Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

HOF Game Countdown: Giants #7, Mel Hein

The countdown has reached a critical point. The Giants will face off with the Bills in the Hall of Fame Game, at Fawcett Stadium, in ONE WEEK. Where has the time gone?

Speaking of time… Mel Hein first signed with the New York Giants 83 years ago (1931), six years after the franchise was founded in 1925. Hein played center (and linebacker 1940-1945) at the Polo Grounds for 15 years, including three seasons alongside Giants legend and war hero Al Blozis. Hein is commonly regarded as one of the greatest offensive linemen in football history. His #7 will live in infamy as one of twelve numbers retired by the Giants organization.

Just how dominant was Hein for his time period? He won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 1938 playing offensive line — at 225 pounds! He was the first player to achieve this feat, and he will unquestionably be the last. Can you imagine Bart Oates taking down league MVP honors in 1986…? It’s simply unheard of. But Hein was elite:

  • Eight-time All-Pro
  • Five-team first-team All Pro
  • Two-time NFL Champion (1934 & 1938)
  • NFL 50th Anniversary Team
  • NFL 75th Anniversary Team
  • #74 on Sporting News’ 100 Greatest Players
  • Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a charter member in 1963

This 1992 New York Times article uncovered an interesting story about Hein. He intended to retire from the NFL after the 1942 season and coach football at Union College, but his plans were nixed:

Before the 1943 season Hein had stopped playing for the Giants in order to coach the Union College team. But when the military took too many of its players for World War II service, the Schenectady, N.Y., college suddenly dropped football. Hein remained on the faculty as a physical-education professor, but agreed to join the Giants each weekend.

“I’d take the train down from Schenectady on Friday night after class, get the new plays and new defenses on Saturday, and play on Sunday,” he once said. “Then take the train back to Schenectady.”

Hein extended his playing career for three more seasons. While he was far from his offensive line prime from ’43-’45, he managed to impact the game on the defensive side of the ball, intercepting six passes with 52 return yards.

Trying to digest the tale of Mel Hein is equivalent to reading a childhood fable. The man was nothing short of a LEGEND. To new generations of Giants’ fans he might be a foreign figure, but Hein’s number 7 will live on forever.

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