Jack Ham, one of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game of football, was recently named in the NFL’s top 100 players. This marks just another accomplishment in his exemplary career.
Ham was said to be undersized and untalented coming out of Bishop McCort High School. Discouraged by this, he attended Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia. While he was there, he hoped to gain the eye of potential college recruiters, and sure enough, he earned a scholarship to Penn State University.
While he was in college, Ham lead the Nittany Lions to undefeated seasons in 1968 and 1969. During his tenure, he collected 253 tackles and a staggering 4 blocked punts. In his senior season in 1970, Ham was selected as a consensus All-American. He recorded 91 total tackles and 4 interceptions.
Ham was selected in the second round (34th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his rookie year, he earned the right to start at the left outside linebacker. During his 13 starts, Ham tallied 2 interceptions to go along with 1 fumble recovery. His best statistical year came the following year, where he forced a total of 11 turnovers; including 7 interceptions.
Over his phenomenal 12-year professional career with Pittsburgh, Ham had a plethora of awards. This included six All-Pro selections and eight consecutive Pro Bowl selections.
Head coach Chuck Noll was quoted as saying, “Ham was the fastest Steeler in the first ten yards.” To go along with Ham’s speed, he was known for being one of the most cerebral players; former players said: “there’s no fooling Jack Ham.”
Although sacks didn’t become an official statistic until Ham’s final year, most conclude that he recorded roughly 25 sacks over his time with the Steelers. Officially, he finished with 3. Overall, Ham had a total of 53 takeaways; the most among non-defensive backs in history. His 32 interceptions make him third among linebackers, only behind Don Shinnick and Stan White.
To this day, Jack Ham is the only Penn State alum to be inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame and the NFL Hall of Fame. He has also been honored with the 1975 Defensive Player of the Year, the 75th-anniversary team, and the 1970’s All-Decade team. When it is all said and done, Ham is one of the best linebackers to ever step on the gridiron.
Photo Credits: Penn State/Collegiate Images via Getty Images