Gold Jacket Spotlight: It Couldn’t Have Worked Better For ‘Dobre Shunka’

As fans cheered Jack Ham as ‘Dobre Shunka’ (Slovak for ‘Great Ham’), the Class of 1988 holder always acknowledged the efforts of his teammates and others in his rise to the immortality of the soccer.

During his enshrinement speech on the steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Ham credited Steve Smear, another Johnstown, Pennsylvania native from Penn State University, for the Nittany Lions giving Ham the last scholarship available that year.

“If it hadn’t been for Steve Smear, I really wouldn’t be here right now. He bent over backwards for me before I was an All-Pro player or before I became an All-American at Penn State He went to fight for me at Joe Paterno.

It was Paterno who presented Ham for Enshrinement that summer day in Canton, Ohio.

After being drafted in the second round, 34th overall pick, in the 1971 NFL Draft, Ham’s career included 162 games over 12 seasons.

Ham was joining a team with no playoff success – the only appearance in their nearly 40-year history at that time a loss in 1947. He recalled in a recent interview that he had not been contacted by the team before its selection.

“They drafted me, and it couldn’t have worked better,” Ham told Arthur Moates last December. He added: “The 1974 draft put us over the top and made us a great football team.”

In 1974, the Steelers drafted Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. Each of these four is Ham’s forever teammate in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Among the honors Ham racked up during his 12 seasons were an AP All-Pro selection seven times, appearing in eight consecutive Pro Bowls, winning Football News’ 1975 Defensive Player of the Year and being named in the NFL All-Decade Team. 1970s.

And, of course, he was a four-time Super Bowl champion.

Former Ham Steeler team-mate Lambert (Class of 1990) referred to the team’s defense at this time as “arguably the greatest defense ever assembled” during his own entrenchment speech.

Again, Ham credits his teammates with much of his success.

“The person who probably influenced my game and made me the linebacker I became was Andy Russell. He taught me more about football, more about the mental part of the game and made me a great player.

Ham said, “Andy was known as the thinking man’s linebacker.”

Russell’s “student” has amassed 21 fumble recoveries and 32 interceptions in his career and has earned a reputation as a defender who can anticipate plays and react accordingly.

“I prefer to play consistent, error-free football,” Ham said. “If you do your job well and defend your zone, you may not be tested as often, or you may not have the chance to make big plays.”

Ham’s 32 interceptions put him along with Lee Roy Jordan and Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti in third place all-time in regular season interceptions by a linebacker.

“I’m in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because we had a great football team during that run and a lot of great guys I played with. It’s more a reflection of our football team. Football is the best team sport. I’m in the Hall of Fame because we collectively are one hell of a football team.

No one would dispute that point with the Dobre Shunka.