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Steelers Legend Jack Ham Was Almost Drafted By the Eagles



Steelers Andy Russell Jack Ham Jack Lambert

Longtime Philadelphia sportswriter Ray Didinger disclosed on a recent appearance on The Steven Jones Show that a Philadelphia Eagles scout was infatuated with Jack Ham in the 1971 NFL Draft, but the Eagles’ brass thought he was too small and passed on him.

Ham, who was selected in the second round out of Penn State by the Steelers, went on to have a Hall of Fame career with Pittsburgh and was a part of four Super Bowl championships.

“I remember the Eagles had a scout that really loved Jack Ham,” Didinger told Jones, via Alex Kozora of Steelers Depot. “He had scouted him at Penn State and loved him and was pounding on the desk with the coaches to take Jack Ham when Jack came out. And the Eagles passed on him.”

Ham was a consensus All-American and team captain for Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions in 1970. Despite the impressive accolades, Ham’s 6-foot-1, 225 pound frame was looked down upon by the Eagles’ decision makers.

“And [the scout] was just furious. He came into the room where the reporters were, where we were, and just was livid,” Didinger said. “He had been telling us all during the season how he loved Jack Ham. And he said, ‘I was pounding on the table in there for Jack Ham. And they wouldn’t take him. They said he’s too small. That guy’s going to be a great player.'”

Ham might not get the recognition like Jack Lambert as he wasn’t as vocal and didn’t possess the iconic Count Dracula look. However, he contributed just as much to the Steelers’ dynasty in the 1970s. Some even believe that Ham was the better linebacker of the two.

Last July, Ham and Lambert were listed among the 11 greatest linebackers of all-time by the 33rd Team. Lambert was ranked seventh, while Ham came in at No. 8. The linebackers ranked ahead of Lambert and Ham were Ted Hendricks, Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus, Junior Seau, Ray Lewis and Lawrence Taylor.

“There are only 11 spots on this list, and it’s impossible not to include two members of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dynasty that won four Super Bowls in six years. The middle linebacker from that team will be listed ahead of Jack Ham, but that’s not to belittle Ham’s contributions,” the 33rd Team’s Elliott Kalb wrote.

“Pittsburgh doesn’t beat the 12-2 Raiders in the 1974 AFC Championship Game without Ham. Oakland led 10-3 early in the fourth quarter. Ham’s second interception of Ken Stabler in the game was returned to the Raiders’ 9-yard line to set up the Steelers’ go-ahead touchdown.”

Ham was a technician at left outside linebacker in the Steelers’ 4-3 scheme, rarely ever missing a tackle. He finished his career with 53 turnovers (32 interceptions and 21 fumble recoveries), which is the most by a linebacker in NFL history. He also had 25 sacks when they were an unofficial stat and was in a position that did not often rush the passer.

“I have never seen anyone play the outside linebacker position better than Jack Ham,” Tony Dungy once said. “Fundamentals, technique, awareness and athleticism were all exceptional. He was the total package.”

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