Elvin Bethea
refer to caption
Bethea playing for the Oilers in 1979
No. 65
Position:Defensive end
Personal information
Born: (1946-03-01) March 1, 1946 (age 76)
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
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

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 (left) blocking a Chargers' rushing attempt during the 1979 AFC Divisional Playoff Game.
Bethea (left) blocking a Chargers' rushing attempt during the 1979 AFC Divisional Playoff Game.

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 14+12 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 14+12 sacks in 1969. Other notable seasons in terms of sacks were: 1970 and 1971 with 10+12 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]


  1. ^ Elvin Bethea Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, database Football. Accessed November 26, 2007.
  2. ^ http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl/2003_3677140/pro-football-hall-of-fame-star-track-shot-put-cham.html[dead link]
  3. ^ "2000 GWI Results". Archived from the original on May 5, 2013. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  4. ^ profootballhof.com
  5. ^ Member – Pro Football Hall of Fame
  6. ^ "Years - Hall of Famers | Pro Football Hall of Fame Official Site".
  7. ^ "Photo Gallery » Class of 2003. Enshrinement Day » Class of 2003. Enshrinement Day". Archived from the original on September 6, 2012. Retrieved December 10, 2010.
  8. ^ Tar Heel Blue CSTV.com
  9. ^ Bethea, Elvin (2005). Smash Mouth: My Football Journey from Trenton to Canton. Sports Publishing LLC. ISBN 158261881X. Retrieved February 19, 2016.