With its neon and its excesses and its fast lanes and its 99-cent shrimp cocktails, Las Vegas doesn’t seem a town for offensive linemen. Las Vegas seems more a town for flashy quarterbacks, or speedy wide receivers. When was the last time you heard of an O-lineman making it rain?
A running back can make it rain. An offensive lineman only plays in the rain, and gets his uniform all muddy.
Pittsburgh seems more of an O-line town. Or Cleveland. Wichita is a town for linemen, though not the football kind.
Chicago also seems a place where a guy from the trenches would feel right at home. Sandburg — Carl, not Ryne — said it was the “City of the Big Shoulders.” Offensive linemen have big shoulders.
Chicago had an offensive lineman named Mark Bortz, who played in two Pro Bowls and 13 playoff games. It’s not a prerequisite that an O-lineman have big shoulders, and a one-syllable surname that includes a “Z.” But it can’t hurt.
Despite our neon and our excesses and our fast lanes and our 99-cent shrimp cocktails that usually contain a lot of celery at the bottom — offensive linemen tend not to be celery types — three of the greatest blockers in NFL history make their home here.
Jonathan Ogden went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday.
Tom Mack already is there.
George Kunz still is waiting for the call.
■ Jonathan Phillip Ogden, 39, played college football at UCLA, where he was an All-American. He was selected with the fourth overall pick of the 1996 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens — Ogden was the Ravens’ first-ever draft choice. He played 12 seasons in the NFL, all with Baltimore. He made the Pro Bowl 11 times. He recovered seven fumbles. That is his only statistic on Pro-Football-Reference.com, because they don’t keep track of how many times an O-lineman pulls from guard or tackle, steams downfield like a locomotive, and pancakes his man.
■ Thomas Lee Mack, 69, played college football at Michigan. He is the son of Ray Mack, who played second base for the Cleveland Indians. Tom Mack was the second player picked in the 1966 NFL Draft, by Los Angeles. He played 13 seasons in the NFL, all with the Rams. He, too, made the Pro Bowl 11 times. He recovered five fumbles. Ray Mack played nine seasons in the majors, batting .232 with 34 career homers and 278 career RBIs. Only Tom Mack made the Hall of Fame. He received his yellow blazer in 1999.
■ George Kunz, 66, played college football at Notre Dame, where he was an All-American. He, too, was the second player picked in the NFL Draft, in 1969. The only guy picked ahead of him: O.J. Simpson. Kunz played nine seasons in the NFL, with the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Colts. He made the Pro Bowl eight times. He recovered three fumbles. His big shoulders have yet to be fitted for the yellow blazer. (Nor has he ridden in the backseat of a white one with the cops in pursuit.) The only thing I can figure is he had spinal fusion surgery before he could make double-digit Pro Bowls, like Ogden and Mack.
A couple of weeks ago, a Catholic priest, an eight-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle and a sports writer walked into a bar. Actually, it was an Italian delicatessen on Spring Mountain near Jones, because Catholic priests always know the best places to eat.
The Catholic priest was a mutual friend of the offensive tackle and the sports writer. George Kunz leads interference so Father John McShane can attend a Notre Dame game each season. I am more of a recent pal of Father John’s. I am getting older, and not as religious as I used to be. So I figure I’ll drop Father John’s name, and maybe it’ll knock a couple of weeks off the purgatory stint.
I told George I was going to start a campaign to get him elected to the Hall of Fame. He blushed and implied that wasn’t necessary, because he has a lot of things that keep him busy outside of football. He’s a successful businessman, or at least was, before he sold his local McDonald’s franchises. Now he’s a successful attorney-at-law.
At 66, he still has all of his hair and most of his knees. He still looks like a man mountain. But he is the nicest man mountain I have ever met.
George Kunz loves to tell stories about Bert Jones’ presence in the huddle, and of Roger Carr’s fleetness, and about Harmon Wages of the Falcons, a running back who wore No. 5 on his jersey. He has lots of Van Brocklin stories, and stories about Ara Parseghian. He does not tell stories about pulling like a locomotive and flattening his man like a pancake. He is far too humble to tell those stories.
Still, I hope that one day he will be fitted for the yellow blazer, too. Or, next-best thing, that he moves to Chicago. He has big shoulders, and a one-syllable surname that includes a “Z.” He and Mark Bortz could open a restaurant and be very successful.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.