Number 97 on the NFL Network’s Top 100 Countdown is linebacker Derrick Brooks. The reason that Brooks is not yet a Hall of Famer is that he just recently retired. He was drafted 28th in the first round in 1995 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of Florida State University. An 11-time Pro-Bowler, Brooks was one of the main reasons that the “Tampa 2 defense” was so effective.
Derrick Brooks is considered by many to be the best Tampa Bay defender ever to play the game. It would be hard to argue that when you consider that, in his career, he had 1,689 tackles, 25 interceptions and 13.5 sacks. That was in 224 games. Incidentally, Brooks was voted 66th by the fans, which continues to back up my theory that younger fans are doing the voting.
Number 96 on the Countdown is Mel Hein. Hein did not receive a ranking from the fans, and that is not surprising because he played for the New York Giants in 1931. Hein was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963, and is a comparative example of the difference of the pro-league player of yesteryear and today.
Mel Hein never missed a game in high school, college or the pro ranks. Upon graduation from Washington State, Hein wrote to three different teams to try to get work as a player. There was at that time, of course, no draft. The Giants offered the most money at $150 per game. For their money, they got a guy who played center on offense and linebacker on defense. In other words, he played 60 minutes and, as I said, he never missed a game. That equaled 170 games in 15 seasons. He died Jan. 31, 1992.
Before I put Hein into the ground of history, I should mention that he was the first center to take a step back to block on a passing down, as well as the first center to pull and “lead block” on a running play.
Mel Hein and Derrick Brooks were both linebackers. Brooks was no doubt faster and modern in his approach to the game, and yet he went just one way. Hein went two ways, and only asked for $150 per game. For the extra money and specialization, is the NFL better today?
That is a question each fan has to answer.