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Steve Rushin
September 04, 1995
Linemen who tip the scales on the far side of 300 pounds are fast becoming the rule, not the exception
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September 04, 1995


Linemen who tip the scales on the far side of 300 pounds are fast becoming the rule, not the exception

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Huge is the adjective favored by 300-pound defensive tackle Dan Saleaumua of the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Enormous," suggests 351-pound offensive tackle Jerry Crafts of the Green Bay Packers.

"I prefer planetlike," says Parker, whose girth resembles Earth when he pictures himself in certain suits. "Like window-pane suits," he says. "They look like someone has drawn the lines of longitude and latitude on me."

Only Newton uses the F word. "Fat helped me get into this league," reasons the two-time Pro Bowl starter. "And it gets me attention. It's all you guys write about: fat, fat, fat. Some people think I'm so fat that they have to see it for themselves. So they hire me for a personal appearance and pay me lots of money so they can see how fat I am."

In other words: No gut, no glory.

In the beginning, there was but one Monster of the Midriff. Les (Bingo) Bingaman played defensive tackle for Detroit from 1948 to '54, when men were men and personal scales were like bowling scores: They stopped at 300. But a grain scale in a Michigan feed store registered Bingo at 350 pounds, which seems about right when you consider that a pilot once asked him to move from the rear of the plane to the front to facilitate takeoff.

The writer Kingsley Amis has noted that outside every fat man is an even fatter man trying to close in. But in the three decades that followed Bingaman's retirement, fewer than two dozen 300-pound men made it into the NFL. They were rare specimens like Sherman Plunkett, a 330-pound offensive tackle for the Baltimore Colts, the New York Jets and the San Diego Chargers from 1956 to '67. Plunkett's Colt roommate awoke one night to find the Sherman tank snuffling in a five-pound tube of liverwurst in the darkness.

Plunkett notwithstanding, in those days the round one was more likely to play on the defensive rather than the offensive line. As late as 1986 only two 300-pound offensive linemen were taken in the entire NFL draft. Compare that to the five 300-pound offensive linemen taken in the first 31 selections of this year's draft—including the second pick overall (by the Jacksonville Jaguars), tackle Tony Boselli, flab-free at 325 pounds.

This seismic shift from one side of the scrimmage line to the other is simply the result of a cyclical tipping of the balance of power in the NFL. "It's evolution," says Joe Woolley, assistant general manager of the Arizona Cardinals. "All of a sudden these big guys were overpowering the offensive linemen. It's like the time the league went through a series of small wide receivers to get past big cornerbacks. Teams started getting small corners. Now there are big wide receivers, and you'll see bigger cornerbacks."

Bigger is better, in all areas.

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