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Chris Hanburger and the HOF

Jim Gehman

Camp Fodder
Jul 19, 2009
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Daniel Snyder recently told Dan Steinberg, the Washington Post sports blogger, that he feels former Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger, offensive tackle Joe Jacoby, and quarterback Joe Theismann belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I had asked Hanburger what he thought of being enshrined. His reply is included in this excerpt from my book “Then Gibbs Said to Riggins…”

A Steal That Turned Into a Star

As the head coach, Bill McPeak guided the Redskins to only 15 victories out of 56 games prior to when the NFL held its 1965 draft. He’d make up for it that day by selecting North Carolina’s Chris Hanburger in the 18th round, 245th overall.

It wasn’t a steal. It was larceny. Grand larceny.

“I was surprised I even got drafted,” said Hanburger. “I had no intentions of playing professional football. I didn’t know anything about it. I did it in college only because it was a means to an end in the sense that it was a scholarship. By playing, I could get an education. I didn’t even know very much at all about professional football.”

After reporting to Washington’s training camp, Hanburger received a crash course on how to play the game from 10-year veteran Sam Huff. He was a fast learner even if he didn’t always agree with the standout linebacker and moved into the starting lineup 10 games into the season. “He used to be critical of me tackling high, and I told him the reason I did that was so I wouldn’t get hurt,” Hanburger said. “And I’ll never forget, in fact, I think he has a picture in his house of me bending over him after he stuck his head into a big fullback up in Pittsburgh and got put into la-la land. I looked down at him and told him, 'That’s why you don’t stick your head into someone, Sam. You tackle high!’”

Hanburger tackled high and often, and the following year was selected to play in the Pro Bowl for first of nine times. “Anytime you get recognized for anything, it’s awfully nice,” said Hanburger, who was named All-NFL three times and was the 1972 NFC Defensive Player of the Year. “I don’t know why [I was chosen to play in the Pro Bowl so often] because there certainly were a lot of real good linebackers when I played. But I always had a lot of respect for the fact the other players on other teams thought enough about the way I played to vote me into that game.”

Nine trips to the Pro Bowl out of 14 seasons with the Redskins, Hanburger played in 187 games and finished his career with 19 interceptions and 17 fumble recoveries, three of which he returned for touchdowns. A strong case could be made that he’s worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.

“It’s no big deal for me. I guess I’m probably a little different than a lot of people,” Hanburger said. “I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep over it because I guess I don’t understand the process. Even if I did, it wouldn’t change my opinion of the way I feel about it. I just think there are an awful lot of people that aren’t in it that certainly deserve to be in it. And I’m not saying that I deserve to be in there by any means. I just look at it as something that if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, who cares?

“For someone that plays – I think you have to be retired five years before you can go in – now for somebody like that, I think it’s fantastic because that guy can certainly enjoy it. I mean, he’s only been away five years; he’s probably still involved with thought and everything else. It’s just a wonderful thing. But in my case, heck, I’ve never even thought about it, worried about it, or anything else. And never will.

“I can respect people saying, 'Well, the people that followed you when you played, they’d really love to see something like that happen for you.’ It’s just my opinion, but I think the older you get, to me anyway, the less significance it has. I think when I retired, I put it behind me.”
Great stuff Jim :cheers: I love your book. Hanburger was that rare cat - you don't see many like him out there today, that exude humility, and its real and genuine. I hope he someday gets in. But sounds like he views everything he got in life as a gift. Thanks for sharing...
Hanburger was always my favorite Defensive player back then. I used to listen religiously to "Chris Hanburger's Redskins Report" on WMAL at 5 PM during football season.

I think he is certainly as deserving as Dave Wilcox for consideration by the Veterans Committee. It's always extra special to see our favorite players from our youth get inducted into the HOF. I was thrilled when Sonny Jurgensen and Charley Taylor made it and I'm really hoping old #55 makes it one of these days as well.

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