Ex-Dolphins Hall of Fame center Jim Langer dies at 71

MIAMI (AP) — Pro Football Hall of Fame center Jim Langer, who was literally in the middle of the Miami Dolphins' 1972 perfect season, has died at the age of 71.

Langer died Thursday at a Coon Rapids, Minnesota, hospital near his home of a sudden heart-related problem, said his wife, Linda.

Langer was a first-year starter and played every offensive down for the NFL's only unbeaten, untied team that went 17-0. The following year he helped the Dolphins repeat as Super Bowl champions, and began a stretch of six consecutive Pro Bowl seasons for Miami while playing in 128 games in a row.

A Minnesota native, Langer played linebacker at South Dakota State and went undrafted. He signed with Cleveland as a rookie in 1970 but was cut, joined the Dolphins and made the team as a center in coach Don Shula's first season with Miami.

"Jim Langer was the ultimate conversion story," tweeted former NFL executive Gil Brandt, another Hall of Famer.

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Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy stands with players Allen Robinson (12), Mitch Trubisky (10), and Kyle Fuller (23), during the national anthem before the Hall of Fame Game against the Baltimore Ravens at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Lewis receives a hug as the 2018 Hall of Fame inductees are announced before the Hall of Fame Game between the Chicago Bears and the Ravens at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 02: General view as the sun sets in the first quarter of the Hall of Fame Game between the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 2, 2018 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 02: Chase Daniel #4 of the Chicago Bears looks to pass in the first quarter of the Hall of Fame Game against the Baltimore Ravens at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 2, 2018 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 02: Maxx Williams #87 of the Baltimore Ravens runs into the end zone with a five-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter of the Hall of Fame Game against the Chicago Bears at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 2, 2018 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears fullback Michael Burton (46) is congratulated by wide receiver Marlon Brown after Burton scored a touchdown in the first quarter of the Hall of Fame Game against the Baltimore Ravens at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Chicago Bears tight end Dion Sims (88) grabs a bit of fabric as he tries to tackle Baltimore Ravens linebacker Kamalei Correa (51) after Correa intercepted a pass by quarterback Chase Daniel in the first quarter of the Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 02: Chase Daniel #4 of the Chicago Bears gets sacked by Kamalei Correa #51 of the Baltimore Ravens in the second quarter of the Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 2, 2018 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 02: Hayden Hurst #81 of the Baltimore Ravens makes a reception against Jonathan Anderson #52 of the Chicago Bears in the first quarter of the Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 2, 2018 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 02: Hayden Hurst #81 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after a touchdown reception against the Chicago Bears in the third quarter of the Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 2, 2018 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 02: Jordan Lasley #17 of the Baltimore Ravens breaks a tackle after a reception against Michael Joseph #21 of the Chicago Bears in the third quarter of the Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 2, 2018 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Aug 2, 2018; Canton, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws a pass under pressure from Chicago Bears defensive tackle Bilal Nichols (98) during the Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. The Ravens defeated the Bears 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 2, 2018; Canton, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens defensive back Darious Williams (27) reacts as Chicago Bears wide receiver Tanner Gentry (19) catches a pass for a touchdown in the second half at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 2, 2018; Canton, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst (left) celebrates scoring a touchdown with quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) against the Chicago Bears in the second half at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 2, 2018; Canton, OH, USA; Chicago Bears fullback Michael Burton (46) reacts to scoring a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 2, 2018; Canton, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens tight end Maxx Williams (87) reacts to scoring a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the first half at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
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The Hall of Fame flag in Canton, Ohio flew at half-staff to honor Langer.

"From a free agent to a bronzed bust, Jim's selfless sacrifice, perseverance and never giving up on his goal are important life lessons that can inspire us all," Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement.

Langer was voted the Dolphins' most valuable player in 1975, and played in the NFL until 1981, spending his final two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. A four-time All-Pro choice, Langer was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1987.

His perfect season teammate Nick Buoniconti, another Hall of Famer, died a month ago. His longtime Dolphins roommate, guard Bob Kuechenberg, died in January.

In 2007, Kuechenberg recalled a conversation he and Langer had 10 games into the season.

"I told Langer, 'Obviously we're going to have to lose a game.'

"'I suppose,' he said.

"'When?' I said.

"'Not this week,' was the only answer."

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