August 3, 1981
One by one, the New England Patriots' five starting offensive linemen lumbered into the locker room and gathered around a couch. The Pats had just beaten the Buffalo Bills 26-24, and the linemen were swapping tales—some a little taller than others—when Patriots offensive line coach Jim Ringo approached with a bottle of Johnny Walker Red in his hand. New England, in the penultimate game of the 1978 regular season, had broken the NFL's single-season team rushing record of 3,088 yards that had been set by the Bills in '73. Ringo poured congratulatory shots for his players, and for more than an hour they sat there together, drinking in their triumph and their whisky. "That season, that day, was as good as it got for me in pro football," says John Hannah, who played guard for the Patriots from '73 to '86, made nine Pro Bowls and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in '91. "Our mark [of 3,165 yards] still stands. It was a total team effort."
The 6'2�", 265-pound Hannah was not only big—he had been the heaviest player ever at Alabama—but also athletic. A national heavyweight wrestling champion at The Baylor School for Boys in Chattanooga, at 'Bama he had been a two-time football All-America and had won SEC tides in the shot put and discus. "I could do things that others couldn't because I had some athleticism," Hannah says.
That athleticism was gradually eroded by injuries to both of his shoulders and his left knee. Following the Patriots' 1986 Super Bowl loss to the Bears, Hannah retired and started The Hannah Group, an investment consulting firm, in Boston. When Hannah sold it to Advest Inc. in '96, it was handling $3 billion in assets. "I wouldn't say that I've had the same kind of success in business as I had in football," says Hannah, currently a portfolio manager for First Union Securities in Boston. "I'm no Peter Lynch, but I've done O.K."
Hannah, whose son and daughter attend colleges in the Boston area, is divorced and lives by himself in Boston. Unfortunately, he's no longer enamored with the sport he played to near perfection. "There are too many teams," he says. "Fans want excellence, teams like the Steelers and Cowboys in the 1970s. They don't want parity." In October, Hannah went to a Patriots-Jets Monday-night game. He left at halftime. "It was an ugly game, but that wasn't why I left early," he says. "I had to work the next morning at 6:30."