New York Giants: The Giants Original Super Star Mel Hein


By Michael Stewart

Mel Hein played before my time and I obviously never seen him play. However; based on all the articles and information I have gathered for this article; he was widely described as the greatest center ever to play the game and dominant defensively as a linebacker. Hein was the first OL to ever win the NFL MVP award (1938), a feat that has never been duplicated.

Hein played college ball at Washington State and was an All-American and was signed by the New York Giants before the 1931 season.  The story behind his signing with the Giants is intriguing as Hein wrote to several N.F.L. teams, including the Giants and the Providence Steamrollers, offering his services.  The team to respond was the Providence team who offered him a $125-a-game contract, Hein quickly signed it and mailed it back. The very next day the Giants contract arrived in the mail and they were offering $150 a game. Hein urgently sent a wire begging the postmaster in Providence to intercept the other contract and return it. The official obliged, and the rest is Giants history.

A duel position player, Hein not only excelled at the center position, but also was an outstanding linebacker for those Giant teams. In fact, many have claimed that Hein was the Lawrence Taylor of his time (which says a lot). Hein played his entire career with the Giants (1931-45) and during that time accomplished seven division titles and two league championships, along with personal awards such as: 4 time Pro Bowler, 5 time 1st team All-Pro, MVP in 1938, NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and NFL 1930”s All-Decade team.

Virtually impossible to get past on offense and all but unblockable on defense, Hein played with an edge and never took a play off.  For much of his career, in the days when players were expected to play both offense and defense, the 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound Mr. Hein was considered indestructible.

Hein, who had helped the Giants win their first N.F.L. championship in 1934 and was held in such high esteem by head coach Steve Owens that in Hein’s last four seasons he was allowed to practice just once a week., due to a commitment Hein had as a head coach at  Union College.

After leaving the Giants, Mr. Hein, whose $5,000 salary in 1945 made him the highest-paid lineman in the N.F.L., served as line coach for several pro teams, including the Yankees and the Rams, and then spent 15 seasons at U.S.C. before accepting Davis’s offer in 1965 to direct the A.F.L. officials. After the merger of the A.F.L. into the N.F.L., he remained as supervisor of officials for the American Football Conference until his retirement in 1974.

He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954 and was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame when it was organized in 1963.