NFL Nation: HOF 09

The transcript of Roger Staubach's speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

2009 Hall of Fame Induction
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Graham: Canton is South Buffalo
Ceremony has Bills flavor

ROGER STAUBACH: On behalf of the Bob Hayes family. In fact, the family's here. The Bob Hayes family is all over here. And Bob, Jr. could you stand up? They're all from Buffalo. Thought you might get a bigger applause, you know. But Bob is from Jacksonville. Of course, lot of families coming up from Jacksonville and all over. It's been fun for me to have the honor that was bestowed on me to just speak just a few words on behalf of Bob, his family, on behalf of the Dallas Cowboys, his teammates and friends. It seems like yesterday, but I was an Ensign in the Navy. And I played in a game that was up in Chicago. It was called the college All Star Game. We had a pretty darn good team. We were playing the Cleveland Browns. And I was it was 1965. And Bob and I were both drafted as futures in 1964. And I guess Gil Brandt had an idea that we could both play some day. And I had a little bit of time left. And Bob was just a football player, but he was noted for his exploits on the track and also his gold medal.

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The transcript of Carl Peterson's speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

CARL PETERSON: The spring of 1989, myself, Marty Schottenheimer and Bill Cowher went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to workout a player we had hoped to consider to be our number one draft choice. He was an extraordinary person, and as his head coach at Alabama said great player, great person, and you'll never tire the young man out. Derrick had not worked out for us at the Indianapolis Combine. And we were a little hot about it. It was a very hot day in Tuscaloosa on the Astro Turf, and Bill Cowher began to work Derrick out. And he worked him out, and he worked him out, and he worked him out. He gave him every linebacker drill he knew. He came back to Marty and I, and he said, what do you think?

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The transcript of Bruce Smith's speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

BRUCE SMITH: This certainly feels like a home game. Thank you, Ted. My God, where has the time gone. As vividly as yesterday I can remember arriving in Buffalo with Andre Reed for my first mini camp in 1985. At the first practice in the middle of May, we noticed dark clouds off at a distance. And within minutes, it began to rain, hail, and snow. After 30 minutes of downpour, the sun began to shine and I thought, what in the hell have I gotten myself into?

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  US Presswire
  Bills legends Ralph Wilson Jr. and Bruce Smith were inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

 Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

CANTON, Ohio -- There was little doubt what anyone who stepped to the microphone needed to do to get a reaction from the crowd at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday night in Fawcett Stadium.

Roger Staubach is no dummy. When he wanted to generate more applause for Bob Hayes' family, he announced they were from Buffalo. They aren't, but Staubach knew his audience.

Carl Peterson, the former Kansas City Chiefs executive who spoke for the late Derrick Thomas, made it a point to remind everyone Marty Schottenheimer played for the Buffalo Bills back in the day. Schottenheimer, already an emotional mess from listening to the memories of the great linebacker, trembled even more when the fans cheered.

2009 Hall of Fame Induction
Enshrinement Zoom Gallery
HOF Speech Transcripts
Ceremony has Bills flavor

And when Rich Eisen tried to tell some jokes about Rod Woodson and heard crickets, he should have just pumped his fist into the air and screamed "Buffalo!" Then he would have gotten a response. A big one.

Canton is the new South Buffalo this weekend.

Fans made the four-hour drive to watch two more of their Bills -- founder Ralph Wilson Jr. and defensive end Bruce Smith -- get inducted.

On Sunday night, the current Bills will play the Tennessee Titans in the annual Hall of Fame Game. It will be the Bills debut for future Hall of Fame receiver Terrell Owens.

Of the 12,695 fans in attendance Saturday night, a third reportedly hailed from the 716 area code.

 
  AP Photo/Tony Dejak
  Buffalo fans were in full force at Saturday's Hall of Fame inductions.
Not even a steady afternoon rain would deter them. Diehards wearing jerseys of almost every former Bills star you could imagine streamed into town to hear Wilson and Smith deliver speeches in their yellow jackets.

"Certainly feels like a home game," Smith said with a smile after he walked to the lectern. Calls of "Bruuuuuuuuuce" cascaded from the concrete bleachers.

Wilson and Smith bookended the evening. Wilson's presenter, ESPN's Chris Berman, played to the crowd by asking them to recite their favorite catchphrase with him: "No one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills."

After Randall McDaniel, Hayes, Woodson and Thomas were honored, Smith went last.

His presenter, former Bills defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, asked all the Bills who played on those Super Bowl teams to stand. Of course, Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, James Lofton and Marv Levy were on the stage. Mixed among the crowd were Darryl Talley, Andre Reed, Steve Tasker, Kent Hull, Will Wolford and others.

Bills fans, who haven't seen their team in the playoffs since the 1999 season, wistfully cheered each name as it was announced.

Smith's speech was wonderfully paced. He paid homage to his family and his mentors. He thanked the Washington Redskins and his agent. He mentioned each of his doctors by name.

Then, about 12 minutes into his speech, when he was supposed to be wrapping it up, he really got started, heaping praise on Buffalo.

"What a ride it was," Smith said before ticking off the accomplishments: four straight AFC titles, the K-Gun offense, the Comeback Game.

"And the record-breaking attendance set by the greatest fans in the NFL," Smith said.

Fawcett Stadium erupted.

"Thurman Thomas, you're undoubtedly the most complete running back of our era," Smith said while lauding his former mates. "My life would be a little less right if I didn't have you to laugh and joke with.

"P.S. I hid your helmet."

Fawcett Stadium erupted again. Without so many Bills fans in attendance, the crickets probably would have resumed chirping.

The transcript of Rod Woodson's speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

ROD WOODSON: I tell you what. He made me sound better than I am, I tell you that. My kids won't say that I'm fun loving, because they always call me grumpy pants. Come on, grumpy pants. Laugh, smile. But, you know, it's an honor. I've been thinking about what I was going to say. I worked for the NFL Network for the last five years. I've seen it from afar. Being on this stage is a whirlwind. It's definitely an honor. It's more today putting on the jacket and seeing your bust here. It's about being a part of the team, the elite team of pro football. I'm very honored and I humbly accept it.

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The transcript of Randall McDaniel's speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

RANDALL McDANIEL: Wow, it's impossible to imagine a moment like this. It really denies words -- defies words. And that's never a good thing when you're about to give a speech:

You know, as an offensive linemen, I don't really feel comfortable up here without the other four guys lined up next to me. So if I start to struggle, I'm counting on Gary Zimmerman to come up with some more linemen and bail me out.

I would like to thank Mr. O.K. Fulton for presenting me today he made a big difference in my life as a young man. He believed in me before I believed in myself. The most he focused on -- when most focused on my athletic ability, he saw more. He told me to take full advantage of every opportunity sports had to offer. But never let it define me.

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The transcript of Ralph Wilson's speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

RALPH WILSON, JR.: Thank you for all those kind words, Chris. I really appreciate it. It's an honor for me to be here. I went to my first pro football game in 1935. The Lions were playing the Bears. Since that time, I have been an avid pro football fan. As Chris said, I went away to college and the Navy. When I came back, I went to work for my father, worked every Sunday at home we would go see a pro football game.

During that time, I almost wanted -- I always wanted to own a football team so I'd have a little something to say about it. And let me tell you how I got into professional football. In the fall of 1959, I read in the paper where a young champ named Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams were starting a new professional football league. Lamar lived in Dallas, and he couldn't get an expansion franchise from the NFL. So I decided to start my own league. I happened to have a winter home in Miami, which was one of the prospective sites that I read in the paper. So I called Lamar and told him of my interest. And he said, well, if you're interested, you better get down here right away, because there are other people that are likewise interested. So I flew down the next day, and he granted me the Miami franchise. And we both went down to talk to the city fathers, and see if we could lease the Orange Bowl. It was the only place to play football in those days. The city fathers would not let a new league lease the Orange Bowl, because they had a bad time with another new league that came before us. So I flew home and forgot about it.

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Posted by ESPN.com staff

The Pro Football Hall of Fame will welcome six new members Saturday when the Class of 2009 is enshrined. Honorees Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson, Derrick Thomas, Ralph Wilson Jr., Randall McDaniel and Bob Hayes will be hailed for their accomplishments during the ceremonies in Canton, Ohio.

ESPN's AFC East blogger Tim Graham will be covering the induction ceremony live in Canton, Ohio, and AFC West blogger Bill Williamson, AFC North blogger James Walker, NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas and ESPN.com NFL editor John Banks will be contributing and answering questions during the live event.

Join us here for live coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

CANTON, Ohio -- The Buffalo Bills of the 1990s, those woebegone losers of four straight Super Bowls, are forming a squadron of Pro Football Hall of Famers.

 
  Ron Vesely/Getty Images
  Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas are two of five Bills from the 1990s who are Hall of Famers.

Defensive end Bruce Smith will be inducted Saturday night, giving those Super Bowl teams five representatives so far. Previously minted were quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, receiver James Lofton and head coach Marv Levy.

Wide receiver Andre Reed likely will join them (after a long wait). With enough support, special-teams stalwart Steve Tasker eventually could get in, too.

"It really shows you that people understand what we did, what we accomplished," Kelly said Friday at the McKinley Hotel. "What we accomplished is amazing."

Compare that haul with other clubs that won multiple Super Bowls. The Pittsburgh Steelers won four in the 1970s and have sent 10, and some critics say that's too many.

In January, I noted how relatively few players from the New England Patriots' three championship squads will get in. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are locks. Who's a shoo-in after that?

Rodney Harrison's candidacy will be debated. He was a great player, but only six-full time safeties ever have made it into Canton. Maybe Corey Dillon, Richard Seymour or Ty Law has an outside shot. Adam Vinatieri's heroics might not be enough. Only one kicker, Jan Stenerud, has been inducted.

No matter how much Patriot Nation loves Tedy Bruschi, he's not getting in.

Randy Moss and Junior Seau will get inducted, but they didn't play on any of New England's title teams.

"There's so much emphasis on winning Super Bowls, but it's what it takes to get there, too," Kelly said. "Sure, it's easy for me to say that because I didn't win one, but we didn't take the easy road. We took the long road many times, including the Comeback Game when Frank [Reich] was quarterback.

"There's no doubt more people are admiring what we accomplished during those days. They start really saying 'Wow' that we were able to get back there, especially since we lost. It would have been easy for us to not quite work as hard next time, to say 'Maybe it wasn't meant to be' after the second year and then the third year and then being able to do it four years in a row. Sometimes it amazes myself that we were able to keep together and pull together.

"For us, just getting over that one hump ... People talk about the dynasty of the Patriots," Kelly said. "Remember, they won two Super Bowls by a last-second kick. If we had one go through, who knows what would have happened?"

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

CANTON, Ohio -- Entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999 with Lawrence Taylor, Eric Dickerson and Ozzie Newsome, Billy Shaw wasn't nearly the star of his induction class.

2009 Hall of Fame Induction Coverage
Saturday in Canton, Ohio, six men will be hailed as the latest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson, Ralph Wilson, Randall McDaniel, and posthumous honorees Derrick Thomas and Bob Hayes form the Class of 2009. The ceremonies will air live, beginning at 7 p.m. ET, on ESPN and ESPNHD. Follow ESPN.com's coverage.

• Our future HOF nominees: Story | Podcast
Chat: Hall of Fame inductee Rod Woodson
Chat: Hall of Famer Warren Moon
Wickersham: Wilson valued for impact
Scouts Inc.: Top 5 CBs in the NFL today
Walker: Is Rod Woodson the best CB ever?
Graham: Bruce Smith, Sackmaster
Blogs: More Hall of Fame coverage

But he made the most indelible mark that year.

This is the 10-year anniversary of Shaw's enshrinement. At a casual media gathering at the McKinley Grand Hotel, the legendary Buffalo Bills guard retold the story of how he prompted the "Billy Shaw Rule" for future induction ceremonies.

"I'm the guy that they named the Billy Shaw Rule after when a new guy gets inducted because in my speech I forgot my wife," Shaw said. "I had to go get on my hands and knees on the podium to apologize to her."

Shaw did just that, quite literally.

"Now, when they are giving the new class their instructions, they say 'Certainly, in your acceptance speech, don't forget your family and, more importantly, your wife or significant other,'" Shaw said.

Shaw, who played nine years for the Bills and was a driving force to them winning back-to-back AFL titles, thanked just about everybody you could imagine and then walked away from the lectern to applause and posed for some photos with his bust.

"My daughter, sitting on the front row, gave me this sign," Shaw said before re-enacting the throat-slash gesture Cindy Shaw gave him.

"When she did that, I knew that I had screwed up royally. And she [mouthed] 'Forgot mom.' During the intermission I went to the front of the stage and I got my knees and did this to her."

Shaw mimicked a reverential bow, theatrically raising and lowering his arms in his wife's direction.

"Eric saved my life because I spoke before he did," Shaw said. "He went up there and made amends for me."

Shaw's groveling and Dickerson's followup request for forgiveness must have worked. Billy and Patsy Shaw recently celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

CANTON, Ohio -- Bruce Smith's final game in a Buffalo Bills uniform was a doozy. He broke the NFL record for most postseason sacks. It was the last time the Bills were in the playoffs.

 
  AP Photo/Wade Payne
  Kevin Dyson and the Tennessee Titans broke the hearts of Bills fans everywhere with the Jan. 8, 2000, "Music City Miracle."

The game also went down as the Music City Miracle, when the Tennessee Titans broke the Bills' hearts on a trick kickoff return.

With the Bills and Titans meeting Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game, reporters from Nashville are in town and stopped by Friday afternoon's interview sessions at the McKinley Grand Hotel.

A Nashville television reporter asked Smith what he remembered from that game.

"I remember it was a forward pass," said Smith, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night along with Bills owner Ralph Wilson. "That's all I remember."

The game shouldn't have been Smith's last with Buffalo. In the first round of the 1999 playoffs against the Tennessee Titans, Steve Christie kicked a field goal to put the Bills ahead by a point with 16 seconds left.

Then came the infamous kickoff return known as Home Run Throwback. Fullback Lorenzo Neal fielded the short kick and handed off to tight end Frank Wycheck fired the ball across the field to Kevin Dyson, who ran for a 75-yard touchdown to stun the Bills.

To the naked eye, it appeared the ball traveled forward. Replays were inconclusive. The ball looked like it might have traveled on a perfectly parallel line from Wycheck to Dyson.

Smith had a polite smile on his face Friday, but he didn't seem to pleased to be asked about the Music City Miracle.

"Certainly, it's something that's worth a conversation," Smith said. "But it's in the past. It's history."

For Bills fans, who have endured nine straight years without the playoffs, that kick-in-the-gut game must feel like ancient history.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

 
  US Presswire
  Offenses had to account for linebacker Derrick Thomas on every play.

The memory of Derrick Thomas lives vibrantly in Kansas City.

The induction of Thomas into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday will be a major celebration for both the Chiefs and Kansas City. Thomas is one of the most revered sports figures in Kansas City's history.

I am always struck by the number of fans who still wear Thomas' No. 58 jersey at Arrowhead Stadium. You'd think Thomas was still terrorizing quarterbacks on Sundays by the look of all those jerseys in the stands.

Yet, Thomas hasn't played in Kansas City since the 1999 season. He died in early 2000 after suffering injuries in an auto accident.

Now, though, nine years later, Thomas' life is being celebrated by his induction.

Frankly, it's probably five years overdue.

Thomas was a dominant player. He was the rare player who could take over games. He was one of the great sack masters in NFL history. He had 126.5 sacks in 11 NFL seasons.

2009 Hall of Fame Induction Coverage
Saturday in Canton, Ohio, six men will be hailed as the latest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson, Ralph Wilson, Randall McDaniel, and posthumous honorees Derrick Thomas and Bob Hayes form the Class of 2009. The ceremonies will air live, beginning at 7 p.m. ET, on ESPN and ESPNHD. Follow ESPN.com's coverage.

• Our future HOF nominees: Story | Podcast
Chat: Hall of Fame inductee Rod Woodson
Chat: Hall of Famer Warren Moon
Wickersham: Wilson valued for impact
Scouts Inc.: Top 5 CBs in the NFL today
Walker: Is Rod Woodson the best CB ever?
Graham: Bruce Smith, Sackmaster
Blogs: More Hall of Fame coverage

Thomas, who was the No. 4 overall pick in the 1989 draft, set an NFL record by registering seven sacks in a game against Seattle in 1990. The nine-time Pro Bowl player had 20 sacks in 1990. He will be honored at the ceremony by former Kansas City general manager Carl Peterson.

The playmaker record a team record 45 fumbles and he recovered 19 fumbles in his career and returned four fumbles for touchdowns. Thomas was on the NFL's all-decade team for the 1990s.

He was a true headache for opposing offensive coordinators. Thomas had to be accounted for. If not, the Chiefs were probably going to win. They won often with Thomas on the field. Kansas City won 102 games in the 1990s, the third most in the NFL.

Kansas City has great memories of Thomas. Saturday, those memories will be validated with the greatest honor for a superstar who will never be forgotten in Kansas City.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

 
  AP Photo
  Bob Hayes redefined the wide receiver position.

SAN ANTONIO -- As the Cowboys continue to prepare for the 2009 season, one of the club's greatest players will take his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. It's unfortunate the late Bob Hayes isn't around to slip on the famed gold jacket, but his legacy endures in the league. 

In fact, the man who presented Hayes before the Hall's selection panel last February, Rick "Goose" Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, wrote recently that Hayes almost single-handedly introduced the league to the "speed receiver." When Hayes won the gold medal in the 100-meter dash at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, he earned the "Fastest Man in the World" title. Cowboys director of scouting Gil Brandt had already started drafting players who excelled in sports other than football, and that's why Hayes was a seventh-round pick in 1964.

On Friday, I tracked down Hayes' former teammate and good friend Walt Garrison. The now 64-year-old Garrison, who lives on a ranch in Argyle, Texas, joined the Cowboys a year after Hayes and Dan Reeves showed up on the scene. Garrison missed his first training camp in 1966 because of an All-Star game, but he distinctly remembers watching Hayes during the 1967 camp.

"We were all running 40-yard dash times of 4.5, 4.6 and 4.7," said Garrison. "Bob goes out and runs a 4.3 -- and he never took his sweats off. I thought, 'what in the hell have I gotten into?' 

Garrison chuckled when he said Hayes "couldn't catch a cold in a blizzard" early in his NFL career, but said the receiver worked hard to improve his hands. And unlike some players who came from other sports, Garrison said Hayes wasn't afraid to go across the middle. Of course, his favorite thing to do was sprint past everyone so quarterback Don Meredith could air it out. Garrison said he recalls Hayes catching a touchdown pass behind Giants Pro Bowl defensive back Carl "Spider" Lockhart, a speedster in his own right, in the late 1960s.

2009 Hall of Fame Induction Coverage
Saturday in Canton, Ohio, six men will be hailed as the latest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson, Ralph Wilson, Randall McDaniel, and posthumous honorees Derrick Thomas and Bob Hayes form the Class of 2009. The ceremonies will air live, beginning at 7 p.m. ET, on ESPN and ESPNHD. Follow ESPN.com's coverage.

• Our future HOF nominees: Story | Podcast
Chat: Hall of Fame inductee Rod Woodson
Chat: Hall of Famer Warren Moon
Wickersham: Wilson valued for impact
Scouts Inc.: Top 5 CBs in the NFL today
Walker: Is Rod Woodson the best CB ever?
Graham: Bruce Smith, Sackmaster
Blogs: More Hall of Fame coverage

"Someone asked Bob if he was worried Spider was going to catch him, and he said, 'Nah, he only runs a 10.3 [in the 100]."

Like so many of Hayes' former teammates, Garrison hates that the receiver won't be there in person Saturday. Garrison said he was thrilled when Hayes got in because of the lasting impact he's had on the game.

"When I think about guys like Lawrence Taylor and Bob Hayes, I'm thinking about players who changed the way the game is played," said Garrison. "One guy couldn't cover him. No one could play man-to-man coverage against him, and that's why he basically caused zone coverage." 

As a rookie, Garrison said he remembers Hayes playing cards a lot with Cornell Green and Jethro Pugh. He said they asked him to join them for a game called "Tonk" one time.

"It cost me $150 to learn how to play," Garrison said. 

Hayes should have been in the Hall a long time ago, but it is great that it finally happened. Garrison said his former teammates will all be tuned in tomorrow for a "great, great occasion."

Mr. Smith goes to Canton

August, 7, 2009
8/07/09
2:00
PM ET
 
  George Gojkovich/Getty Images
  After amassing 200 sacks over a 19-year NFL career, Bruce Smith will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday .

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

If the speech Bruce Smith gave the afternoon the Buffalo Bills added his name to their Wall of Fame is any indication, then the legendary defensive end will proclaim his greatness again Saturday night, when he's inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Smith hasn't been shy about declaring himself the greatest pass-rusher who ever lived.

2009 Hall of Fame Induction Coverage
Saturday in Canton, Ohio, six men will be hailed as the latest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson, Ralph Wilson, Randall McDaniel, and posthumous honorees Derrick Thomas and Bob Hayes form the Class of 2009. The ceremonies will air live, beginning at 7 p.m. ET, on ESPN and ESPNHD. Follow ESPN.com's coverage.

• Our future HOF nominees: Story | Podcast
Chat: Hall of Fame inductee Rod Woodson
Chat: Hall of Famer Warren Moon
Wickersham: Wilson valued for impact
Scouts Inc.: Top 5 CBs in the NFL today
Walker: Is Rod Woodson the best CB ever?
Graham: Bruce Smith, Sackmaster
Blogs: More Hall of Fame coverage

Funny thing is, Smith's temerity is unnecessary. His numbers speak for themselves.

Smith is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Since the NFL made sacks an official stat in 1982, no other player has amassed more sacks than Smith's 200. He played 19 years, his final four with the Washington Redskins. He recorded double-digit sacks a record 13 seasons. He played in four Super Bowls. He twice was the Associated Press' Defensive Player of the Year. He was a first-team All-Pro eight times, a Pro Bowler 11 times. The NFL selected him for two all-decade teams.

Not a bad career if you're into that kind of stuff.

Smith has had his problems off the field. After two previous drunken-driving arrests that didn't lead to convictions, he was found guilty of it last month in Virginia Beach, an incident that has tempered the Hall of Fame merriment somewhat. Virginia Beach canceled festivities to honor Smith.

But Smith will take center stage in Canton, where he will assume his place among the all-time greats. He's the greatest No. 1 overall draft pick who didn't play quarterback.

And he'd probably tell you so.

Rather than speak to Smith about how remarkable he was, it's more insightful to speak with those who competed with him and against him.

Tony Paige, Virginia Tech teammate and former New York Jets running back: "When he visited Virginia Tech, I was the guy that hosted him and showed him around the campus. He was one of the top recruits in the country. We played basketball that weekend, and this defensive lineman was dunking. He was 6-4, about 285 pounds coming out of high school, a phenomenal athlete. I think he a ran a 4.6 [in the 40-yard dash]. Any time you get a 6-foot-4, 285-pound man running the court like that, you knew right away this guy was going to be special."

Chris Spielman, former Detroit Lions and Bills linebacker: "There've been two players in my career that every single week they did something that made me rewind the film 10 times. That would be Barry Sanders and Bruce Smith."

Jim McNally, former NFL offensive line coach and Buffalo native: "He was so slippery. He could make himself small by dipping and turning and lowering his hips. He didn't stand up and come at you like a lot of guys. He was slithery."

Paige: "He pushed guys around him because he practiced hard, played hard, studied the game. That's why he's going into the Hall of Fame. He wasn't just a gifted athlete. He always wanted to be better. He had that something on the inside you can't teach, a passion to succeed on every snap."

Jim Ritcher, former Bills left guard: "When he arrived, he had so much talent. I've never seen a guy so quick off the ball. Recently, I was just showing one of my sons how quick Bruce was. I was showing him film on Bruce. Just as fast as that ball was coming back, that's how fast Bruce was coming off the ball. It was amazing."

Richmond Webb, former Miami Dolphins left tackle: "He took no plays off. It was going to be 60 minutes of hell."

Steve Tasker, former Bills special-teamer: "There was no question there were times he was not only the best defensive end, but maybe the best player at any position in the NFL."

Spielman: "He'd do something that would make you say 'Come on now. Seriously. You're not doing that to an NFL player, are you?' He was something."

Merlin Olsen, Hall of Fame defensive tackle: "Bruce was very, very quick coming off the line and coming up field far enough to force that offensive tackle to move violently to try to stay with him. Once you get those tackles moving, you have the chance to do all kinds of things with him. Not only did he have incredible quickness, he was so powerful. He could bull rush you if he wanted to. The offensive tackle knew that was poss
ible, so he couldn't get on his heels."

Ken O'Brien, former Jets quarterback: "He had everything going on. He was big. He could power a guy. He could head slap him. He could swim move him. He could spin. He did all these things naturally. You have to figure however many sacks he finished with, two-third of those he was double- and triple-teamed."

Ritcher: "Every day I had to practice against him was an eye-opener. Being able to study Bruce every day, I can imagine it would be a nightmare for other teams. I practiced against him so much. It was an all-day sucker going against Bruce."

O'Brien: "We always had a guy that would come up with some injury that week."

Tasker: "He'd get a shot on the quarterback that would cripple a horse."

Ritcher: "That had to be terrifying for a quarterback, to know that no matter who they had at tackle -- and he could be a great tackle -- Bruce was going to get to you at some point. That had to be pretty terrifying to know, going into the game, this guy on your blind side is coming at you."

O'Brien: "If you wanted to block him with one guy, there really was no way. He was going to expose that. It took a while for some people to pick up on it, that traditional methods of blocking weren't going to work."

McNally: "Whoever was facing him the next game was nervous all week. They double-teamed him with guards, with running backs. Back when you could still get away with it, receivers were chipping him."

Tasker: "We just got beat in a playoff game in Cleveland, the game when Ronnie Harmon dropped the ball. We were in the locker room, sitting there after a shootout, Bernie Kosar versus Jim Kelly, both teams over 30 points and we dropped a touchdown. So the score should have been even higher. He was getting dressed in his suit, kind of all by himself. I was standing near him. Now, we'd been around the block. We'd been the Bickering Bills. There'd been turmoil on the club, the last three or four games being the turning point for our organization. But Bruce said out loud to nobody in particular, 'You know it was the defense that lost it today. We let them score 40 points. That was our fault.' He was bumming out that the defense had done that, not that we dropped a touchdown. I'll never forget that. He took that loss hard. He also took some responsibility on his own shoulders. He knew there was responsibility that went along with being a great player."

Bill Belichick, New England Patriots coach and former New York Giants defensive coordinator: "You had to game plan for Bruce Smith like you had to game plan for [Lawrence] Taylor. ... He was slick. A lot of times you look at the play and you say, 'OK, it looks like we got him blocked.' And then he gets off it somehow and is pressuring the quarterback. Similar to Taylor, even when they got blocked, they didn't stay blocked."

Olsen: "In terms of having to set a game plan, he's exactly the same kind of person as Lawrence Taylor. If you didn't account for him, you were going to have trouble."

Tasker: "I used to chuckle because he'd be in great shape and come into training camp and be injured and not practice. There was nothing wrong with him. He just didn't like training camp. They were built for veteran players and still Bruce would take the first three weeks off. That doesn't mean he wasn't ready."

Ritcher: "He was named defensive player of the year a number of times, and when he wouldn't show for camp, we'd smile and know that was Bruce going for his money. Your career is so short. Bruce played 19 years, which is incredibly long, but most guys had to get the money while they could get it, and he was at the top of his game."

Spielman: "He and [head coach] Marv Levy had an understanding. They were a perfect match. Marv had a saying, 'I don't need you to beat the Bills.' Bruce did what he had to do to get ready. He came to play."

Webb: "You knew when you went to Buffalo you weren't going to hear snap counts. The thing that really stood out was I knew that he had to be one of the favorite players. If the game was tight and they would go to a TV timeout, when they would come back and blow whistle, he would make this quick motion with his hand, and the noise in the stadium was deafening. I was always amazed he could make that one little hand gesture and the crowd was right with him. That's not right."

O'Brien: "He had a great sense of humor. He and Tony Paige would joke around. Therefore, Bruce Smith and I would joke around on the field. He was funny. I don't know if you're old enough to remember 'The Gong Show.' He used to have a little dance he used to do. He did it the week before and down at the line of scrimmage, he came up to me and said, 'Gene Gene, huh?' "

Tasker: "We used to laugh at him. He'd say it when he was playing because, man, the guy would back it up. We go into New York on a Monday night. He gets four sacks and a forced fumble and just tears the New York Jets up. In the game, he unveiled this spin move nobody had seen before. I know there were a lot of left tackles watching the game that night and spitting their coffee out. 'What are you supposed to do with that?!' There's no defense for that. You have to expect that move to stop it. It was unbelievable. It was like a pitcher throwing a perfect game and then, all of a sudden, he throws a pitch he's never thrown in the middle of it. It was like Nolan Ryan throwing knuckleballs for strikes."

O'Brien: "We tried to run some sort of reverse to maybe get him to bite with a pass rush. It was a quarterback's dream, where I get to block him and take him out. The play got stopped while I'm running outside toward him. He started laughing and said, 'Kenny, what are you doing to do? This reverse isn't going to work.' He would tell you about each formation and dissect the play as it went on. I always thought he would make an excellent coach if he ever had the inclination."

Webb: "Bruce was probably known more as a pass-rusher and not so much against the run, but I think what he did as time went on, he worked on another area of his game. If they said he couldn't do it, he went out and proved them wrong. I liken it to Michael Jordan. When he came into the NBA, it was offense, dunks, blowing people's minds away as an entertainer. Then he started working on his defense and became defensive MVP, and as he became older he worked on that fadeaway shot. Just like Jordan, Bruce was a great athlete and a student of the game."

Spielman: "I played with Bruce at the tail end of his career. What I remember is how he reshaped his body to go from 300-plus pounds to the point when I played with him in Buffalo and he was about 270. That was amazing, and it probably extended his career to be a dominant player at a much lighter weight."

Jay Fielder, former Dolphins quarterback: "By the time I was playing it was little more toward the end of Bruce's career with the Redskins. He still was a great player. He wasn't defensive-player-of-the-year material like he was in the early or mid-'90s, but he was a guy you still had to keep an eye on."

Tasker: "When he said that he's the best defensive end ever in the National Football League, I agree. In the time that we played, and I remember thinking this while we were playing, there were time
s he was the best player at any position in the league."

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

The Randall McDaniel file
Randall McDaniel • Minnesota 1989-99, Tampa Bay 2000-02
• Started 202 consecutive games
• Named to 12 Pro Bowls in 14 seasons
• Named first-team All-Pro in nine seasons

Plenty has been written and said about former Minnesota guard Randall McDaniel in the months since he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You'll read nothing better than Mark Craig's piece in the Star Tribune, which also includes an extensive video interview. All of which is ironic considering McDaniel's career-long reticence to speak with the media.

During his 14-year career, McDaniel was named to 12 Pro Bowls and was selected a first-team All-Pro nine times. He blocked for six 1,000-yard rushers and five 3,000-yard passers.

But as McDaniel prepares for enshrinement this weekend, I wanted to use this space to pass along the explanation behind McDaniel's bizarre stance at the line of scrimmage.

 
  Kevin Terrell/Getty Images
  Randall McDaniel believes his unorthodox stance gave him an advantage over opposing linemen.
McDaniel was and is an incredible athlete, but the way he stuck out his left leg and turned his ankle toward the ground almost looked klutzy.

In fact, as McDaniel recalled shortly after his election, the stance was the result of an injury and an unwitting assist from an opposing defensive lineman. To this day, McDaniel believes it played a critical role in his success.

In 1990, Minnesota lineman Todd Kalis rolled up on McDaniel's right leg and forced him to miss two games. He returned wearing a knee brace.

"So I go in with that brace on," McDaniel said, "and it's stiff. It wasn't comfortable, and the only way I could get down in a stance was to turn my other leg out. So I started doing that. During the game, a defensive lineman made a comment like, 'I have no clue what you're doing. I can't tell if you're pulling, passing [or] coming at me.' And I thought, 'That wasn't very smart to say.' And I kept the stance. I thought, 'If you can't read it, then that gives me an advantage right there.'

"That's where it all came from: One little brace, one little accident along the way."

Sometimes, that's all it takes.

NFL/AFL most consecutive All-Star appearances
Player Team(s) Position Years
Bruce Matthews Oilers-Titans OL 14
Merlin Olsen Rams DL 14
Reggie White Eagles, Packers DE 13
Randall McDaniel Vikings G 12

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