The only North Central Conference player ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame became the 24th member of the Jackrabbit Sports Hall of Fame at the 1988 Hobo Day game against Augustana on October 8.
Jim Langer was a three-year letterman in both football and baseball at SDSU, earning all-North Central Conference and all-America recognition in both sports. A native of Royalton, MN, Langer went on to become an all-pro center for the Miami Dolphins before closing out his pro career with the Minnesota Vikings. Ironically, Langer was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during the summer of 1987, one year before he became a member of the Jackrabbit Sports Hall of Fame, when the 25-year waiting period was waived.
As a three-year starter for the Jackrabbit football team, Langer earned all-conference honors at linebacker. While he played tackle and guard for the Jacks on offense, he did not become a center until he joined the Dolphins. Langer lettered in football in 1967-68-69, earning all-NCC honors in 1969 when he was also honorable mention all-America.
In baseball, Langer led the NCC in hits, with 23, and in earned run average, at 1.57, in 1969 when he earned all-conference and All-America honors. He had a .317 career batting average, playing in 73 games, and was also 9-13 as a pitcher with a fine 3.39 career earned run average.
After completing his eligibility at SDSU, Langer was signed as a free agent by the Cleveland Browns. When the Browns released him, Miami signed him and Langer went on to play 12 years in the NFL, starting at center of the Dolphin teams which played in three straight Super Bowls (1972-73-74) winning the last two. The 1972 Dolphins went unbeaten (17-0) and Langer snapped the ball on every offensive down. Of the 500 pass blocking assignments that year, he needed help on only three plays.
While honors came to the Dolphins in massive numbers after that season — like having nine players named to the Pro Bowl — Langer received little recognition other than being named South Dakota Sports Celebrity of the Year. But in 1979, when Sport magazine conducted a poll to determine the best center in the game, Langer was voted first on eight of the ten ballots. He was second on another and the remaining ballot was his own — players couldn’t vote for themselves.
Miami assistant coach Monte Clark knew the Dolphins had uncovered a real gem in 1972 and gave Langer much of the credit for the team’s awesomely effective ball-control offense.
“Jim handled the job so well that a guard looking to help the center in pass-blocking situations could help elsewhere,” Clark said. Langer may have missed out on post-season honors in 1972, but that was the last time for awhile. He earned a spot on the Pro-Bowl roster the next season and won similar honors each of the next five years through 1978.
Langer appeared in 141 consecutive regular season and postseason games, including three AFC championship games and three Super Bowls, until a chipped bone ended his Dolphins career in the ninth game of the 1979 season. He finished by playing two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. Langer and his wife, Linda, have four children — all of whom attended SDSU. Sons Tracy, Craig and Russ all have played baseball for the Jacks.