Melvin Jack Hein (August 22, 1909 – January 31, 1992) was an American Professional Football player for the New York Giants. Hein played fifteen seasons for the Giants (1931-45) and never missed a down due to injury. He is the first player and only offensive lineman to win the NFL MVP award (1938) and he helped the Giants win the championship that season.
Mel was part of the first inductee class into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. In 1969, he was named the center on the NFL 50th Anniversary Team, and was named to the 75th Anniversary Team in 1994. In 1999, despite 55 years having passed since his last game, he was ranked number 74 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.
Hein played prep football for the Burlington High School Tigers (now Burlington-Edison High School) in Burlington, Washington, where he played center and defensive line positions. His senior year Hein earned the Skagit County Football MVP, the highest award for a prep player in the Skagit Valley in those days. He was also named to the First Team All-State football team as a senior. It has been said he is the first professional athlete to hail from the state of Washington. Hein is known for wearing jersey number 7, but it is not known what jersey number he wore during his high school years as prep teams might not have worn numbers in those days. Hein is also a charter member of the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA). He also excelled as a basketball player in his prep days with the Tigers, playing center on the court, as well.
A consensus pick as the greatest center in football, Hein was the first player to have his famous No. 7 retired at Washington State University. An All-American pick following the 1930 season, Hein helped lead the Cougars to an undefeated record that year and into the 1931 Rose Bowl game against Alabama. WSU lost that game 24-0, but WSU’s record in Hein’s three varsity seasons was 26-6. Hein was an All-America selection as a senior (1930) and was an All-West Coast pick after having been named to the All-Coast second team as a junior. At WSU, he also played center during his junior year on the Cougar basketball team.
He signed a contract with the New York Giants, married his college sweetheart, and packed all of their belongings into a broken down car and drove from Pullman to New York. He played for 15 years as a center and a defensive lineman. Hein was an All-NFL Center 1933-1940. He was inducted as a charter member into the National Football League Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, in the summer of 1963. He was also inducted as a charter member into the Washington State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978, and was the first alumni athlete inducted into the new Burlington-Edison High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006. Add to all of these, his membership into the Washington State Sports Hall of Fame and the Inland Empire Sports Hall of Fame. His jersey number 7 retired by both his college team, the WSU Cougars of the Pac-10 Conference and by the New York Giants.
Eight times an All-Pro center, Hein was the NFL’s MVP in 1938 – as a center in his eighth year in the league. The Giants’ great No. 7 was the center of two NFL Championship teams – in 1934 (NYG 30, Chicago 13) and again in 1938 (NYG 23, Green Bay 17). Hein was a member of five losing teams in the NFL Championship, — 1933, 1935, 1939, 1941, and 1944.