Len Hauss, a five-time Pro Bowler who started 192 consecutive games for the Washington franchise at center, passed away on Dec. 15 in his hometown of Jesup, Georgia. He was 79.
Hauss was drafted in the ninth round of the 1964 NFL Draft and made his first start against the St. Louis Cardinals during his rookie season. Despite playing with injuries at the start of his career, Hauss never missed a game in his time with Washington and helped Washington reach a Super Bowl during the 1972 season.
"There were times I was told I should not play [because of injuries]," Hauss said in Jim Gehman's book, "Then Gibbs Said to Riggins." "But most, I guess, all of the times I was told, 'But it's up to you.' So if it were up to me, my decision would be, if I can play, I play."
At 6-foot-2 and weighing 235 pounds in the NFL, Hauss didn't start his playing career as a center. He was a fullback for Jesup High School and rushed for 1,500 yards during his senior season, helping his team earn a state championship.
Once he joined the college ranks at the University of Georgia, one of his coaches recommended that he make the switch to the offensive line.
"He asked me if I would rather be the first-team center or the third-team fullback," Hauss said in a Washington Post article. "What could I say?"
The move proved to be a smart one for Hauss. He was an All-Southeastern Conference player in his sophomore season.
Once Hauss joined Washington, it took some time for the team to see consistent success. Hauss' first five seasons ended with a losing record. Hauss, meanwhile, was coming into his own, with three Pro Bowl votes from 1966-70.
Hauss blocked for a long list of Washington legends, including the likes of quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and running back John Riggins. Jurgensen went on to lead the NFL in several single-season categories during his time with Hauss and was elected to four Pro Bowls, while Riggins.
"You kind of have to understand the game pretty well, but every record that Sonny holds for [Washington], every record that Larry holds, every record that Jerry Smith, Charley Taylor, Bobby Mitchell holds, I snapped the ball," Hauss said. "Every one of their superior days was a superior day for me."
During the 1972 season, Hauss' final Pro Bowl year, Washington went on a tear to win the NFC Championship thanks to nine straight wins spanning from November to December. Washington blew past the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys before ultimately losing in Super VII to the Miami Dolphins. WIth help from Hauss and the rest of the offensive line, Washington rushed for 2,082 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 4.1 yards per attempt.
There are times when Hauss wished that the contributions of offensive linemen were appreciated more often, but the part Hauss played for Washington will never be forgotten.
""Years from now, when someone asks me what I did in pro ball," Hauss said in The Post's obituary. "I'll be able to say: 'You remember back when Larry Brown gained 1,200 yards in one season? Well, I snapped the ball and blocked for him. You remember when Sonny Jurgensen threw X number of touchdown passes? Well, this ol' boy snapped him the ball each time.' "