Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Hall of Fame look ahead: Orlando Pace
By Nick Wagoner
ST. LOUIS -- On Saturday night, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced that former St. Louis Rams safety Aeneas Williams is part of this year's class of inductees. Williams isn't likely to be remembered as much for his time with the Rams as he was with the Arizona Cardinals, but for those wanting a player with a longer track record of playing for the Rams to get in, the time is coming soon.
The Greatest Show on Turf version of the Rams had no shortage of Hall of Fame candidates. Running back Marshall Faulk was the first to go in, but now the rest of the group is coming eligible. That should make for some tough decisions for the committee in the next couple of years but there are multiple Rams with a legitimate case to get in.
Left tackle Orlando Pace played 12 years in St. Louis and earned seven Pro Bowl trips.
Over the next few days, we'll take a look at the likes of left tackle Orlando Pace, quarterback Kurt Warner and receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt and try to offer an early read on each player's chances of making the Hall of Fame. Today, we start with Pace:
Aside from friends, family and Seattle offensive tackle Walter Jones himself, there might not have been a happier person to see Jones selected in his first year than Pace.
Pace, Jones and Jonathan Ogden are widely regarded as the three offensive tackles who set the stage for the "blind-side" era of dominant left tackles. In many ways, the three of them redefined what a left tackle could be and elevated the importance of the position to another level. They did it with a unique blend of size and athleticism that shifted the requirements of what a left tackle should look like to players who normally would be playing power forward in the NBA.
Ogden and Jones will already be in Canton by the time Pace comes up for selection later this year but there's no doubt in my mind that Pace should not only join that duo but should join them in his first year of eligibility.
Arguments abound about which player was the best out of the dominant offensive tackles but I would argue that Pace is the one who first really drew attention to all that one could be all the way back to his time at Ohio State.
Before Pace, I'd never heard of an offensive tackle being legitimately discussed as a possible Heisman Trophy winner. He finished fourth in 1996. The term "pancake" block might have preceded Pace but I'd never heard it as much as I did when Pace was a Buckeye. He became the only two-time winner of the Lombardi Award as the best college lineman or linebacker.
Of course, none of those college accomplishments mean anything when it comes to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But make no mistake, that work in college only set the stage for a pro career to match. While Warner, Bruce, Faulk and Holt were all huge parts of the Rams' record-setting offense, none of what they did would have been possible without Pace locking down the left side of the line.
Pace played 12 years in St. Louis, posting seven Pro Bowl trips, five All-Pro honors and landed a spot on the NFL's 2000s All-Decade team.
It's going to be difficult for all of the Rams from the Greatest Show era to make it into the Hall of Fame on the first try. But it says here Pace is the best bet to make it sooner than later.