For awhile now I've been trying to think of a series of posts that I could write for Cougcenter. While I do not bear the title of author here on the site I like being an active member, and if you've noticed over the last year or so I enjoy writing quite a bit. Earlier this week you may or may not have listened to Cougar Calls with Bill Moos or the podcast of the show that's posted here. If you did you heard Moos say this...
I asked who knows who Mel Hein is and no one raised their hand. I asked who knows Hugh Campbell and got maybe one or two hands. Then I asked about George Raveling and got blank stares.
When I graduated from WSU in 2009 it was with a degree in History. It absolutely confounds and frustrates me that not only do a good many fans not know who these people are, but neither does our Athletic Department's staff. Had I been in the room I'd have been going nuts, there's a reason I didn't become a teacher with my degree, I'm an impatient and irritable person when people are ignorant to things I think they should know. It's with that in mind that I find it somewhat ironic that my series, beginning here today, is going to be dedicated to teaching people about as many Cougar legends as I can because it is one of my great passions. There will be a lot of ground to cover and if I see a good response I'll be happy to keep it up from here on out so we all have something to read in the coming wasteland of Cougar Sports news that we call summer. So without further ado lets get to know a Cougar legend after the jump.
I'm going to start with the man that Bill Moos named first, Mel Hein.
If there is a Cougar that we should all know it should be Melvin Hein. He came to WSU from Bellingham Washington and played from 1928 to 1930. Some of you may already know this, but his 1930 team was the last Cougar team to see the Rose Bowl until the Ryan Leaf led Cougars of 1997. Hein was an unlikely leader in that he played Center. By today's standards he was a feather weight at 6'2" and 225 lbs, but he didn't earn the nickname "Old Indestructible" for nothing. In addition to playing Center he also saw action at linebacker, which at the time was a commonplace practice. Hein played in every game of his college and professional career injuring himself only once. During Hein's time on the field the Cougars went 26-6. In a game with Idaho he intercepted eight passes. He was an All West Coast Team selection as a Junior and All-America selection following his senior season in 1930.
In 1930 "Old Indestructible" led the Cougars along with Glenn "Turk" Edwards to a perfect 9-0 campaign and the 1931 Rose Bowl where they would meet Alabama. Unfortunately that Alabama team was coached by one Wallace Wade. That may be just another name, but Coach Wade had at one time been Guard Wade on the 1916 Brown Rose Bowl team. He had even been quoted after the game as saying "We were over-confident and took the game as a lark, even attending the Rose Parade first." Unfortunately for our Cougars Coach Wade had learned a hard lesson as a player and applied it to his coaching. In his second attempt at besting the Cougars in the Rose Bowl WSU's perfect season was brought to a screeching halt in a 24-0 defeat in which the Cougars reached the red zone (not yet known as the red zone) only once and failed to score from the 1.
Despite the end of his Cougar career being less than desirable Hein was more than happy to keep playing Football. However, this was a time in which the NFL was just a few ramshackle operations loosely affiliated and largely playing out a schedule dominated by teams in the North Eastern states. Were Hein alive today, he'd be one of the most talked about prospects in football, especially after leading his team to an undefeated season while garnering himself All-American Honors. Hein didn't have the hype machine of ESPN to tout him so he turned Pro by sending letters to three NFL teams offering his services. Providence, (Rhode Island actually had an NFL team then) was initially the only one to bite offering him a contract at $135 per game. Believing it was his only offer he gladly signed the contract and sent it back to the team. Just a few days later the New York Football Giants came calling offering him a better contract at $150 per game.
Realizing his mistake, Hein sent a wire to the post master of Providence describing in detail the package he had sent. The Post Master sent it back to him and Hein promptly destroyed it, setting course for New York. Once in New York Hein proved he could play and did so as a Center and Linebacker for 15 seasons. From 1933 to 1940 He was named First Team All NFL Center and earned Second Team honors an additional five seasons.
- During his Junior year in 1929 Hein also played for the Cougar Men's Basketball Team.
- The Washington State University Board of Regents honored Hein May 14, 1983, with its Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest award bestowed a Cougar alum.
- Hein coached for 4 years following his Pro Career. Unfortunately it was at USC in the 1950s.
- Mel Hein was the first player to win the NFL MVP award and is to this day the only Offensive Lineman to do so.
- Hein still holds the record for most consecutive games played with the New York Giants at 172 games.
- Mel Hein is one of only two Cougars in the College Football Hall of Fame and one of only two Cougars to have his number retired by Washinton State University. Though the number 7 is retired for him, due to his wearing it famously with the Giants, Hein actually wore 8 when he was a Cougar.
- He was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, as part of the Charter Class, and was inducted to the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978 once again as a member of a Charter Class.
- Hein has also been inducted into the Washington State Sports Hall of Fame and the Inland Empire Sports Hall of Fame.
Between his college and professional careers Hein played for 8 titles, losing the Rose Bowl in 1931, as well as the NFL Title game in 1933, 1935, 1939, 1941 and 1944. During that time he also won two titles with the Giants in 1934 and 1938.
In 1999, he was one of three centers named to The Sporting News All-Century team for college players. He has also been named to the 50th and 75th Anniversary NFL All-Time teams and the 1930's All Decade Team. In 1977 he was also named to the All Time North West Team by the National Football Foundation.
- Hein called only one timeout in his entire playing career, it was in a game in 1941 with the Giants. He ran to the sideline, had a teammate rearrange his broken nose for him, and immediately returned to the field.
So there you have it, Melvin Hein, possibly the greatest single player the WSU Cougars have ever had line up and play on the gridiron. That someone this talented is unknown to many of our fans is crazy to me, but hopefully I've provided you with enough information here that when someone asks you who Mel Hein is, you can give them the run down of this great Cougar and what he achieved. Before I wrap up completely I know that many of you out there may also be wondering how a guy that played on 3 Teams that went a combined 26-6 over three years only went Bowling once? The answer to that is pretty simple. Just like with his playing both ways, it was a different time. Bowl Games were still largely in their infancy and were also limited regionally for the most part. Back then there wasn't a bowl affiliation list tied to each conference and there certainly wasn't that much out there for a team that played runner up in their conference. Prior to the three ten win seasons from 2001-03 this was easily the best Cougar Football run of success there had ever been over a sustained period.
I'll leave you with this, which thanks to NFL Films has actually preserved some of Hein's ferocity on the field for us to witness. Feel free to post below, I'm really looking forward to continuing on with this if you'll have me do it. I'm thinking I'll stick with some other important figures in this era like Glenn "Turk" Edwards or William "Lonestar" Dietz the Coach of our beloved Cougs. Cast your votes below and I'll get cranking on the research, until next time enjoy and GO COUGS!