Eclectic group to enter Pro Football Hall of Fame
Canton, Ohio • Those Super Bowl rings will have a blinding shine to them at Saturday night's Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions.
From a championship coach to linemen on both sides of the ball, the 2013 class features an enviable resume of success.
There's Bill Parcells, winner of two NFL titles as a coach and master of the franchise turnaround. Jonathan Ogden, one of the premier offensive tackles of his time and owner of a Super Bowl ring. Larry Allen, to whom the same accolades can be applied, and a 1995 champion.
Warren Sapp, an outstanding defensive tackle with a personality as big as any football stadium and a 2002 champ.
Dave Robinson, a major cog in Green Bay's championship machine under Vince Lombardi, winning the first two Super Bowls. Curley Culp, one of the original pass-rushing demons at defensive tackle who got his ring with the 1969 Chiefs.
Indeed, only wide receiver Cris Carter, merely No. 4 in career receptions and TD catches, is the only member of this year's class who never won a title.
Quite a group for the Hall's 50th anniversary celebration, which began Friday with a record 120 hall members expected to attend the ceremonies.
"I can't think of a better group of people to go into the Hall of Fame with," said Ogden, the Baltimore Ravens' first-ever draft choice and the first team member elected to the hall.
"It feels great. When I was playing, I was just out there working. I couldn't help the fact that I was the Ravens' first pick. It just kind of happened, and in my mind, all I wanted to do was go out there and help the guys win. So I don't look at it in that perspective. When I do step outside of myself and look at it, it's like, 'Wow, that guy, he had it pretty good.'"
Ogden, Allen and Sapp have the distinction of making the hall in their first year of eligibility. It's all the more impressive considering all three were linemen.
Allen became the anchor of the Cowboys' blocking unit for a dozen seasons, then finished his career with two years in San Francisco. He made six All-Pro teams and 11 Pro Bowls, playing guard and tackle.
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones believes "Larry would have been a Hall of Famer at guard or tackle, and either side. He was special like that."
Allen also was one of the strongest players the NFL has seen.
Sapp, whose induction speech might be the most anticipated because he's liable to say anything, was a cornerstone of Tampa Bay's powerful defense that was the key to winning the Buccaneers' only title after decades of futility.
"We took a place where they said careers came to die to a place that's become a destination," Sapp said, noting the Tampa 2 scheme is now played by defenses everywhere.
Parcells also was heavily involved in making popular and successful a specific alignment. The 3-4 defense came to life under Parcells with the New York Giants, and he led them to the 1986 and 1990 championships.
Parcells says it was his duty to provide a prosperous environment.
"You as an individual coach have a responsibility to try to give those players who put themselves at risk and in harm's way a chance to achieve success, and that goes for universities and professional teams, as well," Parcells said." I know I preached that to every organization and to every coaching staff I ever had. These guys deserve a chance to win, and we have to give it to them."
He did it in New England and with the Jets and Cowboys after leaving the Giants.
Robinson and Culp were voted in as senior members. Considering their pedigrees, it's stunning it took so long for them to make it; Robinson retired in 1974, Culp in 1981.
"That bust means an awful lot," Robinson said. "That bust will last forever."
Even though Carter can't flash a sporty Super Bowl ring, he can show off those mitts that clutched so many balls, perhaps the best set of hands any receiver has had. Highlights of his sideline catches remain a learning tool for wideouts today.
"Every minute that I stepped on that field from the time that I warmed up, I was trying to put on a show for those people," said Carter, who played 12 of his 16 seasons with Minnesota. "So they would be proud. I come from some humble beginnings, and I just believed that when people pay their money, hard-earned money, that they deserve a certain level of performance."