Before Ron Rivera became the second Latino head coach to lead a team to the Super Bowl, he was one of several Latino trailblazers in the NFL. But he wasn’t the only one! Lots of Latinos were under the radar for decades. Now’s the perfect time to look back at Latinos who made NFL history.
Tom Fears: From Guadalajara to the NFL Hall of Fame.
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Fears was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico to a Mexican mother and American father. Fears, who played college ball at UCLA, was a standout wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams from 1948-1956. He won the 1951 NFL championship and became the first Mexican-American enshrined into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1970.
Jim Plunkett: Tom Flores wasn’t the only Latino Raider to win rings.
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Jim Plunkett was the Raiders’ star quarterback under the tutelage of Tom Flores. The Mexican-American won the Heisman Trophy at Stanford and was the 1971 No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Plunkett, who was named MVP of Super Bowl XV, embraced his status as a role model. He told ESPN: “I’m proud to be Hispanic. It’s who I am. And if it helps kids in our community around the country set goals, even better.”
Joe Kapp: “The Toughest Chicano.”
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Kapp replaced celebrated quarterback Fran Tarkenton with the Minnesota Vikings and guided the team to its first ever playoff appearance in 1968. The following season, Kapp led the Vikings to Super Bowl IV, where they fell to the Chiefs. In 1970, Kapp graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with a caption that described him in three words: “The Toughest Chicano.”
Martin Gramatica: Super Bowl-winning kicker.
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Martin Gramatica was the first Argentinian to win the Vince Lombardi trophy after his Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. Gramatica also made it to the Pro Bowl in 2001, where he represented the Bucs on team NFC.
Wait! Martin was not the only Gramatica to kick in the NFL.
Just spent a really fun morning at the Gramatica Family Foundation's 3rd annual charity kickball tournament & silent auction. Their inspiring foundation provides mortgage-free energy-efficient homes for veterans that have been wounded in combat…what an amazing way to #payitforward ! @nancyskubis & I were proud to donate a #youngliving premium starter kit as one of the auction items & Dan donated rounds of golf courtesy of @clubcorp ! #gramaticafamilyfoundation #supportourtroops #bethechange #tampa #bucs #yleo #TeamMDH #clubcorp
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Guillermo “Bill” Gramatica, the younger brother of Martin, spent four seasons in the NFL with the Cardinals, Giants and Dolphins. Unfortunately, he’ll always be remembered as the kicker who got injured while celebrating.
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Ouch. That celebration didn’t just hurt his pride – it led to a torn ACL.
Ted Hendricks: The Guatemalan with four rings.
#footballz happy birthday to Ted Hendricks! You were known as "The Mad Stork" which is a crazy ass nickname. People just don't have nicknames like that anymore, it's all stupid amalgams or shortening of regular names like d-will or arod or whatever. You not only had a great nickname, you were really good at football, you're in the ding dang hall of fame for crying out loud! Not bad for a kid born in Guatemala. For all of your successes and your great nickname we celebrate you, Ted Hendricks, because it's your birthday! #footballzeroftheday #footballzbirthdays #tedhendricks #themadstork #oaklandraiders #losangelesraiders #baltimorecolts #greenbaypackers #nicknamesusedtobetter
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Ted Hendricks was a defensive force for the Baltimore Colts from 1969-1973. The linebacker won Super Bowl V with the Colts and later captured three more with the Raiders. Hendricks, who was born to a Guatemalan mother and American father, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.
Steve Van Buren: Honduras’ punishing halfback.
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Steve Van Buren was a five-time first-team All-Pro with the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1940s. Van Buren, who was born in Honduras, won three consecutive rushing titles from 1947-49 and went into the Hall of Fame in 1965. Van Buren’s regular season record of 18 touchdowns with the Eagles wasn’t broken until 2011, when LaSean McCoy 20 touchdowns.
Efren Herrera: From soccer player to Super Bowl champ.
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Herrera, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, moved to the US as a young boy. He didn’t know anything about football until the football coach from his high school, La Puente High, saw him kicking a basketball into a soccer net. Herrera joined the football team as a kicker and eventually earned a football scholarship to UCLA. Herrera played for several NFL teams in the ’70s and ’80s, but his career year was 1978. Herrera helped the Dallas Cowboys win Super Bowl XII and was also named to the Pro Bowl.
Anthony Muñoz: The king of the trenches.
One word. Legend. 3rd overall pick out of USC…4 time lineman of the year…11 Pro Bowls…9 first team All-Pros…All Decade Team…Sporting New's 17th greatest players of all time…appeared in 2 motion pictures…elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But most importantly….made being an Offensive Tackle cool. Anthony Munoz. #tackle #anthonymunoz #bengals
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Anthony Muñoz is regarded as arguably the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history. He spent 13 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he earned 11 Pro Bowl appearances and was named to nine first-team All-Pro squads. Muñoz is a member of the 1980s All-Decade team and went into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
Riverboat Ron: From Super Bowl shuffle to dabbing in the big game.
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Ron Rivera has a Super Bowl ring from his days as a ferocious linebacker for the Chicago Bears. Rivera, who is of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent, spent nine seasons with the Bears and won it all in 1985 with arguably the greatest team in NFL history.
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