Jack Ham Biography

Lost in the lore of the “Super Steelers” icons of the 70’s like Jack Lambert, Terry Bradshaw and Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain defense, Jack Ham was one of the least noticed, but most effective defenders wearing the black and gold.

Ham was a second-round draft pick in 1971 out of Penn State, where he was an All-American, and proved the Steelers brain trust correct as he won the starting left linebacker job. In a career that included four super bowl rings, Ham recorded 25 sacks, 21 fumbles recovered, and 32 interceptions. Those numbers place him in the Defensive 20/20 Club (20 interceptions and 20 sacks) with eight other recognized members such as Wilber Marshall, Ray Lewis and teammate Jack Lambert.

Chuck Noll said that Ham was blessed with tremendous quickness, and was regarded as the fastest Steeler for the first ten yards by fellow defensive star, Andy Russell. In addition to being fast, he was smart as well. Former NFL linebacker Maxie Baughan once said of him, "He was one of the more intelligent players to ever play that position. He was able to diagnose plays. You couldn't ever fool him."

The linebacker was selected to eight Pro Bowl’s, a six time first-team All-Pro selection, a member of both the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team.

He also played in five AFC championship games and it was his 19-yard interception return to the Oakland 9-yard-line that setup the Steelers' go-ahead touchdown in their first ever championship victory in 1972. He was named to the All-AFC team for the first time in 1973 and in 1975 the Football News named him the Defensive Player of the Year.

Ham was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988, and two years later, the College Football Hall of Fame followed suit. In the 1999 Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, Ham was ranked number 47.

Ham had one of the most distinctive nicknames, which was also used as the name of his fan club. He was called, “Dobre Shunka” which is polish for “Good Ham.”

His number 59 was reissued once, to Todd Seabaugh in 1984. However, Seabaugh did not play like the man who had worn the number so proudly, and it was taken out of the jersey rotation and has not been issued since. It is generally understood to be "unofficially retired" in honor of Ham.

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