"I was done," he says. "I was so sore I could hardly move."
That intervention launched a career that last week earned Hanburger election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I told them, 'Look, I've had it. I ain't going,' " Hanburger says from his South Carolina home. "Well, they talked me into going. I think it was that day, if it was your first year with the Hampton football team, they shaved your head and left a big H on the top.
"After they did it, I thought, 'Well goddangit, I can't quit now. I can't walk around here with that sucker and not be on the team.' So I stuck it out."
Stuck it out through a gruesome facial fracture that derailed his dream of attending the United States Military Academy.
Stuck it out through an All-ACC career at North Carolina, where he honeymooned on the school's dime.
Stuck it out through 14 seasons (1965-78) as a Washington Redskins linebacker, missing a game only after an emergency appendectomy.
"There are a lot of life's lessons in all this, just the twists and turns we take," says former Hampton mayor Jimmy Eason, Hanburger's high school and college teammate.
Hanburger, 69, is weary of the twists and turns. He's comfortably and happily retired after selling the Ford dealership in Maryland that carried his name.
He and his wife live modestly in the country, and about the only football games that capture his attention are those played by his 8-year-old grandson.
Indeed, when the Hall of Fame called with the good news Feb. 5, Hanburger cringed at the notion of flying the next day to the Super Bowl to be recognized on national television and in front of more than 100,000 spectators.
"I'm just a simple guy, really," he says. "I'm just not into all that other stuff. To me (football) was a job I had, and I wanted to do the best I could all the time, and I didn't really like to have a lot of distractions. It's just me. Not everybody is going to be like me.
"Yeah, I'm a loner. Always have been. You could give me a shack 20 miles off a paved road, send me supplies two or three times a year, and I'm a happy guy."
During a transient childhood that took his family to military bases in North Carolina, South Dakota, Alabama, Panama and Pennsylvania, Hanburger had little choice but to fend for himself. He was an average-sized but natural athlete who played sandlot ball with his buddies.
Then the Army sent his father to Fort Monroe, introducing Hanburger to Hampton's storied football program, coached then by Suey Eason, Jimmy's father.
"Coach Eason was very demanding, and I always wondered how Jimmy held up playing for his dad," Hanburger says. "I don't remember what I did or didn't do in high school. … The only thing that concerned me was going out and doing it, and doing it to the best of my ability. Just praying that I didn't make a big mistake."
John Ellerson was a year ahead of Hanburger and recalls him making few mistakes.