Munoz, Singletary lead five into Hall Krause also elected

Newsome just misses

January 25, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Munoz and Chicago Bears middle linebacker Mike Singletary, each of whom defined standards at their positions throughout the 1980s and played their entire careers with one team, headed a list of five players voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame yesterday.

Elected in addition to Munoz and Singletary were Minnesota Vikings safety Paul Krause, Miami Dolphins center Dwight Stephenson and wide receiver Tommy McDonald, who played most of his 12-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles. McDonald, who played from 1957 to 1968, made it as the seniors nominee.

The 1998 class will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 1, increasing the Hall's membership to 194.

Ravens vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome, who holds the NFL career receptions record for tight ends, narrowly missed in his second chance for the Hall of Fame. Newsome was among yesterday's seven finalists.

Pittsburgh Steelers president Dan Rooney was the other finalist who failed to collect enough votes from the 36-member Board of Selectors.

The committee spent yesterday morning reducing the finalists from 15 to six, not counting the seniors nominee. They then conducted a final vote on each player.

"This is unbelievable. I was sitting in a room here and I thought I was pretty calm," said Munoz, who then bowed his head and sobbed for nearly a minute.

"Back when I was at USC, I realized what I had was a gift as a football player, and I want to thank the Lord for those gifts. I want to thank my wife and my family, and I want to thank a gentleman by the name of Paul Brown who drafted me out of USC and gave me a chance to play in the NFL."

Munoz, considered the prototypical 300-pound lineman of his time, was the third player drafted in 1980. He immediately made good on his chance. Overcoming knee surgery in college, Munoz missed only four starts between 1980 and 1990.

As a cornerstone of the offensive line, he used a rare combination of size, strength and quickness to help the Bengals reach the Super Bowl in 1982 and 1988. He was named to play in 11 Pro Bowls and was a three-time NFL Offensive Lineman of the Year.

Like Munoz, Singletary was selected in his first year of eligibility. They join 44 other players who made the Hall of Fame on their first try.

A nearly unanimous all-rookie choice out of Baylor in 1981, Singletary led a Bears defense that terrorized opponents during the 1985 season, in which Chicago went 18-1 and won its only Super Bowl.

Singletary, known for the wide-eyed glare that symbolized his on-the-field intensity, missed only two games during his 12-year career. He finished as the Bears' top or second-leading tackler in 11 seasons, and earned trips to 10 consecutive Pro Bowls.

Singletary now works as a motivational speaker. He received the news yesterday between sessions at a seminar in Orlando, Fla.

"I feel so blessed. I'm thrilled and honored," Singletary said. "Thank God I was surrounded by so many great players and [former Bears defensive coordinator] Buddy Ryan and all his greatness. I was just a player who made the most of the ability he had, and who really considered the opportunity to play to be a privilege."

Stephenson made it to Canton in his sixth year of eligibility, and one year after he was among the final six players considered for induction. Although a serious left knee injury forced him to retire after eight seasons (1980-87), and considered by some to be too short a career to warrant Hall of Fame recognition, he was the dominant center of his era.

He became the Dolphins' starting center late in his second season, and went on to play in two Super Bowls and five Pro Bowls.

Krause's big day came after 14 years of eligibility. As a free safety who played the bulk of his 16 seasons with the Vikings, he played in four Super Bowls and eight Pro Bowls, and holds the career interceptions record with 81.

McDonald made his mark in Philadelphia, where he teamed up with quarterback Norm Van Brocklin for the first seven seasons of a 12-year career that took him to five different teams. McDonald ranked sixth all-time in receptions (495), fourth in yardage (8,410) and second in touchdowns (84) when he retired after the 1968 season. He made six Pro Bowls.

For Newsome, the day produced mixed feelings. A year ago, he was among 15 finalists considered, but did not make the final list. Yesterday, the selection committee was impressed enough with his career -- 662 receptions, three Pro Bowls -- to advance his name to the final vote.

"I felt a little bit better about it this year. It would have been a thrill, but that's significant progress [toward eventual induction], the way I see it," Newsome said.

Although he played in three AFC championship games, he never played in a Super Bowl during his 13-year career with the Cleveland Browns, a fact he figures did not help his case.

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