Over the course of the 2018 off-season, the New England Patriots office at Last Word on Pro Football will be highlighting a different historical Patriot great every week. This week, we will be taking a look at John Hannah, a former Pats offensive lineman.
New England Patriots of the Past: John Hannah
Destined for Greatness
Hannah began his football career in high school at Baylor School, a private prep school in Chattanooga, TN. After playing a year of high school football at Albertville High School in Alabama, Hannah chose to play college ball for the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama. While at Alabama, Hannah played both tackle and guard, earning All-American honors in 1971 and 1972. The Crimson Tide collected an SEC Championship title with the help of Hannah. His efforts in Tuscaloosa awarded him an eventual induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
The Patriots drafted Hannah fourth overall in the 1973 NFL Draft. He would remain with the team until his retirement from the game of football in 1985. Hannah was renowned for his durability. In his career, Hannah started 183 out of 191 possible games, missing only five games due to injury and another three for contract negotiation issues.
He was also well-known for his commitment to the game. If Hannah felt his teammates were not demonstrating the same level of commitment on the field, the guard would get angry and lash out at the perceived slackers. Steve Grogan confirmed this in Michael Felger’s book, Tales from the Patriots Sideline, saying, “He wanted everyone to play to his level, which was hard for some guys to do… He did his job quietly, with a lot of intensity. But if you screwed up, he wasn’t afraid to tell you.”
The offensive lineman made his fellow players better whenever he was on the field. His pairing with Leon Gray at tackle was regarded as the top guard/tackle combination in the league during the latter half of the 1970s. With the addition of Russ Francis at tight end, they formed an unbeatable left-side trio. In 1978, Hannah helped his offensive line set a still-standing record of 3,165 rushing yards. Although Hannah does not have a Super Bowl ring in his trophy case, he was an invaluable contributor to the 1985 Patriots, the first team in franchise history to claim an AFC title and advance to the Super Bowl. Hannah retired after playing in Super Bowl XX.
That impressive rushing record would not be the only honor on Hannah’s resume. Affectionately referred to as “Hog,” Hannah was a nine-time Pro Bowler, ten-time All-Pro, 11-time All-AFC guard. He was named to not one, but two NFL All-Decade Teams for the 1970s and 1980s. He was also named the top guard on the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. In 1991, Hannah was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, becoming the first New England Patriot to do so. The franchise retired number 73 in honor of Hannah’s legendary career and became the first figure in the franchise’s Hall of Fame the same year.
After retiring from the NFL, Hannah served on the coaching staffs of two different Massachusetts high schools before returning to become a special assistant coach at his alma mater, the Baylor School in Chattanooga, for a year. He retired from coaching in 2005.