Chris Hanburger is the 19th long-time member of the Washington Redskins to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Hanburger, born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was the son of an U.S. Army Colonel. Chris followed in his father’s footsteps and served two years in the Army before he enrolled in college at the University of North Carolina.
Hanburger intercepted 19 passes during his career. His first of two interceptions he returned for touchdowns in his career came in a home game against the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 17, 1968. He picked off the Cowboys’ Craig Morton late in the game and ran it back 30 yards.
Extremely intelligent, Chris was the “quarterback” for a very complicated George Allen defense.
His second and last pick-six of his career came on Nov. 5, 1972 against the New York Jets at Shea Stadium. He stepped in front of a pass thrown just after the two-minute warning by future Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath intended for running back Emerson Boozer. Hanburger raced 41 yards to the end zone. His TD put his team out in front 21-10 after the extra point. On the very next series, he again picked off Namath. This time he returned it 12 yards before he was pushed out of bounds. The Redskins downed the Jets 35-17 that day.
He was known to make big plays that often changed the momentum of a game. Three such plays came on returns of fumbles for touchdowns, which was a NFL record at the time of his retirement. Hanburger’s fumble returns all came against division rivals. The first occurred on Dec. 21, 1969 when his 19-yard fumble return for a score was the Redskins only touchdown in a 20-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Two years later on Sept. 19, 1971, he recovered a fumble midway through the third quarter and returned it 16 yards to give Washington a 14-10 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. The Redskins won the game at Busch Stadium by a score of 24-17. Hanburger’s recovery of a Roman Gabriel fumble in the end zone early in the third quarter on Nov. 10, 1974 helped change the momentum of the game and fueled the Redskins’ come-from-behind 27-20 road win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Hanburger’s five defensive scores still rank him tied for second in the Redskins history books. He is positioned just behind fellow Hall of Famer Darrell Green who had eight defensive touchdowns.
Extremely intelligent, Chris was the “quarterback” for a very complicated George Allen defense. He was in charge of calling audibles at the line of scrimmage in order to get his team in the best possible position to stop the offense. He was an integral part of some dominant Redskins’ defenses and gained a reputation that earned him nine Pro Bowl selections which remain the most in Redskins’ history.
“Today’s media applauds Peyton Manning and Tom Brady for being able to run the offense and audible and check. Well, Chris Hanburger did that in the ‘70s. He not only called [audibles] on his own, he had over 100 audibles each game that he had to manage. One of the reasons we were so successful was our defense, because Chris managed it no different than quarterbacks do today. That type of field general should be recognized for his contribution.” - Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, son of Hall of Fame coach George Allen
“I am so happy for Chris. He was one of the era’s most dominating players and is well deserving of this honor. Not only did he make nine Pro Bowls, Chris was the captain of the defense and was a true coach on the field. This is a great day for the entire Redskins’ organization.” - Daniel M. Snyder, Redskins Owner
"He should have been inducted long before now based on him being named to the Pro Bowl nine times. That’s a significant accomplishment. He was very quiet and that was kind of hard for him to do. I thought in most situations he allowed his performance to speak for him." - Larry Brown, Redskins running back (1969-1976)
"Chris was not only the captain on defense, he called all of the defenses. He was capable of studying the game and was a master at that. Coach Allen would have never selected him as the captain, extending him that responsibility, so that by itself - his credentials, not only physically, being able to run as fast as he did and put himself in the right position. He understood the game of football and the game of angles. He was a real physical player. Chris was really a terrific athlete. He represented Washington, D.C. and the Redskins very well. I think it’s significant. We should really be excited for the community that a guy like Chris would be put into the Hall of Fame because he has a lot of character along with being a great football player." - Pat Fischer, Redskins defensive back (1968-1977)
“I was really excited because you take a guy that has been to nine Pro Bowls, waited all those years, and there have been opportunities which have past for him to be here. What can you say? It’s the best thing that has ever happened. It is good for the Redskins, but also great for him and the guys who played with him. So, I would say, ‘Welcome Chris.’ Every moment was a great moment with Chris. He had such a command for the game, really heady, but he also had a very dry sense of humor. I think everybody looked forward to seeing that, especially the humor he had for George Allen. He was just a great guy to play with.” - Ken Houston, Redskins Hall of Fame safety
"He was tremendous. He wasn’t very big, but he was quick. When we needed to get the quarterback, I would call a blitz. I would come up the middle and he would come from the outside and we took that quarterback apart. He was one of the best blitzers that I think ever played the game. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because he had such great talent. He was coachable because he had so much great talent. He was a great player.” - Sam Huff, Redskins Hall of Fame linebacker
“He was serious. There was not a lot of fun and games with Chris. He was serious about what he was doing. He was serious about his position. He was prepared every week. He prepared. He was involved with what defense they would play. That’s what made him a great player because he worked at his profession." - Sonny Jurgensen, Redskins Hall of Fame quarterback
"I think this is a great moment. It shouldn’t have taken this long. Chris was one of our great leaders on the team and one of our captains. He was a great player, very fast and he was one of those rare linebackers who had a lot of speed. He wasn’t your typical large linebacker, but the way he played the game, you expected him to be there on every play. He was a student of the game, a great teammate and a friend." - Brig Owens, Redskins defensive back (1966-1977)
“He was at that time the smartest player in the league. We did everything we could to try to eliminate him from the play. We knew if we didn’t neutralize him, then we had less of a chance of winning.” - John Hannah, New England Patriots Hall of Fame guard
“Chris Hanburger put us in more correct defenses than you could shake a stick at. He knew 125 different audibles. He knew all the defensive line calls, as well. He was the general.” - Dave Butz, Redskins defensive tackle (1975-1988)