By John P. Lopez, SportsRadio 610
There’s no doubt the NFL’s Hispanic outreach has been a booming success. There’s no better proof than on the bottom line. Hispanics have become a significant part of the league’s fan base and the number of fans and viewers only continues to grow — no where more than in Houston, where fans of Mexican-American descent are loyal and rabid.
And the pride runs even deeper when Hispanic fans see familiar faces and names succeed.
Which brings us to the disgrace that is a barrier-breaker like Tom Flores yet to make it into the NFL Hall of Fame.
Flores had as many wins and Super Bowl titles as a head coach as Vince Lombardi and more wins than Bill Walsh and Jimmy Johnson. Flores was one of only two people (Mike Ditka) to win Super Bowls as a player, assistant coach and head coach. He was the first Hispanic quarterback in the NFL and also the first Hispanic NFL general manager and team president.
The NFL Hall of Fame committee should be ashamed of itself for not recognizing Flores among the all-time greats.
He is the greatest Hispanic player or coach in NFL history. But he’s not alone. As someone who grew up following Anthony Munoz and Jim Plunkett, here are the Top Ten greatest Hispanics in NFL history.
10) Jeff Garcia. Through a 14-year NFL career, Garcia put up tremendous numbers of more than 25,000 yards passing and 161 touchdown passes. He was a five-time Pro Bowl player and also won the Grey Cup in the Canadian Football League.
9) Arian Foster. Just 26, for Foster, whose mother is Mexican-American, it could be only a matter of time until he becomes one of the league’s all-time greats, having won the 2010 rushing title and accounting for more than 4,000-yards from scrimmage and 30 TDs the past two years.
8) Steve Van Buren. Born in Honduras, the son of a fruit inspector, Van Buren transcended the position. His head-first, powerful bulldozing style was idolized and emulated by a young Jim Brown. In eight seasons, Van Buren led the NFL in rushing four times and was named a first-team All-Pro five times. When he retired, he held league career rushing records for yards (5,860), attempts (1,320) and touchdowns (69). All three marks were broken by Jim Brown.
7) Tony Romo. Like Jeff Garcia, is of Hispanic descent on his father’s side. Leading America’s team, Romo has three times been named to the Pro Bowl and consistently ranks among the NFL’s leading passers. When he faced off against the Eagles and Garcia in 2006, it marked the first time quarterbacks of Hispanic descent faced off in the NFL.
6) Tom Fears. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Fears came to the U.S., played college ball at Santa Clara and redefined the wide receiver position at 6-2, 220-pounds. He was All Pro four consecutive years, once had 18 receptions in a game, caught the game-winning 73-yard TD pass to win the 1951 NFL title and was inducted into the NFL Hall Of Fame.
5) Jim Plunkett. He is the only retired NFL player to start and win two Super Bowls and not be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Plunkett, who grew up on welfare, also is one of only four Heisman Trophy winners to also be named MVP of the Super Bowl (Roger Staubach, Marcus Allen, Desmond Howard).
4) Tony Gonzalez. He is a certain Hall of Fame tight end, Gonzalez changed the way the position is played. He earned Pro Bowl honors 11 times and first-team All Pro six times.
3) Ted Hendricks. One of the most devastating impact players in NFL history, Hendricks, whose mother is Guatemalan and was born in Guatemala City, earned Hall of Fame status in 1990. He dominated as a pass-rushing linebacker and end, earning eight Pro Bowl appearances and being named first-team All Pro four times. He finished with 60.5 sacks, 26 interceptions and was a member of four Super Bowl-winning teams.
2) Anthony Munoz. He remains perhaps the most dominating lineman in NFL history. Former USC and NFL coach John Robinson once called Munoz the greatest player he’s ever seen, regardless of position. He was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection and was selected into the NFL Hall of Fame on the first ballot, in 1998.
1) Tom Flores (player, coach, GM, president). Shame, shame, NFL Hall Of Fame committee members. Shame on you.