AFC West: Willie Roaf

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CANTON, Ohio -- Willie Roaf's father, Clifton, has just presented the former New Orleans and Kansas City tackle for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The video presentation for Willie Roaf was packed with emotion, especially when Clifton Roaf, his jaw quivering with emotion, called his son his hero.

A quick aside: Clifton Roaf, speaking over lunch Friday, recalled the time his son shut out Hugh Douglas, one of the better defensive ends in the NFL at the time. According to the elder Roaf, Douglas finished with no tackles. When the game ended, Douglas paid tribute to Roaf by crawling off the field. Now that is domination.
It was as sure as a Willie Roaf pancake block.

At halftime of every high school game in Pine Bluff, Ark., as Roaf’s team would head to the locker room, there would stand Clifton Roaf, giving words of encouragement to his son.

“His dad was a driving force in Willie’s football career,” Roaf’s high school teammate John Flowers said.”Every game, he would there at the field house door at halftime, shaking everyone’s hand. When we came out for the second half, he was there clapping and screaming. I think he was the biggest presence in Willie’s football career.”

Clifton Roaf’s dedication to his son’s career will be highlighted Saturday when Willie Roaf, 42, is enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As soon as he was elected into the Hall in February, the left tackle, who spent his final four NFL seasons dominating for the Kansas City Chiefs, decided to make his father his presenter into the Canton, Ohio, museum.

Really, Roaf, who flourished at Louisiana Tech after being lightly recruited in high school, knew his father would present him his entire life.

“He was the one who really motivated me for my career,” Roaf said. "He was always telling me what I needed to do to get to the next level. Even in college, he saw the potential I had before I did.”

Clifton Roaf, 71, was a successful dentist in Arkansas and had quite a busy work schedule. Yet, the former Michigan State football standout never missed any of his son's high school games and traveled to virtually every one of Roaf’s home games in college and in the NFL. Often traveled to road games, too. He made it to all 11 of Roaf’s Pro Bowl games in Hawaii.

“I wouldn’t be going into the Hall of Fame without my dad,” Roaf said. “So, having him present me into it is the only way to do it.”

Five questions with Willie Roaf

February, 8, 2012
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I got a chance to catch up with new Pro Football Hall of Fame electee Willie Roaf on Wednesday for a few minutes to discuss the whirlwind his life has been since he was elected Saturday. Roaf was a star tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2002-05:

Bill Williamson: How did you celebrate Saturday night?

Willie Roaf: (Laughing) I didn’t celebrate Saturday night. I flew from Orange County, California to Indianapolis and didn’t get in until 1 in the morning. At about 2:30 PT, I was coming home from the gym and my agent, Lamont Smith, told me he thought I get in, but he wasn’t sure. Then, I got home turned on the NFL Network and saw that I got in. Then, I had to get to the airport and fly. It was hectic.

BW: You went to the gym during the vote?

Roaf: I had too much nervous energy. I had to go do some cardio to get my mind off of it.

BW: Did you ever get to celebrate?

Roaf: I did some at the Super Bowl on Sunday in the suite. I was planning to do some more after the game but by the time it ended I was so tired from everything, I had to go back to the hotel and go to bed. It’s a little different when you are 41.

BW: What do you think of this Hall of Fame class?

Roaf: I love it. I say it’s the blue-collar class and I love that. You have two offensive linemen like me and Dermontti Dawson and two defensive linemen like Cortez Kennedy and Chris Doleman and workhorse running backs like Jerome Bettis and Curtis Martin. Guys made it on their body of work and I really like that. [Editor's note: Bettis was a finalist for the class, but was not inducted.]

BW: Any ideas of who will be your presenter?

Roaf: It will probably be my dad (Clifton Roaf). In my entire college and pro career, he missed one home game and that’s because my brother had a college game. He drove to New Orleans and Kansas City for every home game from Arkansas. It has to be him.
Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt released a statement congratulating tackle Willie Roaf for being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Roaf played his final four seasons with the Chiefs from 2002-05.

Here is Hunt’s statement:

“On behalf of my family and the entire Chiefs organization, we are thrilled to congratulate Willie Roaf on his well-deserved selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012. Willie is one of the finest offensive lineman to suit up in a Chiefs uniform and is worthy of this extremely prestigious honor. In his four seasons with the Chiefs, Willie anchored one of the best offensive lines in the National Football League. Today's announcement solidifies his place as one of the greatest offensive lineman in the history of pro football.”

Kansas City guard Will Shields and Oakland receiver Tim Brown were also among the 17 finalists, but they did not get elected.
Willie Roaf is going to Canton, Ohio.

However, two other players with AFC West ties will have to continue waiting to be enshrined. Tim Brown and Will Shields did not make the cut from the initial list of 17 finalists to the final 10.

Unlike Roaf, who played the final four seasons of his career in Kansas City, both Brown and Shields are most known for their work in the AFC West.

I expected Shields to get in, but he may have been blocked by Roaf. Shields may take the same route that Roaf did. He was a finalist in his first year of eligibility, but didn’t make it. He made it in his second year of eligibility.

I can see Shields making it next year. He went to 12 Pro Bowls and he made 223 straight starts, which was the second-longest active streak in the NFL at the time of his retirement.

I was not shocked Brown didn’t make it for the third straight year. He certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and he will have a bronze bust someday. But it may take a while.

The voters didn't do him any favors Saturday. None of the six men elected were receivers. Cris Carter and Andre Reed will need to get in some day as well and Brown may have to wait for them to get in first.

As for Roaf, he is a strong representative for the AFC West.

Roaf, who started his career with New Orleans, made the Pro Bowl 11 teams and he made the All-Pro team seven times. He made it three times with the Chiefs. Roaf and Shields were the anchors of one of the most dominated offensive line in the NFL early last decade.

Perhaps next year Shields will join Roaf, his former teammate, in Canton.
Will Shields has done a pretty good job of trying to keep his mind off of this Saturday’s events in Indianapolis.

[+] EnlargeWill Shields
John Rieger/US PresswireGuard Will Shields was a Pro Bowler 12 times during his career.
Yet, he admits the idea of being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame can be an overwhelming thought.

“It’s nothing to be nonchalant about; it’s huge,” said the former Kansas City Chiefs guard. “It would be a great ending to a great career. It is really a big deal, but you don’t want to dwell on it and over think about it.”

There is a good chance Shields will need to start thinking about his Hall of Fame acceptance speech. Shields is one of 17 finalists for election into the Canton, Ohio, museum. It is Shields’ first year on the ballot. He is considered to have a strong chance to be inducted. Former Raiders receiver Tim Brown and tackle Willie Roaf -- who played with Shields for four years in Kansas City -- are also former AFC West players who are finalists. All three have a chance to make it, but Shields may have the best chance of the three AFC West finalists to be inducted.

Shields, 40, played for the Chiefs from 1993-2006. The Fort Riley, Kan., native was a third-round draft pick out of Nebraska. He started every game of his career but the first game of his rookie season. His streak of 223 straight starts was the second-longest active streak in the NFL at the time of his retirement. Shields made 12 Pro Bowls, which is one of the highest totals of all time regardless of position.

As strong as his résumé was on the field, it was as extraordinary off the field. Shields was known as one of the most charitable players in the NFL in his era and he was won the prestigious NFL Man of the Year award in 2003.

"Looking back, I think I’m most proud of everything as a combination,” Shields said of his proudest NFL moment. “The Pro Bowls, the streak, the Man of the Year. All of it was special to me.”

Shields has continued his chartable work in the Kansas City area and he runs a gym and performance center where he said his company trains “kindergartners to an 89-year-old” in the area.

Shields said he is seriously considering getting involved in coaching. He has spent the past two summers interning with the New York Jets and he has coached at some college all-star games in addition to training some NFL prospects in recent years.

“I think I might be getting into coaching sooner than later,” Shields said. “I always want to be around the game.”

Saturday, Shields may reach football royalty.
Waters & RoafBrian Bahr/Getty ImagesGuard Brian Waters (54) is rooting for his former teammate tackle Willie Roaf (77) to be elected into the Hall of Fame.
Brian Waters couldn’t be happier with his decision to join the New England Patriots.

But as the 12-year NFL veteran prepares for his first Super Bowl, he will allow himself to reflect about his time with the Kansas City Chiefs. In the early part of the last decade, the Chiefs were considered to have the best offensive line in the NFL. Along with Waters, the unit was anchored by fellow guard Will Shields and left tackle Willie Roaf.

While Waters will be in Indianapolis this week to prepare to face the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, Shields and Roaf will be awaiting to see if they will be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Shields and Roaf are among the 17 finalists for election into the Canton, Ohio museum. The vote will be held Saturday, the day before the Super Bowl.

Waters didn’t need to be reminded of the connection.

“I’ve already thought about it,” Waters said in a phone interview. “It’s going to be a special time for all of us. We all have an opportunity to accomplish something we’ve all worked so hard to get. I’m really glad I’m able to share this week with those guys. We were a special group.”

It has to please Chiefs fans to see that Waters is carrying a piece of his Kansas City past with him as he readies for the biggest game of his life. Waters will go down as an all-time great Chief. After as signing as free agent in 2000 (the undrafted Waters was on Dallas’ practice squad in 1999), Waters became a stalwart in Kansas City. He made six Pro Bowls as a member of the Chiefs, including last season. Extremely charitable off the field, Waters won the prestigious NFL Man of the Year award in 2009.

However, Waters was cut by the Chiefs during the summer. Waters said it was a mutual decision that worked out well for both sides. There were rumblings that the Chiefs no longer thought Waters was a starting-quality player and that’s why he was cut. Waters said he never got that feel. If there were any questions about Waters’ abilities, he answered them in New England. He made the Pro Bowl again and he was widely considered one of the best guards in the NFL at the age of 34. He was dominant in the win over Baltimore in the AFC championship game.

Five weeks lapsed between Waters being cut in Kansas City and him signing with the Patriots. Waters said there were times when he wondered if he wanted to continue his career, but a lack of offers wasn’t a problem. “The phone rang every day,” he said. Once the he got the right call, Waters grabbed his shoulder pads.

“This was the right play place for me,” Waters said. “I’ve enjoyed this year so much it’s been a very smooth transition for me and now we get the chance to play the game that I’ve always wanted to play in.”

Could Waters imagine hoisting the Lombardi Trophy a day after his close friends punch a ticket to Canton?

“That would be unbelievable.”
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its 17 finalists for enshrinement in 2012. The vote will be held February 4.

Three of the finalists have AFC West ties. Five others were part of the nine semifinalists to get knocked out of contention Saturday: Denver’s Steve Atwater, Terrell Davis and Karl Mecklenburg, former San Diego coach Don Coryell and former Oakland executive Ron Wolf.

Let’s take a look at the three finalists among the 17 who spent significant portions of their careers in the AFC West. Here they are:

Tim Brown, WR -- 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders

Will he get in? Brown will get in, but it may take some more time because of the logjam at receiver, whether it’s right or not. Cris Carter could block him this year.

Willie Roaf, T -- 2002-05 Kansas City Chiefs

Will he get in? I would not be shocked if Roaf gets in within the next couple of years.

Will Shields, G -- 1993-2006 Kansas City Chiefs

Will he get in? I think Shields goes to Canton in his first time on the ballot.

Breaking down HOF semifinalists

November, 23, 2011
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The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its 26 semifinalists for enshrinement in 2012. The list of 26 will be pared to 17 finalists in January and the enshrinement vote will be held in February.

Let’s take a look at the eight candidates among the 26 who spent significant portions of their careers in the AFC West. Here they are:

Steve Atwater, S, -- 1989-98 Denver Broncos

Will he get in? I don’t think Atwater will be in enshrined this year.

Tim Brown, WR -- 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders

Will he get in? Brown will get in, but it may take some more time because of the logjam at receiver, whether it’s right or not.

Don Coryell, coach -- 1978-86 San Diego Chargers

Will he get in? The late coach has his supporters, but his candidacy may be difficult.

Terrell Davis, RB -- 1995-2001 Denver Broncos.

Will he get in? Davis’ short career remains his biggest challenge.

Karl Mecklenburg, LB -- 1983-1994 Denver Broncos

Will he get in? I’d call him a big long shot to make it in 2012.

Willie Roaf, T -- 2002-05 Kansas City Chiefs

Will he get in? I would not be shocked if Roaf gets in in the next couple of years.

Will Shields, G -- 1993-2006 Kansas City Chiefs

Will he get in? Shields has a real chance of being elected in his first year on the ballot.

Ron Wolf, Contributor -- 1963-1974, 1978-1990 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Will he get in? Wolf had a long career and is best known for his days as the Packers’ general manager. I think he has a shot.

Brown and Roaf must wait for HOF

February, 5, 2011
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The AFC West was represented in the Pro Football Hall of Fame election Saturday when former Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe was elected in his third year of eligibility.

Let’s look at the two other AFC West finalists, who did not get elected:

[+] EnlargeTim Brown
Steve Grayson/Getty ImagesTim Brown had 1094 catches and 14,934 receiving yards during a 17-year career.
Oakland receiver Tim Brown

What happened: He didn’t make it to the final 10.

Why: There is a glut of receivers waiting to be inducted. Cris Carter and Andre Reed have both waited for a while and they will likely get in before Brown.

Will he get in? I’m sure he will, but it may take a while. Brown -- who hoped to be elected in his hometown of Dallas Saturday -- is stuck in a receiver log jam. He surely deserves to be elected, but it’s a process and he is going to have to wait. Brown was a finalist last year in his first year of eligibility, but he didn’t make the final 10 then either.

Kansas City left tackle Willie Roaf

What happened: He made it to the final 10.

Why: This was a pretty stacked class. Roaf was considered a long shot to make in his first year of eligibility.

Will get in? Yes, perhaps as soon as next year. The fact that Roaf -- who played his final four seasons with the Chiefs after playing for the Saints -- made the final 10 in his first year of eligibility is a good sign that he will soon be enshrined.

AFC West Hall of Fame primer

February, 4, 2011
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Three players who have played in the AFC West are among the finalists for election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The voting and announcement is Saturday. Let’s take a look at the candidates:

Tim Brown: Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders, wide receiver, 1988 to 2003

Career Highlights: Brown was a nine-time Pro Bowl player. He is fourth in all-time career receptions (1,094) and receiving yards (14,934). He had 100 career receiving touchdowns.

AFC West body of work: Of his 1,094 career catches, 1,070 came as a Raider. Brown, who played his final NFL season in Tampa Bay, caught at least 80 passes nine times and had nine 1,000-plus yard receiving seasons.

Quote from a voter: “He could get in, but it will be tight this year.”

What I think will happen: I think Brown belongs in the Hall of Fame and I think he will be enshrined at some point, but I don’t know if it will be this year. The receiving group is log jammed. Cris Carter has been waiting for four years and I think Carter may get in before Brown. It may not be right, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Brown doesn’t get in Saturday.

Willie Roaf: Kansas City 2002 to 2005:

Career Highlights: He made the Pro Bowl 11 times. He made the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1990s and 2000s.

AFC West body of work: He made the Pro Bowl during all four of the seasons he spent with Kansas City after being traded from New Orleans. He played with the Saints for the first nine years of his career.

Quote from a voter: “I’d be surprised if he got in on his first year of eligibility.”

What I think will happen: I think Roaf will get in soon. It seems that it has been difficult for players to get in their first year of eligibility lately unless they were legends. Roaf could be a finalist, but I’m not totally expecting him to be elected Saturday.

Shannon Sharpe: Denver, tight end, 1990 to 1999 and 2002 to 2003

Career Highlights: He made the Pro Bowl eight times. He was named first-team All-Pro four times. He has the second most career receiving yards for a tight end (10,060).

AFC West body of work: Sharpe made 671 of his 815 catches in the AFC West. He had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons and two seasons in which he had 10 touchdowns.

Quote from a voter: “A lot of voters look at him as a receiver, and he doesn’t stack up against the best candidates. It may be tough for him this year.”

What I think will happen: I was surprised when Sharpe didn’t get elected two years ago and I was surprised when he didn’t make it last year. I respect the voting process, but it’s my opinion that it’s shortsighted to look as Sharpe as a receiver. He was a tight end. Sure, he didn’t block well, but he changed the tight end position and he shouldn't be judged against receivers. But that has been the case, so I may be surprised again Saturday.
John Elway thought he’d be joined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame by one of his most unique teammates two years ago.

[+] EnlargeShannon Sharpe
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PresswireShannon Sharpe finished his career with 815 receptions for 10,060 yards and 62 TDs.
The fact that Elway is still waiting for Shannon Sharpe to join him in the Canton, Ohio, museum stuns him.

"I didn’t expect this,” Elway said. “I really thought Shannon would get in his first try. To me, he’s the greatest tight end ever to play the game. Hopefully, this is the year. It should be.”

Sharpe is a finalist -- former Raiders receiver Tim Brown and former Chiefs tackle Willie Roaf are also among the 17 finalists -- for election into the Hall of Fame. The voting and announcement of the 2011 class will be made Saturday. This is Sharpe’s third year as a finalist.

Sharpe played in Denver 1990-99 and 2002-03. He had 671 of his career receptions in Denver and was a key member of Denver’s two Super Bowl teams in 1997 and 1998.

Sharpe is credited by many league observers with changing the tight end position.

“Shannon helped make us a unique offense,” Elway said this week. “He was a matchup problem for defenses. He really opened up our offense and helped make us very difficult to play against.”

Elway, who was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2004, his first year of eligibility, didn’t know anything about Sharpe when Sharpe joined the Broncos as a seventh-round pick from tiny Savannah State. However, Elway was intrigued as soon as he saw Sharpe, who was drafted as a receiver. Elway saw the framework of a receiving option he never had before. Sharpe was 6-foot-2, 228 pounds. Elway wasn’t used to throwing to big targets.

“I was used to the Three Amigos,” Elway said. “Seeing how big Shannon was really lit my eyes up. He was so raw, but he worked so hard and then when we moved him to tight end, he really blossomed into something special.”

Because he was considered a receiver, Sharpe’s Hall of Fame candidacy has been slowed because there is a logjam of receiving candidates. Elway thinks Sharpe hasn’t been given enough credit for being a complete tight end.

“I really think Shannon has been underestimated in the running game,” said Elway, who became the Broncos’ Executive Vice President of Football Operations last month. “He was as strong as a 250-pounder. He really fit our zone-blocking scheme well. We were a finesse team. He was a perfect fit in every way. ... I hope the voters put him in this year, because he belongs in.”

Tim Brown's hometown dream

February, 2, 2011
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It was clearly disappointing for Tim Brown not to make the Pro Football hall of Fame last year in his first year of eligibility.

However, it would be a thrill of a lifetime for Brown to be elected into the hall of fame Saturday in his hometown of Dallas. The former Raiders receiver is one of 17 finalists for election. The vote and announcement will be made Saturday.

ESPN Dallas has an outstanding look at Brown’s candidacy. Brown resides in Dallas. He was a star at the city's Woodrow Wilson High School.

"I think it would mean a lot more to me happening here, even over being a first-ballot Hall of Famer," Brown told ESPN Dallas. "Being around my family and immediately sharing this with the people who are the reasons why I ended up where I ended up would just be an incredible deal."

The Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame was a dominant NFL player. Brown caught 1,094 passes for 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns. The receptions and yardage are fourth most in NFL history. The touchdown catches are tied for sixth best.

"If I needed a completion," Brown’s Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon told ESPN Dallas, "I knew where to look."

Brown told ESPN Dallas that he is going to try to relax and not get too caught up into the process like he did last year. He is taking a more relaxed approach this year.

"You just don't want to go through all that and then be disappointed,” Brown said. “But certainly I'm sure the thank you will flow to all the people who were an integral part of me being the player I was."

I will have more on Brown’s candidacy Friday along with the hopes of fellow AFC West finalists Shannon Sharpe and Willie Roaf.

HOF finalists named

January, 9, 2011
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The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced 17 finalists for election in 2011. The vote will be held in February.

Just three players with AFC West ties are on the list, while four people with AFC West ties were eliminated.

Here are the finalists who spent to a big portion of their careers in the AFC West:

Tim Brown, wide receiver: Raiders, 1988-2003

Willie Roaf, tackle: Chiefs, 2002-05

Shannon Sharpe, tight end: 1990-99, 2002-03 Broncos

Oakland punter Ray Guy, Oakland cornerback Lester Hayes, former San Diego coach Don Coryell and Denver running back Terrell Davis did not make the cut from the semifinalist list of 26.

I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the three AFC West players get enshrined, with perhaps Sharpe having the best chance in his third year of eligibility. The candidacy of the four AFC West men who were eliminated took a big hit. All four will have difficulty getting elected.

AFC West HOF semifinalists

November, 28, 2010
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The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced 26 semifinalists for election in 2011. The list will be pared down to 15 finalists. The vote will be held in February.

Here are the semifinalists who spent to a big portion of their careers in the AFC West:

Tim Brown, wide receiver: Raiders, 1988-2003

Don Coryell, coach: Chargers, 1978-86

Terrell Davis, running back: 1995-2001 Denver Broncos

Ray Guy, punter: 1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Lester Hayes, cornerback: 1977-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Willie Roaf, tackle: Chiefs, 2002-05

Shannon Sharpe, tight end: 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Bronco

Brown, Coryell and Sharpe made big runs last year. I wouldn’t be shocked if one of the three, perhaps Sharpe, is enshrined this year. Sharpe and Brown will eventually get in at some point, and both probably should be in now. Roaf is also a real possibility.

Davis and Guy also might get in, but it could take a while. Guy has a lot of support because he was a dominant player, but still some people have been reluctant to vote for a punter. I think that is an outdated opinion. Guy changed games. He was a major contributor to the NFL and he deserves recognition.

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