Jim Langer, RIP

Jim Langer died late last month at the age of 71. Langer was the center for the great Miami Dolphins teams of the 1970s, including the unbeaten 1972 team.

Langer played defense at South Dakota State. He was not selected in the 1970 draft, which lasted 17 rounds, but he signed with the Cleveland Browns as a free agent. They promptly cut Langer, but Don Shula picked him up and by 1972 he was Miami’s starting center.

Langer went on to become an all-pro four times. He played in six pro-bowls. In 1975, he was named Miami’s most valuable player, a rare honor for a center.

Langer was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, his first year of eligibility.

I’ve watched the NFL for 60 years, admittedly more during the first 30 than the second. I’ve never seen the center position played better than Langer played it during his prime.

Langer must have been a political conservative because when President Obama honored the undefeated 1972 Dolphins, Langer declined to join the team at the White House. He explained:

We’ve got some real moral compass issues in Washington…I don’t want to be in a room with those people and pretend I’m having a good time. I can’t do that. If that [angers] people, so be it.

Langer stayed at home in Minnesota and went fishing with his grandson. Bob Kuechenberg, his roommate and fellow member of Miami’s offensive line, also declined Obama’s invitation. So did Manny Fernandez, the great defensive tackle.

As the magical 1972 season went on, Kuechenberg would say to Langer: “Obviously we’re going to have to lose a game.” When Langer responded “I suppose,” Kuechenberg would ask “When?”

“Not this week,” was Langer’s reply.