Q&A with Ken Houston

10/04/2001

Hall of Famer Q&A Archive Week 4:

 

KEN HOUSTON
(Prairie View A&M)
STRONG SAFETY 6-3, 197
1967-1972 Houston Oilers
1973-1980 Washington Redskins

Ninth-round pick, 1967 draft. . .Traded to Redskins for five players, 1973. . .Acclaimed NFL's premier strong safety of 1970s. . . Excellent speed, quickness, size, punishing tackler. . .Intercepted 49 passes for 898 yards, nine TDs. . .Also scored on blocked FG, fumble, punt return. . .Named to two AFL All-Star games, 10 Pro Bowls. . .All-Pro or All-AFC/NFC eight of nine years, 1971-1979. . . Born November 12, 1944, in Lufkin, Texas.

Mr. Houston - Being a Cowboys' fan, I can remember vividly the tackle you made on Walt Garrison at the one-yard line in the closing seconds of the 1973 Monday night game. What are your recollections of this classic game? Mark, New Jersey
KH:
Well, my recollection of that game was probably the most important game of my career than any game that I've ever played. And, the reason being was it was a Monday Night Football, it was Howard Cosell, it was the Cowboys versus the Redskins. And, it couldn't have come at a better time because I had been traded at that off-season and I really hadn't done anything out of the ordinary to prove myself to the players who were on that team. And after that particular night, I felt I was accepted as a Redskin and the rest of my career was easy.

Do you remember a Washington Monday night game in 1976 against the Cardinals when it was raining so hard that the field was under several inches of water? - EJ Frank
KH: Yes I do. I remember that game. The reason I remember that game is they had a tight end by the name of J.V. Cain. And J.V. Cain was a kid who I had watched grow up in the Houston area. Had worked out with him when he was in college. And he had another friend by the name of Delvin Williams. And I always wondered how those guys would be when they came into the league. Well, as luck would have it, he came in with the St. Louis Cardinals and I had an opportunity to play against him before his death two times and he played that night. And they had Terry Metcalf. It was one of the rainiest games I probably ever played in.

Ken - There's absolutely no question that you were a Hall of Fame caliber player. Do you feel that George Allen, your head coach for most of your years with the Redskins, was a Hall of Fame caliber coach? - Arch
KH: I most certainly do. (He was) nominated this year and will probably get in. I hate it was something he could not have experienced during his lifetime. I think the numbers are there, the legendary mystique was there and I think that he would be good for the Hall of Fame. I'm sure the Hall of Fame would be a good place for him to be but it would also be good for the fans that come there to see a guy like this. And, my answer to it is yes.

 
Who was the best offensive player you played against? - Steve Spann
KH: That's a tough question there because each team has so many offensive players. Let me phrase that in terms of people I respected on other teams - on the offense. Joe Namath jumps to my mind right away because he did so much for the AFL. Paul Warfield down at Miami was an excellent receiver. Fred Biletnikoff was a tremendous receiver. O.J. Simpson had to be one of the better running backs that I played against as far as turning a team around. And one guy that nobody ever thinks about that gave me fear was Bob Trumpy of Cincinnati. But, you could go on to each individual team and pick players. Earl Campbell jumps to mind, I was with the Redskins and had an opportunity to play against him but I watched what he did to people. And, you know before that I watched TV. You watch a guy like Jim Brown and after I retired you watch a guy like Barry Sanders. So, on any given Sunday you would meet that player who was just a tremendous offensive threat.

Hello Ken - How would you liked to have played on the current Titans' defense? - James M. Griffey, Smyrna, TN
KH: You know they have a great team. Sure, I would love to be a part of a defense like that. But, if I had to pick a defense you have to pick the one that won the Super Bowl last year. That defense was tremendous. I've never seen, you hear about defense but you always say that being a defensive player 'they probably weren't better than us.' But, that was a tremendous defensive performance. And, I watch the Titans play and they have Jevon Kearse. This guy is - he's a defensive back's dream because that quarterback's got til "thousand-three" and that ball has to be released. And this helps in coverage. So, as far as putting it all together, I'd like to have been there.

Kenny, How do you think the safety position has changed, if at all, in the years since you've been out of the league? - Jerry Crist
KH: Well, things are getting larger. They're not as involved in coverage as much, not the single-type coverage. When I played, sometimes you ended up covering wide receivers and you had to be a real in between guy - in between a corner and in between a safety. Right know the safeties, because most of them are hitters, there dropping back into zone coverages. I think probably - and I don't want to say this in a selfish manner - but it would take a little bit more coverage skills to play then then it does now, and that would be the difference.

Who was the person you hit the hardest in your professional football career? - Eric
KH: That's an excellent question there. Robert Newhouse, and I call it the lick that nobody saw because we played them in Washington. He was going to jump through a hole, and it was just when you hit a player and you both stand up. You know I could say that he hit me the hardest, but I think that I hit him the hardest. So I would probably say Newhouse.


 

Which QB and which WR were toughest for you to defend? - N Murphy, Oregon
KH: Well, when I was in Houston, we gave Daryle Lamonica his name the "Mad Bomber" when they beat us 50-0. I never played against Sonny Jurgensen, but he would have to be the hardest one in my mind that you would have to defend against. But just as far as actual playing, Joe Namath was a guy that I'm still inspired by the way he threw the ball and the way he moved the team. The hardest guy to beat was Roger Staubach because he wasn't a quitter. His mechanics were not there, he very seldom threw a spiral but the guy was a winner. So you got those categories of players and it would have to be those three.

And how about wide receiver?
KH: Wide receiver. If I don't say Charley Taylor, he's going to be upset and if I don't say Roy Jefferson he's going to be upset, so I'm saying neither one of those guys. Warren Wells for the Oakland Raiders, he, Biletnikoff, and Warfield were three of the top guys that I played against.

Would you rather have a teammate who has more heart and a warrior-like attitude or a player who has more skill talent, and numbers like the 40-yard dash or bench press. - Doug
KH:
I want a guy with the skill, because a guy can have all the heart but if he doesn't have the skill, he's not going to make it. You know the perfect combination is a guy who has them both. But you give me a guy that runs a 4.3 and I'll teach him to cover. Give me a guy that runs a 4.9 and he'll never cover. So I have got to have the skill.

Dear Ken - I play safety on a little league team and very much want to play in the NFL. Do you have any tips or pointers on tackling, pass coverage, and stuffing the run?
KH:
The thing about becoming an NFL player - especially at that age - is you have to learn to be a part of a team. And once you learn to be a part of a team and you are coachable, the rest of that stuff will come easily. So listen to what your coaches are saying and always keep your body in the right position where you won't be injured. And as you grow, your skills will grow also and eventually, if it's God's will, then the NFL will be in your future.

Hall of Famer Q&A Archive

Week 1: Frank Gifford
Week 2: Lem Barney
Week 3: Willie Lanier

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