John Mendenhall, a staple on the defensive line for the New York Giants in the 1970s, has passed away according to his family. He was 72.
Mendenhall was selected in the third round of 1972 NFL draft (55th overall) by the Giants out of Grambling and played 101 games for Big Blue, starting 98 over eight seasons. He finished his career with Detroit in 1980.
Mendenhall, 6-foot-1 and 255 pounds, was a fierce competitor on the interior of the Giants, playing on the same defense with notables such as Brad Van Pelt, Harry Carson, George Martin, Brian Kelley, Jack Gregory, Troy Archer and Ray Rhodes. He had his best season in 1977, recording an unofficial 12 sacks and seven forced fumbles.
Found this gem over the weekend from the WFAA collection: Marty Schottenheimer coaching up the #GiantsPride D back in 1976 at Texas Stadium. Harry Carson, John Mendenhall, Brad Van Pelt and Brian Kelley seen in the background with Jack Gregory just out of frame. Awesome. pic.twitter.com/i2CA60Iy06
— Ken Gelman (@kengfunk) February 25, 2020
Mendenhall was a fan favorite due to his durability and aggressive play. Unfortunately for him, he played for Big Blue during the period which is known as the ‘wilderness years.’ During his time with the Giants, the team failed to qualify for the postseason and after an 8-6 campaign in his rookie year, never won more than six games in a season the rest of the decade.
None of that was due to the efforts of the defense, however. Many Giants fans have lobbied to have Mendenhall added to the team’s Ring of Honor. He is one of the few players who played for the Giants in four venues: Yankee Stadium, the Yale Bowl, Shea Stadium and Giants Stadium.
In an interview in 1982 as the Giants were about to play their first postseason game since 1963, Martin relayed this sentiment to George Vescey of the New York Times.
”I heard talk the Giants were thinking of trading me, and my friends said, ‘Great, maybe you’ll get to play for a winner.,’” Martin said. “But I stayed, and it worked out for me. I feel sorry for some of the guys like John Mendenhall, who played his heart out and never got to be part of this.”
Maybe now the Giants can make things right by immortalizing him in the Ring of Honor.