It came as no surprise to learn that Chris Hanburger wasn’t at home in South Carolina on Monday afternoon stressing over the speech he has to give Saturday in Canton, Ohio upon his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Instead, the 69-year-old captain of late Hall of Fame coach George Allen’s superb Redskins defenses of the 1970s was playing golf.
As a nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker from 1965-78, Hanburger watched film relentlessly, always looking for that one little edge that would help him beat the man on the other side of the ball and thus help Washington win.
But Hanburger isn’t going to be nearly that prepared on the biggest stage of his life, save Super Bowl VII.
“I’m not even going to write a speech,” Hanburger said after coming off the course upon which he lives in South Carolina. “I’m just writing some notes down on a card. They told us we each have six to eight minutes and heck yeah, I’m taking closer to six than eight. If you start trying to name people, you leave some out so I’m just going to talk more generally.”
Except, of course, when it comes to Evelyn, his wife of more than 50 years, their children and grandchildren. But unlike 2008 ex-Redskins inductees Darrell Green and Art Monk, don’t expect Hanburger to tear up even when he mentions his late parents. As was the case with 2010 ex-Redskins inductee Russ Grimm, getting all emotional isn’t the Hanburger way. He was more surprised than ecstatic when he was elected in six months ago.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely excited,” said Hanburger, who was quite pleased to try on the gold Hall of Fame jacket which arrived at his door last week. “But being around a lot of people and having to go to a lot of functions is not my cup of tea.”
However, Hanburger is looking forward to touring the Hall, a visit that will given him an even deeper appreciation that 33 years after his last training camp he’ll now be included forever among the best “of all the people who have played this crazy game.”
Helping to celebrate the enshrinement of the 1972 Defensive Player of the Year will be all of his Redskins teammates who have been inducted save the ever-unconventional John Riggins. That means that Ken Houston, Sam Huff, Deacon Jones, Sonny Jurgensen, Paul Krause, Bobby Mitchell and Charley Taylor will all be in Canton this weekend along with such fellow Redskins greats as Pat Fischer, Billy Kilmer and Ron McDole.
Current Redskins owner Dan Snyder will host a party for Hanburger, Washington’s fourth enshrinee in four years. Appropriately, that event is being organized by general manager Bruce Allen, the old coach’s son who, as a teenager, used to sit in the back row of the plane with the cagey linebacker on road trips.
The trip that Hanburger begins tomorrow with a flight to Ohio will certainly be one that he’ll treasure even more than a victory over the hated Cowboys in Dallas.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.