College Days: John Hannah

Hall of Famers Published on : 11/21/2013
Each week throughout the 2013 season, recaps the college days of a pro football legend.

John Hannah
Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1991

When pro football historians discuss the game’s greatest offensive lineman, the name John Hannah is invariably thrown into the mix. In fact, Sports Illustrated once labeled the Hall of Fame guard as “the best offensive lineman of all time.” A quick look at Hannah’s awards and honors as a pro might prove that proclamation to be true. The same could be said about Hannah’s play in college at the University of Alabama.

Hannah arrived on the ‘Bama campus after playing three years of football at Baylor Prep in Chattanooga, Tennessee and one final season as a senior in his hometown at Albertville High School in Alabama. The two-way player gladly accepted a college offer from Paul “Bear” Bryant to play on the football team.

Dan is one of seven Hall of Famers to play at Alabama. Don Hutson, Joe Namath, Ozzie Newsome, Bart Starr, Dwight Stephenson and Derrick Thomas are the others. 
At 6-2, 265 pounds, Hannah, who was nicknamed “Ham Hocks” while at the school, was the heaviest player in Alabama history. Not only was Hannah frighteningly strong, he was exceptionally quick for a man his size and possessed tremendous athletic ability. As a freshman he went undefeated as a heavyweight wrestler. He was also a standout in track and field. Hannah won the All-Southeast Conference titles in shot put (61’5”) and discus (177’1”) and set the SEC indoor shot put record.

On the football field his play earned a jaw-dropping review by the legendary Bryant.

“John is the finest offensive lineman I have ever been around,” exclaimed Bryant. “He has all the physical tools of greatness plus a burning desire to excel.”
A review of the guard’s accomplishments validates that statement. Hannah was a three-time All-SEC choice and twice earned All-American honors. The consensus honors during his senior year in 1972 were enhanced by a mantle full of trophies.  Hannah was awarded the Jacobs Trophy as the SEC’s best blocking lineman and Lineman of the Year awards from Touchdown Clubs in Columbus, Miami, Birmingham, and Washington, D.C.

Hannah’s college dominance rightly earned him the attention of every pro scout. Some critics, however, questioned whether Hannah could make the switch from the straight ahead style he had excelled at in Alabama’s Wishbone offense to the drop-back blocking and the pulling required in the pros. The New England Patriots were unfazed by the concern and selected him with the fourth overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft.

Despite missing the final game of the 1973 season due to a broken leg, Hannah had a memorable first year in the NFL. He earned All-Rookie honors and was tabbed as the Patriots’ offensive Most Valuable Player. Over the course of his 12-season pro career, Hannah became widely recognized as the premier guard of pro football. He was named All-Pro 10 straight years from 1976 through 1985. Hannah also won the NFL Players Association's Offensive Lineman of the Year award four straight years from 1978 through 1981.

John’s HOF Bio>>>