The 2013 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is seven deep this year. The list consists of Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden, Curley Culp, Cris Carter, Bill Parcells, David Robinson, and Warren Sapp. Most leading up to the enshrinement ceremony were looking forward mostly to what Carter had to say considering that he was previously passed over five times for the Hall of Fame, but was successful in being part of the 2013 class.
The first one to speak in front of the Canton crowd was Jonathan Ogden, the Ravens’ offensive tackle who was selected to 11 Pro Bowl teams (tied for fifth all time among offensive linemen) and won a championship with the Ravens in 2000. In addition, he was also selected to four First Team All-Pro teams. It also serves as history for the Ravens because Ogden is the first enshrinee to be inducted as a Raven since they moved from Cleveland (the original Cleveland Browns).
Something tells me he will be eventually joined by Ed Reed and Ray Lewis in a few years.
Ogden was presented by former teammate and current Baltimore general manager, Ozzie Newsome. He began by thanking Newsome and the Ravens for the original draft pick in 1996. He, not Ray Lewis, was the first ever draft pick for the Ravens. For the most part, he spent most of his speech thanking people that were influential in his Hall of Fame career, from his mother, to his teammates at St. Alban’s High School, to those at his alma mater, UCLA, to his shot put coach, to his football coach—Terry Donahue. He would also mention Art Modell in his speech, which, expectedly received jeers from the few Cleveland Browns fans that made the short drive from northern Ohio to Canton.
Dave Robinson was next to speak after Ogden. He was once drafted twice in 1963 while the NFL and AFL were engaged in a battle for supremacy in American Football pre-merger. The NFL’s Green Bay Packers (coached at the time by someone named Vince Lombardi) drafted this linebacker in the first round while the AFL’s San Diego Chargers would select him in the third round (when there weren’t as many picks as there are today). He was a three time Pro Bowler and won two Super Bowls with Lombardi’s Packers. Those were also the first two Super Bowls ever competed after the NFL-AFL merger.
David Robinson, his son, presented him. He first mentioned a few birthdays close to him, then gave a background of his life story. This included his time as a player at Penn State. This fact may not mean as much now as it did a few years ago, but he did once play for Joe Paterno. Interestingly, in his speech, he connected his being enshrined into the Hall of Fame to Lombardi once saying that the creation of the Hall (during Robinson’s rookie year in the league) was the “greatest thing to ever happen to football”.
Lombardi would probably agree given the amount of his Packers that have seen their busts get placed in Canton.
Next on the list was Larry Allen. He is a clear example of why projecting who will be an NFL star via the Draft is better served by not being done at all. The Cowboys chose him out of the 2nd round in 1994 out of Sonoma State while the Cowboys were in the throws of their early to mid 1990s dynasty that saw “America’s Team” win 3 championships in the era of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin. He also would be selected to 11 Pro Bowls. Allen won one of those rings.
Allen’s presenter was current owner of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones. ESPN and NFL Network were conducting pre-enshrinement analysis on who they thought would shed tears during their speech first. Allen did tear up when he mentioned his family, including his daughters. One of them, he said is currently a basketball player, and the other will soon be attending Pepperdine University. Up to that point, his speech was certainly the most emotional.
Yeah, and there was the one-liner about 40 ounces.
Speaking of Cowboys, Bill Parcells coached for the team that wears the star on the side of its helmet for a period in the mid-2000s when the Boys were enduring the Quincy Carter error. The Big Tuna didn’t win a championship in Dallas, but he did turn the Cowboys into legitimate contenders in the NFC. He did win two championships in the 90s with the New York Giants, including the infamous “wide right” Super Bowl XXV over the Buffalo Bills in 1990. The G-men were anything but Giant prior to the hiring of Parcells in 1983. He also turned around the Jets and Patriots, taking them to the postseason as well. He’s the only coach in history to clinch playoff berths with four different teams.
Parcells was anything but a players’ coach as he was a tough-as-nails disciplinarian. Some of his run-ins with the press were also very memorable.
George Martin, who played for the Giants under Parcells, was his presenter. Martin said that he still refers to Parcells as his coach in many ways. Parcells dropped a one-liner to the Hall of Fame committee saying that when his bust is placed inside the building that he’s near Lawrence Taylor so he could “keep an eye on that sucker”. At that point, Parcells was perhaps the most articulate of the speakers as the topics he mentioned ranged from the consequences of his first two seasons with the New York Giants (1983 and 1984) to accountability for players, coaches, and executives that make up a team.
After Parcells was finished, Curley Culp took the podium. His enshrinement made him the 8th member of the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs to be placed in the Hall of Fame. Those former AFL Chiefs became Super Bowl champions with a 27-3 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Culp was also a member of the “Luv Ya Blue” Houston Oilers teams from the mid and late 1970s. Culp was named to six Pro Bowls.
He was presented by his son, Chad Culp. It was said in the press that Culp’s speech originally wasn’t as long as it turned out to be. After the obligatory career reflection and numerous “thank-yous”, Culp ended his speech with advice for young, up-and-coming NFL players.
There’s a reason why Warren Sapp, and neither Kyle Brady nor New York Jets head coach Rich Kotite, is in the Hall of Fame. In the 1995 NFL Draft, the Jets had the first pick and fans were excited to welcome Sapp out of “The U” to New York. Except, the Jets picked Kyle Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose him in the first round. The rest for both the Jets and Buccaneers is history. The Jets faded and Sapp would lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl victory over the Oakland Raiders. His career statistics include being named to six Pro Bowls and 96 ½ career sacks.
His daughter, Mercedes, did the honors of presenting him into the Hall of Fame. In addition to everything else, his bust was also given braids (or cornrows). Ironically, Tampa Bay is not too far from Plymouth, Florida where Sapp grew up and which he shouted out in his speech. He also mentioned family as well as Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden, the two coaches most consider very influential in the Bucs path to winning their Super Bowl in 2002. Sapp also said, “I didn’t play this game to get into the Hall of Fame. I played this game to help my mom retire because she worked to the bone.” Number 99 currently, of course, is an analyst for Showtime and NFL Network and was comical for most of his speech, but got emotional towards the end.
Six down, one to go. It was time for Ohio’s very own Cris Carter to step to the podium. After attending Ohio State and getting suspended from the school, he was drafted out of the supplemental draft. It was with the Minnesota Vikings where Carter made his mark in the league. He was an integral element in the 1998 Vikings team that is regarded as one of the greatest offenses in NFL history. He made the Pro Bowl eight times and caught over 1100 passes in his career for 130 touchdowns.
Cris, as well, was presented by his son, DuRon. He said, “I appreciate the process.” The “process” meaning what one has to endure by the Hall of Fame selection committee in order to be enshrined into the Hall. He was passed over several times and had support for his Hall of Fame candidacy even from those who were not Vikings fans. “I’m sorry.”—Carter said this to Ohio State fans in regards to him not being able to play for the Buckeyes in his last year of eligibility. He even referenced the man who cut him as an Eagle—Buddy Ryan. Minnesota Vikings fans, his current colleagues at ESPN, and his family also received honorable mention in his emotional message.
His closing line: “Buckeye, born and bred, now a Hall of Famer, even after I’m dead.”
Another year, another list of greats that have received football’s highest honor.
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