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Sunday, February 1, 2009
Kuechenberg tossed into Hall of Fame swamp


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Bob Kuechenberg is out of chances to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame by conventional means. Eight times the distinguished Miami Dolphins guard has been a finalist. Eight times he was denied.

 
  Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
  Bob Kuechenberg came up short in his eighth time as a finalist.

Saturday's election marked Kuechenberg's final year of regular eligibility. He has been retired for 25 years.

"Now you get thrown in the swamp," Kuechenberg said.

Kuechenberg, 61, was referring to the next phase -- the senior committee. It's a nine-member panel within the Hall of Fame's Board of Selectors. The panel nominates two senior candidates each year.

Kuechenberg's chances might improve as a senior candidate. He wouldn't be one of 15 modern candidates anymore, and he noted how "Nick Buoniconti made it for our team out of the old-timer's swamp."

But failing to gain entry on Saturday still stung, just as it had the first seven times.

"Disappointment is always there," Kuechenberg told me in his only interview since Saturday's vote. "I thought there was a good buzz going around this year. Coach [Don] Shula had written a great letter on my behalf.

"But this is something that I believe from a spiritual basis: If it's meant to be, it shall be. If it's not, then it won't happen."

South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde, who authored a book on Miami's undefeated 1972 season, has written Kuechenberg was considered its best offensive lineman. Guard Larry Little and center Jim Langer were on that team, too, and they're already are enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Kuechenberg was a six-time Pro Bowler. He was an All-Pro at guard and tackle.

He was a warrior. He had a 10-inch metal rod inserted in his broken forearm specifically to play in Super Bowl VIII -- against doctors' advice. He manhandled Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page, who's in the Hall of Fame.

"There was a little added incentive the last day or so before the vote, knowing that this is my last year of active eligibility," Kuechenberg said. "But long ago I realized I have absolutely zero influence or control over this and to not get too emotionally involved.

"What is important for the rest of my life is to focus on the games that I'm playing in my modern life rather than worrying about what I was pretty good at 30 or 40 years ago."