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Recognizing Latino NFL stars of yesteryear at Hall of Fame Weekend

By Sunny Cadwallader - Aug 03, 2014

The museum was on the list. 

 
My first visit to Canton, Ohio for Pro Football Hall of Fame Weekend the past three days had to include the museum. The museum where you can see the history of football under one roof. It is a place that holds special meaning for pro football fans. Although I am a fan of many sports, pro football was one of two sports I remember watching as a kid. This visit would help harken back to my childhood. A connection to the past.
 
I also wanted to make a connection with my heritage in a small way. I know the Hispanic influence in pro football has been limited. So far. The most prominent name, make that the only name I know of is Anthony Muñoz.
 
Most know about Muñoz, the star left tackle from the Cincinnati Bengals and USC Trojans. Speaking with Russell S. Baxter from profootballguru.com, “Anthony Muñoz often comes up in discussions as not only the best tackle to play the game, but also the best offensive lineman ever,” he said. When Baxter thinks about Muñoz, he thinks “relentless, technician”. Baxter had the privilege of working with Muñoz at ESPN and describes him this way, “I get the sense that he carried himself the same both off and on the field. Quietly intimidating.” 
 
There are two other Latinos that I learned about when doing research for this weekend. They are Steve Van Buren (class of 1965) and Tom Fears (class of 1970).
  
Van Buren was born in Honduras, but moved to the United States to be raised by his grandparents after being orphaned early in his life. Overcoming the odds and doubts, Van Buren would go on to star at LSU and eventually become a first round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1944, going No. 5 overall. 
 
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Tom Fears had talent on both sides of the ball. Despite serving in the military during World War II, Fears became an All-American while finishing school at UCLA. Fears was drafted in the 11th round of the 1945 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Rams. Not known for his speed, Fears was technically proficient and excelled in making the big-play. 
 
Gaining the knowledge of these two Hispanics/Latinos was worthwhile. However, I could not help but think of two other Hispanics in the modern era who arguably should be in the Hall of Fame: Tom Flores and Jim Plunkett. I spoke with Baxter on both Flores and Plunkett.
 
“It almost seems like Tom Flores  is tied to Jim Plunkett. The two of them were together when the Raiders won Super Bowl XV and XVIII. He was a very successful coach. Let’s not forget that he had some really big shoes to fill for John Madden. He’s going to be one of those guys as we get later in years that he’s going to be debated."
 
Baxter continued, "Every coach that has coached in at least four Super Bowls are in the Hall of Fame no matter if they won or lost. The key for coaches is longevity. It will be interesting to see with Flores who doesn’t have as much longevity as the others, if he’ll get in or not.”
 
As we looked back on it, the same goes for Plunkett. Despite the Super Bowl victories, his talent, Plunkett may be facing even more of an uphill battle than Flores. 
 
For more on the Hispanic contribution to pro football, go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website
 
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Research information obtained via profootballhof.com

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