State Your Case: Kent Hull


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(Photos courtesy of the Buffalo Bills)

By Rick Gosselin

Talk of Fame Network

History serves as the gatekeeper for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Win and you’re in.

The Green Bay Packers won five NFL championships in the 1960s. They have 11 players enshrined. The Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls in the 1970s. They have nine players enshrined. The 1950s Browns that went to six consecutive NFL title games and won two of them also have nine players in Canton.

“Unfortunately, you realize when you don’t win a Super Bowl you don’t get the notoriety that you (as a team) probably should,” said Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.

Kelly played on a Buffalo team that went to consecutive Super Bowls from 1990-93 but didn’t win any of them. Players with statistics can often overcome the absence of championship rings, as Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, wide receiver Andre Reed and pass rusher Bruce Smith have done in Buffalo.

But when a team doesn’t win, the roster isn’t combed for greatness by the Hall of Fame selection committee as those with a championship pedigree. So a player like center Kent Hull slips through the cracks.

And that’s sad. Had the Bills won a Super Bowl or two, Hull might already be enshrined in Canton. Without a Super Bowl ring, though, Hull has never even been discussed as a finalist. He’s never even reached the list of 25 semifinalists.

The Bills changed how the NFL views offense with their up-tempo, no-huddle K-Gun in the early 1990s, and the guy snapping the ball was a key element.

“We absolutely could not have been effective with it if it were not for the talent and input of our young, undrafted center from Mississippi State,” said Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy. “Kent Hull played against the best and almost always came out on top.”

There was a reason Hull went undrafted. He signed out of college with the USFL New Jersey Generals and spent his first three seasons as a professional playing in relative anonymity in the spring league. But the coaches and players in the USFL knew of him.

Hull started all three of his seasons with the Generals and keyed the blocking front that allowed Herschel Walker to set a professional football rushing record with 2,411 yards in 1985. Hull was selected second-team center on the all-time USFL team after the league folded.

Levy spent a season coaching in the USFL so he was knowledgeable of the talent in that league. When Levy moved on to the Bills, he brought Hull along with him.

Hull was a walk-in starter and remained in the lineup for 11 seasons. He went to three Pro Bowls and was twice voted the best center in the game, earning first-team All-Pro acclaim in both 1990 and 1991. In Buffalo’s no-huddle K-Gun, Kelly called the plays in the shotgun and Hull called out the blocking fronts at the line of scrimmage. They worked in tandem.

“His impact was huge,” Kelly said. “He put guys in the right places. He was so smart in how he did things and set up his blocks. Thurman got used to seeing his blocks, reading his blocks and also how Kent engineered the running game.”

The Bills led the NFL in rushing in both 1991 and ’92. They also led the NFL in scoring in 1990 and in offense in 1991. Buffalo earned eight playoff berths, four AFC championships and those four Super Bowl appearances with Hull snapping the ball.

Hull spent his final seven seasons as an offensive captain and was named to the Bills’ 50th anniversary team. He also was enshrined in the club’s hall of fame, the Wall of Honor, in 2002. He passed away in 2011 from gastrointestinal bleeding.

The Bills have not forgotten Kent Hull, and neither should the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His case deserves to be discussed. He’s the type of player and person who belongs in Canton.

“If you went into a dark alley, he’s the guy you wanted beside you,” Kelly said. “He’d fight to the death for you.”

Follow Rick Gosselin on Twitter at @RickGosselinDMN

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16 Comments

  1. mike avolio
    January 20, 2015
    Reply

    Kent Hull is a Hall of Famer .
    It’s mind boggling to me how many deserving players have not been voted in and most likely never will.

    The voting process is an embarrassment.

  2. Ellen Mitchell
    January 20, 2015
    Reply

    Kent was the most humble, kindest man you would ever want to know! His death was a tragic loss. He and my son who passed away at the age of 47 with ALS were good friends and we will never forget Kent! He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame!

  3. rscott
    January 21, 2015
    Reply

    Reebok pumps kent? Jk Kent was the man! A real unsung hero..

  4. mbonge
    January 21, 2015
    Reply

    When Kelly was out we won with Reich. When Reed was out we won with Beebe (and others). When Thurman was out we won with Kenny Davis. I would love for someone to do the research but I recall getting the most nervous for those few times that Kent Hull was out. I just seem to recall that when Hull was out we struggled to get a first down. Kent Hull belongs in the Hall.

  5. Michael hull
    January 22, 2015
    Reply

    He was my cousin. He passed away a couple of years ago. He was a great football player and a great person.

  6. Chism Patterson
    January 22, 2015
    Reply

    Kent Hull was a hometown hero for those of us in Greenwood. He always took the time to help others whenever he could and was always a friendly face who was there for others. He was one of the greatest linemen to play the game and there is no doubt he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

  7. Terry Wilson
    January 23, 2015
    Reply

    Kent was an exceptional person on or off the field and can not think of anyone more deserving of the Hall of Fame

  8. Steve Alderman
    March 11, 2015
    Reply

    Kent Hull was a high school classmate of mine. Not only was he on the offensive line during the 4 years the Bills were in the Super Bowl but he is a member of the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame and on the 50th Anniversary Team as well as in the Mississippi Hall of Fame. No offensive lineman are on the NFL Hall of Fame from this series of teams yet all the skill players are. Those holes didn’t open themselves up for Thurman to run through. The defense wasn’t just waiting for Jim Kelly to throw the ball. The offensive line was a key factor for all the skill players to be able to do what they did. Kent was a gentle, kind, thoughtful man that was a pleasure to be around as I’m sure was a team mate you could count on. He deserves to be in the National Football Hall of Fame!

    • March 11, 2015
      Reply

      Very good player whose credentials will hopefully be debated one of these days.

  9. Belinda Morrison
    March 11, 2015
    Reply

    Kent was a really sweet man-very kind and giving, and always a champion on the football from high school to the pros. Kent deserves to be in the hall of fame. The Bills couldn’t have made it to as many super bowls as they did without him. He was taken from us way too early. GHS class of ’79 mourns his passing and believes that he should be in the hall.

    • March 11, 2015
      Reply

      You make some good points about Hull. Sad passing

  10. Mike Farrell
    March 11, 2015
    Reply

    Kent was a gentle giant to all that had the privalige to know him. Although he started at center for 4years at Mississippi State, and every game of his pro career, his life was much more than just football. He treated all that knew with respect and kindness, both personally and professionally. His exploits on the field speak for themselves and are reinforced by those that played both for and against him. As much as any player on those great Buffalo teams, Kent deserves to have his name enshrined in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.

  11. M. Taylor
    March 12, 2015
    Reply

    Kent and I went to high school together always had his stuff together and had his mind on what was important to get where he was going, his sights were always set on something bigger……as the Hall of Fame coach stated, “we could not have gotten where we were without his talents” He went to three Pro Bowls and was twice voted the best center in the game, earning first-team All-Pro acclaim in both 1990 and 1991. In Buffalo’s no-huddle K-Gun, Kelly called the plays in the shotgun and Hull called out the blocking fronts at the line of scrimmage. They worked in tandem. Unsung hero of the sport….he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame…

  12. bachslunch
    March 18, 2016
    Reply

    Center is a position the HoF is especially strict with, and unfortunately for Kent Hull there are a lot of folks at this position with the same level of short honors he has. Arguably the best of them is Jay Hilgenberg (3/7/none). Hull is at 3/3/none, and others not in include Forrest Blue (3/4/none), Rich Saul (0/6/none), Bob DeMarco (3/3/none), Len Hauss (1/5/none), Jeff Van Note (0/5/none), Jon Morris (1/7/allAFL), Doug Smith (0/6/none), Olin Kreutz (2/6/00s), Kevin Gogan (0/3/none), Mark Stepnoski (1/5/90s), Bruce Bosley (0/4/none), Matt Birk (2/6/none), and Tom Newberry (2/2/none). But I’m not sure any of them belong in.

  13. bachslunch
    March 19, 2016
    Reply

    My mistake on Newberry — he played guard more than center, so he shouldn’t be on the list above.

  14. bachslunch
    March 19, 2016
    Reply

    Also Kevin Gogan — again a guard mostly. My error.

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