Class of the day
The Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomes its 2009 class Saturday. Here's a look at the hall's six newest members, along with some things you might know and a few things you might not know.
Randall McDaniel Offensive guard
He is known for his 12 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, but don't forget he spent the final two years of his career in a Bucs uniform. If you were putting together an all-time football team, McDaniel might very well be one of your two guards. He started 202 consecutive games in his career, and here's an even more impressive starting string: He started 12 consecutive Pro Bowls. What's he doing now? Living the high life? Kicking up his feet? Fishing and golfing? Nope. He's giving back. He's a full-time basic skills instructor at an elementary school near Minneapolis. To his second-graders, he isn't one of the greatest football players ever. He's simply Mr. McDaniel.
Bob Hayes Wide receiver
The Jacksonville native and Florida A&M standout had his greatest moment not on the football field, but on the track. At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Hayes tied the world record in the 100 meters at 10.0 seconds, even though he was wearing borrowed spikes. He then won his second gold medal in the 400 relay. The Cowboys took a flier on Hayes, making him a seventh-round draft pick. He was so fast — the nickname Bullet Bob was fitting — that some claim teams developed the zone defense and bump-and-run because no one could cover him one-on-one. He made three Pro Bowls and was twice an All-Pro. He seemed to be a shoo-in for the 2004 class. When he wasn't voted in then, longtime NFL writer Paul Zimmerman briefly gave up his vote in protest. Hayes died in 2002 of kidney failure caused by prostate cancer.
Bruce Smith Defensive end
Smith is the NFL's all-time sack leader with 200, and he recorded most of those sacks while playing in a 3-4 defense. That means he was double-teamed much of the time. He spent a few latter seasons with the Redskins, but he will always be known for his time with the Bills. His old coach in Buffalo, Marv Levy, called him the greatest defensive end in the history of the game. But for as fearsome as he was on the field, he was just as gentle off it. At this moment, Smith's life is a mixed bag. He runs a real estate development company, Bruce Smith Enterprises, but he was recently convicted of drunken driving and speeding. He is appealing the conviction.
Rod Woodson Cornerback
He played 17 seasons, most notably with the Steelers, and recorded 71 interceptions and 32 fumble recoveries. He was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection and the 1993 defensive player of the year. He enters the hall as a cornerback, but he also made the Pro Bowl as a safety. And Woodson holds another notable distinction. He was the first player to return from reconstructive knee surgery in the same season. In 1995 he tore up his knee in the season opener against the Lions and was thought to be lost for the season. The Steelers' Super Bowl hopes seemed to be derailed as well. But the Steelers advanced to Super Bowl XXX 19 weeks later. Woodson played, and the lasting memory is him pointing at his reconstructed knee after breaking up a pass intended for the Cowboys' Michael Irvin.
Derrick Thomas Linebacker
No player collected more sacks during the 1990s than this Kansas City linebacker, who racked up 1161/2. On top of that, he forced 45 fumbles (then an NFL record), had 19 fumble recoveries, scored four touchdowns on fumble returns and was responsible for three safeties. He played 11 seasons (making the Pro Bowl nine times) before his death at age 33 in early 2000. Thomas was driving when his SUV veered off Interstate 435 near Kansas City. He was left paralyzed from the chest down, and two weeks later he died of a pulmonary embolism. But the program he created in 1990 — the Derrick Thomas Third and Long Foundation, dedicated to benefiting children in disadvantaged situations — continues to thrive. And did you know that the Derrick Thomas Academy, a charter school for inner-city youths, was the first school in the country named for an NFL player?
Ralph Wilson Jr. Owner
Bless his heart, the Buffalo Bills owner enters the hall at age 90, which also makes him the oldest owner in the NFL. He grew up in Detroit and purchased several manufacturing outlets, construction firms and radio stations, as well as a piece of the Lions. He then became an original owner in the American Football League when, after failing to get a team in Miami, he started the Bills. The Bills play in Ralph Wilson Stadium, one of the few stadiums in pro sports that doesn't have a sponsor's name. Not surprising for one of the league's most stubborn owners.
St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.
Suggestion of the day
Now that Jeremy Roenick has retired after 20 seasons in the NHL, some TV network needs to hire him right away, whether it be Versus, ESPN or NBC. He's brutally honest, funny and intelligent, and would fit in on any telecast. And he would work better in the United States than in Canada because he understands how to sell the game. Roenick, 39, still has one of the best ideas anyone has come up with in regards to the NHL on American television: put some games on, say, HBO or Showtime, put microphones on the players and don't censor their comments.
Analysis of the day
Who's going to the win the American League East? Right now, Fox analyst Tim McCarver is leaning toward the Yankees.
"I thought the Red Sox were the clear favorites the first two months of the season, but I'm not sure right now,'' McCarver said. "The Yankees have played with a lot of confidence, even when they aren't playing well."
Replacement of the day
It's never easy to replace a legend. Who has the toughest job in the NFL this season as a replacement? It might be NBC's Cris Collinsworth, top left, who replaces legendary announcer John Madden, bottom left, as Al Michaels’ partner on Sunday Night Football. "I keep thinking and hoping, probably in the back of my mind, that I was going to get one of those calls from John that he was just joking,'' Collinsworth said. "We would all love to see John Madden sitting right next to Al, but unfortunately he was ready to retire. I have talked to John a couple of times this offseason, and he's happy. I think he is a little anxious. I think his motor is running a little bit right now. He's so used to getting going with football; he's done it his whole life. He still loves the game and is still following it very closely, and it's exciting for him to see football season come around. I certainly plan on staying in touch with him.''