DT, Illinois Fighting Illini, 1961
In the offseason, Joe Rutgens sold insurance. In season, he scared opposing players into buying their own.
Tackles and sacks weren’t official statistics during Rutgens’ tenure in Washington, but Rutgens, hailing from the windy state, still made a tangible impact. At 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, he had impressive size for the position in 1961.
His college efforts were enough to get him selected No. 3 overall by the Redskins, who had selected quarterback Norm Snead with the previous pick as well. Snead would leave Washington after just three seasons. But Rutgens would quickly become an important facet of the defensive line.
Rutgens carved out a role for himself as a starter on the Redskins’ defensive line. In his nine-year career with Washington, he played in 110 games, starting 99 of them. He was recognized as a Pro Bowl player in both 1963 and 1965.
Rutgens’ peak wasn’t high, and his number wasn’t retired. Anthony Lanier dons the No. 72 today. But Rutgens was the first truly productive defensive tackle for the Redskins. Following in Rutgens’ lead, players like Bill Brundige and looming giant Dave Butz would provide similar impacts.
It’s worth noting that Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Bob Lilly of the Dallas Cowboys went 10 picks after Rutgens. Rutgens had a great career with Washington. But it’s easy to think of what could have been if the Redskins had stolen Lilly from their division rival.