Earlier this week, the Redskins announced that former Redskins offensive guard Dick Stanfel was a Hall of Fame nominee via Senior Committee vote.
Given that Stanfel played in an NFL era around the time that my parents were born, I don’t truthfully remember his playing days. But having done a bit of research on the interwebs, I’ve found a few nuggets worth passing along about the San Francisco product.
If you think the BCS college bowl system is awry now, imagine what it was like in 1951. Stanfel’s University of San Francisco Dons were a perfect 9-0-0, having run the table on each of the opponents on the schedule. That season, AP ranked them 14th in the nation, and the Dons were selected to play Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl at season’s end. The only thing that the Dons had to do was leave their two African-American players, Burl Toler and Ollie Matson (a future Pro Football Hall of Famer) at home.
Taking a stand for equality, the team–led by head coach Joe Kuharich–refused, forfeiting the much needed money that would have saved the program. As a result, the team was demoted to Division II the following year, and eventually folded. It was a death penalty to a team and an ideal that was ahead of its time.
But this didn’t take anything away from the success of this group of players. Three players from the 1951 would go on to star in the NFL, eventually being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If Stanfel joins them, that will be the most from any college football squad, ever.
In the NFL:
Stanfel is perhaps better known as a Detroit Lion during his time in the pros, but it was his former USF Dons coach, Joe Kuharich, that brought him to Washington.
In 1954, Kuharich succeeded Curly Lambeau as the coach of the Burgundy and Gold. In 1955, he coached the Redskins to an 8-4 record, earning him NFL Coach of the Year honors. In 1956, he traded for Stanfel as part of a four-team trade, and immediately instated Stanfel as a captain of the team.
Over the next three years, Stanfel would lead a mostly mediocre Redskins team, but earned three straight Pro Bowl nods despite his teams averaging only five wins.
Following the 1958 season, at the ripe old age of 31, Stanfel walked away from professional football at the height of his game. In those days, despite being a two-time World Champion and five-time Pro Bowler, professional football didn’t pay the bills, and Stanfel–like many others–left to pursue his professional life.
A professional life on the sidelines, coaching. In 1959, he again joined Kuharich, this time at Notre Dame (via Dwight Chapin, SFGate.com):
“I flew right from Los Angeles to South Bend,” Stanfel said, “and when I got there, the snow was as high as the road signs. I thought, ‘What in the hell am I doing here?’ “
In that same year that he transitioned careers, Stanfel was inducted into his alma mater’s Hall of Fame. Over the next 40 years, he would coach all over the United States at the collegiate and professional level, and always by one old-school approach:
“I told every player, ‘If you can get it done, I don’t care if you stand on your head. But if you can’t get it done, you’d better damn well do it my way.’ “
I prefer the latter to standing on my head.
In 2002, Stanfel was named one of the 70 Greatest Redskins, and took part in the ceremonies.
If Stanfel is inducted into the Hall of Fame when selectors meet on Feb. 4 in Indianapolis, it would be the second consecutive year that a Redskins player earned induction as a Seniors candidate. Last year, Redskins great Chris Hanburger was inducted as a Seniors candidate.
The Seniors Committee reviews the qualifications of players whose careers took place more than 25 years ago.