Position: Wide Receiver
Team: Houston Oilers
Career: Ladies remind us sometimes that good things come in small packages but Oiler fans don’t need to be told. From Charlie Tolar to "White Shoes" Johnson to Tony Jones, the little man could always find room in the Oiler offense.
One of the most outstanding was Ernest Givins, a Florida product who game to the Oilers in the second round of the 1986 draft out of the University of Louisville. Givins combined quickness and toughness to become the Oilers’ all-time leader in receptions (542) and receiving yards (7,935). He was consistent, grabbing 50 or more passes in his first eight seasons. Although he eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier just once (1986), he surpassed 900 receiving yards in four other seasons.
Ernest was also a clutch receiver, scoring a franchise-high eight touchdowns in postseason action.
But what made Givins a star was his ability to take a pounding and come back for more. Far too often, Ernest would take the best shots an opposing secondary could unload and, with muscles aching or his nose broken, trot back to the huddle and keep catching passes. At just 5’9" and 170 pounds, the sprightly wideout often resembled a whole chicken tossed into a pond of hungry alligators. That he thrived as well as survived was downright amazing.
"Earnest is tough, especially for a guy that size," marvelled his quarterback, Warren Moon. "He can twist and contort his body in so many ways."
So abused was the little man that one year he took out an insurance policy from Lloyd’s of London to guard against a career-ending injury.
Placed in a situation where the Oilers had an established quarterback and an established "go-to" receiver (Drew Hill), Givins stepped right into Jerry Glanville’s offense in his rookie year. He caught 61 tosses for 1,062 yards and three scores. He also rushed the ball (nine carries, 148 yards, one touchdown), returned punts (eight for 80 yards) and failed twice in passing attempts. His end zone jaunts were punctuated with the "electric slide," where he would drag one foot across pay dirt before spiking the ball as he put his own signature on Houston’s celebrations.
He quickly became the second option when defenses tried to take away Hill. He led the Oilers in receptions (53) and touchdowns (6) in the strike-interrupted 1987 season. He also scored from 19 yards out in the playoff loss to Denver. Givins caught 60 balls for 976 yards and five scores the next season as Houston returned to the playoffs.
In 1989, Haywood Jeffires and Curtis Duncan saw more action. Givins’ numbers went down a bit but he stepped up in the Wild Card Game with two late touchdowns against the Steelers.
When Glanville was replaced by Jack Pardee, the run-n-shoot offense allowed all four wideouts to stay on the field and Moon held target practice every Sunday. Hill and Givins became the inside "slot" receivers who ran crossing and underneath patterns while Jeffires and Duncan manned the outside lanes.
Givins responded with 72 receptions for 979 yards while tying for the AFC lead with nine TD catches. He grabbed two more scores from Cody Carlson in the playoff defeat in Cincinnati.
The Oilers won their AFC Central crown in 1991 and Ernest contributed 70 receptions for 996 yards and five scores along with 11 punt returns (107 yards) and four rushes (30 yards). He scored twice in the playoff win over the Jets but, again, Houston could not shake their bad fortune in the postseason.
Hill was gone before the 1992 season began, eventually replaced by Webster Slaughter. Givins’ role changed little as he led the AFC in touchdown receptions (10), snaring 67 passes for 787 yards. He also gained 75 yards on the ground. He caught 68 passes for 887 yards in 1993, adding a seven-yard score late in the playoff loss to Kansas City. It was Houston’s seventh time in the eight years Ernest played that his team reached the playoffs.
Warren Moon was traded after that season and the run-n-shoot left with him. Under a new game plan, Givins caught just 36 passes for 521 yards and filled time returning kicks, leading the Oilers with 38 returns for 237 yards.
Purged in the rebuilding plans of the Oilers in 1995, Givins signed with the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars where he played his final season. He now spends time involved in coaching and community involvement.
There was no questioning the toughness of Ernest Givins. He left everything on the field. And a good part of him wound up in the end zone, not to mention the record books.
Houston Highlight: Although Houston lost in overtime to Buffalo, 47-41, (that other overtime loss had yet to happen), one play captured the essence of Ernest Givins. It was September, 1989. Moon found Givins in the flat near the sidelines at the Buffalo 18. He practically did the splits as he slid to avoid the ankle tackle of safety Mark Kelso, spun upfield and eyed the end zone.
Cornerback Nate Odomes got in position to hit Givins at the two-yard line. Ernest leaped forward. Odomes hit Givins at the belt and raised up to try to stop his momentum. Instead, Ernest flipped over him in a somersault and landed feet-first in the end zone for a spectacular touchdown.
While the Astrodome crowd went nuts, a crumpled Givins stumbled to his feet and limped through his "electric slide" while the throng roared their appreciation. In 1993, NFL Films named it one of the NFL’s 100 Best Ever Touchdowns.
by Bob Hulsey
Ernest Givins’ career stats Year Catches Yards Avg. TD 1986 61 1,062 17.4 3 1987 53 933 17.6 6 1988 60 976 16.3 5 1989 55 794 14.4 3 1990 72 979 13.6 9 1991 70 996 14.2 5 1992 67 787 11.7 10 1993 68 887 13 4 1994 36 521 9.7 3 Totals 542 7,935 14.7 46 Ernest Givins Home