A look back - Len Hauss

From the season opener against Cleveland in September of 1964 until the season finale in December of 1977, when the Redskins beat the Rams 17-14, a span of 196 straight regular season and seven postseason games — one thing was certain. Len Hauss would be in Washington's lineup.

During his 14-year career, the center never missed a game and began a team record for consecutive starts beginning with only his fourth contest as a rookie when he replaced veteran Fred Hageman.

"I guess as time has gone by, that would be one of the things that I would be most proud of." The others? "You kind of have to understand the game pretty well, but every record that Sonny Jurgensen holds for the Redskins, every record that Larry Brown holds, every record that Jerry Smith, Charley Taylor, Bobby Mitchell holds, I snapped the ball. Every one of their superior days was a superior day for me," Hauss told Skins Report.

"It's something that I did at that time for various reasons, some of which I don't even remember. But some of which have to do with your own personal work ethic. I'm 56-years-old now and I still feel like I have to work everyday."

During his career, the six-time Pro Bowler went to work everyday in the "trenches." What makes his consecutive games record even more impressive was that even though trainers and team doctors occasionally advised him against it, Hauss played through injuries that would have had others standing on the sideline wearing a baseball hat and holding a clipboard.

"There were times I was told I should not play, but most of those times I was told, ‘But, it's up to you.' So if it were up to me, my decision would be, if I could play, I'd play," he said. "Obviously I couldn't play with a broken leg or a broken shoulder or something like that. I guess the worst thing I ever played with was two broken thumbs. One week and one the following week. They were fractured, but I could still handle the ball."

What may have been tougher to handle was experiencing only one winning season through his first seven years. He refers to that time when he was coached by Bill McPeak, Otto Graham, Vince Lombardi and Bill Austin as "Before George." "With George" began when George Allen arrived from the Los Angeles Rams in 1971. Hauss didn't go through a losing campaign again and went to the playoffs five of his final seven years.

"George, when he came in, and I had a long talk. He made me think that I was a part of his plan and apparently I was. I think it was a relationship of mutual respect. I was a little bit outspoken and I think he probably appreciated that. He emphasized defense and if you weren't careful, the offense would get lost in the shadows," said Hauss. "I think I helped keep the offense as out front as we were, at least keep the offense visible. Often times, I felt like I might have gone too far, but I think he respected that aspect of it."

In 1972, under Allen's reign, Washington won its first title in 30 years. Beating Dallas for the NFC championship is one of Hauss' favorite memories.

"The time after the Cowboys game when we realized we were going to the Super Bowl, that was probably as high as any of us from that era ever felt."

As high as the Redskins felt that afternoon, two weeks later, Hauss says he felt just as low following the 14-7 loss to Miami in Super Bowl VII.

"The thing that sticks out the most in my mind and I'm a pretty mature person, but I recall after the game feeling that we were the biggest losers in football! We were actually the second-best team," he said. "We got a real nice ring. The losing team gets a ring as well as the winning team. Mine's in a safe deposit box and it's been there for 20-some-odd years."

During his years with the Redskins, Hauss was the center for primarily two quarterbacks, Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer.

Regarding the Hall of Famer Jurgensen, the Georgia native says "you'd probably get some arguments in Baltimore and New York, but (he had) probably one of the best arms in the game. You couldn't stop Jurgensen's outs and ins. He just had a tremendous arm. A super guy too!"

About Kilmer: "One of my favorite stories about his and my rapport was one time when he was down on the field, (practically) got knocked out. It was on third down, we were going to the sidelines and I stepped around him. Someone asked, ‘Why didn't you help him up?' I said, ‘Because he doesn't want my help and I'm one of his best friends.' He's got to get up himself. He's that type of guy. He maybe played best when he was battered, bruised and bleeding. He inspired the team from that standpoint.

"Quite obviously, the records will show he didn't have the same arm that Sonny did. But if you were choosing up a team and trying to pick a quarterback, I'd like to have two choices. I'd pick them both."

Hauss faced scores of defenses during his career and says Bob Lilly of the Cowboys was the best lineman he encountered. "And of course, there were a lot of even defenses (four-man front) in those days. Of the middle linebackers, the St. Louis Cardinals had a guy named Dale Meinert, who I thought was the best until (Chicago's) Dick Butkus and (Atlanta's) Tommy Nobis came along. I usually rated Butkus and Nobis one and one."

During the football season, Hauss, who played at 235 pounds, watches NFL games on television and sees most of today's linemen tipping the scales around 300-pounds or more.

"It just lets me understand that the game has changed a lot," he says. "I tried my best to think of some 300-pounders that I played against and really only two come to mind. The guy from Detroit, Roger Brown weighed about 300-pounds. I guess he was the first 300-pounder I played against. And there was a defensive tackle for the Rams and he was a Brown too, Roosevelt Brown. That was over a 14-year period! Now they're all 300-pounds."

Residing in his native Georgia, Hauss and his wife, Janis, have a married daughter, Lana, and a five-year-old granddaughter, Jobie Leigh. For the past five years, he has been a vice president and senior lending officer at Tattnall Bank in Reidsville.

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