Why John Hannah believes Leon Gray belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy of New England Patriots
Ron Borges

John Hannah was elated this week to learn his old running mate in New England, tackle Leon Gray, had been elected to the Patriots’ Hall of Fame. Now he’s hoping there’s another election in Gray’s future.

“I’m shocked,’’ Hannah said about the fact Gray has never joined him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “For him to not be mentioned as one of the great offensive linemen in NFL history just amazes me. He just seemed to have been brushed aside for some reason.’’

Gray and Hannah formed one of the most overpowering left sides in pro football history during the six seasons they played together along the Patriots’ offensive line. In 1976, the Patriots averaged a phenomenal 210.6 rushing yards per game. Two years later they set a record that may never be broken, rushing for 3,165 yards. Most of that yardage came behind Hannah, who is considered the greatest guard in NFL history and perhaps the greatest lineman, and Gray, who was named All-Pro four times and twice NFL lineman of the year.

The day he was traded to the Houston Oilers in fallout from a contract dispute a year earlier, Hannah said “they just traded away our Super Bowl.’’ Meanwhile, down in Houston, future Hall of Fame defensive lineman Elvin Bethea said, “this is one of the happiest days of my life’’ because he no longer would face Gray.

“Leon could handle his job,’’ Hannah said. “I never had to worry about that. That freed me up to play my game. My game was limited (after he left).

“(The tackle) on the left side it’s really important to have good feet. Leon had such great feet. But Leon could drive block better than anybody around. He could just knock people off the ball.’’

Hannah relates to Talk of Fame Network this week how he and Gray came to hold out together before the 1977 after a discussion at the Pro Bowl in which all the linemen threw their salaries in a hat. It didn’t take them long to figure out who was at the top of the All-Pro list and the bottom of the league pay scale.

Why that holdout failed and how it led to Gray’s departure is a story you’ll want to hear straight from the horse’s mouth. Or in this case from the mouth of “Hawg’’ Hannah, who believes fervently that his old teammate deserves to have his bust added to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

This week we also visit with long-time Hall of Fame voter John McClain, who argues that retiring punter Shane Lechler should become the second pure punter to be voted into the Hall. McClain argues that Lechler “is the second greatest punter in history.’’

Hall of Fame voter and long-time Green Bay Press-Gazette columnist Pete Dougherty also stops by to discuss the developing soap opera around the demise of former head coach Mike McCarthy and his fractured relationship between McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Can either ever fully recover their reputations? Dougherty brings his expertise to bear on that point and the entire mess that led to the Packers collapse in 2018.

Our Hall of Fame hosts, Ron Borges and Clark Judge, also debate the reasons for the collapse of the Alliance of American Football and who bears responsibility for its demise with a month left to play in their inaugural season.

Ron also states the Hall of Fame case for Ricky Watters, who rushed for 10,643 yards, scored 91 touchdowns and rushed for over 1,000 yards seven times during his ten year career. So why isn’t he ever mentioned in the Hall of Fame debate? To find out, tune into the show Wednesday night’s on your local SB Nation Radio Network station or by subscribing to our free podcast on iTunes or the TuneIn app. You can also hear this show and all past ones on our website, talkoffamenetwork.com.

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