Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Sports

Linemen, Pittsburgh highlight Hall induction ceremony

CANTON, Ohio — Willie Roaf was in an unfamiliar role: the center of attention in front of a large crowd being singled out for something good.

Make that something great.

The former Saints and Chiefs offensive tackle led a charge of linemen into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Four were inducted — Roaf, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy and Dermontti Dawson — along with running back Curtis Martin and cornerback Jack Butler.

"I didn't get singled out in front of a large audience very often," Roaf said. "And when I did, it was usually by a referee who was singling me out by saying, 'Holding No. 77.' That's not going to happen today. And it wasn't too often when I played."

Kennedy, a defensive tackle with the Seahawks, thanked his mother for helping him get to Canton, saying she made him quit football during his sophomore year of high school because he had bad grades.

"That was the turning point of my life," he said.

The rest of the class had a strong Pittsburgh flavor.

Hundreds of Steelers fans filled the field and stands waving "Terrible Towels." Two new Hall of Famers, Butler and Dawson, played for the Steelers. Martin grew up in Pittsburgh and played at the University of Pittsburgh, and Doleman played at Pitt.

Few are more popular in Pittsburgh than Dawson, who succeeded Mike Webster as the Steelers center then followed him into the Hall of Fame.

"Mike was a leader whether he wanted to be or not because he led by example, and I tried to emulate everything Mike did," Dawson said.

"Mike had a profound impact on my life. And even today, I try to lead by example and be like Mike."

Doleman, a defensive end for the Vikings, Falcons and 49ers, recalled his father had one rule: finish what you start.

"Thank you for teaching me the importance of finishing what you started," Doleman said. "And if it's any indication today, I finished the game I signed up for."

Butler, 84, took the most unexpected path to the Hall. He didn't play football in high school, picked up the game in college at St. Bonaventure and entered the NFL as an undrafted player in 1951, just another player filling out the Steelers roster.

A group of Butler fans sat in the front rows, wearing Steelers throwback uniforms — yellow jerseys with black stripes — that made them look like bees.

He thanked his family and friends for being in Canton for his long-awaited moment.

"Heck, I'm thankful I'm here," Butler said.

Martin concluded the ceremony by bringing the audience to tears. The Patriots and Jets running back described his life growing up in a household where his father set his mother's hair on fire and burned her legs with cigarettes. His mother was tough on him, urging him to play football to stay out of trouble.

Said Martin: "My greatest achievement in my life was helping my mother and nurturing my mother."

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