For some reason–most likely something to do with the fact that I was one in high school–offensive linemen are most often my favorite players. When doing their jobs, they go unnoticed, and the good ones always seem to have the kind of attitude I like in a player–that is, they aren’t the prima donnas on the team, screaming for attention after a 6-yard gain on 2nd and 10, or dancing around like an idiot after making a tackle 8 yards downfield.
And a lot of lineman seem to like to have fun while playing–from practical jokes, to contests to see who can go the furthest into the season without wearing long sleeves, to fining other linemen in Kangaroo Court just for talking to the media (both of the latter of which Hall of Fame Tackle and former Viking Gary Zimmerman was famous for). Seems offensive linemen are often some of the smartest players on the field as well–which if you really knew the complexity of some of the blocking schemes, you’d understand why they need to be.
I think it’s that reason that this comment, left by a regular on a local sports blog that I follow, drew my attention–granted, it was from two months ago, but it’s getting to be the football time of year, and I just came across it again.
Tim Irwin wasn’t the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history–in fact, he was probably the 3rd or 4th best lineman on most of the Viking teams he played for (granted, those were some high quality lines with Zimmerman, Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel, center Kirk Lowdermilk and the like), but Irwin was a solid right tackle who brought his lunch pail, did his job, and played for a long time. In fact, although it probably won’t stay this way much longer, he’s currently in the Top 100 for career games started in the NFL, with 187.
Irwin was no dummy, either–he ended up getting his law degree, and started his own firm after his career was over. I think he served as player agent for a couple of guys at one point, but more recently has served as a Judge of a Juvenile Court in Knox County, Tennessee.
So the fact that Irwin likely spent an entire preseason answering requests for autographs by requesting that the seeker write to Topps asking that they include him in the next years football card set is awesome–and exactly the kind of story that I get a kick out of. The fact that Irwin was included the next year makes it even better.
Offensive lineman rarely get much love in today’s sets, given that they lack the big name–but back when sets were a bit bigger, you’d regularly see a couple offensive linemen, a couple of defensive linemen, and even maybe the kicker and punter from each team get cards.
Irwin had a few cards over the years, several of which are available on Ebay today..
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