January 31: This Date in American Football History

Washington State - Mel HeinFormer Washington State center Mel Hein passed away on this date in 1992 at the age of 82.

Nicknamed “Old Indestructible,” Hein was born on August 22, 1909, and entered Washington State in the fall of 1927. He starred at center for the Cougars from 1928-1930, but was also a standout at linebacker. During his senior season, he intercepted eight passes in a single game against Idaho, and eventually earned All-America honors while leading the Cougars to the 1931 Rose Bowl. They entered the game undefeated at 9-0 and faced off against the Alabama Crimson Tide who sported an identical record. In the end, the Tide proved to be the better team handing the Cougars a 24-0 setback in their only loss of the season.

Hein went on to star for the New York Giants from 1931-1945 eventually earning All-Pro honors in eight different seasons while setting a club record by playing in 172 consecutive games. During the 1943 season, he pulled double duty as the head coach of Union College in Schenectady, New York, on Saturdays while playing for the Giants on Sundays. He later served as the supervisor of officials for the American Football League (1966-1969), a job that he continued in until 1974 with the American Football Conference following the AFL-NFL merger. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in its second class in 1954, and he was also inducted as a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

Another member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame has ties to this date – and, ironically, just missed crossing paths with Hein in that 1931 Rose Bowl.

Hall of Famer Don Hutson was born on this date in 1913 and enrolled at Alabama in the fall of 1931 – just months after the team’s win over Washington State in that same Rose Bowl that Hein played in. At the time, freshmen couldn’t compete at the varsity level, but Hutson would soon become the prototype for future college and professional wide receivers. From 1932-1934, he helped redefine what the receiver position could be, and he perfected both the art of catching the ball in traffic and the end-around. By his 1934 season, he was an All-American playing at one end for the Crimson Tide opposite another young end by the name of Bear Bryant.

While Bryant was destined to be a college football coaching legend, most notably, leading the Crimson Tide to six national championships, Hutson was destined for the NFL where he starred for the Green Bay Packers from 1935-1945. He was a nine-time All-Pro, and led the league in receiving during eight of his years as a professional. At the time of his retirement, he had 488 receptions, a full 300 ahead of the second-place player at the time with just 188.


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