Jim Langer, the first-ballot Hall of Famer and starting center on the Dolphins’ undefeated 1972 team, died Thursday. He was 71.
Langer was the anchor of the Dolphins’ offensive line during their championship run and a consensus All-Pro for five consecutive years. Considered one of the greatest centers of all time, Langer is one of just four Dolphins to be elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. The others are Dan Marino, Paul Warfield and Jason Taylor.
“This is a tremendous loss,” said Dick Anderson, who was Langer’s teammate for eight seasons, including both championship years. “We were fortunate to have three of the best offense of lineman in the League with Jim, Kooch [Bob Kuechenberg] and Larry Little. Jim was the center and leader in all ways both on and off the field. He was a remarkable individual and will be missed.”
His death comes just a month after the passing of teammate Nick Buoniconti, who joined Langer in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001 — 14 years after Langer’s induction.
“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame mourns the passing of Jim Langer,” said Hall of Fame CEO David Baker. “He lived an incredible life. From a free agent to a Bronzed Bust, Jim’s selfless sacrifice, perseverance and never giving up on his goal are important life lessons that can inspire us all. He was the ultimate teammate. His contributions to this game, especially how integral he was to the Miami Dolphins’ sustained success throughout the 1970s, will live forever in Canton, Ohio where the Hall of Fame flag now flies at half-staff in his memory.”
Born May 16, 1948, in Little Falls, Minnesota, Langer played at South Dakota State. The economics major was actually a linebacker at that time, earning honorable mention All-American honors in 1969.
He went undrafted out of college and after a failed tryout with the Browns in 1970, few could have predicted greatness awaited. But Don Shula, in his first season as Dolphins coach, saw promise and signed Langer as a backup.
Two years later, he was Miami’s starting center, playing every down in 1972 and helping the team win the first of two straight Super Bowls. He remained a cornerstone of that Dolphins’ line for the rest of the decade, appearing in 128 straight games. He also made 109 consecutive starts between 1972-79 and was named the team’s most valuable player in 1975.
“I was saddened to hear of the passing of Jim. He was the rock in the middle of one of the greatest offensive lines in the history of the National Football League,” said Nat Moore, the former Dolphins wide receiver who now is an executive in the organization. “More than that, he was a leader of our team both on and off the field and set the standard for which all centers are measured. On behalf of the Dolphins and our alumni we send our thoughts and prayers to his family. He will be forever missed.”
Langer’s run with the Dolphins ended after the 1979 season, when he requested a trade to the Vikings to be close to home. He spent the final two years of his great career in Minnesota.
Langer, a six-time Pro Bowler, is one of the most decorated players in team history. He is a member of the Dolphins’ Honor Roll, is in their Walk of Fame and was named one of the franchise’s 50 best players ever in 2015.
Langer is survived by his wife Linda and four children. A cause of death was not released.