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"The Dancing Bear" Helped Lead Redskins to Prominence in 1970s

This season -- and believe me, there will be a 2011 season -- marks the 40th anniversary of George Allen's first year coaching the Redskins.

Yes, 1971, I remember it like it was yesterday. That year, Allen guided the 9-4-1 Redskins to their first post-season appearance in a quarter century. He did it with a team led by a bunch of grizzled, wily veterans nicknamed the "Over The Hill Gang," many of whom the Hall of Fame coach had acquired before the season through his customary wheeling and dealing on the trade market.

One such veteran was defensive end Ron McDole, who had starred on Buffalo Bills teams that won American Football League championships in 1964 and 1965 (the AFL merged with the NFL in 1970). Allen traded three draft choices for McDole, who made solid contributions to the coach's stingy defense in the 1970s, when the Redskins went to the playoffs five times, including an appearance in Super Bowl VII. McDole never missed a game in eight seasons as a Redskin and started all but one of a possible 121 games, including playoffs. In fact, Mr. Durability started nearly every one of the 250-plus games in his 18-year career.

I recently caught up with McDole when he was a guest on my TV show, "Burgundy & Gold Magazine."

The 6-4, 265-pound McDole, nicknamed "The Dancing Bear" because of his rotund physique, performed feats uncharacteristic for a defensive end. He intercepted 12 passes, perhaps the highest total for a defensive lineman in NFL history. He also blocked an abundance of field goals and extra points, recovered seven fumbles and recording three safeties. Today, he's among the all-time NFL leaders in safeties.