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2011 Hall of Fame Polls: Chris Hanburger

Posted by Jason Lisk on February 4, 2011

Chris Hanburger was born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, just months before the start of United States' involvement in World War II, and when he graduated from high school, he served a stint in the Army as well. After the Army, Hanburger went to play for the University of North Carolina, and was twice selected as the all-ACC center. Hanburger's age (24 when he entered professional football) and the fact that he was more accomplished on the offensive side of the ball help explain why he lasted until the 18th and final round of the 1965 draft.

He was quite a find, though, as he moved into the starting lineup at linebacker late in his rookie year, and would remain a staple of the Redskins lineup for well over a decade. Hanburger may not have been the most explosive athlete at the position, but he was a heady and instinctive player who is often attributed with being a quarterback on the defensive side of the field. His knowledge and game smarts was a natural for George Allen, who had a strong preference for veterans, and Hanburger was a key member of the "Over the Hill Gang" that led the Redskins to their first Super Bowl appearance following the 1972 season.

Hanburger was adept at both rushing the passer and covering the pass. We don't have any official numbers for individual sacks in Hanburger's era, but in reviewing stories, it seems clear that he did alot of rushing the passer and making key plays, in addition to having coverage responsibilities. He finished his career with 17 fumble recoveries and 19 interceptions, and scored 5 defensive touchdowns.

He was selected to his first pro bowl in his first full season as a starter in 1966. He would be selected four straight seasons. Then, he was a first team all-pro in the Super Bowl year of 1972, and would be selected all-pro by the Associated Press in three out of four seasons from 1972-1975. In total, he had nine pro bowl appearances (the most ever by a Redskins player) and four Associated Press all pro selections (he was selected in 1976 by NEA as well, making five seasons in which he was selected by at least one organization as an all pro).

Other than recent retirees who will be in the Hall soon (guys like Seau and Shields), Hanburger's 9 pro bowl appearances ties him for the most by a player not in the Hall of Fame, with fellow linebacker Maxie Baughan, and AFL linemen Walt Sweeney and Jim Tyrer. His four all pro selections put him in good company, and behind only other guys who I think have been snubbed by the Hall until now: Johnny Robinson, Chuck Howley, Mick Tinglehoff, and Jerry Kramer.

Needless to say, I think he would make a fine veteran's committee choice, and should go in with the necessary 80% vote on Saturday with ease when the committee members look at his qualifications.

So, I'll leave you with a couple of other articles I came across. The first was from the late 1960's, where Hanburger, was involved in trying to get black players more opportunities in leadership position, and served on a panel that also included future Hall of Famers Willie Wood, Bobby Mitchell, and John Mackey. The second is more recent, and is a local piece on the retired Hanburger in Darlington, South Carolina. In it, he says that he doesn't keep up with professional football that much because it's not something that interests him. Instead, he talks about his interest in golf and reading about history. Good for him. I suspect that if he had been tied to the game after his retirement, he would have gotten the public relations boost and the call sooner.

Better late than never, and congratulations to a likely member of the class of 2011.


This entry was posted on Friday, February 4th, 2011 at 8:05 am and is filed under Great Historical Players, History, HOF, Player articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.