Not to be confused with the beautiful people in the backfield who do the hair dryer and cologne commercials, centers like the Redskins' Len Hauss (opposite) live nose to nose in the bottom of the pit, where reputations—such as they are—depend on guile, muscle, a high threshold of pain and the ability to remember the snap count. Centers suffer arthritis, hyperextended elbow, broken noses, slashed faces, battered hands, stiff backs and heads that ring from the slaps of defensive linemen. There's not much beauty in the middle of the offensive line.
Nearly all the plays start with the hunched-over center giving the football a quarter turn, slapping it into the quarterback's hands, then rearing up to block.
Snap completed, Wayne Mulligan of the Jets (above) buys protection time for Quarterback Joe Namath. Miami's Jim Langer (below) reminds Guard Bob Kuechenberg that he will snap the ball on count two.
Rich Saul of the Rams (left) peers back between his legs and spirals the ball to his punter, Mike Burke, while snap specialist Bill Curry (55, below) fends off two Redskins on a field-goal try.
Gamboling quarterbacks such as New England's Jim Plunkett (right) make more work for centers. Here Bill Lenkaitis (67) clears the way for Plunkett by rubbing out two would-be tacklers.
Ironman Jim (00) Otto, creaking with arthritis, retired this year after starting 210 consecutive games for the Raiders.