Former Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger became the latest Redskin to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday in Canton, Ohio. The humble Hanburger gave his Hall of Fame speech one week shy of his 70th birthday.
Hanburger’s son Chris presented him into the Hall of Fame. The modest Hanburger started by mentioning former teammates in attendance Billy Kilmer, Ron McDole, Brig Owens, Pat Fischer and Larry Brown. He also congratulated the other inductees, and even thanked the volunteers at the Hall of Fame. Hanburger went on to thank men and women who are members of the armed forces, firefighters and law enforcement, calling them the the true Hall of Famers.
“I don’t consider myself a true Hall of Famer,” Hanburger said. “It’s not so much what I did. I look at it as what the people around me did on the field that let me try to be somewhat of a loose cannon out there."
Hanburger joked that he tried to sell some of the time of his speech to more talkative inductees such as Deion Sanders and Shannon Sharpe. He thanked his family, and joked, “They keep wanting me to smile more, they keep wanting me to change. All I can tell you it isn’t going to happen. I am what I am and nothing’s changing.”
Then Hanburger said, "this is one of the greatest moments in my life, and I mean that from my heart."
Hanburger was selected in the 18th round of the 1965 draft out of the University of North Carolina, but he went on to become one of the best outside linebackers the NFL has ever seen.
Hanburger made the Pro Bowl nine times and was named All-Pro four times in a career that lasted from 1965 to 1978, all with the Redskins. He was the NFC Defensive Player of the Year during the 1972 season when Washington made it to the Super Bowl, losing to undefeated Miami 14-7.
Hanburger was part of George Allen’s “Over the Hill Gang,” a group of veterans that led the Redskins to seven straight winning seasons including five playoff appearances from 1971 to 1977. Hanburger was equally effective playing against the run, dropping back to cover running backs and tight ends, and blitzing quarterbacks. For five years he was the signal caller on Allen’s defense.
Nicknamed the “Hangman” for using his arm to hit opposing players high, Hanburger played nine consecutive seasons without missing a game. He intercepted 19 passes, recovered 17 fumbles and scored five touchdowns on defense.
Hanburger joins Allen, Ken Houston, Sonny Jurgensen, John Riggins and Charley Taylor as Redskins Hall of Famers from the 1970s. He was mentored by Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff in the 1960s.
Recent Redskins inductees include guard Russ Grimm in 2010, wide receiver Art Monk and cornerback Darrell Green, who both made it in 2008. While Green made it in on the first ballot, Monk had to wait to get into the Hall until his eighth year of eligibility (13 years after retirement), while Grimm was voted in during his 14th year of eligibility.
Several Redskins from the Allen and Joe Gibbs eras have been bypassed for selection into Canton. But as Hanburger has shown, players can make it into the Hall even decades after their careers are over. Some former Redskins who deserve consideration include:
- Larry Brown, running back – Brown was the best running back in the NFC in the early 1970s. He won the 1972 NFL MVP Award with 1,216 yards rushing and 12 total touchdowns in 12 games, leading the league in yards from scrimmage. Brown rushed for more than 5,000 yards his first five seasons.
- Gary Clark, wide receiver – Clark had more catches per year and the same number of career touchdowns as Michael Irvin in one fewer season, and didn’t play with a Hall of Fame quarterback. Clark also played a decade before Irvin, when receiving statistics were lower.
- Pat Fischer, cornerback – Fischer had 56 career interceptions and is credited with inventing or popularizing the “bump and run” technique used in the 1960s and ‘70s to slow down receivers near the line of scrimmage.
- Joe Jacoby, offensive tackle – Jacoby helped revolutionize the position as an athletic 300-pounder who pulled to the right on counter-trey plays, which much of the league imitated.
- Jim Lachey, offensive tackle – Lachey was more dominant than either Grimm or Jacoby during his peak.
- Wilber Marshall, linebacker – Marshall, who won the 1992 NFC Defensive Player of the Year award, was a fierce hitter with great speed who could do it all. Marshall played for two of the greatest teams of all time, the 1985 Chicago Bears (18-1) and the 1991 Washington Redskins (17-2).
- Brian Mitchell, kick returner – Mitchell set NFL records with 19,013 combined return yards and 13 special teams touchdowns.
- Richie Petitbon, defensive coordinator – Famous for defensive schemes that confused opposing quarterbacks, Petitbon won three Super Bowls as the head defensive coach of the Redskins, and only had one Hall of Fame player (Darrell Green). That’s one more Super Bowl win than Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who is in the Hall. Petitbon, a former Bears and Redskins safety, also had a comparable NFL career to LeBeau, with four Pro Bowl selections compared with LeBeau’s three.
Also inducted into the Hall of Fame Saturday were defensive end Richard Dent, running back Marshall Faulk, cornerback Deion Sanders, tight end Shannon Sharpe and NFL Films pioneer Ed Sabol. Former Los Angeles Rams linebacker Les Richter was inducted posthumously.