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Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Canton Repository

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

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The Canton Repository | CantonRep.com

The Canton Repository — Publisher: Jim Porter; Executive Editor: Rich Derosiers; VP Operations: Kevin Ackerman; Sports Editor: Chris Beaven; Visual Content Editor: David Manley ★ This is an annual special section by The Canton Repository. Find more on the Hall of Fame at CantonRep.com. ★ Photos/writers as credited ★ Design: B.J. Lisko


Thursday, August 2, 2018

M. Klein & Company

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â– Wide receiver â–  6-foot-4, 210

HOF4 Thursday, August 2, 2018

Full name: Randy Gene Moss Birthdate: Feb. 13, 1977 Birthplace: Rand, W.Va. High school: DuPont (Belle, W.Va.) College: Marshall Pro teams: 1998-2004, 2010 Minnesota Vikings; 2005-06 Oakland Raiders; 20072010 New England Patriots; 2010 Tennessee Titans; 2012 San Francisco 49ers Uniform numbers: 84, 18, 81 Presenter: Thaddeus Moss, son


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AP FILE

★ Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss waves to fans to the fans after his former team, the New England Patriots, defeated the Vikings in a 2010 game in Foxborough, Mass.

he controversies and nonsense could have swallowed up the career of a lesser player, blinding people from the accomplishments on the main stage, switching the focus to the sideshow. There is no overshadowing the brilliance of Randy Moss, however. Fire up YouTube and let the fun begin. There is Moss jumping above two defenders to catch a touchdown pass. There is Moss gliding past a would-be tackler with his long, smooth strides. There is Moss making a one-handed grab look incredibly easy. The highlights impress. So do the numbers. Only Jerry Rice has more touchdown receptions than Moss’ 156. His 15,292 career receiving yards rank fourth. This all equates to Moss, quite possibly the greatest vertical receiving threat in NFL history and a somewhat turbulent figure, being a first-ballot selection for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is the first receiver to do so since Rice in 2010. His enshrinement is Saturday night at Tom

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Really, Moss is more than a Hall of Fame football player. He is a hall of fame athlete, in that rarefied space across multiple sports with players such as Bo Jackson, LeBron James, Allen Iverson and Deion Sanders, the elite of the elite, seemingly not of this world. Freakish, some might say. “Throughout the course of my career, I always had the question: ‘Well, Randy, who do you think plays like you?’ or ‘Who do you play like?’” Moss said during a February visit to Canton. “Nobody.” That’s not to say he didn’t watch other receivers and study them, from Rice to Marvin Harrison to Isaac Bruce to his Hall classmate Terrell Owens. Moss, a sixtime Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 2000s, tried to borrow what they did well and make it part of his repertoire. “I was a student of the game,” said Moss, who spent 14 seasons in the NFL with the Vikings, Raiders, Patriots, Titans and 49ers. “I always tell the young guys now, ‘How do you become a teacher? You have to be a student first.’” Moss is a complicated guy, one whose history is marred by questions of his effort on the field and his actions off of it. He can be charming and moody. Engaging and defensive. Thoughtful and petulant. His public persona (the cocky, defiant athlete) doesn't jibe with the private (a somewhat introverted country boy from West Virginia). He is one of the most talented players to ever step on a football field, a key cog in two of the highest-scoring

offenses in NFL history (2007 Patriots, 1998 Vikings), yet he was traded twice in his prime. Asked about Moss’ rocky relationship with some coaches and teams, Bob Pruett, who coached Moss for two years at Marshall University and praises just about every aspect of his former star, admits, “If you didn’t utilize his talents, he was going to let you know.” Moss’ résumé includes the disconcerting (an assault, a domestic incident) and the silly (a mimicked mooning of the Lambeau Field crowd during a 2005 playoff game and saying he would pay the ensuing $10,000 fine with “straight cash, homey”). That résumé also includes significant charitable work for children and praise from many of his former coaches and teammates as a positive force in the locker room, so the diva label doesn’t really fit. The paths of Moss and Canton native Josh McDaniels crossed for the 2007 and ’08 seasons with the Patriots. McDaniels was the young offensive coordinator, a star on the rise. Moss was the game-breaking touchdown catcher who was re-energized after two troublesome seasons in Oakland. Together with future hall of famer Tom Brady, they helped set NFL records, including Moss’ 23 touchdown receptions in 2007. McDaniels raves about Moss’ physical gifts. He also stresses other strengths — intelligence, attention to detail, reading defenses — that often go ignored or unrecognized. “There was so much substance to Randy Moss as a human being, an intellectual, a

competitor,” McDaniels said. “You could see how gifted he was.” McDaniels describes Moss as a game changer for the 2007 Patriots, who won their first 18 games before being upset in Super Bowl XLII by the Giants. “He always gave us a piece to impact the defense,” McDaniels said. “As a defense, you had to take care of him or he’s going to really hurt you. But if teams decided to take him away, it opened up everything else for us.” The 6-foot-4, 210-pound native of Rand, W.Va. had it all: speed, size, springs and Velcro hands, with his jets probably the most devastating weapon. “However fast you think he is, he’s faster than that,” Pruett said. McDaniels put it this way: “He was faster than everybody, then he had another gear. He could run by you, then when the ball was in the air he’d go even faster than that.” Pruett recalled Moss’ pro day at Marshall before the 1998 NFL Draft. Moss arrived a little late and did not do much stretching before he ran his first 40-yard dash — a hand-timed 4.24 into the wind, said Pruett. The coaches in attendance thought that had to be a mistake, so Moss ran again and produced a 4.28, according to Pruett. “Our kids all called him ‘Freak’ because he did so many freakish things,” Pruett said. Moss recorded a vertical leap of 47 inches at his pro day. He’s been credited with SEE MOSS, HOF7

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HOF6  Thursday, August 2, 2018  |  The Canton Repository | CantonRep.com

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

MOSS From Page 5

jumping as high as 51 inches. To put that in perspective, Michael Jordan’s vertical was 48 inches. There is a sideline video of a young Moss imploring veteran Vikings quarterback Randall Cunningham about a defensive back, “Throw it up above his head. They can’t jump with me. Golly!” These gifts translated beyond the football field for Moss, who was a two-time state basketball player of the year in West Virginia for DuPont High School. He won 100- and 200-meter state titles in track. Moss played one season of high school baseball and provided a memory that remains seared into the brain of Jim Fout, who coached Moss in baseball and basketball at DuPont and whose son, Keith, was Moss’ quarterback in football. Late in a close game, with two runners on and Moss playing center field, a pitch was hit into the left-center gap. “It was smoked,” Fout said. “As soon as it was hit, it was like, ‘OK, well, that’s getting down. Nobody’s getting to that.’ “Not only did Randy catch it, but he overran it and had to reach back to catch it.” Fout chuckles when people tell him he needs to see a young athlete because the kid is going to be “the next Randy Moss.” “Then you’d go and look during the pregame and have to ask, ‘Which one is he?’” Fout said. “You didn’t have to ask which one was Randy Moss. You knew who he was right away.” Moss exploded onto the NFL scene. In his first regular season game, he caught four passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns against Tampa Bay.

AP JEFFREY PHELPS

★ San Francisco’s Randy Moss reacts after catching a touchdown pass during a 2012 game against the Green Bay Packers in

Green Bay, Wis.

A month later, he dazzled on Monday Night Football. Moss caught five passes for 190 yards and two more acrobatic touchdowns at Green Bay. Canton’s own Dan Dierdorf exclaimed on the telecast, “Randy Moss is the best young receiver that I have seen — maybe ever.” On Thanksgiving Day that season, Moss caught three passes against Dallas — for three touchdowns and 163 total yards. Moss finished with 69 receptions for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns — an NFL record for TD grabs by a rookie and the first of 10 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his career. He was the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year. How did this kid fall to No. 21 in the draft? Along with all his talent, Moss carried baggage. As a senior in high school, Moss plead guilty to two counts

of battery for his role in a racially-fueled fight. That cost him his dream college choice: Notre Dame. Lou Holtz encouraged Bobby Bowden to take Moss, who headed to Florida State and redshirted his freshman year. But after wowing in practice, he never appeared in a game for the Seminoles. He was booted out when he violated his parole due to marijuana in his system and eventually landed at Marshall. Plenty of people questioned if Moss deserved the battery charge in the first place. Pruett, a West Virginia native, believes the decision to attend Notre Dame did Moss no favors with the locals. “When he didn’t go to West Virginia, when he didn’t stay in state — he was a natural resource — that hurt a lot of feelings,” Pruett said. “I think that magnified the

situation.” It should be noted that Moss grew up as a superstar black athlete, without his father in the picture, in a rural, mostly white area, and the overwhelming attention (some of it negative) he received at a young age seemed to build a wall of distrust that remains to this day. Moss remains defensive about his reputation, saying a lot of the media’s criticisms over the course of his career were “smoke and mirrors” and had to do with “trying to sell papers.” Moss explains there were two versions of himself during his playing days: “I think most of the people wanted to see the guy on Sunday. But (when) I was outside of my pads, I was off-duty. So I think that throughout my 14-year career … if you meet me out at a shopping center or something,

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you’re expecting to see No. 84 for the Minnesota Vikings. That’s not him. I’m just a lovable guy trying to enjoy my day. “But as soon as I go between those white lines, I turned that light switch on. I think that’s where a lot of people got me mixed up at, because I was passionate about what I did and I carried that chip.” McDaniels called Moss “an absolute joy” to coach and says they maintain a good relationship to this day. “He really cares about the people he was with,” McDaniels said. After coaching high school basketball for decades, Fout ended his career at West Virginia Tech. When his program needed a television and some other equipment, he reached out to Moss, who took care of everything, no questions asked. “I’m as proud of him for who he’s become as for anything he accomplished as an athlete,” the 70-year-old Fout said. “He turned out to be a pretty good young man.” Moss never won a Super Bowl ring. That doesn’t seem to haunt him, especially with a gold jacket and bronze bust in his near future. His place in the history of the game is secure and he wants to reciprocate the love he is receiving. “I played for some great coaches, I played with some great players that may not ever see this opportunity to put on a gold jacket,” Moss said. “But if they ever look at me, how emotional I am, how thankful, how humbled I am to be able to play in this league, to play with those guys, they’ll understand if I’ve got this gold jacket on (and) I’m in the Hall, that means we are in the Hall of Fame.” Reach Josh at 330-580-8426 or josh.weir@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @jweirREP


HOF8 Thursday, August 2, 2018

Wild and wonderful: A sampling of famous West Virginia athletes Randy Moss, who grew up just down the Kanawha River from Charleston in Rand, is part of an interesting and eclectic group of athletes from West Virginia. Here’s a sampling: ■ Bimbo Coles: His mama named him Vernell. He was known as Bimbo during his 14-year NBA career, three of which came with the Cavs. ■ Mike D’Antoni: The Rockets head coach was a star at Marshall University before going on to be a successful international player and an ahead-of-his-time coach in the NBA. ■ Frank Gatski: The tough-as-nails center won eight championships, including seven with the Browns. ■ Hal Greer: The Huntington native was a 10-time NBA All-Star and a member of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. ■ Sam Huff: He was born in a coal mining camp in Edna and his grittiness continued as a Hall of Fame linebacker for the Giants and Redskins. ■ Bob Huggins: This Ohio prep hoops legend made his name at Indian Valley South but was born in Morgantown, where he played his college basketball and now serves as WVU’s head coach. ■ Hot Rod Hundley: Long before he was the voice of the Utah Jazz, the Charleston native

Thrived during two-year stint with Thundering Herd By Josh Weir Repository sports writer

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here was no reason to get overly complicated when it came to getting the football to Randy Moss during his two-year terrorization of defenses for Marshall University. “We had a system, and it was a simple system,” said Bob Pruett, Moss’ head coach with the Thundering Herd in 1996 and ‘97. “If there was one guy on him, we checked out of whatever we were in and threw him the ball. It didn’t matter what else was going on.” It never was a bad choice to toss it at Moss, who caught 54 touchdowns and totaled 3,467 receiving yards in his two seasons in Huntington, W.Va. Moss landed there after he struck out at Notre Dame and Florida State because of off-the-field issues. He could play right away at Marshall since it was Division I-AA at the

PHOTO COURTE PHOTO COURTESY OF MARSHALL UNIVERSIT UNIVERSITY

★ Marshall University’s Randy Moss hauls in some of his school-

record 288 receiving yards during a 1996 game against Delaware.

time. The Thundering Herd went 15-0 and won the 1996 national championship in Moss’ first season. With Eric Kresser playing quarterback, Moss hauled in 28 touchdowns. His 288 receiving yards against Delaware that season remain a singlegame program record. The next season,

Marshall jumped to Division I-A. The 6-foot-4 Moss still was a force of nature. He caught 90 passes for 1,802 yards and 26 touchdowns with Chad Pennington doing the quarterbacking. Famously wearing shades during the ceremony, Moss finished

fourth in a stacked Heisman Trophy race, behind Ryan Leaf, Peyton Manning and winner Charles Woodson. Moss’ time at Marshall was a win-win for player and school. Moss got on the field and showed what he could do, and Marshall got to utilize the most dangerous weapon in college football. Pruett, a West Virginia native, had gotten to know Moss when the University of Florida recruited him out of high school and Pruett was the Gators’ defensive coordinator. “It was all good,” Pruett said of coaching Moss. “We understood each other. Having the luxury of having coached some great athletes at Florida, I knew how high strung

was a scoring machine for the Mountaineers, becoming just the fourth player in NCAA history to reach 2,000 points. ■ James Jett: Of course Al Davis wanted this Olympic gold medalist in the 4x100 as a Raiders wide receiver. ■ John Kruk: This beer-drinking native of Keyser was a career .300 hitter and three-time All-Star in the big leagues. ■ Mary Lou Retton: One of the United State’s most celebrated Olympians, the Fairmont native was the first American woman to win the allaround gymnastics gold. ■ O.J. Mayo: The Huntington native, who played his high school ball in Kentucky and Ohio, never quite became the next LeBron. ■ Nick Saban: College football’s preeminent head coach grew up in Monongah, a town of about 1,000, before attending Kent State and playing there for Massillon native Don James. ■ Nick Swisher: The ultimate “bro” was born in Ohio but raised in Parkersburg. ■ Rod Thorn: The long-time NBA executive was a good enough player that the West Virginia legislature declared him a “state natural resource” during his high school days so he’d play for WVU. ■ Jerry West: “Zeke from Cabin Creek” eventually became “The Logo.” ■ Jason Williams: Imagine being the only defender back on a 2-on-1 fastbreak with “White Chocolate” and Moss at DuPont High School.

they can be. “He practiced and played hard. Football meant something to him and winning meant something to him.” Pruett loved coaching Moss, whom he refers to as the best athlete he ever was around “by far.” He remembers Ole Miss putting a track-star cornerback on Moss early in the Motor City Bowl in 1997. “He creeps up on Randy, so what are we going to do?” Pruett said. “We threw it and he went 80 yards for a touchdown.” There was a game against Ball State earlier that season, which also had a respected corner. “He kept coming up and getting up on Randy, playing bump-and-run,”

JOSH WEIR

Pruett said. “Well, five touchdowns later, he backed off.” One of Moss’ most famous highlights — and the one Pruett believes put Moss in the national conscience — came at Army in Week 2 of 1997. With the New York media covering the game, Moss took a little inside screen pass and made at least five tacklers miss on his way to a 90-yard touchdown. Moss leapt over one diving tackler without even breaking stride in a breath-taking display of athleticism. “I mean, jiminy, he hurdles that guy and goes all he way,” Pruett said. “ESPN still shows that clip.” Reach Josh at 330-580-8426 or josh.weir@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @jweirREP


Thursday, August 2, 2018

HOF9

Hoops to the Hall Moss starred on basketball court with Jason Williams during prep days By Josh Weir Repository sports writer

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s Randy Moss jumped high above defensive backs and plucked passes from the air during his 14-year NFL career, he looked like a basketball player in shoulder pads and a helmet. That’s because that’s exactly what he was. Moss, who will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night, was a two-time state basketball player of the year in West Virginia during his high school days. “He was excellent,” said Jim Fout, Moss’ high school basketball coach. “He could’ve been a Division I, power-five two guard. His desire originally was to go to college to be a basketball player.” Moss’ focus eventually changed to football, but he still had plenty of scholarship offers to play basketball. Schools such as Ohio State, Notre Dame and Penn State would’ve allowed Moss to play both football and basketball in college, Fout said. Moss teamed up with future NBA player Jason Williams for DuPont High School in Belle, W.Va. They were close friends and had been playing with

and against each other since elementary school. Williams was a grade ahead of Moss. Some of their exploits on the court together can be found on YouTube. They typically showcase Williams, who later gained the nickname “White Chocolate” for his flashy play and terrific ball-handling, whipping passes from all angles to the 6-foot-4 Moss, who finished with some sort of soaring dunk. “It’s one of those things in the moment, you’re caught up with everything going on and you don’t really appreciate it like you would if you’re a fan just watching them play,” said the 70-yearold Fout, himself a prolific scorer at DuPont in the 1960s who later put together a long coaching career in the area. “Then afterwards you’d look at the films and think, ‘Wow, did they really do that?’” Fout’s favorite basketball memory of Moss is from a state tournament quarterfinal against Beckley his junior year — a game considered to be one of the best in West Virginia state tournament history. Late in the game, with the score close, DuPont grabbed a defensive rebound and pushed the ball ahead to Moss in

transition. “He took one bounce and covered about 15 to 18 feet,” Fout said. “He threw down a two-handed thunder dunk. That game was over.” Moss finished the contest with 33 points on 14-of-16 shooting, while Williams totaled 17 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds in the 85-81 win. Two days later (and playing for the third consecutive day), DuPont lost in the state championship game. “It haunts me to his day,” Fout said. As a senior, and with Williams graduated, Moss’ DuPont squad couldn’t get out of the regionals. After college stops at Marshall and Florida, Williams went on to average 10.5 points and 5.9 assists during a 12-year NBA career. Fout recalled a time Williams threw a 60-foot behind-the-back pass to Moss for a breakaway jam. “Jason was a magician with the ball,” he said. One DuPont player struggled to catch Williams’ dishes unless they made eye contact. To prove a point or “just out of orneriness,” Williams would rifle no-look passes off the player’s head, said Fout,

who would charge the turnovers to a dismayed Williams. As for a different teammate, Fout said, “He didn’t bounce any off Randy’s head.” Moss appeared on TNT’s Area 21 in January 2017. The segment is hosted by former NBA star Kevin Garnett, who shared the headlines with Moss in Minneapolis when he played for the Timberwolves and Moss with the Vikings. Moss said Garnett helped him decide on football for his future when the two crossed paths at a Nike All-American basketball camp in high school. As Moss tells it, the two phenoms played an impromptu game of oneon-one during a break in the action. “I (stutter stepped), then tried to go to the hole real quick,” Moss told Garnett. “I laid that thing high off the glass, where that white box is. You went up there and cleaned my ball. You went up there and cleaned it. … I looked up there and said, ‘Man, he can jump that high?’” Fout remembers Moss returning home with his eyes opened. “When he came back,

CHARLESTON GAZETTE-MAIL FILE PHOTO

★ Randy Moss plays in a 1994 basketball game for DuPont High

School in West Virginia. Moss went on to play 14 seasons in the NFL and is being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend.

he said, ‘Coach, I’m not interested in playing college basketball,’” Fout said. “I asked him what happened at the camp and he said, ‘There are a lot of 6-4 kids that can play basketball. There aren’t many 6-4 kids that can play receiver in football.” Smart kid. Moss caught 982 passes for 15,292 yards and 156 touchdowns in his NFL career, which is getting him inducted in Canton as a first-ballot selection. Moss actually played a game with the United States Basketball League’s Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs in 2001. He scored

seven points on 3-of-8 shooting, grabbed four rebounds and added two assists in a 113-112 loss to the Long Island Surf. Moss believes he could have played in the NBA and compared his style to four-time All-Star Latrell Sprewell. What could he have averaged points-wise in his prime? “Me, personally, I think I could’ve been in the 20s, and that’s being real serious,” Moss said on TNT. “I love the game. I love basketball.” Reach Josh at 330-580-8426 or josh.weir@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @jweirREP


HOF10 Thursday, August 2, 2018

From hanging up on Belichick to making history back. After apologizing, Moss rushed to New England and the trade went through. t was April 2007 and Randy For a fourthMoss was in Houston for a round draft pick, charity event. As he was about Belichick and the to enter a club on Saturday night, Patriots nabbed one the mercurial wide receiver’s cell of the most talented phone rang. players in football It was Patriots head coach Bill history. He didn’t Belichick wanting to inform Moss that he was trying to trade for him. disappoint. Moss With the NFL Draft taking place, probably already McDANIELS was headed to the Moss needed to get to New EngPro Football Hall of land by 10 a.m. the next day for a Fame, but he sort of cemented his physical. candidacy with his time in New Coming off two rocky seasons in Oakland and about to hear news England, especially a virtuoso first season. It no doubt aided in him that could reboot his magnificent being a first-ballot selection. but volatile career, how did Moss Moss caught 98 passes for 1,493 respond when Belichick introduced yards and 23 touchdowns, an NFL himself? “Said a few cuss words and what record, in that first season working not, and hung up the phone,” Moss with quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots went 16-0 in the regular said. He thought someone was prank- season and got to 18-0 before being upset by the Giants 17-14 in Super ing him. Fortunately, Belichick called Bowl XLII.

By Josh Weir

Repository sports writer

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Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the Canton native and former McKinley High School quarterback, actually picked Moss up from the airport when he arrived in Boston. Belichick thought it would be a good way for McDaniels and Moss to get to know each other. McDaniels quickly learned he was dealing with a “unique guy.” Moss had seen every kind of defense in his prior nine seasons. He was smart and competitive. And it didn’t hurt that he was one of the “two or three greatest players I’ve ever been with,” according to McDaniels. Still, McDaniels didn’t fully know what to expect from Moss when the regular season arrived. He had been good in practice but some hamstring problems kept him out of every preseason game. Moss made his Patriots debut on Sept. 6, 2007 in the Meadowlands against the Jets. What a debut it was: Targeted nine times, Moss

caught all nine for 183 yards and a touchdown. McDaniels started understanding the Moss effect. “I called the plays to get a positive response,” McDaniels said. “I didn’t know we were going to get that response. That was a very revealing moment and game for me.” New England set NFL records for points, touchdowns and scoring margin that season. It certainly helped having possibly the greatest quarterback and probably the most talented wide receiver in NFL history together. McDaniels loved the interaction between Brady and Moss. “There’s not many (players) that have elite football IQs,” he said. “Tom's been at that level his whole career. But to put a guy like Randy with him and see them work together, they were able to think about things and communicate with each other in a way that didn’t require much conversation.”

Moss caught 69 passes for 1,008 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2008 (with Matt Cassel playing QB after Brady blew out his knee in the opener), then followed that up with 83 receptions for 1,264 yards and a league-leading 13 TDs in 2009 (McDaniels had moved on to be Denver’s head coach after 2008). In the final year of his contract in 2010 and starting to squawk about the lack of an extension, Moss was traded to the Vikings four games into the season. Moss raves about his time in New England, specifically the all-business approach and professionalism displayed by the Patriots. Said Moss, “When I got to New England, I kind of fell back in love, not with the game, but coming to work, being around the guys, cherishing every moment, not wanting to come home until I had finished everything I needed to do.”

Reach Josh at 330-580-8426 or josh.weir@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @jweirREP


Thursday, August 2, 2018

HOF11

MOSS NOTEBOOK The Legend of Randy Moss Randy Moss, who will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, is one of those athletes who makes any Paul Bunyanlike tale about him seem believable. ■ Remember the time Randy outraced a Buick? ■ Remember the time Randy threw a 50-yard pass and caught it himself? ■ Remember the time Randy worked a Sudoku puzzle while winning the 100-meter dash? None of these are true (well, at least verified). Former Marshall University head football coach Bob Pruett told a story of Moss being stopped by a track coach as he walked across campus as a freshman. The coach asked him to run in the indoor conference championships. “This was like on a Thursday,” Pruett said. “Then he goes out and wins the 60 meters and runs the third fastest time in the 200 in the nation on Saturday.” Jim Fout coached Moss in basketball and baseball at DuPont High School in West Virginia. He said a pro scout inquired if Moss was interested in playing minor league baseball during the summer, then playing football in college during the fall. This was after Moss played one year of high school baseball as a junior.

The competitor Moss’ stunning athleticism often overshadowed some of his other qualities, such as his competitiveness. Moss decided early in high school that he was pursuing football in college instead of basketball. But that didn’t mean winning basketball games was any less important to him.

from one week to the next and keep moving. It was like a boxer that doesn’t just stand in the center of the ring and take punches. That gets difficult to do in the NFL.”

He’s got skills

AP EVAN VUCCI

★ Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss catches a touch-

down pass over Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor during a 2005 game in Landover, Md.

“Colleges wanted him to make official visits for football,” Fout said. “They wanted him to come on Thursday night and be there all weekend until Sunday.” The problem with that was DuPont’s basketball team typically played every Friday. “He’d tell them, ‘Can’t do it. Got a ballgame on Friday night,’” Fout said. “He put competition first.” Moss, who admits he carried a chip on his shoulder throughout his career, was not interested in making friends on the field. To him, defensive players were trying to take his head off. Why would he play nice? “If I see you in the club or the mall, we can chill,” Moss said. “On Sunday? There ain’t no hand shaking. There ain’t no hand shaking. “At the coin toss, they want guys to shake hands. Ah, I really wasn’t that type. … As soon as the ball is kicked off, you don’t see no guys out there shaking no hands.”

Unstoppable Pats With Moss teaming with Tom Brady, the 2007 Patriots were a juggernaut. They set NFL records for points scored (589), touchdowns (75) and point differential (plus 315) on their way to a 16-0 regular season. Brady won his first MVP and set an NFL record with 50 touchdown passes. Moss caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns, another NFL record. Wes Welker led the NFL in receptions with 112, while Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Ben Watson and Kevin Faulk were other weapons in the pass game. A Canton guy, former McKinley High School quarterback Josh McDaniels, was calling the plays as offensive coordinator. Why did everything click for the Patriots? “I think it was just the right blend of character, love of the game of football and intellect,” McDaniels said. “We were able to change

Among the many aspects of Moss’ skillset that McDaniels praises are two that probably don’t get talked about much. McDaniels said Moss had an uncanny ability to track long passes in the air. While other players struggled to adjust, Moss seemed to be a step ahead in being in the right place at the right time when the ball descended. McDaniels also said Moss had “late hands,” meaning he didn’t raise his hands to catch the football until the last second. This prevented defensive backs from sticking a hand in and breaking up a pass that they never got their eyes on.

They said it A sampling of gushing Moss quotes from around the sports world: ■ “He was as good as Deion Sanders. Deion’s my measuring stick for athletic ability, and this kid was just a bigger Deion.” Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden to Sports Illustrated ■ “Every field or court he’s ever stepped on to play whatever game he’s wanted to play, he’s been the best athlete. That’s his perspective. He doesn’t know any other perspective. He doesn’t know it any other way.” Brian Billick, who was Moss’ offensive coordinator with Vikings in 1998, to NFL Films ■ “He was like Mike Tyson. He’d beat you before you even faced him. I’ve never heard defensive players talk the way they talked

about him. I shouldn’t say that; there’s one other player who was like that: Barry Sanders. It’s like they knew they were inadequate to perform the job they were supposed to do against those two. They just couldn’t do it. There was no way athletically to get the job done.” Former Vikings running back (and two-time Ohio Mr. Football) Robert Smith to Bleacher Report earlier this year ■ “God’s got a magic wand, and he taps just a few on the head.” Moss, about himself, to Sports Illustrated in 1997

Not forgotten Nineteen teams (including the Bengals twice) passed on Moss on draft night in 1998 before head coach Dennis Green of the Vikings picked him at No. 21. Green died in July 2016 after suffering cardiac arrest. “The man passed away without me really, really, really giving him my love and thanks for what he was able to do for me and my family,” Moss said in a CBSSports. com story about his induction into the Vikings Ring of Honor. “There’s a lot of teams out there that passed on me for wrong reasons. Coach Green gave me that opportunity.” Asked what he’d say to Green, Moss said, “… Man, I’d probably just fall in his arms and give him a hug. There’s no words that I could tell him.” Moss is the first member of the 1998 draft class to make the Hall, but he’ll have company soon enough. Peyton Manning was the first overall pick that year and Charles Woodson went fourth.

Almost heaven Moss is the sixth person born in the state of West

Virginia to make the Hall of Fame, joining Frank Gatski, Sam Huff, Gino Marchetti, George Preston Marshall and “Greasy” Neale. He also is the second Marshall University player, joining Gatski, to be enshrined in Canton. … Moss’ hometown of Rand is less than 10 miles from Cabin Creek, the hometown of NBA legend Jerry West. In fact, the communities’ two high schools — DuPont and East Bank — consolidated in 1999 to form Riverside. … Moss played basketball at DuPont with Jason Williams, who would go on to play 12 years in the NBA. He also played football at DuPont with Bobbie Howard, who played three years in the NFL with the Bears.

Media member Moss played better defense on the media than any opponent ever did on him on the football field. And now he’s a member of the media as an analyst for ESPN. “What got me into TV was I really wanted to change the game,” Moss said. “I don’t think you guys really understand, from an athlete’s standpoint, how it makes us feel when reading something (that’s) really not true if it’s about your personal life, if it’s about your job and what not. I received a lot of that throughout my whole life, not just my career. When given the opportunity to really go in and influence a lot of people, I talked to my wife and she said, ‘Well, what else do you have to do? You better get your butt off the couch.’ So I got off the couch and fell in love with it. “It keeps me around the game. It keeps me around the guys. I go to the Monday Night venue every week. I miss the game so much.” JOSH WEIR


■ Middle linebacker ■ 6-foot-1, 240 pounds

HOF12 Thursday, August 2, 2018

Full name: Raymond Anthony Lewis Jr. Birthdate: May 15, 1975 Birthplace: Bartow, Fla. High school: Lakeland (Fla.) Kathleen College: Miami (Fla.) Pro team: 1996-2012 Baltimore Ravens Uniform number: 52 Presenter: Diaymon Lewis, daughter


N

ot long after Cleveland last won an NFL championship, a curiously named band — ? and The Mysterians — captivated the country with “96 Tears.” From a Browns perspective, the song would be a fitting soundtrack for the year Ray Lewis checked into the NFL. The Browns’ 50th season in Cleveland ended on Christmas Eve, 1995, at which point the franchise turned to the grim business of relocating to Baltimore. Head coach Bill Belichick, player personnel director Mike Lombardi and rising scout Ozzie Newsome continued to work out of Browns headquarters in Berea. They led a contingent from Berea to Indianapolis for the ‘96 combine, where they began conducting interviews with prospects on behalf of the Baltimore ? — there was no nickname yet. Modell fired Belichick and Lombardi at the Combine on Valentine’s Day, replacing Lombardi on the spot with Newsome. He had two months to plot a course for picks at No. 4 and No. 26 overall. The No. 4 became UCLA tackle Jonathan Ogden. The No. 26, resulting from a draft-day trade in 1995, was Miami linebacker Ray Lewis. If it was a traumatic time for Cleveland, so it was for Lewis. His fellow Hurricanes linebacker Marlin Barnes was buried on draft day, having been murdered at the apartment he shared with

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Lewis and teammates Earl Little and Trent Jones. On draft day, Lewis attended Barnes’ funeral in Miami at 1, then drove to a surreal draft party at Miami’s Joe Robbie Stadium. He had been told the Dolphins would draft him at No. 20. Lewis shared his final conversation with Barnes: “He said, ‘Hey, boy, the only thing I can say is I’m happy. I’m happy one of us is going to make it.’ He said, ‘I love you.’ I said, ‘I love you, too.’” Meanwhile, history knows how to throw a curveball. Ogden and Lewis both played their entire careers for the team that left Cleveland. Both were elected to the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. The Hall of Fame tight end who picked them, Newsome, played his entire career in Cleveland. Newsome was elected to the Hall the year the Browns came back as an expansion team, a year before Ogden and Lewis were All-Pros for the Baltimore team that won Super Bowl XXXV. Lewis had played the 1995 college season at Miami under a new head coach, Butch Davis. Before the ‘96 draft, Baltimore scout George Kokinis joined a crowd of NFL people at the Hurricanes’ pro day. “You could feel that leadership even then,” Kokinis said. “The professionalism ... just the way he conducted

himself. “The discussions would come around to his being slightly undersized. We had been a height, weight, speed sort of scouting group. Ozzie’s comment was, ‘He’s just a football player.’” Belichick’s Browns were among a small group of teams using “the box drill.” Kokinis had called in advance to get Lewis to do the drill. “When the day came and I was just a young scout with all these coaches looking at me, I thought there was no way he was going to do my workout,”

Kokinis said. “But he came over and said, ‘You’ve been calling me all week. Let’s get this done.’ “He competed as hard as anybody I ever put through those drills. I didn’t want to waste time, so I would say before each drill, ‘Just give me one.’ He kept saying, ‘Let me do it again. I can do better.’ “He was never satisfied.” Lombardi, who hadn’t been fired yet, joined Newsome in interviewing Lewis. Three weeks

★ Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis celebrates his fourth-quarter interception and touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in their 2001 AFC playoff game in Nashville. AP MARK HUMPHREY

before the draft, headquarters moved from Berea to a former Maryland Highway Patrol barracks. New linebackers coach Maxie Baughan pushed hard for Lewis. “People were saying Ray wasn’t big enough,” Baughan said. “All he did was make all the tackles.” Packers scout John Dorsey had been convinced by his boss, Ron Wolf, that Lewis would come to Green Bay via the No. 27 pick. Newsome took Lewis at 26. The Packers wound up with USC tackle John Michels, whose NFL career lasted two years. Lewis played in 228 games across 17 seasons. He was a loud presence from the start. Veteran Pepper Johnson, who at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds was Belichick’s kind of linebacker, played three years in Cleveland and was getting ready for 1996 spring practice in the new city. He wore No. 52 and played middle linebacker. New defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis urged Ray Lewis to live with playing weak-side linebacker and wearing No. 53. At one point, Lewis threw up his hands and said, “I play middle linebacker, and my number is 52.” Johnson got cut in part to humor Ray Lewis, who was told by Marvin Lewis, “This is your defense now.” He said that to a rookie. Marvin Lewis recalls the young Ray Lewis as “the best player on a bad

HOF13

team.” The Ravens were 16-31-1 in the three seasons after the move. “All he ever wanted to do,” Marvin Lewis said, “was turn them into a great team.” The turn began in 1999. Lewis made All-Pro on a team that went 4-0 in December, beating the Titans, Steelers, Saints and Bengals by a combined score of 124-46. He had played his way into big money, and he spent some of it partying in Atlanta during Super Bowl XXXIV. After the Rams beat the Titans, in a crowded scene outside a club, a fight broke out. Lewis recalls “chaos” involving “25 or 30” people. It left two men dead (they are buried in Akron). It is a complicated story that has been told in many forms. The short version: Three men, including Lewis, were charged with murder. The charges against Lewis were dropped in exchange for his testimony regarding the other two charged charged with murder (both were found not guilty). In 2014, when Lewis first appeared on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot (he still isn’t in), Butch Davis talked to CBS Sports about the lasting impact, saying, “Whatever happened in that incident pretty much changed his life.” In the season following the murder trial, Lewis was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. After a 34-7 rout of the Giants in Tampa, he was named SEE LEWIS, HOF15


Thursday, August 2, 2018

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LEWIS From Page 13

Super Bowl XXXV MVP. It was a Super Bowl tradition for the MVP to come off the field saying, “I’m going to Disney World.” Disney bypassed Lewis, giving the money and the one-liner to quarterback Trent Dilfer. Shortly before the 2000 season, the NFL fined Lewis $250,000, citing a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice in the murder case. “The unlawful obstruction related to a very serious occurrence — a double homicide,” thenNFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said at the time. Audiences had mixed views about Lewis’ gameday style, which featured a stomping, gyrating, primal-screaming dance when he came out of the tunnel at home games. Dilfer was one of Lewis’ biggest fans. “He was the best defensive player on the field in every game he played,” he said. “Off the field, he was the best. He had this unique ability to resonate with every single person in the locker room. “Sometimes in the NFL, the guy who is the most productive has the loudest voice and the messaging is wrong. With Ray, he was the most productive player, and the messaging was always right. “I never saw a person better than him in the three layers, preparation, leadership and play.” Marvin Lewis wound

AP WADE PAYNE

★ Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis celebrates with teammate Kim Herring after bringing down

Tennessee Titans running back Rodney Thomas (bottom left) in the end zone for a safety during a 1999 game in Nashville, Tenn.

up facing Lewis 10 times as head coach of the Bengals.

“From the day No. 52 walked in the door, he led them,” Marvin Lewis

said. “If you’re not up to his standards, you’d better get out of the way.

He made each teammate better in every way.” Marvin Lewis became a father figure. Ray Lewis’ biological father, Ray Jackson, mostly was absent from his formative years. Lewis grew up near Tampa Bay, attending Kathleen High School in Lakeland, Fla., near orange groves and phosphate mines. Like Ray Jackson, Ray Lewis became a football and wrestling star at Kathleen. In the winter of 1993, he won the Florida big-school state wrestling title in the 189-pound weight class. “I wasn’t involved in recruiting Ray. I inherited him,” Butch Davis said. “He didn’t sign until three or four months after signing day. Somebody had to have the foresight to say, ‘That kid is special. Let’s get him.’” Lewis became a starter as a Miami freshman, making 17 tackles against Colorado in his first full game. Afterward, he told writers, “I might turn into the best player ever to walk out of Miami.” During an interview with The Canton Repository, Lewis laughed out loud, saying, “Oh, man, I was a little confident in myself.” The Ravens gave Lewis a four-year, $26 million contract extension late in his third season. He became the face of a franchise that reached the postseason nine times and won two Super Bowls. Terrell Suggs, a Round 1 pick in 2003, became a great pass rusher.

HOF15

“Every time I got a sack,” Suggs said, “Ray came over to say, ‘Sizzle! Get the ball! I want the ball!’ “His voice stayed in my head after he wasn’t playing any more.” Lewis touched on his approach to teammates. “We were playing Pittsburgh,” he said. “It was third-and-23. I told Lardarius Webb, ‘You’re playing in the deep third. You CANNOT get beat here in this coverage.’ But Antonio Brown ran by him. “I sprinted all the way down the field. (Webb) thought I was going to lose my mind on him. But I said, ‘Forget that play. The next play will define who you are.’” Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe was a teammate on the 2000 Super Bowl championship team. “Ray ranks with the LTs, the Dick Butkuses, the Reggie Whites, whoever you want to put up there,” Sharpe said. “Eighty percent of people will say Ray was the greatest middle linebacker of all time.” Running back Jamal Lewis was a teammate for seven years before playing against Lewis as a Brown. “I can’t think of a player who has been as valuable to a team as Ray,” Jamal Lewis said. “Combine his physicality, his passion, his work ethic and his vocal leadership ... he was probably the best linebacker ever to play.” Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP


HOF16 Thursday, August 2, 2018

Urlacher vs. Lewis? For Ryan, there’s no debate By Steve Doerschuk Repository sports writer

M

arvin Lewis, Rex Ryan, Mike Smith and Jack Del Rio all wound up as head coaches of NFL playoff teams. When they were together with Ray Lewis as the centerpiece of their defense, they won a Super Bowl. Baltimore’s 2000 championship team had a defense coordinated by Marvin Lewis and featuring Ryan, Smith and Del Rio as assistants. Ray Lewis spent 10 of his 17 Ravens seasons with Ryan, including four when Ryan was coordinator. They had their disagreements, but Ryan’s appreciation of Lewis became clear after Hall of Fame finalist Kevin Mawae compared Lewis

with another middle linebacker who is part of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018, Brian Urlacher. Hall of Fame Network asked Mawae who he would choose between Lewis and Urlacher if he could have only one at his peak. “For me, it would be Urlacher,” Mawae said. “Ray belongs in the Hall of Fame, no doubt. But I’ve got to view it through the lens of how I played against guys. “Ray was all over the place, an athletic guy, but he was not a downhill hitter. He’s not taking on offensive linemen. He was a jump-around guy. “Brian was sideline to sideline. He could do it all. But he was more of a physical player in the box against offensive linemen. “Both guys were equally

AP AJ MAST

★ Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of

2018 members (from left) Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Urlacher talk at the seventh annual NFL Honors at the Cyrus Northrop Memorial Auditorium in Minneapolis.

smart in diagnosing and getting a defense lined up. But from an offensive lineman’s standpoint, Ray Lewis isn’t going to come down and hit you. Ray was an avoid guy who was trying to find the ball.” “Urlacher did all the stuff

Ray did, but he played downhill on you. He’s going to put his helmet on you and shed blocks.” Ryan caught wind of Mawae’s comments and laughed. “I don’t know what the hell he’s thinking,” Ryan told The Baltimore Sun. “He probably got his (butt) kicked so bad by Ray that he’s forgetting. “Ray was the Pied Piper. They all followed him. Tom Brady’s like that with the Patriots. Ray is one of those special individuals … there’s probably only a handful who have ever played. “One thing I knew, no matter what game it was, for 10 years, I knew we had the baddest cat on the field.” Del Rio, a former All-Pro linebacker, was Lewis’ position coach from 1999-2001. In his own appearance on Talk of Fame Network, in 2015,

Del Rio was asked who among Michael Irvin, Peyton Manning and Lewis (he coached on teams that included each of them) was the best leader. He picked Lewis. “When Ray spoke in team meetings, you could hear a pin drop,” Del Rio said. “If there was ever a moment when our team was lagging, not competing, lacking just a little fire, he would grab a hold of the whole team.” When Smith faced Lewis 10 years after that 2000 Super Bowl season, as head coach of the Falcons, he said Lewis hadn’t lost his touch. “Ray makes that defense go,” Smith said. “He is surrounded by good players, but he’s still the heart and soul. Ray has made it a long day for a lot of offenses.”

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HOF17

Ditching Dilfer left Lewis livid Lewis called it one of the biggest mistakes in Ravens history By Steve Doerschuk Repository sports writer

H

ow did Baltimore manage to win a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at quarterback? That question has been asked a million times. Ray Lewis poses a different one: How could the Ravens get rid of Dilfer? Lewis has called it “one of the biggest mistakes in Ravens history.” Dilfer was a No. 6 overall draft pick by Tampa Bay in 1994. After six seasons with the Bucs, he spent one season (2000) in Baltimore, quarterbacking the Ravens to their first playoff berth and then to four postseason victories capped by a win in Super Bowl XXXV. He was released after the season and replaced by former Cleveland St. Joseph High School star Elvis Grbac. Trent was tepid, with a 38-38 record and no 3,000-yard passing seasons at Tampa Bay. Elvis was exciting, having thrown for 4,169 yards for the 2000 Chiefs. Lewis was livid. “We didn’t even know they were going to cut him,” Lewis said. “When we found out, it was a shock to all of us. Like … how do you get better from a Super Bowl quarterback?” The Ravens went 8-6 in Grbac’s 2001 starts, but his play

was choppy, and it turned out to be his last NFL season. “I’m counting on one hand an opportunity of at least five Super Bowls that are supposed to be in my closet,” Lewis said. “But we made that decision. “We went through, what, 17 quarterbacks?” Vinny Testaverde, a holdover from Cleveland, started for the Ravens the year Lewis was drafted. Subsequent QBs who started games during Lewis’ first 12 seasons were Eric Zeier, Jim Harbaugh, Tony Banks, Stoney Case, Scott Mitchell, Dilfer, Grbac, Randall Cunningham, Jeff Blake, Chris Redman, Kyle Boller, Anthony Wright, Steve McNair and Troy Smith. GM Ozzie Newsome drafted Joe Flacco in 2008, and he never missed a start across Lewis’ final five seasons, capped by a Super Bowl win in the 2012 campaign. Phil Savage was Newsome’s right-hand man in personnel when the Ravens let Dilfer go. In 2005, when Savage was a first-year general manager of the Browns, he signed Dilfer. As in Baltimore, that lasted only a year (Dilfer was 4-7 as the Browns starter). Dilfer’s career spanned 14 seasons, including that lone year as Lewis’ teammate. That was enough for the middle linebacker to make quite an impression on the quarterback. “Ray was the best defensive player on the field in every game he played,” Dilfer said. “Off the field, he was the best.”

AP GAIL BURTON

★ Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis reacts after recovering a fumble by Cleveland Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer

during their 2005 game in Baltimore. The Ravens won, 16-3.

AP SCOTT KANE

★ Trent Dilfer, center, and Ray Lewis broadcast before a 2014 game between the St. Louis Rams and the San Francisco 49ers

in St Louis.


HOF18 Thursday, August 2, 2018


Thursday, August 2, 2018

HOF19

LEWIS NOTEBOOK Why Ray Lewis chose his daughter as presenter Ray Lewis chose a road less traveled to his Hall of Fame presenter, selecting his daughter, Diaymon. “I trust her with my legacy,” Lewis said. “She’s a female me, driven, inspirational … she’s wired right.” Daughters also presented John Elway in 2004, Warren Sapp in 2013, Claude Humphrey in 2014, Junior Seau in 2015 and Eddie DeBartolo in 2016. Lewis’ Class of 2018 teammate Jerry Kramer also will be presented by a daughter. ■ Lewis’ son Ray Lewis III followed in his father’s footsteps to the University of Miami. After never playing a down for the Hurricanes under head coach Al Golden, he transferred to Coastal Carolina, where his career stalled amid a suspension. NFL Draft Scout listed him as a 5-foot-9 1⁄8 , 190-pound cornerback in 2017, but he wasn’t in the draft. He wound up playing last year at Virginia Union. He made 11 tackles in a game against Elizabeth City late last October. ■ Another son, Rayshad Lewis, is a 5-foot-10, 165-pound wide receiver at Maryland. Rayshad played as a freshman at Utah State, catching 40 passes for 476 yards. He transferred to Maryland after the season, sitting out 2017. Rayshad Lewis and the Terrapins are scheduled to play at Bowling Green Sept. 8 and against Ohio State Nov. 17. Ray Lewis enrolled at Maryland midway through his Baltimore Ravens career and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2004.

‘Zeus’ left an impression

“Zeus” kept fading away. Finally he was gone. Ray Lewis never forgot him. Orlando “Zeus” Brown was a gargantuan offensive tackle who broke through as a starter for the Cleveland Browns in their playoff season of 1994. The team moved to Baltimore in 1996, and Brown went with it, soon meeting the rookie draft pick Lewis. “Zeus” was back in Cleveland as a break-the-bank free agent in

1999, but his return lasted just a season. He suffered a serious injury while getting hit in the eye by a penalty flag thrown by referee Jeff Triplette. Brown was out of the NFL for three years before an old friend, Ozzie Newsome, recalled him to Baltimore, where he played through 2005. Brown was 43 when he was found dead in 2013, the victim of an illness related to diabetes. “I just saw him a few days ago,” Lewis said upon hearing the news. “He was one of the greatest men I know, really a gentle giant away from the game. He was the original Raven. He set the tone for how we were going to play.” Newsome was a rising Browns personnel man when the team acquired “Zeus” as an undrafted rookie. Newsome’s final draft for Baltimore was this year’s. He chose Orlando Brown Jr. in the third round.

Ray and Rex

Ray Lewis’ opinionated style got him in some arguments. One was with Rex Ryan, who was defensive coordinator in 2006 when an injured Lewis complained about the defensive tackles being too small. “The way he said it, it appeared he was questioning his teammates and questioning the scheme,” Ryan said at the time. “As a coach, I could sit here and lie and say we’ll let that fly under the rug, but that’s not how we operate. “Hopefully, we’ll get Ray back with his teammates and we’ll pull that rope in the same direction.” Their little encounter seemed to turn into a helpful distraction. The week Lewis returned from a twogame absence, the Ravens blasted Pittsburgh 27-0. In a rematch four weeks later, on Christmas Eve, Lewis stood out in a 31-7 win at Pittsburgh. It turned out to be Bill Cowher’s last home game in 15 years as the Steelers’ head coach. The Ravens finished 13-3, the best regular season in the franchise’s 22-year history. With Lewis on the team, the Ravens were 12-4 three times: in 2000 (the defensive coordinator was Marvin Lewis),

Watt of the Texans (2012, 2014, 2015). Two-time winners have been Joe Greene of the Steelers (1972, 1974), Mike Singletary of the Bears (1985, 1988), Reggie White of the Eagles (1987) and Packers (1988), and Lewis (2000, 2003).

Speaking of Lewis

AP CHRIS O’MEARA

★ AFC honorary captains Jerome Bettis, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and

Ray Lewis, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens raise the Pro Bowl trophy in 2017.

2010 (Greg Mattison) and 2011 (Chuck Pagano).

‘40 most hated’

Early this year, Sporting News compiled a list of the NFL’s “40 most hated players of all-time.” The top 10: 1, Michael Vick; 2, Terrell Owens; 3, Ndamukong Suh; 4, Greg Hardy; 5, Tom Brady; 6, Ray Lewis; 7, Colin Kaepernick; 8, Bill Romanowski; 9, Ben Roethlisberger; 10, Pacman Jones. Johnny Manziel was 17th. Randy Moss was 19th. Lewis, Owens and Moss all are part of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018.

Evolution of a dance

In January of 2013, before a playoff game against the Colts, Ray Lewis’ teammates gathered at the goal line to watch him come out of the tunnel for the last time. Lewis performed his final entry ritual, later explaining where it began after a 24-9 win. “One time, they got ready to introduce the defense, and they were going to introduce us together,” Lewis said. “This guy in my hometown, Kirby Lee, would

always do this dance, which was called ‘The Squirrel.’ And I told him I was gonna do the dance one day. He was like, ‘You’re not gonna do it.’ I was like, ‘I’m gonna do it.’ “After I did it the first time, they were like, ‘We’ve got to see the dance again.’ So it just kept going.”

Hard road to Canton

Ozzie Newsome, who drafted Lewis, exemplifies how hard it can be for a franchise to select even one Hall of Famer. The original Browns snagged Paul Warfield and Leroy Kelly in 1964 and didn’t draft another until plucking Newsome in 1978. By the time they drafted another, it was 1996, Newsome was doing the drafting, they weren’t the Browns any more, and it wasn’t one, but two, Jonathan Ogden and Lewis.

Six of a kind

Ray Lewis is among six players to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year more than once (the award first was presented in 1971 to Canton’s Alan Page of the Vikings): There have been two three-time winners, Lawrence Taylor of the Giants (1981, 1982, 1986) and J.J.

■ Peyton Manning late in Lewis’ final season, 2012: “Ray’s a tremendous player with a tremendous passion and that has not changed a bit since I first played against him in 1998. That’s pretty impressive for a guy in his 17th year.” ■ Then-Baltimore head coach Brian Billick in 2006: “Ray is the most naturally dynamic leader I’ve ever been around.” ■ Mike Singletary on a stint as Lewis’ position coach in 2003 and ‘04: “I was seeing everything I missed. Only a few guys play the game with their hearts and souls.”

Extra points

■ Lewis and Cleveland Browns icon Jim Brown both were in Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 13, 2016, to discuss social issues with President-elect Donald Trump. ■ Lewis was runner-up for the Butkus Award (nation’s best college linebacker) in 1995. The winner was Kevin Hardy of Illinois. Hardy became the No. 2 overall pick (Jaguars) in the draft in which Lewis was picked 26th. Hardy’s career stretched across nine seasons with Jacksonville, Dallas and Cincinnati. He was named to one Pro Bowl. ■ Lions running back Barry Sanders’ final game as a Hall of Fame running back was against Lewis’ Ravens. Sanders ran 19 times for 41 yards, giving him 1,491 yards for the 1998 season. ■ Lewis was on the cover of the Madden video game in 2005, when he became part of “the Madden curse.” He lost 11 games to injuries and recorded a career-low 46 tackles. ■ Election to the Hall of Fame isn’t Lewis’ first brush with Canton. But not THAT Canton. Lewis owned Full Moon Bar-BQue, which operated in Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood from 2005-08. STEVE DOERSCHUK


â– Linebacker â–  6-foot-4, 241 pounds

Full name: Robert Lorenzo Brazile Jr. Birthdate: Feb. 7, 1953 Birthplace: Mobile, Ala. High school: Vigor College: Jackson State Pro teams: 1975-84 Houston Oilers Uniform number: 52 Presenter: Robert Brazile Sr., father

HOF20 Thursday, August 2, 2018


Thursday, August 2, 2018

A

MOBILE, Ala.

t 7:30 a.m. on April 19 — roughly four hours after the man still known as “Dr. Doom” typically gets out of bed — a group of regulars are sitting in the back of a strip mall YMCA, slowly working through their biceps routine. The weights typically start around 12 ounces and get progressively lighter. “We’re doing exactly what we’re going to do,” one says, grinning. “Sitting and drinking coffee.” Less than a football field away, Robert Brazile and his former Houston Oiler teammate, Vernon Perry, are walking backward on treadmills, putting in their daily mile. Once finished, Brazile, a former All-Pro linebacker, walks over to the regulars, removes a small bottle from his pocket and asks one man where he’s hurting. “Show me,” Brazile said, as the man points to his knee. “Watch that pain go away” Brazile was introduced to what he calls the “miracle salve” a week earlier when he was spotted by one of his neighbors, who gave him a sample. Brazile put it on his sciatic nerve, felt immediate relief and became an immediate, and passionate, convert. “How’s your knee feel?” Brazile asks the man. “Feels good,” he says. “On a scale of 1-10?” “I’d give it a 9.5.” “That’s good,” Brazile said, grinning. “The ‘doctor’ is still healing people. Instead of knocking people out, I’m healing people.” It has been 43 years since Brazile first earned his famous nickname, which originated with Marvel Comics — Dr. Doom is the archenemy of the Fantastic Four, but has also battled Spider-Man, Iron Man

AP ED KOLENOVSKY

★ Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris (32) looks to get past the

Houston Oilers’ Robert Brazile (52) during a 1978 game in Houston.

and Black Panther, among others — but was given to him on a whim at a breakfast before that year’s College Football AllStar Classic in Chicago, when Brazile was still a promising draft prospect out of Jackson State. A USC linebacker named Robert Woods, who had spent several days trying to give Brazile a nickname, saw the character in that day’s Chicago Tribune and decided it fit Brazile. The famous broadcaster Howard Cosell agreed, telling Brazile that ‘D.O.O.M.’ stood for ‘Death On Offensive Men.” It fit perfectly over his 10-year NFL career, as Brazile used his defensive end size (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) and safety speed to become the centerpiece of the Oilers’ 3-4 defense in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a unit known as the “House of Pain.” Brazile’s ability to both rush the passer and drop in coverage provided the blueprint for future 3-4 outside linebackers, most famously Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants.

"Sometimes players are great because of the scheme and sometimes the scheme is great because of the players," Pro Football Hall of Fame historian Joe Horrigan said. "In this case, the scheme was great because the player was great." By the time he retired after the 1984 season, Brazile was a seven-time Pro Bowler, a fivetime first team All-Pro selection and a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1970s. In fact, until his induction in February, Brazile was the only member of that team not yet in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For 10 years, he brought the doom, but he never brought the gloom. “I smiled the whole time,” he said. Still does.

Humble beginnings Brazile was born on Feb. 3, 1953, in Mobile, where he has spent his entire life, outside of four years in college and 10 years in the NFL. His parents still live in his childhood house

— their sizable front yard served as the first football field for Robert and his brothers — and most of his immediate family lived in the same neighborhood, helping him to stay in line. “Everyone looked out for everyone else’s kid,” he said. Brazile weighed close to 10 pounds when he was born and quickly emerged as the biggest, fastest and strongest of his three brothers. Although he was a three-sport standout at Vigor High School, displaying the ability to dunk a basketball and hit home runs, his favorite was always football, which appealed to his physical nature. “He was a hard, hard kid,” said his mother, Ola Mae. “He was a fine kid, but he stood his ground wherever he went. And he loved sports. When we got a little television, he would sit a few inches away, just glaring, and I’d say, ‘You can sit back. You don’t have to sit that close.’ But he’d be looking at (former Bears LB) Dick Butkus and all them folks and it (playing football) was something he wanted to do from childhood on.” Brazile attended an allblack school through eighth grade, then got moved to Vigor High School when the school integrated in the late 1960s. It was a huge culture shock — he remembers shaking when he got off the bus on his first day, thinking, “What in the hell did my parents make me do?” — and he initially had to be escorted to class by the National Guard. But he never asked to transfer, even though his mom worked at an all-black school across town. (Ironically, Vigor is now 98 percent black.) “The law said I needed to go to the school where I was zoned to,” he said. “My people are god-fearing people and we ended up going where I needed to go. I got into a couple fights — I won’t lie and say I didn’t

HOF21

— but it was in order to protect myself or because somebody said the wrong thing. “I’ll say this — it made me grow up fast. I took the challenge, I bit the challenge, I swallowed the challenge and became the person I am now.”

College development After getting lightly recruited as a blocking tight end, Brazile walked on to Jackson State, where his size (6-foot-4, 230 pounds), speed and physicality made him a matchup nightmare at linebacker. While there, he became close friends with a running back named Walter Payton, who shared Brazile’s love of early-morning workouts and late-night pranks. The two would often travel around campus and the city of Jackson wearing a scary mask from the school’s drama class, once making a girl run out of her shoes and pass out. “We never got caught," Brazile said, chuckling, "but everyone knew what we were doing.” By the time they were seniors, Payton was an unlikely Heisman Trophy candidate (he eventually finished 14th, which galled him) and NFL scouts were flocking to Jackson, a rare phenomenon for an NAIA school that had no chance of appearing on TV. Although five Tigers would eventually get drafted in 1975, Brazile had no idea how he stacked up against other NFL prospects — “We were so sheltered as far as being able to judge yourself against other people in the world,” he said — but when he and Payton started playing in the postseason bowl games, he quickly discovered he was as good as anyone in the country. “(Michigan coach) Bo Schembechler was coaching the SEE BRAZILE, HOF23


HOF22

Thursday, August 2, 2018

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

BRAZILE From Page 21

East-West Shrine Game and I said, ‘If y’all had played us, I don’t think you would have been drinking champagne at the end of the year,’” Brazile said. Although the Cowboys scouted Brazile heavily before the draft, they ended up taking a different linebacker, future Hall of Famer Randy White, with the second overall pick. The Chicago Bears drafted Payton at No. 4 and the Oilers took Brazile at No. 6, marking the first time two teammates from a historically black college or university were drafted in the first round in the same year. For Brazile, Houston was the perfect spot. The Oilers had just hired a real life cowboy named Bum Phillips as the coach and general manager and Phillips built his new 3-4 defense around the versatile Brazile, who signed a three-year deal worth $100,000 per season. He was worth every penny, earning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1975. “We worked so hard in college that it was like a cakewalk,” Brazile said of playing in the NFL. “When you go through practices with (Jackson State’s) Bob Hill, it was like going to war. With Bum, you could have a beer when you want or some Gatorade. And you knew somebody was going to show up to practice. Clint Black. George Strait.” Needless to say, this was unusual for an NFL team in the mid-1970s. “Bum used to tell us, ‘The Houston Oilers are not on our schedule. We don’t play them, we play everyone else,’” Brazile said. “He’d say, ‘You save that (physicality) for Sunday.’” Behind a dominant defense and three straight offensive

Brazile’s passion for charity Robert Brazile doesn’t need a key to the city. He doesn’t need a “Robert Brazile Day” or an engraved plaque congratulating him on his Hall of Fame induction. Doesn’t need any more coffee mugs or trophies. Doesn’t need any more letters written on 100-pound cardstock with a calligraphy pen. “You want to do something for me?” Brazile said. “Keep that ink you want to put on my wall with your name on it and give me some money so I can help someone else.” For the last two decades, much of that money has gone toward the non-profit Franklin Primary Health Center, which has 21 facilities in six Alabama counties. The center offers a variety of medical services, from pediatrics to rheumatology to dentistry to optometry to substance abuse programs, all at a discounted price based on things like household income and family size. “This is God’s work,” said Charles White, the company’s CEO. “We are what you call a safety net, providing care to people who wouldn’t otherwise get care. And this a ministry, not a job. We’re ministering to the needs of people.” To do that, the center needs more than federal funds or $25 co-pays. That’s where Brazile comes in. One of Franklin’s biggest fundraisers is its annual celebrity golf tournament, which will be held Aug. 18 at Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Mobile.

player of the year seasons from running back Earl Campbell, the Oilers made the playoffs three straight years from 197880, losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship in both 1978 and 1979, then falling to eventual champion Oakland in the 1980 wild card round. “If you look at what the Oilers did during his career, he was kind of the last piece of the

REPOSITORY JOE SCALZO

★ Former Houston Oilers linebacker Robert Brazile points to the donor wall

inside Franklin Primary Health Center in Mobile, Ala.

Initially, the event drew former baseball players such as Tommie Agee and Cleon Jones (who both played on the New York Mets’ 1969 World Series team), but it’s grown to include football players such as Brazile and his former Houston Oiler teammate Vernon Perry. Over the years, the tournament has included the Green Bay Packers’ Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr, former Alabama coach Ray Perkins and astronaut Neil Armstrong. “What they do in the neighborhood, athletes can’t do,” Brazile said of Franklin. “But they need us to help them do what they want to do.” The golf tournament has raised $500,000 since its inception and, now that he’s in the Hall of Fame, Brazile wants to make it bigger and better. “I have some great friends in the NFL and they’re probably going to want me to go and do some things for them,” Brazile said. “But, they’ll be directed

to come through this building (Franklin) at some point. If I can get five ‘Gold Jackets’ here, I can try and double the money we’re making.” The ironic part of this story? Brazile isn’t much of a golfer. “About eight years ago, Vernon (Perry) was teaching me how to keep score on the golf course,” Brazile said, breaking into a grin. “So we’re on a par-5 and he says, ‘Write a 2.’ Then on a par-3, he says, ‘Write a 1.’ When I turned the scorecard in, (former Alabama House member) Bill Clark looks at it and says, ‘It is humanly impossible for somebody to do this on this course’ and Vern was over there, just dying laughing.’” Still, Brazile knows that in golf, you have to go for the green. In fundraisers, too. “If anybody wants to give me anything or wants to do anything, hey, all of my proceeds go right here,” he said. “Even if it’s $2, we like it.”

puzzle for them to make that transition from bad to mediocre to good,” Horrigan said. But, like most franchises, it didn’t last. Brazile never had another winning season in Houston, going 13-44 over the next four years. In December 1984, Brazile’s wife, Cookie, died in a car crash, leaving Robert with two young children. Although Phillips wanted Brazile to join him in New Orleans for the 1985 season,

Brazile decided to retire. “I wanted to go to training camp and see if I could make the team, but my son (Trey) said, ‘No, daddy, let’s go to grammy’s house,’” Brazile said.

JOE SCALZO

Moving on So, Brazile moved back to Mobile and never left. In the early 1990s, when he was serving as a volunteer coach at Vigor, a fight broke out between several girls at a Friday

HOF23

pep rally. While trying to break it up, Brazile grabbed someone by the neck and picked her up. “She says, ‘You know I’m a teacher, right?’” Brazile recalled. “I was like, ‘I’m so sorry.’ For weeks, every time I passed by her, I said, ‘I’m sorry.’” She forgave him. They were married in 1993. “We ended up being friends and turned out to be lovers,” he said. Together, the two raised six children — Brazile’s habit of waking up at 3:30 a.m. came in handy in a house with one bathroom — and live a quiet life, one built around Brazile’s two loves: family and fishing. As for football, Brazile never regretted walking away, even though he believes it hurt his Hall of Fame chances. “I did it,” he said. “If I left something on the field, something I could have done, that would be different. But I don’t miss it. That’s the thing about football. You’ve got to get over it. Life is life.” Still, as his post-career honors piled up — he was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame, the Black College Football Hall of Fame, the Jackson State Athletic Hall of Fame and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, among others — the biggest one remained elusive. Until now. “All the time I stayed after practice to work out, played hurt, never missed a game, all the awards and all the halls of fame, the ultimate is this one here,” he said of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “I loved football. And when they call you — and I don’t know if you’ve ever been in love — but when football calls for that, that means it loves you back.” Reach Joe at 330-580-8573 or joe.scalzo@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @jscalzoREP


HOF24 Thursday, August 2, 2018

Hall of Fame wait worth it Brazile felt the love from NFL, Hall for legendary career

his hand and said, “Congratulations, brother. Welcome to Canton, Ohio. You’re a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and one of the greatest players to ever play this game. We’re By Joe Scalzo Repository sports writer going to keep your legacy alive forever. I promise you.” he Merlin Olsen LunThe moment (from Baker’s cheon is considered the point of view) was captured in unofficial start of Super a professionally edited “Knock Bowl weekend. For the bargain on the Door” video that features price of $1,250, you can eat inspirational music in the backlunch and listen to speeches ground. The moment was also from several Pro Football Hall captured from Brazile’s point of Famers and NFL legends (not of view on a grainy cell phone to mention a few other famous video shot by his wife, Brenda. folks, such as Jon Bon Jovi). The second video might be When Robert Brazile sat down more powerful. at the Minneapolis Hyatt on “From 3:30 to 5:30, I did Friday, Feb. 2, he was still just a not know what was going on,” former NFL linebacker hoping Brazile said. “When Dave came to become a Hall of Famer, a to the door, all the sudden I transition that would be decided saw Brenda move away from by 48 voters the following day. the door and the peephole she If all went well, he would soon was looking through. That’s get a knock on his hotel door when you see me move. Other AP AJ MAST from Hall of Fame president than that, I did not move. I was ★ Hall of Famers (from left) Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Bobby Beathard, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Urlacher stand David Baker. sitting there thinking, ‘If I get in front of the crowd at the seventh annual NFL Honors at the Cyrus Northrop Memorial Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 3 in If not, his chances of ever a phone call (saying he didn’t Minneapolis, Minnesota. making the Hall were probably make it), I’m probably going to over. cry.’” “When you’ve been a football to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the that were going in,” Brazile said. “I was worried,” Brazile said. He cried anyway. player, you know the clientele,” AFC Championship in 1978 and “That means 10 people had to do “Every ‘Gold Jacket’ that came “It said to me, ‘We understand said Brazile, who never missed a 1979. what? Go home.” up to me said I was going in, but what you’ve done for the game. “One thing I’ll tell anybody Brazile smiled, then held out a game during his career with the I said, ‘No, you ain’t knocking We know you love the game. But Houston Oilers from 1975-84. — and if they disagree, I’ll tell fist with a small opening. on my door.’” today, the NFL and the Football “You know what people have them they’re a liar — if I had “I’m telling you, my butt was The night before, Brazile had Hall of Fame love you back,’” done at your position that have played in New York, I would like this tight,” he said. listened to Baker break down been chosen to go to the Hall have been in (the Hall),” he said. Brazile said. “So many people On Selection Saturday, the the overwhelming odds against of Fame. Then you look at your “But I played in Houston and the in the NFL kept telling me that finalists have simple instrucmaking it to Canton. Nearly I was qualified and that one day career and balance the left hand cards got shuffled differently. tions. Step one, be in your hotel 300 million people have played I was going to get in the Hall of with the right hand. I might Then the Oilers left and my room at 3 p.m. Step two, wait. football at some level. Only 5 think my hand is heavier, but name wasn’t out there anymore. Fame, but couldn’t nobody tell The second step isn’t much million have ever played college me the year or the time. I’m 65 “But if we beat the Steelers, fun. Although Brazile has a Hall you live with it. It’s out of your football and only about 29,000 and I think it’s great because the control.” I’m in.” have been paid to play, coach or of Fame resume — he was a Brazile felt his Hall of Fame Eventually, he got in anyway. Super Bowl I was chosen at was seven-time Pro Bowler, a fiveadminister the game since the 52, which was my jersey number On Feb. 3, when Baker knocks time first team All-Pro selection candidacy was hurt by two NFL was founded in 1920. six times in succession on Braand my class. and a member of the 1970s All- things. First, his team doesn’t As of Feb. 2, only 310 were in Decade Team — his career ended exist anymore, having moved to zile’s door, he took a second to “And the class I’m going in the Hall of Fame. Tennessee after the 1996 season gather himself, got up from the in 1984. He’s done nothing but with? That is a helluva class.” Between five and eight were and getting rebranded as the wait since. desk and said, “This is it. This is about to join them. Reach Joe at 330-580-8573 or It was up to 48 voters to Titans. Second, the Oilers never it. This is it.” When he opened “They fly 18 finalists in and joe.scalzo@cantonrep.com out of that 18, wasn’t but eight decide his fate. made it to a Super Bowl, falling On Twitter: @jscalzoREP the door, Baker smiled, shook

T


‘I made it, buddy’ Brazile, Payton forever connected in Canton By Joe Scalzo Repository sports writer

R

obert Brazile was roommates with Walter Payton in college and Earl Campbell in the NFL, gifting him a Hall of Fame one-liner. “I tell people this all the time,” he said. “I slept around with two of the best running backs in football.” Before Brazile and Payton became the first teammates from a black college to get drafted in the first round in the same year, they terrorized opponents (and, occasionally, classmates) together at Jackson State. “You knew Walter was gonna pull some kind of prank on your butt from the time you woke up to the time you went to sleep,” Brazile said. “Egg in your shoe. Bite on your back. Hiding all the towels.” Most famously, the two went around Jackson, Miss., scaring people with a mask they took from the school’s drama class. “The police were looking for us,” Brazile said. “They called us the ‘Jackson Terror.’” One time, Brazile was wearing the mask when a cab driver pulled up next to him at a red light. “I’m sitting there by the fireplug and I look up at him with the mask like

SUBMITTED PHOTO

★ In 1975, Jackson State’s Walter Payton (left) and Robert Brazile

(center) became the first teammates from a historically black college or university to get drafted in the first round in the same year. At right is teammate Vernon Perry, who would later play with Brazile in Houston.

this,” Brazile said, slowly craning his head up. “He looks at me and — wham! — goes right through the red light.” Another time, Payton hid in an oak tree above some benches on the Jackson campus. “Walter was hiding because he saw this couple kissing,” Brazile said. “The girl looked up and saw Walter and he yelled out, ‘Boo!’ “We had a lot of fun with that mask.” But when it came to football, they were all business. While Brazile was leading the Tiger defense, Payton was drawing NFL scouts from across the country thanks to a spectacular career that saw him rush for 3,600 yards and 63 TDs. “I credit Walter for getting me drafted; all of us should,” Brazile said. “They didn’t have the internet like we have now, so when Walter Payton was up for the Heisman, scouts came from everywhere and we opened a lot

of eyes.” Payton went on to break the NFL’s career rushing record during a spectacular career with the Chicago Bears. But while the two remained close friends until Payton’s death, Brazile missed Payton’s enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. “I had six kids trying to go to college,” Brazile said. “You had the Hall of Fame and this month’s bills. What are you going to do? Pay your bills. Walter understood. “I told him I’d meet him there one day.” In late February — a few weeks after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame — Brazile did. “That’s the first thing I said when I saw his bust: ‘I made it, buddy,’” Brazile said. “It was emotional. We did have our talk at the Hall. “I wish he could have seen it. Me and him had some great times. They took him too fast.”

Thursday, August 2, 2018

HOF25

BRAZILE NOTEBOOK Not-so-Super memories of playing Pittsburgh Robert Brazile believes he would have made the Hall of Fame earlier if his Houston Oilers had made the Super Bowl during his tenure. And he believes they should have in January of 1980, when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-13 in the AFC Championship Game. That game included a controversial play late in the third quarter, when Oilers QB Dan Pastorini appeared to throw a game-tying touchdown to Mike Renfro in the back of the end zone, only to have the pass ruled incomplete. The Oilers settled for a field goal that made it 17-13, then gave up 10 points in the fourth quarter to lose 27-13. It looked like a clear catch on the TV replay and was later voted the fourthworst call in NFL history by the NFL Network. “We knew we had to beat them and the only thing that stopped us was the elements (at Three Rivers Stadium) and ourselves,” Brazile said. “I’m going to say this, and it’s very hard, but when we got that bad call, there was still enough time on the clock to win. That play was gone. I wanted to go to the Super Bowl, but I was so worried about the bad call, I forgot we were playing Pittsburgh and now we’re playing the referees. … I regret not trying to get my defense back on track. All I needed to do was say — and excuse the language — was, ‘(Forget) that. We’ve got to play this down right here.’” The Steelers also beat the Oilers in the previous AFC Championship game, although that one was no contest: 34-5.

First impression Brazile's first game against the Steelers actually took place before he played a down with Houston. On Aug. 1, 1975, Brazile played in the penultimate College Football All-Star Classic, which annually pitted a team of college seniors against the defending Super Bowl champions in Chicago. "For three quarters, we were winning and I was thinking, 'This is no different than college,'" said Brazile, whose team led 14-7 entering the fourth quarter before losing 21-14. "After the third quarter, (Steelers backup) Joe Gilliam walks into the game. I'm at linebacker and he says, 'Hey, young man, ain't you from Jackson State? What the hell are y'all trying to do? We're the Pittsburgh Steelers! I'm going to show y'all what we're about.' That really

freaked my head out for him to come in, talk (trash) and back that (talk) up. I said, 'Oh, so this is what the pros is about.'"

His pal Perry One of Brazile’s closest friends is his former Jackson State and Houston Oiler teammate, Vernon Perry. The strong safety is best known for holding the NFL postseason record for interceptions in a game, intercepting San Diego Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts four times in a 1979 AFC divisional round victory. He also blocked a field goal in that game. A week later, Perry had a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown against Terry Bradshaw on the Steelers’ first possession of the AFC Championship Game. “Nobody is ever going to break that record,” Brazile said. For years, Brazile and Perry have teamed up on a Christmas giveaway in Jackson, Miss., handing out at least 500 bicycles to needy kids.

NFL hotbed Brazile’s alma mater, Vigor High School, has produced 13 NFL players — tied for the most of any school in Alabama history. Outside of Brazile, Vigor’s most famous football player is probably former Bengals and Ravens tackle Willie Anderson, a fourtime Pro Bowler. Vigor is located in Prichard, a suburb of Mobile. The other high school in Prichard, Mattie T. Blount, has sent nine players to the NFL. “I don’t know what it is, but we tell people it’s the water we drink,” Brazile said. “There must be something in the water.”

Brazile’s best Brazile is not a complicated man. His favorite meal is fried fish (bass or perch) with grits and homemade rolls, topped off by an Arnold Palmer. He loves cowboy movies (the “Lonesome Dove” miniseries is a personal favorite), country and western music (Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, George Jones and Hank Williams, in particular) and reruns of “Everybody Love Raymond.” There’s a reason his favorite TV show is one that ended in 2005. He’s not up late enough to watch anything new. “If you call after 7:30, I’m snoring,” he said. JOE SCALZO


HOF26

Thursday, August 2, 2018

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HOF27

Brazile takes pride in HBCU heritage By Joe Scalzo Repository sports writer

HBCU Hall of Famers

L

A list of Pro Football Hall of Famers that came from a historically black college or university. ■ Lem Barney, Jackson State ■ Elvin Bethea, North Carolina A&T ■ Mel Blount, Southern University ■ Robert Brazile, Jackson State ■ Roosevelt Brown, Morgan State ■ Willie Brown, Grambling State ■ Buck Buchanan, Grambling State ■ Harry Carson, South Carolina State ■ Willie Davis, Grambling State ■ Richard Dent, Tennessee State ■ Len Ford, Morgan State ■ Bob Hayes, Florida A&M ■ Ken Houston, Prairie View A&M ■ Claude Humphrey, Tennessee State ■ Charlie Joiner, Grambling State ■ Deacon Jones, Mississippi Valley State ■ Leroy Kelly, Morgan State ■ Willie Lanier, Morgan State ■ Larry Little, Bethune Cookman ■ Marion Motley, South Carolina State ■ Walter Payton, Jackson State ■ Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State ■ Shannon Sharpe, Savannah State ■ Art Shell, University of Maryland Eastern Shore ■ Jackie Slater, Jackson State ■ John Stallworth, Alabama A&M ■ Michael Strahan, Texas Southern ■ Emmitt Thomas, Bishop ■ Aeneas Williams, Southern University ■ Rayfield Wright, Fort Valley State

ong before he emerged as one of the best linebackers in NFL history, Robert Brazile was just a lightlyrecruited blocking tight end with one Division I college offer: Troy State. If Brazile were playing in 2018, he'd have dozens of scholarship offers thanks to his online highlights and his summer camp performances. But this was 1971, when the web was still decades away, recruiting budgets had fewer commas and most southern black players ended up at historically black colleges or universities. So, Brazile and his high school teammate, a well-regarded running back named Rickey Young, both signed letters of intent with the Trojans and decided to visit the campus in the spring of 1971. Problem was, Brazile’s parents came, too. “Now you’ve got to understand — this was back in 1971 and my mom had never seen a two-piece bathing suit,” Brazile said, chuckling. “The campus was full of people suntanning and she said, ‘Turn this car around! Ain’t nobody got clothes on up here!’” “My dad followed her instructions and turned it around.” Suddenly, Brazile was scrambling for a school. Because one of his cousins had played at Jackson State, a historicallyblack NAIA school located three hours away in Mississippi, Brazile decided to walk on and

try to earn a scholarship. He and Young visited the home of the Tigers’ head coach, Bob Hill, who looked at Young and said, “Hey, boy, you play football?” “Yeah,” Young said.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

★ In 1975, Jackson State’s Walter

Payton (right) and Robert Brazile became the first teammates from a historically black college or university to get drafted in the first round in the same year.

“Can you play fullback?” “Yeah.” “Can you catch?” “Yeah.” “Well, I’ll take you,” Hill said. “I like the way your legs look.” “He never even looked at me, so I said, ‘Coach, what about me?’” Brazile said. “He said, ‘Come on, you look like you’re in pretty good company.’ Nothing more than that. He said, ‘I’ll take you, but you’ve got to make my team.’”

Brazile began his college career as a tight end, but when he wasn’t practicing on offense, he moved to linebacker for Hill’s “goon squad,” which went against the No. 1 offense. “I was tearing them up,” Brazile said. “We never had no drills. We’d tackle. It was like scrimmaging, all day, every day. It was first blood against the good squad. And I just tore them up.” Hill had a policy against playing freshmen — that policy even applied to a running back named Walter Payton — but when he lost three linebackers to knee injuries in an early game against Prairie View, he had no choice. “He asked me, ‘You ready to play linebacker?’” Brazile said. “I said, ‘Yeah.’ “From then on, it’s history.” Because many southern teams were still reluctant to recruit black athletes, HBCUs such as Jackson State and Grambling were loaded with future NFL players. In 1975, Payton and Brazile became the first two teammates from an HBCU school to get drafted in the first round of the NFL draft in the same year. Both eventually made the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as did lineman Jackie Slater, who was drafted in the third round in 1976. (Jackson State’s other Hall of Famer, Lem Barney, played a decade earlier.) “There was just so much talent,” Brazile said, shaking his head. “The HBCU schools, back when I played, were old-school football. The SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) was the SEC before the SEC.”

Brazile is the 30th Hall of Famer to come from an HBCU, joining the likes of Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), Michael Strahan (Texas Southern) and Leroy Kelly (Morgan State). But college football has changed dramatically since the 1970s.  There are far more Division I schools, recruiting is far more sophisticated and schools can no longer afford to overlook top prospects because of the size of their high school or the color of their skin. Consequently, HBCU schools have struggled to attract top football talent. Since 2013, NFL teams have drafted just 15 players from HBCUs. Just as most Ohio football players want to be Buckeyes, most kids near Brazile’s hometown want to go to either Alabama or Auburn. That’s fine with him. “I’m an HBCU but I’m not the type of guy to say you need to go to an HBCU,” he said. “Even with my own kids, I didn’t want anyone to tell them where they had to go to school.” Still, he wishes Jackson State would use him and his fellow Hall of Famers to help the school. “We have four ‘Gold Jackets’ and three of us are still living,” he said, referring to Slater and Barney. “The brother (of Walter), Eddie Payton, is still here in Jackson. Use us. Whatever we could do to draw kids back that way. If we could do something to use that jacket, that’s what I want to do.”  

Reach Joe at 330-580-8573 or joe.scalzo@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @jscalzoREP


â– Linebacker â–  6-foot-4, 258 pounds

HOF28 Thursday, August 2, 2018

Full name: Brian Keith Urlacher Birthdate: May 25, 1978 Birthplace: Pasco, Wash. High school: Lovington College: New Mexico Pro teams: 2000-12 Chicago Bears Uniform number: 54 Presenter: Bob Babich, former Bears linebackers coach, assistant head coach and defensive coordinator


B

rian Urlacher became the heart and soul of one of the National Football League’s oldest teams. His youthful exuberance, drive and determination and sheer talent over a 13-year playing career with the Chicago Bears make him a natural fit for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. An eight-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time first team All-NFL linebacker, Urlacher will be the first true 21st-century Bears player enshrined in Canton. He follows Chicago defensive greats such as Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, Richard Dent and Dan Hampton, the last player elected to the Hall of Fame who spent his entire career with the Bears. He is also the sixth Bears player voted into the Hall in his first year of eligibility. Urlacher’s greatness could not be overstated. “He’s more than just a guy who makes a lot of plays,” Bears reporter Dan Pompei wrote in the Chicago Tribune midway through Urlacher’s career. “It’s how he makes plays with perhaps the most implausible sizespeed ratio of any player ever: 6-4, 258 with a 4.5 40-yard dash. “In an aquarium full of incredible specimens, he is the fish every kid points at. Even in Hawaii, the other Pro Bowl players are in awe of him every year. When the Bears review tape of their previous game, teammates routinely ask to see the play Urlacher made one more time.”

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Urlacher recorded 41.5 sacks, 12 forced fumbles and 16 fumble recoveries in 182 career games. He holds the Bears’ career tackles record with 1,358 and made 10 or more tackles in 44 games. He also had 22 interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and 90 passes defensed. In the middle of Chicago’s Cover 2 defense, Urlacher could do it all. “He knew the game so well,” said former McKinley and Ohio State safety Tyler Everett, a teammate of Urlacher’s in 2006. “He was a great athlete and played with his brain. He was a very smart guy. He knew defenses and offenses like the back of his hand. That’s what set him apart from other linebackers. When it was time for him to strap it up and go to war, he was ready.” A remarkable journey preceded Urlacher’s incredible Hall of Fame career.

He was born in 1978 in Washington state, but moved to New Mexico with his mother Lavoyda, brother Casey and sister Sheri after his parents divorced. The family settled in Lovington, where the parents of Urlacher’s mom lived. Lavoyda worked tirelessly to support her family. At one point she had three jobs simultaneously at a laundromat, grocery store and convenience store. Urlacher gained another role model a few years later when Lavoyda married Troy Lenard, an oil field pipeliner. He once called his stepfather the hardest-working man he ever knew. The lessons taught by Urlacher’s mother and stepfather helped him become a driven individual. He mowed lawns throughout Lovington so he could earn money to buy his own

truck. It did not matter if the radio was broke and all he could listen to was a stuck Mariah Carey Christmas tape. Urlacher helped lead Lovington’s high school football team to a state championship. His dream was to play college football at Texas Tech. There was just one problem: Texas Tech did not offer him a scholarship. “Texas Tech was 90 miles from my hometown,” Urlacher said. “I went to their camp the summer before my senior year. Got ‘Most Outstanding Camper’ and thought, ‘They’ll give me a scholarship for sure.’ They asked me to walk on, but we couldn’t afford it.” Urlacher later visited the University of New

Mexico in Albuquerque, 200 miles farther away from Lovington than Texas Tech. A struggling program for most of the 1980s and early ‘90s, the Lobos were gaining traction under head coach Dennis Franchione. “Coach Franchione said, ‘We have a scholarship for you. If you want it, you have to take it right now or we’re giving it to someone else,’” Urlacher said. “Obviously I said, ‘Oh, I’d love to have a scholarship.’ “Afterward New Mexico State said they wanted me to come there, but it didn’t matter at that point. ... I don’t think they offered me until they saw that New Mexico offered me.” Urlacher was a versatile star at New Mexico. He played outside linebacker and free safety, vaulting to third on the Lobos’ career tackles list with 442. He started every game at

★ Green Bay Packers

quarterback Aaron Rodgers is sacked by Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher during the 2011 NFC Championship in Chicago. AP NAM Y. HUH

HOF29

free safety as a junior, led the nation with a schoolrecord 178 tackles and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award presented to college football’s top defensive back. New Mexico also used Urlacher as a receiver and returner. Six of his seven career catches went for touchdowns. “That was awesome,” Urlacher said of playing on offense. “Growing up, I wanted to play quarterback. I wanted to play running back. I was no different than anybody else. “I played receiver in high school, a little bit in college. I liked getting a chance to catch the ball.” In need of a playmaker after being ranked near the bottom of the NFL in defense, the Bears selected Urlacher ninth overall in the 2000 draft. He started his rookie season as a strong-side linebacker, but moved to middle linebacker when leading tackler Barry Minter injured his back in the second game. Urlacher’s transition from being a hybrid defensive player in college to middle linebacker in the pros was a test. “The hardest thing for me was the terminology of the defense,” Urlacher said. “In college, the defense was easy. We had like had three calls. I either played the half or played the middle third. It was pretty easy. “In the NFL, there are so many things happening pre-snap with all the moving and the checking. That was the hardest thing for me to get a hold of at SEE URLACHER, HOF30


HOF30 Thursday, August 2, 2018

Rodgers: Urlacher was the best

URLACHER From Page 29

the beginning. Like any rookie, you get so much stuff thrown at you. You have to figure it out. Once I figured that out, I could actually play football and not think. When you’re thinking, you’re not playing fast. I was able to react the further I got into the season.” Urlacher was selected the Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and named a unanimous all-rookie team selection in 2000. He led the Bears with 165 total tackles (103 solos). A season-high 16 tackles against Buffalo helped him top the 100-tackle mark in just 10 games. He also recorded a career-high eight sacks. The Bears’ archrival had already taken notice. “It doesn’t surprise me that he’s playing as well as he is,” former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman told reporters during Urlacher’s rookie season. “He has an intensity level that can’t be coached and he has a nose for the ball.” Nothing was given to Urlacher. Opponents made him earn his place among the NFL’s greatest players. Fullbacks such as Minnesota’s Jim Kleinsasser and Detroit’s Cory Schlesinger sometimes left Urlacher battered and bruised. Tackling New Orleans and Miami running back Ricky Williams was easier said than done. Figuring out what Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning would do after taking a snap? Good luck. Urlacher and his defense also had challenging battles with two receivers in his Hall of Fame class — Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. “Randy was in our division for awhile, and much like T.O., you had to put two guys on him,” Urlacher said. “... You changed your whole game plan based on certain guys. Those were two guys who were worthy of that.” Urlacher recorded a careerbest 214 tackles in 2002 and

By Mike Popovich Repository sports writer

T

AP ANDY KING

★ Chicago’s Brian Urlacher looks down as Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett

Favre lies on the ground after being hit during a 2010 game in Minneapolis.

became the first Bear to lead the team in tackles in his first four NFL seasons. He played in every game until 2004 when hamstring and leg injuries cost him almost half the season. Despite that, he still led all NFL middle linebackers with 5.5 sacks, recorded 105 tackles and was named a first alternate to the the Pro Bowl. Fully recovered in 2005, Urlacher was an irresistible force throughout one of the best seasons of his career. He recorded 171 tackles, including 10 tackles for a loss and six sacks, and became just the second Bear after Singletary voted AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The Bears were also becoming title contenders during Urlacher’s prime. Anchoring the NFL’s top defense, Urlacher totaled 185 tackles in 2006 and led Chicago to a berth in Super Bowl XLI against Indianapolis. He finished with seven tackles, four assists and a pass defensed, but a 29-17 loss spoiled the end of a memorable season. “It was just a great ride,” Urlacher said of the 2006

season. Urlacher missed most of 2009 with a wrist injury, but bounced back again the following year and helped Chicago reach the NFC Championship Game. He became an unrestricted free agent after the 2012 season, but chose to retire after he and the Bears could not come to terms on a new deal. “Although I could continue playing, I’m not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that’s up to my standards,” Urlacher said then. “When considering this, along with the fact that I could retire after a 13-year career wearing only one jersey for such a storied franchise, my decision became pretty clear.” Urlacher’s career is over, but his legacy lives on in the eyes of teammates, coaches, Bears fans and the NFL. “To this day,” Everett said, “he is one of the greatest teammates I ever played with and one of the greatest linebackers to play the game.” Reach Mike at 330-580-8341 or mike.popovich@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @mpopovichREP

hey were determined combatants at the center of one of the National Football League’s fiercest rivalries. As Brian Urlacher awaited word of his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of his biggest supporters was the starting quarterback on the Chicago Bears’ bitter rival. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers thinks that Urlacher is at the head of the class in the line of defensive players he has faced. Rodgers was the Packers’ starter during Urlacher’s final five seasons in the NFL. “Brian was the best,” Rodgers told reporters last month after the Packers opened OTA practice. “He was probably one of the smartest players I’ve ever played against. ... Just an incredibly instinctual player.” Rodgers’ team got the better of Urlacher’s most of the time. Green Bay won six of the eight games when the two were active, including a 21-14 victory in the 2011 NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field. One consolation for Urlacher that day was intercepting Rodgers near the goal line when the Packers threatened to blow the game open. Rodgers made a touchdown-saving stop. “I had one really bad play in the NFC Championship and was able to somehow grab his knee-thigh area enough to trip him up for a tackle,” Rodgers said on Jim Rome’s national radio show shortly after Urlacher retired. “One of my favorite memories going against Brian.” Rodgers told Rome that Urlacher was his favorite player to play against. “I just have the utmost amount of respect for him, the way he plays the game,”

AP JIM PRISCHING

★ Chicago’s Brian Urlacher puts a rush

on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during a 2009 game in in Green Bay, Wis.

Rodgers said. “A lot of memories come to mind. He picked me off a couple times, maybe more than anybody else has. “The thing I loved about going against Brian was the conversation between plays, between series, during TV timeouts. From schematic stuff to silly plays that might have been called. Some of the checks he would do were often very colorful. If he had been miked up at those times there would have been some good, unedited NFL Films stuff. “I just always appreciated the way he played the game, his approach, his professionalism, and competing against him was a great honor.” Rodgers always thought that Urlacher was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He reiterated his belief in an interview with Chicago radio station WGN shortly before Urlacher was elected. “No one has played a position like he did with the freedom to check in and out of coverages,” Rodgers said. “And obviously the talent, he’s second to none. A guy that big, that fast and with those instincts.”

Reach Mike at 330-580-8341 or mike.popovich@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @mpopovichREP


Thursday, August 2, 2018

HOF31

Former McKinley star: Urlacher was humble and down to earth Tyler Everett spent a season in Chicago as Urlacher’s teammate By Mike Popovich Repository sports writer

T

yler Everett was still looking for an opportunity to break into the NFL when he signed with the Chicago Bears in 2006. One of the first Bears to greet the former McKinley High School and Ohio State University player was future Pro Football Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher. Everett spent one season in Chicago as Urlacher’s teammate. He played three games with the Bears, who went on to face the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI. “Brian was a very humble and down-toearth guy,” Everett said. “Like any veteran, you have to earn your keep. I kind of came in and showed some flashes he took a liking to. Being undrafted, he treated myself and a couple of other players like starters.” Everett said that Urlacher built a strong camaraderie among his teammates. Urlacher would invite them to dinners at his house.

AP WILFREDO LEE

★ Chicago Bears safety Tyler Everett (22), Jamar Williams (52) and

Mike Brown (30) are seen during the 2007 Super Bowl XLI Media Day at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.

Afterward, they would play ping-pong. Easy going off the field, Urlacher was all business on Sundays, even in the locker room. “We played the Vikings, and it was a minus-20 degree wind chill,” Everett said. “Brian came in and said, ‘Defense, no sleeves.’ I looked at him, and someone said, ‘What Brian says goes.’ We had no sleeves. “He earned his keep and the right to call his shots.” Everett played safety on Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team. He also played running back at McKinley.

That helped pay dividends in practice prior to the NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints. Bears head coach Lovie Smith asked Everett to assume Saints running back Reggie Bush’s role as a scout team player. “I’ll never forget the first day of practice,” Everett said. “I ran an off tackle play, reversed, and Brian was pissed. I was giving him great looks. “I was getting back to my roots. I felt like I was in high school again.” Bush was held to just 19 yards on four carries in the Bears’ 39-14 win over the Saints. His only

AP MARK HUMPHREY

★ Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher signals for a safety after Tennessee Titans offensive tackle

Fred Miller (71) recovered a fumbled ball in the end zone during a 2004 game in Nashville, Tenn. The play resulted in a safety, giving the Bears a 19-17 win. At left is Titans offensive tackle Jason Mathews.

touchdown came on an 88-yard reception on a play the Bears’ scout team never ran. Everett received a game ball afterward. “Brian really appreciated me going on offense and giving the defense that look to help us win the game,” Everett said. “It was great to be able

to contribute toward winning that NFC championship and advancing to the Super Bowl.” Everett’s run in Chicago ended after just one season. When the Bears released him, Urlacher called to make sure he would be OK. “I wasn’t a multimillion dollar guy, and

when he found out I was getting released, he asked, ‘Where are you headed? I’ll take care of your flight,’ ” Everett said. “Reaching out and saying that, he didn’t have to. We’re all grown ups, but it meant a lot.” Reach Mike at 330-580-8341 or mike.popovich@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @mpopovichREP


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Bears for life: By Mike Popovich

Repository sports writer

P

layer movement in pro sports never stops. In an era of free agency, trades and salary cap headaches, it’s not uncommon if athletes spend their entire career with multiple teams. Brian Urlacher is an exception. The Pro Football Hall of Fame middle linebacker spent his entire 13-year National Football League career with the Chicago Bears. He came to Chicago at the start of the millennium as a talented defensive prospect, established roots and quickly became a Bears legend. “One of the things

★ Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (54) celebrates with Julius Peppers (90) and Tim Jennings (26) after Urlacher returned an interception for a touchdown during a 2012 game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn. AP JOE HOWELL

I’m most proud of is that I played all 13 years there,” Urlacher said. “... I’m very proud that I played my entire career with one team, and the Bears are a great franchise.” Urlacher followed the footsteps of some great Bears linebackers. Bill George was considered the league’s first true star at middle linebacker. In 1963 he anchored a defense that helped Chicago win the NFL championship. Dick Butkus was drafted by the Bears in 1965 and became one of the league’s most feared tacklers during his nine seasons. Many forced turnovers were a result of his fierce hits.

HOF33

Playing with one team one of Urlacher’s proudest accomplishments

Mike Singletary was the heart of Chicago’s “Monsters of the Midway” defense in the 1980s. He helped lead the Bears to their only Super Bowl title in 1986. As Urlacher settled in, comparisons between him and the great Bears linebackers of the past were made. “Unfairly in my opinion because I wasn’t at their level,” Urlacher said. “Every year (people asked), ‘What do you do that Butkus does?’ It wasn’t a comparison because they were in the Hall of Fame. “Now we’re kind of all at the same level. I didn’t set out to get here, but I ended up here, so it’s all good.”

Urlacher calls Bears fans “incredible.” One lasting memory he has is the atmosphere they created at Solider Field, especially late in the season. “I feel like the colder it gets, the more they like it,” Urlacher said. “They love the cold weather, and we thrived on that. Our record later in the season was probably better than it was early in the season because we used the elements to our favor. We won some games we shouldn’t have won. ... Our fans really came to life in those elements.” Reach Mike at 330-580-8341 or mike.popovich@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @mpopovichREP


HOF34

Thursday, August 2, 2018 |

The Canton Repository | CantonRep.com


Thursday, August 2, 2018

HOF35

‘A crazy game’ Monday night comeback part of memorable 2006 for Urlacher

comeback in team history. “That was a crazy game,” Urlacher said. “... We scored two touchdowns on defense, a touchdown on special teams By Mike Popovich and we had three points from Repository sports writer our offense. It was a great team game. We found a way to win memorable Monday when we had to.” night in the desert may Urlacher had a signature have been a sign of things performance that night. He to come for Brian Urlacher and finished with 19 tackles, includthe Chicago Bears in 2006. ing 11 solos. In addition to the Facing adversity for the first time all year, the Bears stormed forced fumble, he also deflected two passes. back from a 20-point half“We watched the time deficit and beat film and every“Everybody was the Arizona Carbody was saying dinals 24-23 to saying that he just that he just improve to 6-0. turned into the Incredible turned into Chicago went Hulk the last four minutes the Incredon to finish the ible Hulk of the game, just killing regular season the last four at 13-3 and face people and running minutes of the Indiaover and tackling the game, just napolis Colts in whoever had the ball.” killing people Super Bowl XLI. and running Urlacher forced Devin Hester over and tackling a key turnover in the on Brian Urlacher whoever had the fourth quarter when the ball,” Hester said later. Bears scored two touchdowns Chicago’s big comeback to stun the Cardinals. His strip of Arizona running back Edger- led to one of the NFL’s most rin James led to a fumble return legendary tirades after the game. Cardinals head coach for a touchdown by Bears corDennis Green unleashed a rant nerback Charles Tillman. Later that later became part of a beer in the quarter, Devin Hester commercial. returned a punt 83 yards for a “The Bears were what we touchdown to give Chicago the thought they were,” Green said. lead. “What we thought they were. Hester’s heroics were in We played them in preseason. danger of becoming a footnote Who the hell takes the third in the final seconds when Arigame in the preseason like it’s zona’s Neil Rackers was sent in to attempt a 40-yard field goal. (expletive). We played them the third game, everybody played Rackers’ kick sailed wide left, three quarters. and the Bears ran out the clock on their biggest second-half “The Bears are who we

A

AP RICK SCUTER SCUTERI

★ Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher pumps his fist after making a tackle

during a 2006 game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz.

thought they were. That’s why we took the damn field. If you want to crown them, then crown their ass. But they are who we thought they were. And we let them off the hook.” The Bears’ undefeated run ended three weeks later when they were beaten by Miami at home. They quickly regrouped and clinched the top seed in the NFC prior to their Christmas Eve game at Detroit. Robbie Gould’s 41-yard field goal with 4:28 left in regulation and his 49-yarder in overtime lifted Chicago past the Seattle Seahawks in a divisional playoff game. A week later in the NFC Championship Game, the Bears defense forced four turnovers in a 39-14 win over the New Orleans Saints. In a Super Bowl played in continuous rain, Chicago raced off to a fast start when Hester returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. The Colts took the lead in the second quarter and used Kelvin Hayden’s 56-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Bears. Urlacher’s first and only Super Bowl appearance ended in defeat, 29-14. “We obviously didn’t play the way we wanted to in the Super Bowl,” Urlacher said. “We thought we had an advantage with the weather, raining like it was, but it wasn’t our advantage. We just couldn’t run the football.”

Reach Mike at 330-580-8341 or mike.popovich@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @mpopovichREP


â– Safety â–  5-foot-11, 200 pounds

Full name: Brian Patrick Dawkins Birthdate: Oct. 13, 1973 Birthplace: Jacksonville, Fla. High school: Williams M. Raines College: Clemson Drafter: 2nd round (61st overall) in 1996 by Philadelphia Pro teams: 1996-2008 Philadelphia Eagles, 2009-2011 Denver Broncos Uniform number: 20 Presenter: Troy Vincent, former Eagles defensive back and teammate and current NFL executive vice-president of football operations

HOF36 Thursday, August 2, 2018


A

tsunami in the offensive backfield, along the line of scrimmage or in the secondary, Brian Dawkins didn’t just play safety. He reinvented the position. No longer simply the last line of defense, how generations of safeties viewed themselves, the position was re-imagined in Philadelphia when Dawkins teamed up with new Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson in 1999. In Johnson’s view, Dawkins could be a first attacker, so to speak. It changed Dawkins from a solid young third-year player into a Pro Bowl fourth-year man, and Philadelphia into a perennial NFC contender for a decade under new head coach Andy Reid. The move propelled Dawkins headlong into a 16-year NFL career at safety — 13 with Philadelphia and three with Denver — that changed how safeties were viewed, used, coveted and paid. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder out of Clemson still intercepted passes (37), but Dawkins was equally as destructive with his blitzes that produced 26 career sacks, 42 forced fumbles, 17 fumble recoveries, more than 175 passes defensed and almost as many quarterback hurries. Ray Didinger, author of the Philadelphia Encylopedia, a 50-year NFL veteran reporter in newsprint and on television and a former Hall of Fame selector, said Dawkins revolutionized the position. “Before that, when game planning for an opponent, I can’t imagine when they circled the safety,” Didinger said via phone in June. “The defensive ends, linebackers — say Lawrence Taylor — and maybe a corner. You could say Ronnie Lott, he had the same effect (on teams). But he was a corner

Thursday, August 2, 2018

first. Ronnie couldn’t cover like Dawk could. When teams were in the spread, Jim Johnson had no problem putting Dawk on anyone one-on-one. “Johnson gave him the freedom that if he saw something he could use his instincts. ... In Johnson, he had a coach who let him act out his instincts. He had some good ones back there, Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, but Dawk was the guy who tied it all together. “He was the quarterback of the secondary.” For his durability, toughness, big hits, sure tackling, intensity and all-around skills, Dawkins enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame in just his second year of eligibility, the first pure safety since Paul Krause in 1998 and just the ninth safety-only to be inducted overall. A day after his selection, the Eagles won their first Super Bowl with Dawkins in the role as Philadelphia’s football operations director. “Obviously, me being blessed as a Hall of Famer ... for me the thought just went to so many people other than myself,” Dawkins said on a March visit to Canton. “The fans of Philadelphia. My teammates, because I knew they would celebrate it as well because we were close and cared for one another. I knew they would revel in it and have the same excitement I did. It’s hard to put into words.”

AP TOM MIHALEK

★ Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Brian Dawkins celebrates his interception

during a 2006 game with the Carolina Panthers in Philadelphia.

words he lived by growing up: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20 NIV) “They were very religious,” Altamese Dawkins said last month, 10 days before she turned 100 on July 11. “He was a good boy.” She was asked if she thought Brian would be a professional football player. “No,” said Altamese. “He didn’t know it his own self.” His father had no idea either. “I knew he was a very gifted athlete,” Ralph Dawkins Jr. said by phone from Jacksonville in Spoke softly, made big sticks July. “But I never believed he would be that tough. I didn’t The thing about Brian Dawkins is he didn’t look, sound believe he had that, being able to take it and dish it out. He sang or act the part of a big-time real well. He spoke real well. football player. He always was He proved to me, though, he humble, quiet, thoughtful. was a very tough boy. The Hall Born in 1973 to Ralph Jr. and of Fame? I’ve never imagined. Patricia Dawkins, he grew up Unbelievable. I just say ‘Thank in a tight-knit, religious home you Lord,’ I’ve been blessed.” in Jacksonville, Fla. His father What Ralph Jr. did not realize and grandmother, Altamese was his son had taken another Dawkins, laid the foundation thing his father had told him to for a religious life that ultiheart. “Growing up, my dad told mately turned into his life path. me to channel that emotion and His June 5 tweet included the

use it,” Dawkins told the Denver Post in a Sept. 7, 2011 story. And channel that energy he did, once he discovered defense. Like his father before him, Brian Dawkins played center in Pop Warner football. He didn’t like it, but his father forbade him to quit. “Playing center taught me a few things,” Brian said in March. “I have a much better respect for offensive linemen. ... They don’t get a lot of publicity or a lot of love, so I have a better appreciation for the grunt work, I’ll call it. That’s one of the reasons I couldn’t stay on offense any more. I moved to the defensive side of the ball as quick as I could so I could hit people. I didn’t go to safety right away. I went to cornerback. “Once I felt that, once I sensed that, once I had a vision of what it felt like to deliver that blow and hit people on a consistent basis, I was a defensive player from then on. Period.”

Second-round safety supreme Motivated to seek and destroy, Dawkins led Raines High School — which produced Eagles stars Harold Carmichael

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and Lito Shepphard and his older brother Ralph III, who signed with New Orleans as a free agent — to 30 straight wins and a Florida 4A title. He also began dating his wife-to-be, Connie Kerrin. They married after she transferred to Clemson before his senior season and that focused Dawkins on his game even more. Already a two-time second team AllACC performer, Dawkins tied for the ACC lead in interceptions (6) and was a second team All-American. The combination of his play and personality led Philadelphia to select Dawkins with the last pick, 61, of the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft. “The thing I noticed, as a young married man, was the way he carried himself,” said Ray Rhodes, Dawkins’ head coach from 1996-98. “He was a very responsible young man. His wife would come and pick him up at practice. Some guys wouldn’t like that, but not him. He was a very mature young man. I liked that. I admired the way he carried himself.” “We’d all seen Brian at Clemson,” said John Wooten, former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman and then the Eagles’ head of player personnel. “We thought Dawkins was an excellent safety. Just a top-quality person, a quality human being. We went to the Combine, in Indianapolis. And of course Emmitt loved him.” “Emmitt” was Emmitt Thomas, a Hall of Fame cornerback and the Eagles’ defensive backs coach at the time. Based on Thomas’ recommendation, Philadelphia made the pick that eventually changed the course of the franchise. “A safety is a punishing hitter,” said Wooten. “He puts the defense together. As you look at the NFL today, you don’t SEE DAWKINS, HOF39


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The Canton Repository | CantonRep.com


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DAWKINS

as they won five NFC East titles and went to the playoffs eight times. The pinnacle of his career came in 2004 when a Dawkins-led Eagles defense went 13-3 and then broke through against Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game. A brutal Dawkins hit on tight end Algie Crumpler set the tone and he also picked off Michael Vick in the team’s 27-10 victory to send them to Super Bowl XXXIX and an eventual 24-21 heartbreaking loss to New England in his hometown of Jacksonville.

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see a top defense and NOT see a top-quality safety. He’s the guy who runs the show. That’s what Dawkins did. He was an excellent hitter, a very good cover guy. Dawkins had it all. He was a true safety.”

Defensive superhero The NFL game let Dawkins develop his game — and then transform himself. He approached it like a business and just went to work every day. Good under the Rhodes regime, a starter three games into his rookie year and the leading interceptor the next two, Dawkins blossomed in 1999 after signing a six-year contraction extension in 1998. Under Johnson’s attacking style, Dawkins made four interceptions, 103 tackles, 19 knockdowns, 17 QB hurries, five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in earning a trip to the Pro Bowl, the first of his nine trips, eight as an Eagle. But the team was just 5-11 in 1999. Johnson said it was time for Dawkins to take ownership of the defense. He created ways to take advantage of the safety’s blitzing ability. Dawkins had 20 QB hurries in 2001 alone. “I wanted to blitz him as much as I could,” Johnson told Eagles Digest in December 1999. “I’ve tried to get Brian as involved as possible. He has so many talents and I want to take advantage of them.” A year later, despite Dawkins missing three games with an appendectomy, the Eagles began a run of four straight playoff marches to the NFC Championship Game. In a game in 2002 against Houston, Dawkins became the first player in NFL history to intercept a pass, force a fumble, notch a

No downside, then Denver

AP JACK DEMPSEY

★ Denver Broncos safety Brian Dawkins celebrates a goal line stand against the

Kansas City Chiefs during a 2010 game in Denver.

sack and catch a touchdown pass. He made 131 tackles that year, as the Eagles were 12-4 and Dawkins received another long extension, seven years. As he grew more comfortable as a leader, Dawkins became, well, someone else leading up to game time. “On Sundays, he went through the transformation,” Didinger said. “He did the somersaults, was bobbingand-weaving his way to midfield. That fired up his teammates, and the whole stadium. That stadium just went crazy, 77,000 people. ... It ignited the crowd. There was an emotional charge.” The man slow to anger and slow to speak was nicknamed “Idiotman” by his team trainer and “Wolverine” or “Weapon X” by himself for his gametime persona and love of the X-Men superhero with three

retractable claws and a desire to spoil for a fight. “There is just a mentality to go out there and do it,” Dawkins said. “It’s a part of me, a part of who I am. When the opportunity presents itself, the big hit is going to come.” The intensity didn’t go unnoticed. The Sporting News named Dawkins the NFL’s hardest hitter in 2004 and the tag stuck the rest of his career. But he was more than a big hitter, said another big hitter. Dawkins’ idol, Hall of Fame corner/safety Ronnie Lott, said “When you have a safety that can do all those things, it really gives the defense flexibility.” Monday Night Football analyst and Hall of Famer John Madden said in 2002 “Brian Dawkins is the best free safety in football.” Dawkins won Eagles defensive MVP honors five times

Philadelphia didn’t have another year like 2004 until 2018, but it wasn’t Dawkins’ fault. He had seven interceptions, 4.5 sacks and 280 combined tackles from 200506 to earn another two-year extension. Playing on his final year of the contract in 2008, Dawkins played every game and helped the Eagles reach a fifth NFC Championship Game with a 9-6-1 record. Despite that, Philadelphia barely pursued its most popular player and leader in career games played (183). At 35 and 13 years in, they made a reported two-year, $5M offer. Denver and its new head coach, Canton’s Josh McDaniels, went all in on Dawkins with a $7.2M, two-year guarantee and a $1.8M buyout. The Philly faithful felt burned, but Dawkins took the rejection in stride. “I’ve worn the green so long that a lot of people didn’t know how I was going to react to this orange,” he said at his Denver signing. “Well, I went to Clemson, so I’ve worn this orange with pride already.” His first season in Denver, he played all 16 games, intercepted two passes and totaled 116 tackles to make the Pro Bowl. He didn’t have another year that outstanding, but he did

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help Denver make the playoffs his final season. He then tweeted out his retirement in April 2012. Six months later Dawkins was back in Philadelphia, having his No. 20 retired, only the ninth Eagle to receive the honor. He treated the fans to his trademark Wolverine entrance and sent the crowd into a frenzy like the old days. Dawkins worked for ESPN for a year but it wasn’t long before the Eagles called, offering him a job in scouting, then as an administrator in 2016. A mere two years later he was part of a Super Bowl championship team, just 24 hours after being announced as a Hall of Famer. “To be a part of the organization, to see all those individuals —coaches as well as players — grow throughout the season, throughout adversity, learn from each other, wow,” Dawkins said. “To win the Super Bowl, as happy as I was for the players, as happy as I was for my new teammates in the front office, I was so thrilled for the City of Philadelphia.” Just three months later, though, Dawkins stepped down. “The Lord is calling me to a new mission,” he tweeted May 22. “Calling me to provide hope to the millions with the starting of my own company and non profit. Providing (an) increase mentally, physically and spiritually for those ready and willing to stop settling for life, but to live life on purpose.” A new beginning for the quiet, calm kid from Jacksonville who surprised his father and grandmother by becoming a pro football star and now has a bronze bust in Canton for all to see. Reach Jim at 330-580-8336 or jim.thomas@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @jthomasREP


HOF40 Thursday, August 2, 2018

X-Men’s Wolverine a huge hit with Dawkins By Jim Thomas Repository sports writer

T

here is something empowering about slipping on a mask for Halloween or a costume ball that empowers a person to act differently. Now, add three silvery, long, retractable knifelike fingers to each hand, enhanced body armor and regenerative healing powers to go with the mask. You’ve truly got a look to strike fear into people. Brian Dawkins used his X-Men Wolverinelike persona (also called Weapon-X at various times) during a 13-year tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles. Wolverine

prepared Dawkins for battle on Sundays, and Dawkins said he used the mental and physical powers of his alter-ego to get him to where he is today: A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018. “He (Wolverine) was obviously who I would turn into on game day,� Dawkins said during a March visit to the Hall. “That’s a different cat. He could do things I could not. And not get arrested for it. I loved that part! I’ve always been a physical guy. To be able to play to that, to play at that level of intensity and with that ferocity.� It’s hard to picture Dawkins as a ferocious,

scary man. His demeanor is calm, his voice and words soft. But he loved comic books and cartoons since his youth and was drawn to Wolverine. Dawkins had dozens of Wolverine figurines in his locker during his years in Philly. “He is more of a handto-hand (combat) guy,� Dawkins said of Marvel Comics’ Wolverine. “He is not going to shoot you from a distance. He is going to get up in your face to get nasty with you. So, he has a huge dark side to him — which I love! “He would challenge it pretty good when it was time to fight,� he added. “Whoever was coming his

way.� Not many NFL receivers wanted to cross Dawkins’ path. Especially on a crossing pattern. A 5-foot-11, 200-pounder, Dawkins was named the hardest hitter in the NFL by The Sporting News in 2004. “He reminded me of (Ronnie) Lott,� said Ray Rhodes, Dawkins’ first head coach in the NFL with the Eagles. “Ronnie, he could lay you out. Brian liked to hit, too. I was fortunate enough to coach both of them.� Lott was Dawkins’ idol coming into the NFL. The former 49ers great was indeed a heavy hitter, and a player so tough he cut off part of a broken

finger to avoid rehabbing it. Dawkins was equally intense throughout his 16-year career. Dawkins would enter Eagles home games from the tunnel at Lincoln Financial Stadium on a sprint, then go went into a crouch before launching into a series of gyrating moves, a scowl on his face to meet and greet his teammates at midfield in a psyched-up frenzy. The irony here is that Dawkins is a devout Christian. He was recognized as one of the most decent men in the NFL during his playing career. In May he stepped down from Philadelphia’s front office, saying God was calling him in another

direction. Maybe that’s why Dawkins needed that little push from Wolverine to bring out his own big nasty. “I’m a huge Marvel guy,â€? said Dawkins. “Huge X-Men fan, always been. “There is something about Wolverine, he was always my dude, always my cat. So I actually had two lockers, one for Weapon X and one for myself, Brian Dawkins. That was my alter ego. I would put my figurines over there in Weapon-X’s locker and obviously dress in my own locker.â€? Â

Reach Jim at 330-580-8336 or jim.thomas@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @jthomasREP

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Dawkins fanatical about Philly fans, and likewise By Jim Thomas Repository sports editor

I

t might be too easy to say Philadelphia Eagles fans are more fickle and foul than other NFL fans. But it is a group that has achieved notoriety going back more than 50 years. Take what happened to Washington super fan, Zema Williams, known as Chief Zee. He had his costume feathers plucked before a game and his leg broken by Eagles fans after the game. A drunken Eagles fans intentionally threw up on an off-duty policeman’s daughter a couple years ago. Yet Brian Dawkins says there are no fans finer than Philly fans. Philadelphia’s career games played leader (183) had a love-love relationship with them. “I loved playing there,” Dawkins said when visiting Canton in March. “They don’t hold back. I say it like this: They love tough. Tough love. They won’t hold back their opinion about nothing. If they don’t like it, they going to let you know. And the filter is sometimes broke, so don’t expect them to be filtered.” Eagles fans came out in droves to honor Dawkins when his No. 20 was retired at halftime of a September, 2012 game at Lincoln Financial Field. The sellout crowd stood for his pre-game ceremony and then cut loose with a standing ovation and cheers when Dawkins ran onto the field for pre-game

BY THE NUMBERS MOST GAMES PLAYED - HOF DB 1, Darrell Green (CB) 1983-2002, 295 2, Rod Woodson (CB-S) 1987-2003, 238 3, Paul Krause (S) 1964-1979, 226 4, Brian Dawkins (S) 1996-2011, 224 5, Jimmy Johnson (CB) 1961-1976, 213 6, Aneas Williams (CB-S) 1991-2004, 211 7, Willie Brown (CB) 1963-1978, 204 8, Mel Blount (CB) 1970-1983, 204 9, Ken Houston (S) 1967-1980, 196 10, Roger Wehrli (CB) 1969-1982, 193 MOST FUMBLE RECOVERIES - HOF DB 1, Rod Woodson (CB-S) 32 2, Aenas Williams (CB-S) 23 3, Roger Wehrli (CB) 22 4, Ken Houston (S) 21 5, Paul Krause (S) 19 6-tie, Brian Dawkins (S) 17 6-tie, Lem Barney (CB) 17 6-tie, Ronnie Lott (CB-S) 17 9-tie, Five with 14 MOST INTERCEPTIONS - HOF DB 1, Paul Krause (S) 226 games, 81 2, Emlen Tunnel (S) 167 games, 79 3, Rod Woodson (CB-S) 238 games, 71 4, Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane (CB) 157 games, 68 5, Ronnie Lott (CB-S) 192 games, 63 ... LEAST INTERCEPTIONS - HOF DB Kenny Easley (S) 89 games, 32 Brian Dawkins (S) 224 games, 37 Roger Wehrlie (CB) 193 games, 40 Mike Haynes (CB) 177 games, 46 Jack Christiansen (S) 84 games, 46 NOTE: Only Hall of Fame defensive backs to average more than an interception every other game were Christiansen (.517) and Jack Butler (CB) 103 games, 52 INT (.505) SOURCE: Pro Football Reference, Pro Football Hall of Fame

introductions, doing his Wolverine-styled entrance for the first time since his final Eagles game in 2008. “He came here (from Clemson) and put down roots,” said Ray Didinger, a 50-year NFL reporter in TV and print. “He became a part of the community. He said Philadelphia was going to be his home. Philly fans, they take note of that. Of a guy who makes Philly his home. They know a fake in a minute. “Dawk is very sincere. Very authentic. He’s real. People know that. He talks from the heart. Good times or bad, he was always accountable. There was an authenticity and accountability to him that (Philly fans) could relate to.” If a poll of top Eagles favorites is any indicator, expect a sea of green and white Dawkins’ jerseys in Canton for his induction. Bleeding Green Nation (BGN), a Philadelphia Eagles online community, polled its nine staffers in 2014 to determine the team’s all-time favorite players. Only No. 20, Dawson — Not Reggie White, Donovan McNabb, Chuck Bednarik or anyone else — was selected by everyone. BGN’s Dan Klausner wrote: “First player I truly idolized and first jersey I ever owned. Iconic, changed the (safety) position and embodied Philadelphia in a real-life way, not a lame Rocky way.” Dawkins weathered 13 years

AP M M. SPENCER GREEN

★ Philadelphis Eagles’ Brian Dawkins shakes his helmet after defeating the

Chicago Bears in a 2003 NFC Divisional Playoff game.

in the City of Brotherly Love. From the time he was drafted in 1996 to leaving as a free agent in 2009 he lived a short drive away across the bridge in New Jersey. The fans saw he helped lead the team from downtrodden losers to playing in four straight NFC Championship games and reaching a Super Bowl. Even after he was retired he was revered. Dawkins and the fans got to witness a Philly first last February when, as the team’s football operations executive, the Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII. “When you go out and they know you are giving 100 percent,” Dawkins said, “you

don’t make excuses and ‘it’s my fault’ — if they know that, they give you a pass. I love that about them. That’s why I’m so happy they finally got themselves a championship they can celebrate: So they can talk trash.” If you want to know how much Philadelphia fans loved Dawkins you only need look at his free agency departure after the 2009 season. They called the team and sports talk shows and unloaded their invective on the Eagles for not retaining Dawkins. They even bought Broncos No. 20 orange jerseys in retaliation.   Reach Jim at 330-580-8336 or jim.thomas@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @jthomasREP


â– General manager Full name: Bobby Beathard Birthdate: Jan. 24, 1937 Birthplace: Zanesville, Ohio High school: El Segundo (Calif.) College: Cal Poly Pro teams: Kansas City Chiefs (scout, 1966-67); Atlanta Falcons (scout, 1968-71); Miami Dolphins (player personnel director, 1972-77); Washington Redskins (genera manager, 1978-89); San Diego Chargers (general manager, 1999-2000) Presenter: Joe Gibbs, head coach he hired in Washington

HOF42 Thursday, August 2, 2018


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urfer boy Bobby Beathard and stock car king Joe Gibbs turned Washington into Hog Heaven by seeing a different NFL from the same page. They became a uniquely fascinating general manager-head coach duo on their way to Canton, where Gibbs will present Beathard for induction as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018. Differences in style shortened their partnership during an era that produced three Washington Super Bowls. In later life, they look back on a shared legacy of leading a franchise to its greatest era. Gibbs, 77, owns a racing team that has won four NASCAR Cup series. Beathard, 81, is a national age-group body-surfing champion. What these artists did in the football studio must seem more surreal than Picasso to a Washington fan base that has witnessed one playoff victory since 1999. The Beathard-Gibbs adminstration unfolded during Ronald Reagan’s two terms in the White House. In 1980, at age 43, Beathard was just another Bob, in his third year as general manager of the Redskins, who were going in reverse. Beathard had been around in the scouting world, but his previous job as a Miami personnel executive (1972-77) featured success mostly attributed to czar Don Shula.

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Like Shula, Beathard was born in Ohio, but nobody in Buckeye land was talking about the latter in 1980. Joe Charboneau of the Indians was American League rookie of the year. Massillon linebacker Rick Spielman broke two thumbs in a state title game against Gerry Faust’s Cincinnati Moeller juggernaut. Browns quarterback Brian Sipe was most valuable player of the NFL. At about the time Washington sank to 3-10 in 1980, celebrity owner Jack Kent Cooke began to decide whether he would keep his head coach, Jack Pardee, or his general manager, Beathard. It wasn’t going to be both. Times were turbulent for Cooke, who had just gone through two divorces, one in 1979 in which Judge Joseph Wapner awarded a then-record $42 million settlement to his ex-wife and another late in 1980. Cooke, in his late 60s, was persuaded by Beathard’s engaging personality, reputation as a Shula underling, and explanation as to why building through the draft would work under the right head coach. Beathard’s maverick manner better aligned with Cooke, who was something of a Bill Veeck free-wheeler, than did Pardee’s. Pardee was a large man who had spent 17 years as an NFL linebacker, including a last hurrah with Washington’s “Over the Hill Gang” coached by George Allen. George Halas had hired Pardee as head coach in Chicago

AP DENNIS COOK

★ Bobby Beathard (right), general manager of the Washington Redskins, and running back George

Rogers unveil his new jersey during a 1985 news conference in Chantilly, Va.

just three years after he started at linebacker for Washington in a Super Bowl. With two years left on a contract paying $125,000 a year, Pardee assured Cooke he could return to winning if the right veterans could be added. Beathard was a skinny little former Cal Poly quarterback whose bid to play in the NFL was short-lived. He got funneled by Al Davis into a scouting career that led to promotions but now was at a crossroads. Six weeks of speculation raged in the Washington newspapers. Cooke ended it by announcing: “I face the hard task of choosing between the two philosophies. After careful consideration, I have decided to endorse

Mr. Beathard’s program of a winning future for the Redskins.” Pardee, who had been hired weeks before Beathard in 1978, lamented the decision in the Washington Post: “I believe the coach should have control and not have to worry about being shot down from other angles. Everything that affects the record on the field should be under the coach’s control. They don’t print the general manager’s record in the newspaper. “It’s a sad experience. It’s the first time I’ve ever been fired from anything.” Cooke gave his general manager a free hand in picking the next coach. Everyone had a suggestion. One was to bring back the 61-year-old

Allen, who had gone 67-30-1 with Washington from 1971-77. Another was to chase 44-year-old John Madden (Beathard’s former Cal Poly teammate), who jumped to the TV booth after going 10332-7 as head coach of the Raiders from 1969-78. Gibbs was just another Joe. He had been a quarterback at San Diego State 10 years before Sipe. For three years in the 1960s, when Madden was defensive coordinator at San Diego State, Gibbs was the Aztecs’ offensive line coach. Gibbs had just finished a short stint as an offensive coordinator of Tampa Bay’s expansion franchise. Beathard heard good things about Gibbs, especially from a coach named Ernie Zampese, and came to view him as a

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rising star. Twenty-six years later, when Gibbs was giving his Hall of Fame acceptance speech in Canton, he still couldn’t believe Beathard pulled it off. “Can you imagine him going into Jack Kent Cooke and recommending they hire Joe Gibbs?” Gibbs said on the front steps of the Hall. “I can hear Mr. Cooke now. ‘Joe who?’ “Bobby, thanks for having the guts to do that. I also want to say thanks for picking all those players and making it easy.” Thus, as Beathard makes his way to the stage where his bronze bust awaits, it should be noted he is going in not just because he could pick Hall of Fame players. He brought Washington its Hall of Fame coach. Gibbs was 39 years old when he came to Washington. “Besides being bright and a terrific Xs and Os guy, Joe is a leader,” Beathard said at the introductory press conference in 1980. “He has an unusual talent to get along with players.” Gibbs weighed in with a plan that sounded simple: “You get the players, Bobby. We’ll coach ‘em.” It soon got complicated. Gibbs’ first five games ended with losses to the Cowboys, Giants, Cardinals, Eagles and 49ers. Cooke called in Beathard and Gibbs for a long meeting. An 8-3 hot streak to end the 1981 season started the party. Then came Super Bowl wins capping SEE BEATHARD, HOF44


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BEATHARD From Page 43

the 1982 and 1987 seasons. Beathard drafted a Hall of Fame receiver (Art Monk) with a 1980 firstround pick, assembled one of the better lines in NFL history (“The Hogs”), learned to live with quirky quarterback Joe Theismann, and plucked a Hall of Fame cornerback out of Texas A&I (Darrell Green) with a Round 1 pick in 1983. Beathard worked through the 1989 draft before resigning and taking a general manager job with the Chargers. The 1991 Redskins, with a roster mostly assembled by Beathard, won another Super Bowl; the quarterback was Mark Rypien, a Round 6 pick by Beathard in 1986. Beathard made himself at home in San Diego, where he was general manager of the Chargers for 11 seasons. It was a place where he could indulge his passions for long-distance running, body surfing and football architecture. As in Washington, Beathard worked for a while with an inherited head coach (Dan Henning) and brought in a replacement (Bobby Ross) who took the team to the next level. Along the lines of Gibbs, Ross lost the first four games of his first season but went 11-1 the rest of the way. In the third season under Ross, the franchise reached its first Super Bowl. Beathard and Ross won 50 games together across five seasons before the coach resigned. “I did not want this to come about,” Ross said in a news conference the day

AP STEVE HELBER

★ Former Washington Redskins

general manager Bobby Beathard gestures during a 2016 news conference at the team’s training camp in Richmond, Va.

of his departure. “Bobby Beathard felt our philosophical differences could not be overcome. I was surprised by that.” In what became the last five years of Beathard’s general manager career, the Chargers went 18-46. Yet, the Los Angeles Times lamented Beathard’s resignation in an article than ran in April of 2001: “The Chargers have replaced one of the most instinctive, gutsy and proven judges of talent in NFL history with an accountant. The team announced that Ed McGuire, a former account representative for Met Life and a senior manager of labor operations for the NFL, now will be in charge of everyone on the Chargers except the owner.” McGuire himself was quoted in the article, saying, “There’s only one Bobby Beathard. It’s a tough perception to overcome.” In retrospect, Beathard calls his years with Gibbs “the most fun I had in a

relationship with a head coach.” They won Super Bowls (if, as seems fair, one counts the one captured not long after Beathard left for San Diego) with three different starting quarterbacks, Theismann, Doug Williams and Rypien. Their last full year together was the least fun. A 17-13 home loss to Bernie Kosar and the Browns was part of a 2-6 second half of the season. Before the 1989 draft, shortly before Beathard resigned, Gibbs answered questions about problems with his GM. “Is there disagreement?” Gibbs said. “There has been disagreement between me and Bobby, at times, from the first day, as far as players.” There were serious talks about Beathard returning to Washington as general manager in 2001. It didn’t work out. Gibbs did go back to Washington as head coach in 2004, after a 12-year absence. He stayed four seasons, going 31-16. Subsequent head coaches Jim Zorn, Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden have compiled a 64-97-1 record. On March 9, owner Daniel Snyder fired general manager Scot McLoughan, who wound up working the 2018 draft as a Browns consultant. In August, Beathard and Gibbs will reunite during Hall of Fame induction week. They will remind Washington and the rest of the NFL how good it can get when the right general manager and head coach work through the same page from different points of view. Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP

Madden 1957: Big John blocked for little Bobby Mustang Stadium, where the ‘57 team beat Pepperdine, Fresno State, member of the San Jose State and Santa Class of 2018 who Barbara. Decades later, wasn’t big enough Madden became an to play pro football finds important fund raiser for himself reunited with his alma mater, although one of the sport’s biggest he became frustrated by names in the Pro Football a lukewarm commitment Hall of Fame. to the football program. Big John Madden In 2017, the Mustangs blocked for little Bobby went 1-10, based in Beathard in college. 11,000-seat Alex Spanos They were different Stadium. young men. In the spring, Madden was drafted Madden was a baseball in the 21st round by the catcher; Beathard was Philadelphia Eagles in off looking for a Pacific 1958, when Beathard finOcean wave. ished his Cal Poly career They had much in by leading the Mustangs common. They grew to a 9-1 record. up on the California’s Then-Cal Poly head coast with sketchy ideas coach Roy Hughes, since of what to do after high deceased, described school. Madden made Beathard for the Washtwo college stops before ington Post in 1981: transferring to Cal Poly. “He was a very fine Beathard sojourned to quarterback who could LSU before getting home- also run the football. He sick and meeting Madden was also a great defensive at Cal Poly. back. Bobby really could Football grew on each do everything. of them. “He was a great kid, a “I loved football,” very loyal kid. He lived Beathard says now. “I and breathed the game. I couldn’t get enough of guess he still does.” it. John was the same Madden suffered a knee way. We got to know each other in college. We always talked about being in football after we got out of there.” Beathard was a junior, Madden a senior on the 1957 Cal Poly team that went 8-1, losing only to a San Diegobased team of U.S. Marines. Cal Poly played in 8,500-seat

By Steve Doerschuk

Repository sports writer

A

injury in the Eagles’ 1958 training camp, giving him time to sit and watch film with quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. Madden had majored in education. Maybe, he thought, his football niche would be teaching football as a coach. Madden spent four years as an assistant to Don Coryell at San Diego State on his way to becoming an all-time football icon. One of his fellow coaches at San Diego State was Joe Gibbs, later the head coach Beathard hired in Washington in 1981. Cal Poly’s success got Beathard invited to Washington’s camp as an undrafted rookie in 1959. He was only 5-foot-9, but Washington had a veteran quarterback, Eddie LeBaron, who stood just 5-7. Beathard got cut. He would up back in California, in an AFL camp with the Chargers, who were making a transition from Los Angeles to San Diego. He didn’t stick. “Bobby was too darned short to play quarterback,” Madden said once, “but if he’d been given a real good shot, I bet he’d have made it. “Bobby was little, but he could really throw the football. He was hardnosed and had a lot of guts.” Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or steve.doerschuk @cantonrep.com On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP

AP FILE

★ John Madden with

the Eagles in 1959.


Thursday, August 2, 2018

HOF45

Beathard’s replacements set stage for Hollywood finish By Steve Doerschuk Repository sports writer

“Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever.” — Fictional Washington Sentinels quarterback Shane Falco in the huddle in his final game in “The Replacements” obby Beathard made a career of filling teams with memorable players. One of his Super Bowl teams kept a season afloat with players time forgot. The NFL got hit with a strike two games into the 1987 season. Commissioner Pete Rozelle announced the games would go on with replacements. Beathard was in for one of the busiest weeks of his working life. Washington was the only team with no regular player crossing a picket line. Beathard was responsible for rounding up an entire squad on the fly. “We went at the whole thing very aggressively,” said Beathard, who was in his 10th year as Washington’s general manager. “Looking back and hearing some teams and even some friends talk about it, they didn’t go at it aggressively. They either thought the strike would

AP MARIO SURIAN SURIANI

★ Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs speaks at a 1987 news

conference in New York.

B

AP MANUEL BALCE CENETA

★ Washington Redskins replacement players from the 1987 Super Bowl XXII championship squad,

(from left) linebacker Eric Wilson, running back Allen Harvin and linebacker Derek Bunch, show their Super Bowl rings during a June 2018 ceremony at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va.

end soon or it wasn’t that big a deal.” Then-Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick captured the flavor of the scramble when he talked to reporters about an impending replacement game against Washington: “I don’t think we have time to put in even some of the basic things,” he said. “And some of them are not exactly in top condition.” Washington’s replacements, rounded up under the direction of Beathard and his assistant Charley

Casserly, looked to be in good shape in a 38-12 road rout of the Giants. Beathard had chased every lead, starting with players who had been cut after spending time in recent training camp. The strike lasted three weeks. The Redskins went 3-0, capped by a win over a Dallas team featuring most of its regulars. After the Dallas game, Washington’s replacements carried head coach Joe Gibbs off the field, the same treatment head

coach Jimmy McGinty (played by Gene Hackman) got in the movie “The Replacements.” In the movie, the Washington Sentinels find washed-up Ohio State quarterback Shane Falco (played by Keanu Reeves) scraping barnacles off boats. Falco’s comeback ends with a Monday night game against Dallas, during which announcer John Madden plays himself. In real life, Madden blocked for Beathard at Cal Poly. On Beathard’s

replacement team, Anthony Allen had 255 receiving yards against the Rams. Running back Lionel Vital ran for 346 yards across the three games. Beathard, Casserly and Gibbs attended a dinner party thrown for the replacements before they were sent away. “This group had an unusual feeling for itself,” Gibbs said. “They felt real camaraderie. They kept good senses of humor. It was a different set of characters.” In the movie, one Washington replacement is a convicted drug dealer. A striking lineman bashes in the window of a bus full of strike breakers. McGinty warms to his team of ragtag temps. Casserly recalls Gibbs’ final pep talk to his replacements, “You guys came back to prove you can play, right? What better stage? Monday Night Football, going against their great

players. You’ve been waiting all your lives for this chance.” One of the real replacements, Craig McEwen, recalled the 13-7 win at Dallas as “the most exciting game of my life.” Gibbs made it hard on Beathard by insisting that none of the regulars cross the lines, lest there be disunity when they returned. So many had to be brought in. The Redskins were 4-1 when the regulars came back. They wound up in Super Bowl XXII, where they clobbered the Broncos 42-10. Each replacement player received a Super Bowl winners share of $36,000. Thirty years later, the replacements were flown to Washington and given Super Bowl rings. Perhaps some of them will be in Canton when Beathard goes into the Hall of Fame. Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP


HOF46

Thursday, August 2, 2018

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HOF47

BEATHARD NOTEBOOK Bobby, the beach and the boys The Beathards move to different beats. Hall of Famer-elect Bobby has been a world age-group body-surfing champion, long after retiring from football. He has run many marathons, and “run” (as opposed to jog) is the operative word. In his distance-running prime, his best time for a 26-mile, 285-yard run was two hours and 31 minutes. That’s a clip faster than 5:50 a mile. Bobby’s brother Pete was a quarterback at USC and with two pro teams. Bobby’s son Casey is a major name in song-writing, based in Nashville, near where Bobby lives. Grandson C.J., quarterbacked Iowa into the 2016 national championship hunt and was a 49ers draft pick last year. Another grandson, Tucker, is a Nashville-based singer and song writer. C.J. was the lead singer in one of Tucker’s bands when they were in high school. Casey Beathard, C.J.’s dad, worked for Bobby as a Chargers scout in 1992 before committing himself to the music industry. “I was always filling out reports,” Casey said once, “and I never got to my guitar.” Bobby Beathard was born in Ohio but spent most of his youth near the Pacific Ocean in El Segundo, Calif. He didn’t play football until his sophomore year of high school. His mother, Dorothy, once told the Washington Post, “Oh, he loved the beach. He loved to swim. He loved to surf. He was a real good kid, full of mischief sure, but never any problem.”

Byner and Beathard Running back Earnest Byner’s last act as a

Cleveland Brown was “The Fumble.” Bobby Beathard’s last trade with Washington was for Byner. On Jan. 17, 1989, the Browns were on the verge of tying Denver late in the AFC championship game when Byner, inside the 5-yard line with a clear path to the end zone, dropped the ball. On April 29, 1989, Beathard made the trade that brought Byner to Washington. The Redskins aimed to shake up their backfield after a 1-5 slump capped their 1988 season. Byner had hurt them as a runner and receiver in a Browns win at Washington. First, Beathard did an expensive trade with Atlanta for big-back Gerald Riggs. The cost was a Round 2 pick in ‘89 and a Round 2 pick in 1990. Everyone knew Cleveland owner Art Modell was worried about bringing back Byner after “The Fumble.” Beathard was very public about wishing to take the versatile Byner off Modell’s hands. “I’ve talked to Byner, and I like everything I see of him on film,” Beathard told writers. “The price could be too high, though.” The price came down. On April 29 (draft day), Byner went to Washington in a straight-up trade for running back Mike Oliphant. Behind the scenes, Beathard and head coach Joe Gibbs were drifting apart. Shortly before the trade, Gibbs told reporters, “There’s nothing bitter between me and Bobby. We disagree on things and we can get downright mad at each other, but when we ... make a decision, we feel like we are together.” Beathard resigned his post on May 5. The trade had lasting repercussions. Byner, not Riggs, became the better acquisition. He was in his third year with Washington in 1991 when he rushed for 1,048 yards on a team that went 14-2. In the Super Bowl,

a 37-24 win over Buffalo, he scored a touchdown on a reception. It was his first postseason TD since the day of “The Fumble” (he scored twice earlier in the game). Oliphant had 15 rushing attempts as a first-year Brown. He never made another NFL carry.

Strike one Both of the Washington seasons that ended with Super Bowl wins while Bobby Beathard was general manager were shortened by strikes. The first, 1982, sagged into a long delay after two games. Seven regular-season contests, including one against the Browns, never got played. The season resumed in mid-November. Beathard had a stable roster in place for his hand-picked head coach, Joe Gibbs. The Redskins entered a makeshift postseason with an 8-1 record, giving them home-field advantage for the three postseason games they needed to win to reach Super Bowl XXVII in Pasadena. There, they beat the Dolphins 27-17. Beathard’s 1983 roster played a full season, going 14-2 and setting an NFL record with 541 points. The defense, bolstered by rookie cornerback Darrell Green set an NFL record for turnover margin with a plus-43. The only serious disappointment was a 38-9 loss to the Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII. The bad taste lingered as postseason success eluded the Redskins across the next three years (the regular seasons were fine, with records of 11-5, 10-6 and 12-4). Then came more labor strife in 1987. The season was shortened to 15 games and included strike-replacement players for a stretch. When things normalized, the Browns had one of their better teams and eventually came close to beating Denver

in the AFC finals. The NFC champ was Washington. Browns head coach Marty Schottenheimer worked the Super Bowl for CBS. Rather than coaching in the game, Schottenheimer analyzed a 42-10 Washington romp. In 2001, Schottenheimer’s and Beathard’s paths crossed in the Washington spotlight. Schottenheimer was fired after one season as a Washington head coach who wanted control over player moves. Owner Daniel Snyder’s bid to bring back Beathard as general manager fell apart.

Beathard’s best draft Recently, Beathard tried to put his finger on what made him a Hall of Fame player picker. “Even in college I seemed to have a feel for who the really good players on our team were,” he said. “Whether it was loving the game, playing it, watching it … I don’t know what it was.” His sixth sense was fully developed by 1981. As general manager of the Redskins, he drafted Pro Bowl offensive tackle Mark May at No. 20 overall, a future Hall of Fame guard (Russ Grimm) at No. 69, a star pass rusher (Dexter Manley) at No. 119 and a productive tight end (Clint Didier) at No. 314. Then, Beathard signed undrafted rookie Joe Jacoby, who in 2018 was a Hall of Fame finalist. ■ The 1990 draft was perceived to be loaded with linebackers. Keith McCants, Junior Seau, Chris Singleton, James Francis, Percy Snow, Lamar Lathon and Tony Bennett all went in the top 20. Beathard, now in San Diego, chose Seau, the one who made it to the Hall of Fame. ■ In 1994 with the Chargers, Beathard drafted Western Illinois defensive back Rodney Harrison in Round 5. Harrison is under consideration to be a finalist

for the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019.

Life with Shula Beathard was married with children when he was a Kansas City Chiefs scout, telling himself he would live the nomadic life for five years but leave if he did not get a personnel executive job within five years. He divorced during that time, prior to landing a job as personnel director of the Miami Dolphins in 1972. That was the year Miami posted an undefeated season capped by a Super Bowl win. Don Shula was head coach with control of the roster, relying on Beathard’s research and opinions. “We went back and forth on a lot of guys,” Shula said once. “He won some and lost some, like anybody else. He was never afraid to speak his convictions, never afraid to take a risk. “We had a fine working relationship.” The Dolphins went 14-0, 12-2, 11-3, 10-4, 6-8 and 10-4 (6-1 postseason record, two Super Bowl wins) in the seasons Shula and Beathard spent together.

Extra points ■ Bobby and Christine Beathard live in Franklin, Tenn., near Nashville. They will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary soon after his enshrinement into the Hall of Fame. A 1990 Los Angeles Times article described their 1978 wedding through the words of a close Beathard friend, Hollywood stunt man Ted Grossman. The ceremony was at a friend’s house in Marina Del Ray, Calif. Beathard and friends came downstairs from watching a Rams-Raiders game. “It was the fastest wedding I’ve ever seen,” Grossman said. “I was just turning

around when Bobby’s putting the ring on Christine’s finger. The next thing I know, we’re going back upstairs to watch the game. “I remember Christine saying, ‘Is this the way it’s always going to be?’ Bobby said, ‘I’m afraid so.’” ■ A graduation photo of Bobby and his Cal Poly teammate John Madden hangs in the Beathards’ living room. The room also includes a photo of Bobby handing President Ronald Reagan a game jersey from Super Bowl XXII. ■ Beathard’s original college team was LSU, but he got homesick during his first summer practice and came home to California, enrolling at El Camino Junior College. He soon transferred to Cal Poly. ■ The last quarterback picked in the 1993 draft (in the eighth round by Beathard’s Chargers) was Indiana’s Trent Green. He didn’t make his first NFL start until 1998 with Washington. He went on to compile a 56-57 career record. In 1990, Beathard’s first year as San Diego’s GM, he landed Idaho quarterback John Friesz in Round 6. The Chargers were 4-12 in 1991 in his only extended trial. ■ The last time the Browns won a playoff game was 1994, but they lost in the second round at Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh’s next game was a 17-13 loss to the San Diego team Beathard had been building since 1990. The win at Pittsburgh sent the Chargers to their first Super Bowl. ■ Beathard thought about choosing one of his sons to present him for Hall of Fame induction. He opted for Joe Gibbs, the head coach he hired in Washington in 1981. “Joe knows more about me and what I did in football,” Beathard said. “I know more about him. We worked together for so long (1981-88).” Don Coryell was Gibbs’ Hall of Fame presenter in 1996. STEVE DOERSCHUK


■ Right guard ■ 6-foot-3, 245 pounds

Full name: Gerald Louis Kramer Birthdate: Jan. 23, 1936 Birthplace: Jordon, Mont. High school: Sandpoint (Idaho) College: University of Idaho Pro teams: 1958-64 Green Bay Packers Uniform number: 64 Presenter: Alicia Kramer, daughter

HOF48 Thursday, August 2, 2018


Thursday, August 2, 2018

J

erry Kramer knew when it was over. It was 1968. The Green Bay Packers were playing the Baltimore Colts at home. They were down and had four minutes left. They knew they needed to score, and they knew they would score, and they knew they would win, because they were the Green Bay Packers and they always won. They fumbled at the 35-yard line. Kramer looked at the clock and saw a minute and 10 seconds. And it hit him: They were going to lose. The era — of playoffs, of legendary head coach Vince Lombardi, of winning — was done. That was 50 years ago. After that game, Kramer retired from professional football and settled on a ranch in Idaho. He dabbled in the coal business and the heavy oil business and the anti-aging business. He produced a motivational film and booked hundreds of speaking engagements. He married his second wife, Wink, and had three more children. He started an assistance fund for retired NFL players. And he waited.

‘Thank God for instant replay’

AP FILE

★ Green Bay Packers offensive guard Jerry Kramer and coach Vince Lombardi watch the Packers’ defense against the San Francisco 49ers in a 1963 game in Milwaukee.

A game-winning block during a minus-13-degree NFL Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys made Kramer a household name on the last night of 1967. The Packers were losing to the Cowboys 17-14. With 16 seconds left to play and only a foot to go, they could have tried for a field goal to tie the game, but they were the Lombardi Packers, and they

wanted to win. Quarterback Bart Starr called a quarterback sneak, Kramer slammed into defensive tackle Jethro Pugh, and Starr scored the touchdown. Kramer was paraded in front of TV cameras, and stations kept showing the block and touchdown from a game dubbed the “Ice Bowl.” “Millions of people who couldn’t name a single offensive lineman if their lives depended on it heard my name repeated and repeated and repeated,” Kramer wrote in his bestselling, diary-style book about the season. “All I could think was, thank God for instant replay.” Most of the headlines Kramer made during his football career were about his surgeries, not his accomplishments on the field. In 1964, he started losing weight, running a fever and struggling to exercise. Doctors found a growth the size of a grapefruit on his liver and thought he had cancer. It turned out the tumor was a fungus, the result of splinters doctors had missed 11 years earlier after an accident that lodged a chunk of wood in a muscle near his spine. Eight surgeries later, the splinters — some 4 inches long— were gone, along with the tumor. Kramer missed the season. That didn’t really matter, though, because Kramer was good. During his career, he played in three Pro Bowls, was the starting right guard in two Super Bowls (each of which the Packers won), and was selected first team All-Pro five times. He also kicked for the team. When he retired from the Packers, he held the team records for most field goal attempts in a game and most PATs in a season. In 1969, Kramer was selected as one of two guards on the NFL’s 50th Anniversary team. And until last February — at age 82 and in his 45th year of eligibility — he was the only member of that anniversary team who had not been named a Pro Football Hall of Famer. Hall of Famer Roger Staubach was in the Navy when he watched Kramer play in the Ice Bowl. He recounted the experience in a letter he wrote in 2012, saying when he joined the Dallas

HOF49

Cowboys two years after the game, players still commented on how talented Kramer was. “Based on my teammates that played against him, Jerry Kramer is a Hall of Fame lineman.”

‘One of the finest guards to have played’ But Kramer’s welcome to Canton took 11 tries — one for every season of professional football he played. There were 10 invitations that didn’t come, the first in 1974 and the last in 1997. When Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker knocked on Kramer’s hotel door in Minneapolis last February, Kramer opened it and stared at Baker before breaking into a smile and grabbing him for a hug. A few hours later, at a press conference for the taping of the NFL Honors show, Kramer said becoming an enshrinee was something he didn’t have a lot of confidence was going to happen and was something he was afraid to hope for. “But hey, I’m here, and I’m part of the group,” he said. You can pick your theory about why it took so long. Some of the popular ones: There’s not a lot of video that shows Kramer playing. The people who watched Kramer play already had passed him over for inclusion in the Hall. Professional football is different now. There already were too many Packers from the same time period in the Hall. He wasn’t necessarily the best offensive lineman who wasn’t in yet. Kramer was more focused on his book and money-making than on playing football in his final year.   Kramer’s daughter Alicia Kramer, who launched a campaign to get her dad into the Hall, doesn’t know why it happened now. Maybe it was educating the voters, giving them more information. Maybe it was a push from the Packers fans. And maybe it was all the letters. Alicia Kramer compiled a book with 65 letters from Hall of Famers arguing for Kramer’s inclusion in the Hall, SEE KRAMER, HOF50


HOF50 Thursday, August 2, 2018

KRAMER

most intelligent players on the team, evidenced by his success as an author.”

From Page 49

and she also asked people to write to the selection committee on Kramer’s behalf. When she made the trip to Canton with her dad this year, the Hall’s executive director, Joe Horrigan, told her he’d received a bunch of letters pushing for her dad. “And when he said that, he didn’t think I believed him,” Alicia Kramer said, “so the next time I saw him, he had this whole stack of mail.” One of the letters sent to the Hall was from Starr, Kramer’s former teammate and Hall of Fame quarterback. It said Kramer was a flawless right guard and set up the blocking patterns needed for plays. “He is by consensus one of the finest guards to have played in the 1960s, a decade in which the Packers won five NFL Championships,” the letter reads. “He was also one of the

‘People want to be around him’ Jerry Kramer lives near, Boise, Idaho, but if he sits at home for more than three days, he gets stale. He loves golf, but his back has given him problems the past year and a half, so instead of going out to the course, he’s got 10 putters and a couple chippers and plastic glasses full of golf balls in his living room. Kramer got a stem cell injection in his back, which he thinks might be making it feel better. He got involved with that research about a decade ago, when he decided he might want to start an anti-aging clinic. He has interviewed scientists at some of the country’s leading universities about the possible benefits of stem cell therapy and believes the procedure will one day replace surgery. About 10 years ago, Kramer

REPOSITORY SCOTT HECKEL

★ Jerry Kramer, a member of the Pro

Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018, speaks during a media availability in Canton on March 5.

started a foundation to help retired NFL players. The seed money — $22,000 — came from the profits of auctioning off a replica Super Bowl ring he had made after losing the original on an airplane in 1981. (He got it back 25 years later.) Kramer’s starting salary with the Packers in 1958 was $7,750 with a $250 signing bonus, which would be about $70,000

today. Some of his teammates used to receive $179 a month in pensions after playing more than a decade in the NFL. That made Kramer upset. During interviews at the Super Bowl, he challenged the NFL commissioner to do something for those guys. The commissioner called Kramer a few weeks later, and the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund was born. About six times a year, Kramer goes back to Green Bay for charity events held by the local chapter of the NFL Alumni Association. In the past 30 years, the fundraisers have pumped $4 million back into organizations for children in Wisconsin. Sam Kluck, executive director of the Green Bay chapter of the association, said Kramer is one of fans’ most-loved Packers, and his presence at an event tends to “spice it up.” He’s accessible, and he’s a great storyteller, talking about old times with passion and putting fans back in the game. “He’s just such a favorite

Sat. & Sun. Aug. 25 & 26

alumni, (he) was a great player but an even better ambassador for the Packers after he played, so whenever he comes to town, people want to be around him,” Kluck said. Kramer says he owes a debt to the Green Bay Packers fan base. They paid his salary, and they supported his team. That day in 1968 in Green Bay, the last game of Kramer’s career, he started off the field and became aware of a smattering of applause. He didn’t understand how the fans didn’t understand that it was over, that they were not going to win, that the era had ended.   “And I got closer to the bench, and the applause started getting higher and higher and higher, and people started standing up, and the whole stadium came up in a roaring standing ovation,” Kramer remembered. “And I said, ‘Oh, they know it’s over. And they’re saying thank you.’” Reach Alison at 330-580-8312 or alison.matas@cantonrep.com. On Twitter: @amatasREP

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‘Instant Replay’ Kramer’s book captured legendary ‘Ice Bowl’ By Alison Matas Repository staff writer

June 15, 1967 Practice starts a month from today, and I’m dreading it. I don’t want to work that hard again. I don’t want to take all that punishment again. I really don’t know why I’m going to do it. I must get some enjoyment out of the game, but I can’t say what it is. That’s the start of one of the first entries in Jerry Kramer’s best-selling book “Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer” by Kramer and sports writer Dick Schaap. Schaap overhead Kramer reading poetry to fullback Jim Taylor during training camp. Six years later, he called Kramer and asked him whether he wanted to write a book. At least two nights a week during the 1967 season, Kramer talked into a tape recorder about what had happened during the day and how he felt about it. He mailed the tapes to Schaap, who transcribed them. No one knew at the time, but the 1967 season would be the year of the legendary “Ice Bowl” — when the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Championship Game in minus-13-degree weather, thanks in large part to Kramer blocking tackle Jethro Pugh so quarterback Bart Starr could score the game-winning TD in the final seconds. “Instant Replay” captured all of it. The ground was giving me trouble, the footing was bad down near the goal line, but I dug my cleats in, got a firm hold with my right foot, and we got down in position, and Bart called the “hut” signal. Jethro was on my inside shoulder,

Thursday, August 2, 2018

KRAMER NOTEBOOK Polar bear hunt In 1970, Jerry Kramer was the outdoors editor for Sport magazine and traveled to the Arctic Circle to hunt polar bears. “I woke up this morning feeling guilty about going after that poor old polar bear,” he wrote for the July 1970 issue. “I’m a conservationist at heart, and I really don’t get a great thrill out of killing an animal. I enjoy the hunt much more than the kill.”

Renaissance man AP FILE

★ With seconds remaining, Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr (15) bulls

his way behind the Packers’ play leader and key blocker, Jerry Kramer (64), who is delivering the block to Dallas tackle Jethro Pugh (75), Dec. 31, 1967. Starr’s score gave Green Bay a 21-17 NFL victory, its third year in a row as champions.

my left shoulder. I came off the ball as fast as I ever have in my life. I came off the ball as fast as anyone could. In fact, I wouldn’t swear that I didn’t beat the center’s snap by a fraction of a second. I wouldn’t swear that I wasn’t actually offside on the play. I slammed into Jethro hard. All he had time to do was raise his left arm. The team went on to win the Super Bowl against the Oakland Raiders. The year 1967 also was Vince Lombardi’s last as head coach for the Packers. Kramer — who says the Lombardi principles have governed his life since his second year of professional football — used his book to paint a picture of a coach he sometimes hated but always loved. Kramer spent a decent amount of ink pondering why he played football, whether he ought to retire, and what his purpose was. The movie “Cool Hand Luke” was released while Kramer kept his audio diary, and the scene where Paul Newman’s character escapes from prison and asks God what he wants from him resonated with him.

I ask the same questions. I often wonder where my life is heading, and what’s my purpose here on earth besides play the silly games I play every Sunday. I feel there’s got to be more to life than that. There’s got to be some reason to it. By the end of the season, he figured it out. I know now that for me the main lure of football is the guys, my teammates, the friendship, the fun, the excitement, the incredibly exhilarating feeling of a shared achievement. When I look back upon the 1967 season, before I remember the block on Jethro Pugh, before I remember Bart’s touchdown against the Cowboys, before I remember our victory in the Super Bowl, I remember a very special spirit, a rare camaraderie, something I can’t quite define, but something I’ve tried to capture in this diary.” “Instant Replay” was released in 1968 and became a best-seller. Kramer later ended up writing “Jerry Kramer’s Farewell to Football” and “Distant Replay” and editing “Lombardi: Winning is the Only Thing,” a collection of stories about Lombardi.

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After his retirement from football, Kramer told a reporter for All-Star Sports that he was studying the Kennedy family and re-reading Ayn Rand — an author he liked because she wrote about pursuing excellence. He also had a passion for poetry. Rod McKuen was his favorite at the time, and Kramer said McKuen’s poem about clouds summed him up pretty well. In the same article, Kramer estimated he spent between $4,000 and $5,000 on clothing a year and owned more than 100 pairs of slacks.

The maid The first knock on Kramer’s hotel door at the Super Bowl this year didn’t come from Hall of Fame President David Baker. It came from the maid. “She’s standing there blinking her eyes, wondering what in the world is going on, and so we straighten that out, and then it gets real quiet,” Kramer said. “We were holding our breath as it was, and we were all excited about the knock on the door, and then it wasn’t the person we wanted to see, so we got awkwardly quiet in the room.” A few minutes later, they heard a “boom, boom, boom,” that Kramer thought sounded like it came from a guy who’s 6-foot-9 and about 400 pounds, referring to Baker.

“And I said, ‘Who is it?’ and he giggled a little bit and opened the door and gave me a big hug, and I gave him a hug, and I said, ‘You are the most beautiful man I have ever seen,’ and in that moment, for that purpose, he certainly was (because), you know, that means I’m in.”

The LA Rams In Kramer’s Sandpoint High yearbook, it says his lifetime ambition is to play for the Los Angeles Rams — an idea he got after seeing the movie “Saturday’s Hero.” The Rams came looking for him after his retirement from the Green Bay Packers, but he didn’t end up playing for the team.

Family affair Kramer has six children, and his youngest sons — Matt and Jordan (who is named for the tiny town in Montana where Kramer was born) — both played football for the University of Idaho like their dad. Jordan then moved on to the NFL, where he played for the Tennessee Titans and the Atlanta Falcons.

Jerry Kramer, landlord While Kramer played football, he also was building apartments in Tulsa, Okla., with teammate Don Chandler. They’d scouted California properties and put some of the same amenities — shag carpet and fireplaces — in their units. Kramer thought about making a career out of it. He could stay for five to 10 years, end up with 10,000 apartments, and collect rent for a bit. It could make a lot of money, he reasoned, but it didn’t seem like much of a thrill. “And a little voice in my head said, well I’m not really interested in being profitable at this time,” Kramer said. ALISON MATAS


â– Wide receiver â–  6-foot-3, 225 pounds

Full name: Terrell Eldorado Owens Birthdate: Dec. 7, 1973 Birthplace: Alexander City, Ala. High school: Benjamin Russell College: Tennessee-Chattanooga Pro teams: 1996-2003 San Francisco 49ers, 200405 Philadelphia Eagles, 2006-08 Dallas Cowboys, 2009 Buffalo Bills, 2010 Cincinnati Bengals Uniform numbers: 81, 10 Presenter: George Stewart, former position coach with 49ers HOF52 Thursday, August 2, 2018


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teve Savarese thought he was kidding. He knew the tall, wiry teenager didn’t have much money, which is why he paid him $5 an hour to do chores around his house. Clean the pool, cut the grass, occasionally babysit his kids. But Savarese didn’t truly understand Terrell Owens’ situation until he asked him to help the family get a few Christmas trees on a December day in the early 1990s. “He was helping me bring the trees in when he said, “Coach, you have two Christmas trees. One for inside and outside,’” said Savarese, Owens’ head football coach at Benjamin Russell High School. “And I said, ‘yeah,’ and he said, ‘Coach, we don’t have even have a Christmas tree.’ “I thought he was kidding me. I thought everyone had a Christmas tree.” Later that night, Savarese drove Owens home and found his mother, Marilyn, sitting at a sewing machine near Owens’ siblings. There was no tree. There were no presents. “It was a few days before Christmas,” Savarese said. “That was the environment he came from. He had a hardworking mom and a great grandmother who was probably one of the most influential people in his life, but he really

came from nothing. “He overcame more in his life than most of us will ever have to overcome.” Over the next two two decades, Owens became one of the most famous — and most polarizing — football players in the history of the NFL. He is known as much for his controversies — celebrating on the Dallas Cowboys’ star, signing a football with the Sharpie in his sock, doing sit-ups in his driveway in front of the media and, yes, skipping the Hall of Fame enshrinement — as he is for his production. His statistics scream “first ballot Hall of Famer.” His antics almost certainly forced him to wait three years for induction. But before Owens became “T.O.” — his flamboyant alter-ego — he was

★ Terrell Owens played for the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bengals and Bills. AP PHOTOS

just Terrell, a self-described “scrawny, quiet, awkwardlooking” kid growing up in the depressed river town of Alexander City, Ala., where there was “nothing to do but get into trouble.” His mother, Marilyn, had Terrell when she was just 17 years old after being impregnated by a married man in the neighborhood. Owens didn’t discover his father’s identity until he was 11, when he developed a crush on the girl who lived across the street. “When my father found out about it, he told me I shouldn’t think that way about that girl, and when I asked why not, he told me that girl was my half-sister and that he was my father,” he wrote in his 2006 book, “T.O.” “That’s how I finally learned who my father was.” Marilyn eventually

had three more children, relying on her mother, Alice Black, to help raise the kids while she worked long hours in the nearby Russell Athletic textile mill. It was a strict household, with Black once turning off a Big Red gum commercial because it showed couples kissing, something she felt was inappropriate for kids. (Owens was a teenager at the time.) Owens describes his childhood as poor and lonely. He became a favorite target of bullies — one spit in his mouth while he was sleeping in the back of the bus after a high school track meet — until he finally decided to stand up for himself, grabbing a brick and chasing the bully down the street. “After that day, I could never again go back to being the wimpy coward who was the butt of everyone’s jokes,” he wrote. Owens played four sports in high school — football, basketball, baseball and track — but his love for hoops prompted him to consider quitting football. When Owens told Savarese of his plan, his coach brought him and his mother into his office and pointed out that while there are a lot of 6-foot-2 basketball players in the world, there aren’t a lot of 6-2 wide receivers. While Owens was raw, Savarese believed he had Division I

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football ability. “He was having a little more success in basketball because of his body type, but I explained to them that the reason he wasn’t having success in football was because he wasn’t working out,” Savarese said. “I said, ‘If you put the same effort you put into basketball into football, your high end in football is greater than what it could be in basketball.’ “The amazing thing is, he listened. That’s what separated Terrell from some kids. He took it to heart and started working out twice a day.’ Owens idolized 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice — he wore Rice’s No. 80 in high school — and he started catching bricks in his receiver workouts, a technique famously used by Rice. By his senior year, that hard work was paying off, although he was still overshadowed by another wide receiver on his team named Derek Hall. After getting a verbal commitment from Hall, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coaches started recruiting Owens. According to the (Chattanooga) Times Free Press, after watching Owens play a basketball game that winter, then-Mocs football coach Buddy Nix turned to his assistant coach Bobby Johns SEE OWENS, HOF55


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A tale of two celebrations “We called it the Sharpie memo.”

it the Sharpie memo.” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren was angry about the stunt — “He thought I planted that (marker), By Joe Scalzo Repository sports writer but I didn’t know anything about it,” Mariucci said — and later told reportn the same night ers, “It’s shameful. It’s a Terrell Owens dishonor to everyone who became the face has ever played the game.” of Sharpie markers, San AP JOHN FROSCHAUER Years later, Owens Francisco 49ers coach ★ San Francisco’s Terrell admitted he was stunned Steve Mariucci drew a Owens uses a Sharpie marker by the negative reaction. blank. to autograph the football after “Give me a break,” he On Oct. 14, 2002, late in catching a touchdown pass from wrote in “T.O.” “ESPN a Monday Night Football quarterback Jeff Garcia during put me on the cover of its game between the 49ers a 2002 game against the Seattle magazine, with a line that and the Seattle Seahawks, Seahawks in Seattle. said it all: ‘Guys are beatOwens out-jumped ing their wives, getting Seahawks cornerback about.’” Shawn Springs for a Before they boarded the DUIs and doing drugs, and I get national attention for 37-yard touchdown pass plane back to San Frana SHARPIE?’” from Jeff Garcia to give the cisco, Mariucci pulled While most of Owens’ 49ers a 26-21 lead. Owens aside and asked, touchdown celebrations After scoring, Owens “Did you really pull a were harmless fun — pulled the Sharpie from his Sharpie out of your sock waving pompoms, using sock, signed the ball and and sign the football?’” a football as a pillow for handed it to Greg East“Yep.” a nap, tossing popcorn man, who happened to be “Who gave you the through his facemask — he a financial consultant for Sharpie?” crossed the line when he both Owens and Springs “I can’t tell you that, celebrated on the midand who was sitting in coach.” field star in a 2000 road Springs’ luxury box. “So I asked him, ‘Why game against the Dallas While Al Michaels and did you do that?’ and he Cowboys. John Madden were chuck- said, ‘Coach, I just knew After scoring a second ling over the stunt on the we were going to win the quarter touchdown, Monday Night Football game and I was gonna Owens ran to midfield, broadcast, Mariucci was make a play,’” Mariucci yelling for his two-point said. “What are you going raised his arms and looked conversion team to get on to say to that? ‘No, you’re up to the sky. His position coach, the field. not’? I just shook my George Stewart, said it was “I didn’t see it,” Marihead.” a nod to the story that the ucci said. “After some To this day, Mariucci touchdowns, you’re not stadium had an open roof isn’t sure who gave him necessarily watching so God could watch the the marker — according the guy who scored the Cowboys play. to Owens, it was a team touchdown. You’re calling trainer and it happened “The comment was, if for a one- or two-point you score, go to that star in the middle of the third play, calling for the right quarter — and all Mariucci and give thanks to God,” offense to get out there, told him was, “Don’t do it Stewart later told the NFL making sure there are 11 again.” Network. Owens gave a guys on the field. That sort “Right after that, (Saints different reasoning in his of thing. WR) Joe Horn put a cell book, saying, “Look, I was “I didn’t know about it phone in the padded goal trying to pump up my team until somebody asked me post and then everyone got — we were 0-3 and facing about it in the press cona memo from the league the Cowboys on the road.” ference. I was like, ‘I don’t saying, ‘No more props,’” Cowboys running back know what you’re talking Mariucci said. “We called Emmitt Smith mimicked

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Owens’ celebration when he scored a touchdown minutes later, planting the ball at midfield. But the stunt didn’t become legendary until Owens tried to do it again after a touchdown with four minutes left in the fourth quarter and the 49ers leading 40-17. After Owens planted the ball on the ground, Cowboys DB George Teague leveled him. This time, Mariucci saw everything. He chewed out Owens in the locker room in front of his teammates and suspended him without pay for the next game, costing him $24,294. “I didn’t feel it was appropriate, let’s just call it that,” Mariucci said. “I didn’t feel he showed the sportsmanship he needed to display.” Later, Mariucci said he made a mistake, saying he should have let the 49ers’ management suspend Owens. The decision caused a rift between the two that never quite healed. “We all know it created friction between us, but if you look up the stats, he was the best receiver in the league after that,” Mariucci said. “The best three years of his career were 2000, 2001 and 2002. He was the best receiver in the NFL. “Was it difficult at times between the two of us? Of course, but he didn’t shut it down. He practiced hard, he played hard and he was motivated to prove that he was the best. We had a playmaker, there’s no doubt about that.”

Reach Joe at 330-580-8573 or joe.scalzo@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @jscalzoREP

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In the spotlight: Five other T.O. controversies

errell Owens is no stranger to controversy, whether it’s after celebrating on the Dallas Cowboys’ star, using a Sharpie to autograph a football after a touchdown or doing sit-ups in his driveway during a contract dispute with the Philadelphia Eagles. Here are five other situations where Owens found himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. ■ 2004: In an interview with Playboy magazine, when asked if he thinks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia is gay, Owens responds: “Like my boy tells me: ‘If it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it is a rat.’” Garcia (who now has four children with his wife, a former Playboy playmate) calls the accusation “ridiculous and untrue” and Owens quickly backs off the comment, saying “the conversation was loose and from my knowledge, I’m not sure if Jeff is gay or not.” ■ 2004: Owens’ agent at the time, David Joseph, misses the NFL free agency filing deadline, costing Owens a chance to hit the market. After the 49ers try to trade Owens to the Baltimore Ravens for a second-round pick, the NFL Players Association files a grievance on Owens’ behalf. He is eventually traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he signs a seven-year, $49-million contract over the NFLPA’s objections. Because

the contract was back-loaded, the decision likely costs him millions. ■ 2004: Before a Monday Night Football game, Owens appears in a “Desperate Housewives” skit where he is convinced to miss the game after Edie (one of the show’s characters played by Nicolette Sheridan) drops her towel and jumps into Owens’ arms. ABC gets flooded with complaints and Owens later writes that he “can’t help suspecting that many of those calls were from racists who were angry to see a pretty blonde woman throw herself at a black jock.” ■ 2006: In a December game against the Atlanta Falcons, Owens spits in the face of cornerback DeAngelo Hall, which results in a $35,000 fine. Owens later tells reporters, “I wanted to prove I’m not a guy to be schemed with.” ■ 2018: After criticizing the Hall of Fame voters for not inducting him in 2016 or 2017, Owens opts to skip his Hall of Fame enshrinement, releasing a statement that reads: “While I am incredibly appreciative of this opportunity, I have made the decision to publicly decline my invitation to attend the induction ceremony in Canton. After visiting Canton earlier this year, I came to the realization that I wish to celebrate what will be one of the most memorable days of my life, elsewhere.” JOE SCALZO


Thursday, August 2, 2018

OWENS From Page 53

and said, “Hall should help us as a freshman. The other kid, we might wind up watching him play on Sunday.” Owens played sparingly as a freshman at UTC, catching six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. UTC replaced the coaching staff in the offseason and Owens developed into a starter, catching 38 passes for 724 yards and eight touchdowns. His best game came against defending I-AA champion Marshall, where he caught five passes for 145 yards and four touchdowns in a stunning 33-31 victory. “They were the No. 1 team in the country and we weren’t very good,” said former UTC assistant coach Shane Montgomery, who is now the offensive coordinator at UNCCharlotte. “But we ended up beating them because he had a huge game.” Over the next two years, Owens continued to put up big numbers, finishing his career with 144 receptions for 2,320 yards and 19 touchdowns. Although he was inconsistent — Nix later joked that he “dropped as many passes as he caught for us” — he impressed his coaches with his unrivaled work ethic, on and off the field. “He practiced and played as hard as anybody I’ve ever been around,” said Montgomery, who later coached Ben Roethlisberger at Miami (Ohio) and spent seven seasons at Youngstown State. “He practiced hard, he lifted weights hard, he played hard and he gave everything he had. And he never got in trouble off the field. The stuff you saw later in his career, the things with Donovan McNabb and all that, we didn’t have anything like that.”

And while he was a threesport standout for the Mocs — he played in the 1995 NCAA men’s basketball tournament and anchored the school’s 4x100-meter relay at the NCAA championships — his future was clearly in football. “The big thing was, when people came in to look at him, he was clearly a draftable kid,” Montgomery said. “Everyone was trying to predict what kind of pro he would be, but some people really liked him. And the 49ers obviously liked him.” San Francisco chose Owens in the third round with the 89th overall pick. It was arguably the greatest wide receiver draft in history, with five going in the first round (led by Keyshawn Johnson, who went No. 1 overall to the Jets), eight making at least one Pro Bowl and two getting inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Owens and Marvin Harrison). San Francisco was a good landing spot for Owens, who was mentored by Rice (who made the Pro Bowl that fall) and future Hall of Famer Steve Young. “He got with the perfect people in the NFL,” Montgomery said. “He got with guys that showed him how to work and he got in a structured setting.” He was decent his first season, catching 35 passes for 520 yards and four TDs, then broke out in 1997, his first under new head coach Steve Mariucci. Rice went down with a torn ACL early in the season and Owens stepped into the starting lineup opposite J.J. Stokes, catching 60 passes for 936 yards and eight TDs. “Going into my first season, he certainly looked the part — he was a physical specimen — and I remember him being very quiet, very humble,” Mariucci said. “He was very good with the media, yes ma’am, no

AP TONY O DEJAK

★ Philadelphia’s Terrell Owens catches a 40-yard touchdown pass in front of

Cleveland’s Anthony Henry during a 2004 game in Cleveland.

sir. He kind of took a backseat, trying to watch and learn.” When Rice returned the next season, Owens offered to return to his role as the team’s third receiver. “He told me, ‘I don’t want to stir the pot,’” Mariucci said. “I thought he was being a heck of a teammate. I appreciated him saying that, but I told him, ‘We’ll make the decision on who plays.’” That attitude wouldn’t last. As Owens got better, he also got

bolder and brasher, a change triggered by his game-winning catch in a 1998 wild card playoff game against the Packers. After struggling with drops much of the game, Owens caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Young with three seconds left, absorbing two monster hits in the end zone, in what was later dubbed “The Catch II.” “That game changed my career,” he wrote. “That one play turned me into a hero set

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on a path toward stardom.” By 2000, Owens was a first team All-Pro selection. He was also turning into a headache, making headlines for twice running to the midfield star after scoring a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys that season. Over the next decade, he would become as well known for celebrating touchdowns as he was for scoring them, whether it was signing a ball with a Sharpie, grabbing the 49er cheerleaders’ pompoms, using the ball for a pillow or emptying a cup of popcorn inside his helmet. He also feuded with his coaches, his quarterbacks and the media (particularly the ones who vote on the Hall of Fame), claimed he was misquoted in his own autobiography and spit in an opponent’s face. “In any walk of life, if you go from one step to the next and become successful, your confidence level will increase, your self esteem will improve, you’ll get more compliments, you get more adulation from people, you get more money and … it’s hard to stay the same,” Mariucci said. “He wasn’t that quiet young man from Chattanooga. He became a star.” He still is — or, at least, he still wants to be. Over the last decade, he’s dabbled in acting, rapping and modeling. He’s been on the cover of “Madden” and on Dancing with the Stars. Like his VH1 reality TV series, it’s all just part of “The T.O. Show.” “In today’s world, with what people do today, he might just be kind of average,” Savarese said. “He might have just been a little ahead of his time.” Savarese chuckled, then added, “Maybe the NFL wishes he wasn’t.” Reach Joe at 330-580-8573 or joe.scalzo@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @jscalzoREP


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