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Thursday, August 6, 2009
Tasker on HOF: 'I can't say I deserve it'


Two more Buffalo Bills are entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend. The club's only owner, Ralph Wilson, and all-time sacks leader Bruce Smith will have their busts unveiled Saturday in Canton.
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Steve Tasker went to seven Pro Bowls as a special-teams ace.

What other Bills from those Super Bowl years deserve inclusion? Andre Reed is an obvious response. His candidacy was debated on this blog when he was passed over again this year.

Now, let us consider Steve Tasker.

His listed position when he played from 1985 through 1997 was wide receiver. He finished with 51 receptions for 779 yards and nine touchdowns. That's one serviceable season's worth of numbers spread out over 13 years.

How Tasker contributed, however, couldn't be illustrated with stats. The 5-foot-9 missile was such an explosive special-teams player that the NFL created a position so it could send him to the Pro Bowl. He went seven times.

"Without a doubt, the greatest special-teams guy ever," said New York Jets linebacker Larry Izzo, who has been the special-teams selection to three Pro Bowls -- once for the Miami Dolphins and twice for the New England Patriots. "Steve Tasker revolutionized the game.

"We still watch tapes of him. [Jets special-teams coach Mike Westhoff] will throw on a clip of him as a gunner or on a kickoff team or blocking punts. You name it. He was a very unique player to be a player that put that kind of speed that he had and also the aggressiveness and style he played with."

I had the chance to speak with Tasker this week for a Smith retrospective that will run Friday. At the end of our talk, I asked Tasker if he thought he would get into the Hall of Fame.

"I probably will get considered again and probably won't get in again," Tasker said. "That's fine."

Special-teamers can't get into the Hall of Fame. Only one kicker, Jan Stenerud, is in. Ray Guy, considered the greatest punter of all-time, has been a finalist seven times but can't get voted into Canton. (I wrote a post in February about kickers and the Hall of Fame.)

"If anybody deserves to go into the Hall of Fame as a special-teams player, it's Steve Tasker," Izzo said.

What I found refreshing in listening to Tasker talk about his Hall of Fame prospects was his humility. So often when a Hall of Fame's latest induction class has been announced we hear the snubbed whine about not getting honored.

Tasker won't be one of those.

"It's an honor to be considered," Tasker said. "It's awesome I'm even in the conversation.

"When my friends go in, Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, James Lofton, Bruce Smith, Ralph Wilson ... You watch them get inducted and there's no doubt any of them deserve to be there. It's hard for me to sit there and say 'You know what? I belong in there.' I can't sit there and say that. If the voters vote me in, I would be thrilled. But I can't say I deserve it."

The NFL Network compiled a list of the top 10 players not in the Hall of Fame. Tasker made the list. Reed did not.

The list also included Ken Anderson, Cris Carter, Bob Hayes, Alex Karras, Jerry Kramer, Jim Marshall, Ken Stabler, Derrick Thomas and Ricky Watters. Hayes and Thomas are going in this year. Carter's induction will happen soon.

"Every player who ever put on a helmet would like to be in the Hall of Fame," Tasker said. "Who wouldn't?

"But I enjoyed my career so much. I was on a great team. I don't get caught up in it too much because -- Hall of Fame or not -- I enjoyed every bit of it. I don't feel slighted at all because I didn't make the Hall of Fame. I just feel blessed to have been a part of the NFL."

Tasker's ego never would allow him to say he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

What do you think?