Call to Canton is in order

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Offensive linemen in the National Football League have a lot in common with the third dog from the front in Alaska’s Iditarod sled race: the view stinks, they rarely get their mug in the newspaper, and about the only time they get mentioned is when they are injured or penalized for moving out of position.

Yet like each husky pulling those sleds, offensive linemen in pro football are absolutely essential to their team’s success. You hear it time and again from the talking heads who analyze football teams: you build a championship by starting with a great offensive line.

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If the guys John Madden used to call “the big uglies” can move the pile of humanity forward and create holes through which the darting scatbacks can run, and if they provide adequate protection for the matinee idols who throw downfield, their team will control the line of scrimmage and win the game.

That’s why year after year in the NFL draft illustrious quarterbacks are passed over by teams choosing instead to draft linemen whom they can count on for 10 or 12 years to put their noses in the dirt and bulldoze their teams down the field.

That’s also why in 1969 the Atlanta Falcons chose as the second overall pick in the draft a consensus first team All-American and honor student from Notre Dame named George Kunz. The Buffalo Bills had the first overall pick that year, and they chose a fellow out of USC who has gotten his picture in the paper more than all offensive linemen combined since football was invented—a dude named O.J.

Kunz’s record as both a collegian and pro is as impressive as it gets. He was a first-team All-American at Notre Dame for two years and played on Ara Parseghian’s 1966 national championship team. In the NFL, he was named All-Pro in eight of his 11 seasons with Atlanta and the Baltimore Colts, and he shattered the stereotype for his position. Not only did George not sport an inner-tube around his belly, but at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds he was cut from granite. Nor was he facially challenged. He looked more like a guy who could play Tarzan or Hercules in the movies.

Kunz has lived in Las Vegas since 1985. He’s had a successful business career, at one time owning as many as seven McDonald’s restaurants, and he was active in many community and charitable organizations. Then, at the age of 58, when he could have kicked back and eaten Egg McMuffins for breakfast every day, he decided to pursue a life-long goal of attending law school. He graduated from Boyd Law School in 2009, and currently works in a local firm with attorney Keith Gallagher.

The point of this essay is not only to review the career of a terrific athlete and equally admirable person, but to endorse his candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Those who follow the game are shocked that Kunz wasn’t elected to the Hall many years ago. There are several offensive linemen with less impressive resumes who have been enshrined. But it’s not too late to rectify that omission.

In keeping with the NFL’s 100-year anniversary, this year as many as 10 veterans are going to be elected to the Hall in the next few months. Although he has every reason to be a little bitter and confused about why he has been overlooked all these years by hall voters, George even offers a rationale that demonstrates his humility.

“I played for small-market teams, and neither Atlanta nor Baltimore ever got close to the Super Bowl when I was with them,” he said. “And certainly as an offensive lineman you don’t have statistics that scream out that you belong.”

But with current Hall of Famers like Ron Yary, Tom Mack (also a Las Vegas resident) Jack Youngblood, and Dave Wilcox and other veterans having written letters to the committee on Kunz’s behalf, it seems well beyond time to rectify this omission. If you do a Google search as I did, you can even find a site that lists “75 Reasons why George Kunz Belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame.”

With his outstanding achievements both on and off the field, if George Kunz doesn’t belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one has to wonder who does.

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About the Author

Jack Sheehan

Vegas Vibe columnist Jack Sheehan has lived in Las Vegas since 1976 and writes about the city for Gaming Today. He is the author of 28 books, over 1,000 magazine articles, and has sold four screenplays.

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