Time to go old school. Mel Hein was one of the major stars of the NFL, back in the time when the NFL was a poor sister to the popularity of college football. However his was a career that almost wasn’t.
After being selected as an All-American in 1930 at Washington State, no pro teams offered him an opportunity. Hein even wrote to four NFL teams to see if there was any interest.
Finally, he received an offer from the Providence Steamrollers. Reluctantly, Hein signed the contract and dropped it in the mail. A few hours later, Ray Flaherty, an assistant coach with the New York Giants, showed up at his doorstep with a better offer of $150 a game. Hein and Flaherty raced off to the post office, where a friendly postmaster helped him retrieve his Providence letter. Hein became a Giant and fortunately for everyone involved, the gamble paid off handsomely.
Hein played 15 seasons in New York, back when there were no offensive and defensive teams, only the same players playing for 60 minutes. In all those years, he only called timeout once, and that was to fix a broken nose he sustained after a play had ended. He got the nose fixed and returned to the game without missing a play.
He was the team captain for 10 seasons, and was named first-team All-NFL center eight straight years from 1933 through 1940. He also earned second team All-NFL recognition five other times. In 1938, he was named the league's Most Valuable Player, which was the first time and only time that has ever been awarded to a lineman.
It was in 1938 the Giants upset Green Bay to win the NFL Championship. Hein was a member of another championship Giants team in 1934, and played for the NFL Championship five more times in 1933, 1935, 1939, 1941, and 1944.
The star of the Polo Grounds was part of the first inductee class into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. In 1969, he was named the center on the NFL 50th Anniversary Team, and was named to the 75th Anniversary Team in 1994. In 1999, despite 55 years having passed since his last game, he was ranked number 74 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.
In 1969, Hein was voted one of the 11 all-time best professional and collegiate football players in a vote conducted in conjunction with professional football's Centennial celebration. In 1999, he was one of three centers named to The Sporting News All-Century team for college players.
Hein’s number 7 jersey has been retired by the Giants.
Mel Hein is on our NFL All-Time Team. Check out the article to see who else is.
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