Sharpe, Faulk head Hall of Fame class

February 05, 2011|By David Haugh, Tribune Newspapers

DALLAS — All Shannon Sharpe thought about Saturday was whether his 88-year-old grandmother, Mary Porter, ever would see him get elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"I thought if it doesn't happen today…,'' Sharpe began, his voice trailing. "The only thing I've ever wanted was to make my grandmother proud and I said if I don't get in, she's not going to hear me thank her and be able to give a speech. Granny, thanks for everything you did. I'm the man I am today because of you.''

Sharpe was one of seven men elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame by a 44-member panel that met for 71/2 hours to pare down a list of 15 finalists.

The six others who will be inducted Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio, are running back Marshall Faulk, cornerback Deion Sanders, defensive end Richard Dent, linebackers Chris Hanburger and Les Richter and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol.

Faulk fought back tears when asked about what this meant to his mother, Cecile, but composed himself to express his gratitude.

"I wanted the ball in my hands so I could do something with it," Faulk said.

Sanders, the outstanding cornerback/kick returner and sometime wide receiver known as "Prime Time" with five teams, is a two-time Super Bowl winner and was the defensive player of the year in 1994.

"I'm excited. These guys — are you kidding me? It's hard to describe," Sanders said. "To be held up in high regard, to this standard … I am honored."

Sanders also played major league baseball. But football clearly was his calling.

"He was an electrifying performer who put fans on the edge of their seats every time he manned his cornerback position or dropped back to receive a kickoff or field a punt," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. "Deion is, without question, one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL."

Few will have traveled a more circuitous road to Canton than Dent. An eighth-round draft pick out of Tennessee State by the Bears, he had 1371/2 career sacks.

"I'm very happy … it was a long time coming,'' said Dent, a finalist in seven of the previous eight years. "When you start a career you never think about the Hall of Fame, but watching a guy like Walter Payton he would say, 'Don't do what I say, do what I do.' If you can do your thing the way he does his, the possibility is you will get in the Hall of Fame.''

Hanburger played 14 pro seasons with the Redskins and made nine Pro Bowls thanks to an attacking style that included clothesline tackles. That earned him the nickname "The Hangman."

"I am just overwhelmed," Hanburger said. "It's such a tremendous honor to be nominated, let alone get in. Have to think of all the men who played before me and all the men I played with."

Richter played linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams from 1954-62. They traded 11 players for him and waited two years while he was in the military before he suited up. He made the wait worthwhile, going to eight straight Pro Bowls.

Richter died in June.

The streak is over: One of the four men featured in a national commercial for never missing a Super Bowl game will not be at Sunday's game.

Family members say 79-year-old Robert Cook of Brown Deer, Wis., is hospitalized and has sent his two daughters to Texas instead.

Cook's wife, Sarah, told the Associated Press her husband is very depressed the streak is over, but also because he won't be able to watch his beloved Packers in person.

Sitting out: Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden did not participate in Saturday's jog-through practice, putting his availability for the Super Bowl in doubt.

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