Getting lost in all the hype over the end of the NFL lockout and the rapid-fire trading going on is the fact that this weekend is the Enshrinement Ceremony for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2011. Shannon Sharpe, Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Richard Dent, Ed Sabol, Chris Hanburger, and Les Richter are this year's inductees. I think each of these gentlemen has left his mark on football - and in the records books.
Shannon Sharpe - wasn't always a commentator for CBS Sports. He was also one of the best Tight Ends to ever play football. With 815 catches and over 10,000 yards, Shannon sets the mark for other TE's. Except for two years spent in Baltimore working under the watchful eye of one of his heroes, Ozzie Newsome, he spent his career as a Denver Bronco. He won two Super Bowls as a Bronco and one as a Raven. Since I hate both of those teams, that is all I have to say about that. Oh, except that his brother, Sterling, a former NFL player himself, will introduce him at the ceremony.
Deion Sanders - Prime Time - may truly be the most feared pass defender to ever play the game. Ranked as the 4th fastest football player in NFL history, Sanders is one of the best athletes of all time. He started his career as a baseball player before moving to football. He remains the only player in history to hit a home run and score a touch down in the same week. He is also the only player to be in the World Series AND the Super Bowl. Finally, is only the second player to score a TD in the NFL six different ways: punt return, kickoff return, receiving, rushing, fumble recovery, and interception return. Damn!
Marshall Faulk - 1999 NFL Offensive player of the year and Pro Bowl starter, Faulk is known best for his rushing, but it was his receiving abilities that made him truly dangerous. The Tennessee Titans found this out first hand in Super Bowl XXXIV where Jeff Fischer was able to scheme his defense so that Faulk was held to just 17 yards rushing. However, the 90 yards he got through the air was enough to win the St Louis Rams the Lombardi Trophy. He retired due to knee problems in 2006 with 12,279 rushing yards and 6,875 passing yards. That's nearly 20,000 yards in 13 seasons people! Do the math!
Richard Dent - Da Bears. That's what I know about him. I remember the SNL skits withe Da Bears fans and the refrigerator Perry and Jim McMahon wearing his Rozelle sweat band. And through all that,
Dent just kept kicking butt and taking names on the defensive side of the ball and earned himself the MVP of Super Bowl XX trophy. He also was on the Super Bowl XXIX San Fran 49ers team even though he was injured most of the season. Now, in my opinion, the best film to watch of Dent involves YouTube and search term "Super Bowl Shuffle." But that just might be me.
Ed Sabol - was the president and one of the founding members of NFL Films. He is partly responsible for "Hard Knocks." Enough said.
Chris Hanburger - "The Hangman" - a linebacker who played his entire career with the Washington Redskins, 1965-1978. Like many players of his generation, he went into the Army before going to college at UNC. After playing both sides of the ball as a Tarheel, Center and Linebacker, he was drafted by the Redskins. The nine-time Pro Bowler and 1972 NFL Defensive Player of the Year still couldn't get past the Miami Dolphins during their perfect season. While the Redskins only allowed 14 points to the Dolphins in Super Bowl VII, it was all Miami needed. On a side note, my mom's cousin Doug Crusan #77 was a member of that Dolphin team, so it's all good.
Les Richter - Drafted in 1952 by the Dallas Texans, he was then traded in one of the most lop-sided eleven-player trades in NFL history and ended up a Los Angeles Ram. (For the record, the largest player trade remains at 15 between Cleveland and Baltimre back in '53. Don't get me started on THAT! Who trades away Don Shula!) As a Linebacker & Guard, his stats include 16 interceptions. His stats also include 106 extra points and 29 field goals. Yep that's right - he was also the team's kicker! I could not even imagine the whining and crying that would go on now if a player was asked to play both sides of the ball on every down or play linebacker and THEN kick the ball. Unfortunately, the NFL waited too long to give the HOF to Richter as he has passed away. I'm sure it will be an emotional day for his son who will be at the enshrinement on his behalf.
So there you have it - the Class of 2011. I'll be at the enshrinement ceremonies so that I can see these seven pieces of NFL history be given their accolades. And I'll be clapping and celebrating for all of them. Without these guys, and especially Hanburger and Richter, we wouldn't have the NFL that we all know and love today. Thanks guys!