2011 Hall of Fame induction poignant, emotional
Posted on: August 6, 2011 11:17 pm
Edited on: August 7, 2011 2:59 pm
Posted by Ryan Wilson
Ed Sabol | Richard Dent (photos) | Chris Hanburger
Shannon Sharpe (photos) | Marshall Faulk (photos) | Les Richter | Deion Sanders (photos)
Pro Football Hall of Fame: Class of 2011 | Hall of Fame photos | More Hall of Fame news
The 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend may have been without an actual NFL game (the Bears and Rams were scheduled to play before the lockout dragged into July and led to its cancellation), but the induction ceremony wasn't without poignant moments, raw emotion, and inspiration.
Seven members were a part of the 2011 class:
Ed Sabol. Ninety-four years old, Sabol gave his acceptance speech from a wheelchair while sounding every bit as lucid and spry as he appeared in possibly one of the best Hall of Fame introduction videos ever. Sabol's son, Steve, who is battling brain tumors, presented Ed for introduction.
"I've dreamt the impossible dream and I'm living it right now," Sabol said Saturday night. "This honor tonight really goes to NFL Films. I just happen to be accepting all the accolades. … I just want to say one thing: I've been very, very happy to have been your boss for all these years. You're a great bunch of people, dedicated, hard-working and loyal, and the reason I'm sitting up here."
Richard Dent. The former Tennessee State University player was an integral part of the 1985 Chicago Bears defense, one of the best defenses in modern NFL history. And Saturday, he becomes the third member of that unit to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Dent, who had to wait seven years for this day, joins Dan Hampton and Mike Singletary.
"I grew up in a town where a man said 'I have a dream.' … As a kid growing up at that time, listening to [Martin Luther King], all I could do was dream," said Dent Saturday night. "… Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be here."
Chris Hanburger. With his North Carolina drawl and dry wit, Hanburger's speech was as much a stand-up set as it was an acceptance speech. And by the end of the night, Deion Sanders called Hanburger, who Sanders hadn't met before the weekend, a friend, saying "I love you, man."
As for his career, Hanburger played all 14 years with the Washington Redskins, and he was the original cerebral NFL linebacker. He was an 18th-round selection in 1965 who ended up a nine-time Pro Bowler, four times a first-team All Pro, and an eight-time first team All Conference selection.
"It's been a tremendous thrill for me," Hanburger said Saturday. "… I've never had a chance to meet members of the Hall of Fame like this. It's a great honor. ... This is one of the greatest moments of my life and I mean that from my heart."
Shannon Sharpe. Twitter was abuzz, even as Sharpe was still on stage, calling his speech (see it here) one of the best in Hall of Fame history, surpassing the impassioned words Michael Irvin just years before.
Sharpe spoke about mostly about his family and their role in his journey.
“Sterling was supposed to be in the Hall first," Shannon said Friday. "I was supposed to introduce him for his speech, for his introduction and then take his bronze bust into the Hall. But now we’re going in together. I’m taking him in with me. … I’ve always wanted to be like him. …
"I'm here today for a lot of reasons," Shannon contineued. "… Some have absolutely nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the kindness and patience of all the people who guided me through my life."
Marshall Faulk. The San Diego State star revolutionized the running back position during his 12-year NFL career. After five seasons in Indianapolis where he never averaged more than 4.1 yards per carry, Faulk teamed up with Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz in St. Louis and became an integral part of the "Greatest Show on Turf." In his first three years with the Rams, Faulk averaged 5.4 yards per carry, in addition to more than 1,600 receiving yards over that time. He ended his career with 12,279 yards rushing, 6,875 yards receiving and 136 touchdowns.
"This is pretty special -- this right here, these guys … I'm glad to be a part of it," Faulk said. "I want to thank God. And I want to thank God because this is football heaven."
Les Richter passed away in June 2010, but his legacy as a hard-hitting, game-defining player remains. At 6-3, 240 pounds, he was one of the most physical linebackers in the league during his nine-year career that began with the the Los Angeles Rams in 1954.
“It always puzzled me why Les was not in the Hall of Fame," said Hall of Famer Frank Gifford, who played against Richter in high school, college and the NFL. "He was a great, great player. I don’t know any linebacker in that era who even compares to him.”
Deion Sanders. In the second-most emotional speech of the night, Sanders was funny, poignant and passionate.
Deion is widely considered the best cover cornerback in NFL history and his first-ballot enshrinement is a testament to his effect on the position and the game during a 14-year career.
"I appreciate this game so much," Sanders said Saturday. "...This game taught me so much about people, about focus, about sacrifice."
Sanders also addressed the doubters who said he wasn't much of a tackler during his NFL career.
"Some of my critics say, 'You know, Prime didn't tackle.' I want to respond to that publicly, because that affects me, that bothers me. …Since 1989 I've tackled every bill my mama has every given me. Haven't missed one. The next time they say 'Prime didn't tackle.' Let them know 'Yes he did.'"
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