During a 14-year span from 1964-77, there was one constant on the Washington Redskins offensive line, a player who resembled an immovable object.
Despite six operations and a phlebitis attack that almost killed him, center Len Hauss played in all 196 games in his career--starting the last 192. No wonder they called him "Mr. Durability."
But Hauss did more than just show up. Number 56 was a Washington landmark, making the Pro Bowl six times and earning All-Pro or All-NFC honors in his last seven seasons.
He was one of three centers, along with Al DeMao and Jeff Bostic, selected in 2002 for the Redskins 70 Greatest Team named in honor of the franchise's 70th anniversary.
"To be chosen one of the 70 Greatest was a great honor," Hauss said. "There are 12 offensive linemen on the team, and I appreciated being one of those 12 over a 70-year period."
Hauss was one of the best centers of his era, a time when other great players at the position included Green Bay's Jim Ringo and Oakland's Jim Otto, both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Minnesota's Mike Tingelhoff.
The 6-2, 235-pound Hauss went nose-to-nose with such ferocious middle linebackers as Chicago's Dick Butkus, the 49ers' Dave Wilcox and the Packers' Ray Nitschke--and he did it well.
"Len Hauss is one of the great offensive centers to ever play this game," said Redskins Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff, who teamed with Hauss for five seasons in the 1960s. "He was a very smart player and he was all heart. He was gutsy and played hurt. He never asked to come off the field."
Hauss was also a superb running back at one time. He rushed for 1,500 yards, one of the top marks in the country, and scored 15 touchdowns as a senior at Jessup High School in Jessup, Ga.
Then, in his freshman year at the University of Georgia, a coach asked if he'd rather be a third-string fullback or a first-team center. Hauss preferred the latter and was converted to center, where he received All-Southeastern Conference Honors as a sophomore.
He underwent surgery for torn ligaments in the offseason and wasn't supposed to make it back again. But he displayed his trademark toughness and played center regularly in his final two seasons of college.
After Washington selected Hauss in the ninth round of the 1964 NFL Draft, he impressed Redskins head coach Bill McPeak in training camp with his savvy and ferocity.
"In a one-on-one drill, he knocked the devil out of Sam Huff," McPeak once said. According to Huff, "He was a tough rookie from Georgia. The scrimmages I had against him were tougher than a lot of my regular season games. I had a lot of respect for him."
Hauss began starting at center four games into the 1964 season, a job he would not relinquish until retirement. He snapped the ball to quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, whom the Redskins had acquired from the Eagles in the 1964 offseason.
That year, the Redskins had also used their No. 1 draft pick to select Arizona State running back Charley Taylor.
Those two, combined with flanker Bobby Mitchell, tight end Jerry Smith and later running back Larry Brown, fueled a prolific aerial attack that gained chunks of yards and scored lots of points in the 1960s, but didn't win many games. (Taylor was converted to wide receiver in 1966.)
In the first five years of his career, Hauss played on teams that posted four losing records and once finished .500.
"It was pretty tough in those days," said Hauss, who made the Pro Bowl every season from 1967-72. "We had some pretty good talent, we just didn't win many games."
Hauss tasted his first winning season in 1969 (7-5-2) upon the arrival of legendary coach Vince Lombardi, winner of two Super Bowls and five NFL championships in his previous stint in Green Bay.
Lombardi, who was adamant that hard work was the price to pay for success, tried to motivate his players through fear. While most of the 1969 Redskins appreciated his law-and-order platform, Hauss was uncomfortable with it.
Lombardi coached the Redskins for just one season because of his death from colon cancer just before the 1970 campaign.
After a 6-8 season under interim coach Bill Austin, Hauss played the last seven seasons of his career for head coach George Allen, all winning years that included a 14-7 loss to Miami in Super Bowl VII in January 1973.
Along the way, Hauss endured six off-season operations. He decided to retire right before the 1978 season.