersey state record in the shot put in 1964 – 66 feet 4.5 inches - which stood until 1997.[2] He won the shot put and discus competitions at the Golden West Invitational track meet in 1964.[3]

During his career in Houston, Bethea played in 210 games, including a stretch of 135 consecutive. He played at defensive end and guard in the 1968 season and didn’t miss a game until breaking his arm in a game against the Oakland Raiders in 1977. He led the team in sacks six times, finishing his career with 105 unofficial sacks.[4]

His career high was in 1973 with 16 sacks, which still ranks as the best in Oilers/Tennessee Titans history, a feat made more remarkable by the Oilers' 1-13 record.[5] In 1976 Bethea recorded 14½ sacks, yet was not voted to the Pro Bowl. In a game against the San Diego Chargers in 1976, he recorded four sacks (his career high) and had one fumble recovery.

He also had 14½ sacks in 1969. Other notable seasons in terms of sacks were: 1970 and 1971 with 10½ sacks in each, 1975 with 10 and 1978 with 8. He played in the AFC Championship game in 1978 and 1979.

Awards and honors

Bethea was Second-team All-Pro in 1969, 1973, 1978 and 1979 to go with his 8 Pro Bowl selections.

Bethea was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. He was officially inducted during the Enshrinement Ceremony on August 3, 2003,[6] where his college coach and presenter, Hornsby Howell, unveiled the bust of Bethea,[7] which was sculpted by Scott Myers.

In 2005 Bethea was inducted to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame [8]


Bethea is the author of Smash-Mouth: My Football Journey from Trenton to Canton.[9]


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