(Chris Hinton photos courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
It's not unusual for Hall-of-Fame voters to receive letters in support of someone's candidacy. Usually, they come from a former teammate, coach or another Hall-of-Fame voter. But it is unusual to hear from the player himself … unless, of course, that player is Chris Hinton.
The former star offensive lineman contacted voters by email last week in an effort – and a valiant one – to remind them not to forget him when they cast their ballots this month. Hinton is one of 94 modern-era candidates competing for five spots in the Class of 2017, and he is, as he said in his letter to voters, "a long shot" for selection.
But that doesn’t mean he's not worthy. Because he is.
Its not just that Chris Hinton was a very good player. He was an outstanding one, chosen to seven Pro Bowls and named to three All-Pro units. He was the first rookie offensive lineman to start a Pro Bowl. He was the first offensive lineman chosen to the Pro Bowl at three different positions (left guard, left tackle and right tackle). And he was one of the first two players voted into the Indianapolis Colts' Ring of Honor.
But he was more than that. He was the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal that sent him, backup quarterback Mark Hermann and a future No. 1 draft choice (Ron Solt) to Indianapolis for quarterback John Elway. That was 1983, and it is that deal … and not so much Hinton's play … that is associated with his name.
And that's too bad.
"I always used to be kidded by the guys on the Colts," Hinton once said. " 'We could’ve had Elway instead of you.' And I'd say, 'Yeah, but you wouldn’t have had anybody to block for him.' "
At least not one as complete as Chris Hinton.
One of the game's most reliable blockers, Hinton has never been a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist and will have a tough time making it into the room … let along Canton … to be discussed as one of the 15 finalists. It's not, as I said, that he doesn’t belong; it's that he has to wade through a minefield of equally capable players who have something Chris Hinton does not.
Rings and all-decade acclaim.
Don’t undersell either. An overwhelming majority of Hall-of-Fame inductees have at least one, with offensive linemen like Alan Faneca, Jay Hilgenberg, Kent Hull and Tony Boselli – four of the candidates on this year's ballot – among them. By contrast, Chris Hinton played on teams that were a combined 57-70.
That is supposed to sabotage Hinton's candidacy, but I don’t see it that way. Yeah, his teams didn't have much success during his career, but he was so accomplished that voters refused to penalize him for their performances. Chris Hinton must have been doing something right, and he was. He was playing hard and playing well for bad football teams.
Hinton played on a college team (Northwestern) that went 4-40 and still became the fourth overall pick of the NFL draft. A player can shine even when he team doesn't.
As Hinton said in his note to voters last week, the odds of him making it to Canton are long. But he also hoped he would at least get a look … and, considering his resume, that is not asking a lot. In fact, it is something he deserves.