When Karl Mecklenburg entered the NFL as a 12th round selection in the draft, coaches and fans did not expect much. Mecklenburg decided to prove them wrong in spectacular fashion. Not only did he vastly exceed all expectations, he played in a manner not seen since and will never be seen again. This Hall of Fame nominee easily played at every front seven position on the defense.
To put that feat into perspective one must understand that Mecklenburg had to possess the intelligence to learn seven different positions, the athletic ability to play all four linebacker roles, and the strength and tenacity to hold the point of attack at the three down lineman positions. To do it with the level of proficiency that he displayed was nearly unbelievable and quite exceptional. This seven-headed monster could seamlessly shift from defensive end on one play to inside linebacker on the next and be completely disruptive to the offense.
Nearly every inside linebacker that plays in the NFL plays one position; inside linebacker. That player can gain an expert level of proficiency because they can focus on one thing. The level of excellence Mecklenburg displayed at each spot made him a jack-of-all-trades and a master of all too. That is remarkable and truly unprecedented.
Mecklenburg displayed leadership, work ethic, grit and skill worthy of being honored in the hallowed halls of Canton. His production makes him more than worthy.
In Mecklenburg’s twelve seasons in the league he played in three Super Bowls, was selected to the Pro Bowl six times, was a first team All-Pro three times, and second team All-Pro once. When he retired he had tallied 1,104 tackles, sacked the quarterback 79 times, forced sixteen fumbles and scored a safety. Those 79 sacks ranks him #1 for anyone who played the inside linebacker position. He is also one of the select few who have more than 1,000 tackles and at least 70 sacks.
The only knock on an otherwise stellar career was the 0-3 mark in Super Bowls. So what. There are several linebackers in the Hall of Fame with no victories in the big dance. Unfortunately, Mecklenburg has not been given his due. He has more than enough production and career accomplishments to get into Canton. Plus he has that the “one of a kind player status” that must be recognized as greatness.