‘Over the Hill Gang’ Hanburger joins Hall of Fame

As someone who worked for the Washington Redskins for 37 years,

Bubba Tyer is full of stories about the ”Over The Hill Gang,”

”The Hogs,” and franchise legends such as George Allen and Joe

Gibbs. The longtime trainer can tell you who misbehaved, who played

the best pranks, and which guys hung around in the bars at training

camp.

When it comes to a Chris Hanburger, the stories take a totally

different tone.

”He didn’t go in for a lot of frills,” Tyer said. ”He didn’t

go in for a lot of camaraderie. He certainly had friends, but to

say he’d come over and hang out and shoot the bull with you, he

didn’t do that. He went home.”

With that in mind, how is the linebacker from the great Redskins

teams of the 1970s going to handle the fuss and fame on Saturday,

when he’s inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

”He would rather just have somebody say, `Hey you’re in the

Hall of Fame’ and that’d be the end of it,” Tyer said. ”He

probably will give the shortest acceptance speech on record.”

Yep. It’s a safe bet.

”He’s got that right,” Hanburger said in an interview with The

Associated Press from his home in Darlington, S.C. ”They’ve

limited us in time, which I think is great. They’ve had players in

the past speak for so long. No matter how many people you try to

remember or thank, I don’t care if you stay up there for two hours,

you’re still going to leave people out. I think it’s the way to go.

Shorten it, keep it general – and get it over with.”

Hanburger had the same no-nonsense approach as the on-field

leader of the Redskins defense. An 18th-round draft pick in 1965,

he was a mainstay in Washington through 1978 and was voted to nine

Pro Bowls. He had the potentially daunting responsibility of

calling the plays for Allen – a demanding, perfectionist coach who

valued defense first and foremost. This was long before the days of

intricate signals and headsets, when now allow coaches to dictate

nearly every move and formation from the sideline.

Of course, it helped that Allen had overloaded the team with

veterans, thus the ”Over The Hill Gang.”

”I wouldn’t call it daunting – if you knew the system, which we

did,” Hanburger said. ”What made it work for us, we had mature

players who understood what everybody did in every defense, I would

say 99.9 percent of the time. It was a lot of fun to control the

game right there on the field. We could audiblize at any time and

we could audiblize to any defense we had, whether we had practiced

it or not. When you have mature players, it takes a lot of pressure

off the coach.”

Although his accolades were many and the Redskins became an NFC

power with Hanburger patrolling the field – he started the team’s

first Super Bowl at the end of the 1972 season, a loss to the

undefeated Miami Dolphins – he had to wait more than three decades

after his retirement to enter the Hall as a senior nominee. He

figured he was never going to make it.

”I never even gave it any thought, to be honest with you,”

Hanburger said. ”Other than the fact that if it ever happened, it

would be wonderful and I’m not going to let it worry me at all.

That’s just the way I am about things. I had a job to do, and I

tried to do it to the best of my ability.”

Hanburger’s life, including his football demeanor, was shaped by

a military background. Born in Fort Bragg, N.C., he had a father,

uncle and grandfather who were career military. He headed to the

Army for two years before going to the University of North

Carolina.

”I knew coming out of high school that I was not mature

enough,” he said. ”I certainly hadn’t applied myself in high

school. And I needed to grow up a little bit.”

An accident broke the bone underneath his eye socket and sent

him to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His vision eventually

recovered, but his right eye and right ear remain slightly higher

than his left eye and ear. He said the Army made him ”very

regimented and pretty much a creature of habit.”

That made him perfect for a coach like Allen.

After he retired, Hanburger stayed in the Washington, D.C., area

and would often go goose and duck hunting. He also played in his

former teammates’ various celebrity golf tournaments. Finally, he

got tired of the traffic, the taxes and the rat race and moved to

South Carolina, where he has no plans whatsoever to host his own

golf tournament.

”The fewer people who know where I am,” he said, ”the happier

I am.”

Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP