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Saturday, January 31, 2009
Kennedy, other finalists must wait their turn

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

TAMPA, Fla. -- The emotions sweeping through the Hall of Fame ballroom at the Tampa Convention Center have been overpowering for some.

The newly selected Bruce Smith struggled to compose himself as he reflects on his parents, including his late father and what this day would mean to him. Emotions have overcome some of his supporters and Bills owner Ralph Wilson's supporters in the room, including some in the row of chairs directly behind me.

Hearing Bob Hayes' sister read a letter of thanks left behind by her newly enshrined brother raised the emotional level further. And to see Derrick Thomas' mother beam while Chiefs owner Clark Hunt read a well-conceived tribute to the late linebacker -- it was almost too much.

The emotions must also be strong for those Hall of Fame candidates who did not make the cut this time, including Cortez Kennedy, the only 2009 finalist to spend most of his career with a current NFC West team. Cardinals assistant coach Russ Grimm, the former Redskins guard, made the final 10 this time, but not the final five.

The process for selection excludes worthy candidates every year. I compare the Pro Football Hall of Fame to an airport with only so many runways. Some planes need to circle longer than others before taking their turn to land. But as Hayes' sister said, the waiting shouldn't diminish the moment when a candidate finally breaks through.

Eric Allen and Qadry Ismail analyze the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009.