Mel Hein
Mel Hein
No. 7
Position:Center, linebacker
Personal information
Born:(1909-08-22)August 22, 1909
Redding, California
Died:January 31, 1992(1992-01-31) (aged 82)
San Clemente, California
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:225 lb (102 kg)
Career information
High school:Burlington
(Burlington, Washington)
College:Washington State
Career history
As player:
*New York Giants ( 1931 1945)
As coach:
* Union College (1943–1946)
Career highlights and awards
* 2× NFL champion (1934, 1938)
Career NFL statistics
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Melvin Jack Hein (August 22, 1909 – January 31, 1992), sometimes known as "Old Indestructible",[1][2] was an American football player and coach. In the era of one-platoon football, he played as a center (then a position on both offense and defense) and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963 as part of the first class of inductees. He was also named to the National Football League (NFL) 50th and 75th Anniversary All-Time Teams.

Hein played college football as a center for the Washington State Cougars football team from 1928 to 1930. He led the 1930 Washington State team to an undefeated record in the regular season and received first-team All-Pacific Coast and All-American honors.

Hein next played 15 seasons in the NFL as a center for the New York Giants from 1931 to 1945. He was selected as a first-team All-Pro for eight consecutive years from 1933 to 1940 and won the Joe F. Carr Trophy as the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1938. He was the starting center on NFL championship teams in 1934 and 1938 and played in seven NFL championship games (19331935, 19381939, 1941, and 1944).

Hein also served as the head football coach at Union College from 1943 to 1946 and as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) from 1947 to 1948, the New York Yankees of the AAFC in 1949, the Los Angeles Rams in 1950, and the USC Trojans from 1951 to 1965. He was also the supervisor of officials for the American Football League from 1966 to 1969 and for the American Football Conference from 1970 to 1974.

Early yearsEdit

Hein was born in 1909 at Redding in Shasta County, California.[3] His father, Herman Hein (1886-1940), was a California native of German and Dutch ancestry who worked as an electrician for a power house operator. His mother, Charlotte Hein (1887-1967), was a California native of English and German ancestry. As of 1910, the family was living at Round Mountain, about 30 miles northeast of Redding.[4]

By 1920, the family was living in Glacier in Whatcom County, Washington, where Hein's father was working as a lineman on transmission lines.[5] Hein had an older brother, Lloyd, and two younger brothers, Homer and Clayton.[6] The family later moved to Fairhaven and Burlington, Washington, where Hein's father worked as an insurance agent and where Hein attended both Fairhaven and Burlington High Schools.[3][6] He also played basketball as a center at Burlington High.

College careerEdit

In 1927, Hein enrolled at Washington State College (later renamed Washington State University) in Pullman, Washington. He played at the center position for the Washington State Cougars football team from 1928 to 1930.[7] With Hein as the starting center, the Cougars compiled a 10–2 record in 1929 and 9–1 in 1930. The 1930 team won the Pacific Coast Conference championship and went through the regular season without a loss before losing to Alabama in the 1931 Rose Bowl.[8] Hein played all 60 minutes of the Cougars' back-to-back victories over California and USC on October 4 and 11, 1930.[9]

At the end of his senior year, Hein was selected by the Associated Press and United Press as the first-team center on the 1930 All-Pacific Coast football team.[10][11] He was also selected by the Central Press as the first-team center,[12] and by the All-America Board in a tie for the first-team center position,[13] on the 1930 College Football All-America Team.

While at Washington State, Hein also played for three years (freshman, sophomore, and junior years) on the Washington State Cougars men's basketball team and for one year on the school's track team as a freshman.[14]

Professional careerEdit

In 1931, Hein signed a contract with the New York Giants,[15] married his college sweetheart,[16] and packed all of their belongings into a 1929 Ford and drove from Pullman to New York.[17] He played for 15 years as a center and a defensive lineman. Hein was a first-team All-Pro center eight straight years from 1933 to 1940. He was also selected as the NFL's most valuable player in 1938. He was the starting center on two NFL championship teams — in 1934 (NYG 30, Chicago 13) and again in 1938 (NYG 23, Green Bay 17). Hein was also a member of five Giants teams that lost NFL championship games — 1933, 1935, 1939, 1941, and 1944.

Hein had planned to retire after a dozen years in the NFL and become the head coach at Union College in Schenectady, New York.[18] When the football program went on hiatus due to World War II, Hein returned to the Giants on weekends for three more seasons and retired after the 1945 season.[19]

Coaching and administrative careerEdit

Hein worked as a football coach and league administrator for more than 30 years. He began coaching in 1943 as the head football coach at Union College in Schenectady, New York. For the next three years, he held that position, though the 1943 and 1945 Union College teams had their seasons cancelled due to the disruption of losing many players to World War II.[20][21][22] In 1944, the team compiled an 0–5 record,[20] as Hein coached the team on Saturdays and played for the Giants on Sundays.[1] In 1946, Hein continued as Union College's head coach after retiring from the Giants.[23] He led the 1946 team to a 3–5 record.[20]

In March 1947, Hein was hired as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC).[24] He served initially under head coach Dudley DeGroot on the 1947 Dons team. However, on November 18, 1947, DeGroot was fired as head coach, and assistant coaches Hein and Ted Shipkey were appointed as co-coaches to lead the team for the final three games of the season.[25] The 1947 Dons compiled a 5-6 record under DeGroot and a 2-1 record under Hein and Shipkey.[26] Hein resumed his position as an assistant coach under Jimmy Phelan on the 1948 Dons team that again compiled a 7-7 record.[27]

After two years with the Dons, Hein was hired in February 1949 as an assistant coach for the New York Yankees of the AAFC under head coach Red Strader.[28] The 1949 Yankees compiled an 8-4 record and finished in second place in the AAFC. The Yankees' forward wall, which was coached by Hein, was rated as the toughest in the AAFC.[29]

Hein returned to Los Angeles in 1950 as the line coach for the Los Angeles Rams.[29] Under head coach Joe Stydahar, the 1950 Rams won the NFL National Conference championship with a 9–3 record but lost to the Cleveland Browns in the 1950 NFL Championship Game.

Hein left the Rams in February 1951 to join the USC Trojans football team as its line coach under head coach Jess Hill.[30] Hein remained with the Trojans for 15 years through the 1965 season.[31] During his tenure with the program, the Trojans won a national championship (1962) and four conference championships (1952, 1959 [co-championship], 1962, and 1964 [co-championship]).

In June 1966, Hein was hired by commissioner Al Davis as the supervisor of officials for the American Football League.[32] He remained in that position from 1966 to 1969 and continued thereafter as the supervisor of officials for the American Football Conference from 1970 to 1974.[1] He retired in May 1974 after more than 45 years in college and professional football.[31]


Hein received numerous honors for his accomplishments as a football player. His honors include the following:

  • In 1954, Hein was inducted into the National Football Foundation's Hall of Fame (later renamed the College Football Hall of Fame) as part of the fourth class of inductees.[1][33]
  • In 1961, he was inducted into the Washington Sports Hall of Fame.[35] That same year, he also became the first athlete to receive Washington State's Distinguished Alumnus Award.[1]
  • In 1963, he was one of the 17 players, coaches, and founders who were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the charter class.[36]
  • In 1969, as part of the NFL's 50th anniversary, the Pro Football Hall of Fame selected all-decade teams for each of the league's first five decades. Hein was selected as a center on the NFL 1930s All-Decade Team.[37] He was also named to the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.[38]
  • In 1979, he was inducted as a charter member into the Washington State University Athletic Hall of Fame.[40]
  • In 1999, he was also ranked 74th on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.[43]
  • In 2010, the NFL Network ranked Hein 96th on its list of the 100 greatest players of all time.[44][45]
  • Hein's jersey number 7 was retired by both the Washington State Cougars and New York Giants.[citation needed]

Family and later yearsEdit

Hein was married in August 1931 to Florence Emma Porter of Pullman, Washington.[46][16] They had two children, Sharen Lynn, born c. 1939, and Mel Hein, Jr., born c. 1940.[30] Mel, Jr., once held the United States indoor record in the pole vault in the 1960s.[47]

In his later years, Hein lived in San Clemente, California.[48] By 1991, Hein was suffering from stomach cancer, and his weight dropped from 225 to 130 pounds.[21] Hein died of stomach cancer in 1992 at age 82 at his home in San Clemente.[21][49]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Mel "Old Indestructible" Hein". College Football Hall of Fame. Football Foundation. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  2. Jason Krump. "Old Indestructible". Washington State University. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Mel Hein Stats". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  4. 1910 U.S. Census entry for Herman and Charlotte Hein. Son Melvin H., 7 months old. Census Place: Round Mountain, Shasta, California; Roll: T624_107; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 0092; FHL microfilm: 1374120. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
  5. 1920 U.S. Census entry for Herman and Charlotte Hein. Son Melvin J., age 10, born in California. Census Place: Glacier, Whatcom, Washington; Roll: T625_1944; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 254; Image: 243. Source Information: 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
  6. 6.0 6.1 1930 U.S. Census entry for Herman and Charlotte Hein. Son Melvin, age 20.
  7. Missildine, Harry (October 10, 1976). "The all-time Cougar – Mel Hein". Spokesman-Review: p. 1, sports.
  8. "Alabama swamps Cougars under in Rose Bowl game 24–0". Palm Beach Post. Associated Press: p. 3. January 2, 1931.
  9. "Mel Hein Holds Endurance Mark During Career". Oakland Tribune: p. 25. November 16, 1930.
  10. "All-Pacific Coast Football Selections". The Helena Daily Independent: p. 7. December 5, 1930.
  11. Vincent Mahoney (November 28, 1930). "United Press Selects Stars On West Coast". The Ogden Standard-Examiner: p. 18.
  12. William Ritt (December 13, 1930). "Football Captains' Own All-American! College Players Themselves Select All-Star Eleven for 1930 Season in Nation-wide Poll". Hamilton (OH) Evening Journal: p. 11.
  13. Christy Walsh (December 11, 1932). "All-America Board Honors Capt. Bob Smith of Colgate". Syracuse Herald.
  14. The Chinook 1931, page 101.
  15. "Mel Hein signs contract to play pro football with New York Giants this year". Spokane Daily Chronicle: p. 12. May 30, 1931.
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Mel Hein to wed Pullman co-ed". Spokane Daily Chronicle: p. 12. August 15, 1931.
  17. "Changes in pro football for better says Mel Hein". Spokesman-Review: p. 2, sports. November 20, 1966.
  18. "Mel Hein to coach Union". Deseret News. Associated Press: p. 9. June 22, 1942.
  19. Anderson, Dave (February 3, 1992). "Hein a Giant figure in football's history". Spokane Chronicle. (New York Times): p. C1.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 "Union Football Year-by-Year". Union College. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Dave Anderson (February 3, 1992). "Mel Hein Transcends All Eras". The New York Times.
  22. "Mel Hein Finally Benched - Is Coach". The Evening Observer, Dunkirk, NY: p. 15. September 12, 1946.
  23. "Mel Hein plans to quit pro football". The Daily Times. United Press (Beaver, Pennsylvania): p. 8. January 10, 1946.
  24. Braven Dyer (March 18, 1947). "Mel Hein Named As Assistant Don Coach". Los Angeles Times: p. 6.
  25. "DeGroot Is Fired as Coach of Los Angeles 'Pro' Dons: Mel Hein and Ted Shipkey Take Charge of Team Now At Hershey". The Morning Call: p. 19. November 19, 1947.
  26. "1947 Los Angeles Dons Statistics & Players". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  27. "1948 Los Angeles Dons Statistics & Players". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  28. "Mel Hein Signs As Assistant Mentor Under Red Strader of New York Yanks". The Hartford Courant: p. C8. February 13, 1949.
  29. 29.0 29.1 "Mel Hein Hired By Rams To Take Line Coaching Post". Los Angeles Times: p. II-16. March 5, 1950.
  30. 30.0 30.1 "Trojans Sign Hein To Coach Grid Line". Los Angeles Times: p. 4-1. February 16, 1951.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Red Smith (May 21, 1974). "An Iron Man Departs". Honolulu Star-Bulletin: p. 39.
  32. Sandy Padwe (June 9, 1966). "Mel Hein Is Back in Football". The Courier News (Blytheville, Arkansas): p. 8.
  33. "Mel Hein Enters Grid Hall of Fame". The Oregon Statesman: p. 2-1. October 11, 1954.
  34. "Helms Puts Mel Hein in Hall". Pasadena (CA) Independent: p. B3. December 22, 1960.
  35. "Football Inductees". Washington Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  36. "Hein, Lambeau Make NFL 'Hall'". Los Angeles Times: p. 31. January 29, 1963.
  37. "Hutson, Herber Top 1930's Team". The Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL): p. 11. August 26, 1969.
  38. "Unitas at Quarterback as 'Moderns' Dominate Positions on All-Time NFL". The Town Talk (Alexandria, LA): p. D6. September 7, 1969.
  39. "Modern all-time college team named: Grange, Nagurski best of best". New Castle (PA) News: p. 36. September 17, 1969.
  40. "WSU Athletic Hall of Fame". Washington State University. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  41. "Very Best of the NFL". Detroit Free Press: p. 1D. August 24, 1994. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  42. "Walter Camp Football Foundation All-Century Team". Tallahassee (FL) Democrat: p. 24. December 29, 1999.
  43. "Sporting News Football's 100 Greatest Players". Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY): p. 41. August 15, 1999.
  44. "Top 100 Players of All Time". The Hartford Courant: p. E7. November 7, 2010. open access
  45. "#96: Mel Hein The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players". NFL Films. 2010. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  46. "Mel Hein To Wed Pullman Woman". Daily Capital Journal: p. 1. August 15, 1931.
  47. "Hein Takes Inside Track on Life After Close Call". Los Angeles Times. May 24, 2000.
  48. "Where he is now: Mel Hein". Daily Record (Morristown, NJ): p. 53. September 17, 1983.
  49. Robert McG. Thomas Jr. (February 2, 1992). "Mel Hein, 82, the Durable Center of the New York Football Giants". The New York Times.

Further readingEdit

  • Richard Whittingham (1984). What a Game They Played: An Inside Look at the Golden Era of Pro Football. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 53-66. ISBN 0803298196. (Mel Hein autobiographical piece)

External linksEdit

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