The Pro Football Hall of Fame induction became a family affair Saturday night.
Michael Irvin lauded the Dallas Cowboys family for inspiring him to make it to Canton, Ohio. Thurman Thomas punctuated his acceptance speech by asking his wife to marry him again. Charlie Sanders finally got to say, “Hi, Mom.”
Bruce Matthews campaigned to have his brother, Clay, join him in Canton. Roger Wehrli praised the timing of his election because it allowed his grandchildren to share something special with him.
And Gene Hickerson’s son, Bob, accepted on behalf of his father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Then Gene was brought onto the stage in a wheelchair guided by former teammates Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly and Bobby Mitchell – all running backs he helped into the hall.
Irvin kissed his hall bust before he capped the riveting ceremony with a preacher’s intensity. His eyes wet, his words coming slowly and emphatically, he commended Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and fellow “triplets” Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman for motivating him. He saluted Cowboys fans everywhere, but saved his most moving tributes for the relatives who stuck with him through three Super Bowl wins and all the difficulties away from the field.
Irvin pleaded no contest to felony cocaine possession and was put on probation for four years after a March 1996 arrest. Police crashed Irvin’s 30th birthday party and found him, marijuana, cocaine and strippers in a hotel room.
He subsequently had other incidents with police.
Thomas, a second-round pick in 1988, set a record by leading the NFL in total yards from scrimmage four consecutive seasons. The 1991 league MVP, he rushed for 12,074 yards in his career, and only all-time rushing leader Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders ran for more yards in the 1990s.
Citing what he called a “simple but memorable life,” Sanders entered the hall by thanking a mother he never knew – she died when he was 2 years old.
Matthews also joined the family theme, campaigning for his brother, former linebacker Clay Matthews, to join him in the hall.
Wehrli was a shutdown cornerback from 1969-82 who also excelled as a punt returner.
Tomlin era begins
Chuck Noll won four Super Bowls in six seasons and wound up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bill Cowher kept the success going in Pittsburgh, won an NFL title 18 months ago, and might soon join Noll in the hall.
Welcome to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ illustrious sideline history, Mike Tomlin.
Now go out and match your predecessors.
Maybe that’s a bit harsh on the new man in the job, who begins his tenure as Steelers coach tonight in the Hall of Fame Game against the New Orleans Saints (5 p.m. NFL Network). But it’s what the folks in Pittsburgh have come to expect, and with the Steel City a short drive from Canton, Ohio, quite a few Steelers fans will be on hand at Fawcett Stadium – even if it’s merely the first game of the preseason.
Tomlin sure feels some excitement.
“Yeah, because I’ve sat in the back seat and passenger seat enough and you always talk about, ‘Boy, I’d like to do that,’ ” he said.
Colts, Simon part ways
The Indianapolis Colts released former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Corey Simon.
Colts owner Jim Irsay said Wednesday that he expected to release the tackle within the next few days.
Simon did not pass his physical last weekend. He was expected to report to camp on time July 29 but was never seen at Rose Hulman Institute of Technology.
Simon did not play last year during the Colts’ Super Bowl-winning season and was eventually placed on the non-football illness/injury list with an undisclosed ailment.
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