Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sapp, six others elected to Hall of Fame

NEW ORLEANS — Bill Parcells was a winner everywhere he coached. He pulled off another win Saturday — election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The former coach leads an class that includes defensive lineman Warren Sapp, receiver Cris Carter, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, tackle/guard Larry Allen and two senior selections, defensive tackle Curley Culp and linebacker Dave Robinson.

Parcells, 71, earned a bust in Canton on his fourth try. He believed he might get in last year in tandem with one of his former players, Curtis Martin.

"It was a little less stressful than last year," Parcells said. "I was kind of hoping we could do it together. But as fate would have it, it didn't work out."

Parcells reversed the fortunes of four teams, coaching the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys (and almost the Bucs, twice) over 19 seasons. He went 172-130-1, most notably leading the Giants to Super Bowl titles in 1987 and 1991.

Giants president and CEO John Mara said Parcells' selection was "long overdue." But his candidacy stirred plenty of debate — a one-hour discussion among the voters, by far the longest among the finalists.

"He's one of the best coaches in NFL history," Mara said. "We went through a long period in the 1960s and '70s when we were a laughingstock. When Bill took over in 1983, he survived a very difficult first year (3-12-1) but then turned us into a perennial playoff contender. Everywhere he went, he had great success."

No one was more emotional than Carter, for whom it took six years to get in despite putting up some of the best receiving numbers in NFL history.

Carter, 47, played 16 seasons. He was the second player to reach 1,000 receptions (and remains one of only eight). He caught at least 70 passes in 10 seasons and totaled 130 touchdown catches from 13 passers.

"This is the happiest day of my life," he said as he broke down in tears. "When people said, 'Aw, it really doesn't matter. You're a Hall of Famer in my eyes,' I said, 'It's more important that I'm a Hall of Famer in the Hall's eyes.' And I really, really wanted this. "

Like Sapp, Allen and Ogden were first-year selections.

Ogden, 38, played a dozen seasons with the Ravens. He led the way for Jamal Lewis to become the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season and was a six-time All-Pro and voted to 11 Pro Bowls.

Ogden shared the moment with his family. He called his mother "first thing," and also told his 7-year-old son.

"He's real proud of his dad," Ogden said.

He watched nervously as the announcement was made.

"It's like going to the hospital with your wife to have a baby. You can't do anything about it," Ogden said. "You hear everybody say you're a first ballot for sure, but you never really know. A lot of good, well-deserving guys didn't get in on the first ballot."

Allen, 41, played 203 games over 14 seasons, spending the bulk of his career with the Cowboys. He played every position on the offensive line except center and was a first-team All-Pro seven straight seasons.

"When I got drafted (by Dallas), they'd just won a Super Bowl," Allen said. "When they threw me in, I just didn't want to be the one to mess it up."

His philosophy never changed over his long career: make the guy across from him "quit … tap out." He joins three other players from that great Cowboys offense of the 1990s in the Hall: quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and receiver Michael Irvin.

"They were kind of like big brothers," Allen said. "I looked up to them. They came to work every day and showed me how to do it. They all wanted to be the best."

Culp, 66, was a defensive stalwart for the Chiefs in the 1960s and '70s and also played for the Oilers and Lions. He started at tackle in the Chiefs' Super Bowl win in 1970 and was selected to six Pro Bowls.

"Curley was a dominating force on the defensive line for the Super Bowl IV championship team and one of many great players that helped build the tradition and foundation of the Kansas City Chiefs," Clark Hunt, the team's chairman and CEO, said in a statement. "We look forward to seeing him take his rightful place in Canton."

Robinson, 71, played on the powerhouse Green Bay teams of the 1960s, starting at outside linebacker on coach Vince Lombardi's two Super Bowl champions. He closed his 12-year career with the Redskins.

"When you wait this long, it gets a little sweeter," Robinson said. "When you wait a long time, you gain a great deal of appreciation for what it really means to get in the Hall of Fame. I was 14 years old when I started playing football, and this is it. I can't go any higher."

Ten finalists didn't get in, including eight players — Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Kevin Greene, Charles Haley, Andre Reed, Will Shields, Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams — and former owners Art Modell and Edward DeBartolo Jr.

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