Who is the best DT not in the Hall of Fame?

Joe Klecko, defensive tackle, 1977-1987KleckoJActionIV

(Joe Klecko photo courtesy of the New York Jets)
(Roger Brown photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions)

Talk of Fame Network

There are 17 defensive tackles in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and four of them were enshrined as seniors. Considering there are 29 guards and centers in the Hall of Fame, 17 defensive tackles seems a bit light. Just whom were all those interior offensive linemen blocking that earned them busts in Canton?

There are plenty of quality candidates at defensive tackle on the outside looking in, and most have never even been discussed as finalists. So that’s the question we’re asking our Talk of Fame Network listeners and readers in this week’s poll – who is the best defensive tackle not in the Hall of Fame?

Here are your candidates:

Roger Brown. Played only 10 seasons, all in the 1960s, but was voted to six Pro Bowls – the most by any defensive tackle not in the Hall of Fame. He split his career between the Detroit Lions (1960-66) and the Los Angeles Rams (1967-69). He sacked Hall-of-Fame quarterback Bart Starr seven times in Detroit’s 1962 Thanksgiving Day upset of the Green Bay Packers — the only blemish (14-1) on Vince Lombardi’s best team. A 300-pound giant for his day, Brown collected 76 career sacks.. He has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame but has never been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Alex Karras. NFL all-decade selection for the 1960s. Like his former teammate Roger Brown, Karras has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame but has never been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Karras won an Outland Trophy at Iowa and became the 10th overall pick of the 1957 draft by the Detroit Lions. His speed complemented the power of Brown on the inside. He was one of the game’s first great inside pass rushers, amassing 97-½ career sacks. That’s one more than first-ballot Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. Only three tackles in NFL history had more, Hall-of-Famers Alan Page, Randy White and John Randle.

NFL Historical Imagery

(Alex Karras photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions)

Joe Klecko. Holds the unusual distinction of having been voted to the Pro Bowl at three different positions – defensive end in a 4-3, defensive tackle in a 4-3 and nose tackle in a 3-4. Klecko was voted the NFL’s Defensive Player of the year in 1981 when he led the league with 20-½ sacks for the New York Jets. He played 11 seasons with the Jets but two of them were shortened by knee injuries. He collected 77-½ sacks in his career and was voted to four Pro Bowls. But Klecko has never been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb. Big Daddy entered the NFL in 1953 when defensive tackles weren’t big or mobile. But he was 300 pounds of power and quickness who could control the middle in an era when the game was played on the ground. Lipscomb spent three seasons with the Rams, then was traded to Baltimore where he became a Pro Bowl fixture on back-to-back NFL championship teams in 1958-59. He was traded to Pittsburgh in 1961 and played his final two seasons there. He died in May 1963 of a heroin overdose at the age of 31. Twice a Pro Bowl MVP, Lipscomb has never been a finalist for the Hall of Fame.

Lipscomb 1

(Gene Lipscomb photo courtesy of the Baltimore Colts)

Keith Millard. A graduate of the USFL, Millard didn’t arrive in the NFL until 1985 but still earned NFL all-decade acclaim for the 1980s. He set a league record for sacks by a defensive tackle with 18 in 1989 when he was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. But he tore up his knee in the opening month of the 1990 season and was never the same player, collecting only eight sacks in his final three years. Even though he played only 93 games with Minnesota over seven seasons, Millard was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings of all time in 2010. He has never been a finalist for the Hall of Fame.

Tom Sestak. Named to the all-time All-AFL team. The brevity of his career is the only logical explanation for Sestak’s lack of respect from the Hall-of-Fame selection committee. He has never been a finalist. Sestak moved from tight end to defensive tackle by the Buffalo Bills in his rookie season in 1962 and knee injuries forced his retirement after the 1968 season. He still collected 52 sacks in seven seasons and was voted to play in four consecutive AFL all-star games. The Bills won two AFL championships and played in three AFL title games during his seven seasons.


(Tom Sestak photo courtesy oft he Buffalo Bills)

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  1. Mike avolio
    April 6, 2016

    To me, Klecko, Brown and Karras are obvious choices.

    But I keep hearing the excusivity argument, but look at how few defensive interior lineman there are in the HOF ..

    I’d put all three in, and I’d put them in together.

  2. bachslunch
    April 6, 2016

    Alex Karras is probably the best DT not in the HoF. Would be fine with him, Roger Brown, or Tom Sestak being elected and would not complain if Joe Klecko or Gene Lipscomb got in. Not in favor of Keith Millard who has small honors of 2/2/80s and a very short career. Would sooner see Fred Smerlas or Houston Antwine enshrined, both of whom have reasonable arguments. The best regularly eligible DTs not in at present arguably are Michael Dean Perry and Ray Childress — again, won’t complain at all if either were elected.

  3. Anonymous
    May 19, 2016

    I’v made All Pro 4 times, twice 1st team , NFL lineman of the year twice, two pro bowls along with the other accolades , plus 51 sacks my first 5 yrs in the league, coming off a 12 sacks season in the USFL . I got hurt my 6 th yr with a very bad knee injury in ’90 missed the next two and a half yrs ,just want to set the record, I know it looks bad sticking up for myself, but, thank you for including me, it’s very humbling, seriously , thank you

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