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Saturday, January 27, 2001
Swann finally grabs Hall of Fame honor

By Wayne Drehs
ESPN.com

Lynn Swann finally received his just due in getting elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was held out of the Hall of Fame for idiotic reasons. For example, people didn't feel he played long enough or had great career numbers. But on the other hand, people then say what matters is how a player plays in the big games.

If that's the case, then he clearly has the right to be in the Hall of Fame. No one was better in the big games than Swann. He has a few of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history. Swann shouldn't be knocked for not playing 15 years in the league. Players are measured by the big games, and Swann came up huge on the NFL's biggest stage while playing for one of the greatest teams of all time.

TAMPA, Fla. -- In his work as an analyst for ABC Sports, Lynn Swann often has had the difficult job of covering the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction announcement.

For 14 years Swann has been listed as a finalist for induction. And for 13 years he had been passed over for entrance to pro football's sacred land of superstars.

Swann finally heard his name called Saturday, and the former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, winner of four Super Bowl titles, said he couldn't help but break down in tears.

"I tried to intellectualize how this was going to be, what it was going to feel like if it ever happened, but it didn't work," a misty-eyed Swann said. "As soon as I heard the announcement, I tried to take a real deep breath, but I could only cry."

Swann sat in his hotel room in downtown Tampa, just blocks away from where Pro Football Writers Association members decided this year's group of inductees. The notification hour -- actually 11:30 a.m. -- came and went without a call to Swann, so he phoned his wife to deliver the obvious bad news.

It was only moments after finishing his call that official word finally came: Swann was headed to Canton, Ohio, one of seven new members to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"This means more to me than most of you will ever know or ever understand," Swann said. "While it's been so difficult to get in, maybe now I'll appreciate it even more."

Swann, who starred for the Steelers during their glory years from 1974-1982, was a winner of four Super Bowl titles. He earned game MVP honors in one, Super Bowl X, after a four-catch, 161-yard performance.

His acrobatic 64-yard touchdown reception of Terry Bradshaw's pass lifted the Steelers to a 21-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The catch remains one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history.

At the time of his retirement in 1982, Swann held four Super Bowl records and four Steelers records. Three times he earned All-Pro honors, and he was voted to the All-NFL team of the 1970's.

The unwavering support of many of his former teammates, as well as the Steelers fans, are what kept him positive during his 14-year wait for his trip to Canton, Swann said Saturday.

"They picked me up," he said.

The biggest knock on Swann's Hall of Fame candidacy in past years was his rather ho-hum career statistics (336 receptions, 5,462 yards, 51 touchdowns) and his relatively short, nine-year career. But a big reason for that was a host of injuries that plagued Swann of much of his career. He missed 16 games during his last four seasons.

Former Steelers coach Chuck Noll has said that he was the one to blame for Swann's absence in the Hall because of his desire to consistently run the football.

"That was my choice," said Noll, a member of the Hall of Fame class of 1993. "If we threw the ball a lot more, he could easily have as many catches as other players in the Hall.

"He was like an acrobat, the way he would come across the middle and catch the ball high in the air, knowing he was going to get hit. Nobody played better in big games and that's a sign of a great player," Noll said.

Swann, an All-American while at USC, was the Steelers' first-round pick in the 1974 draft. He is the 16th Steeler elected to the hall of Fame, and the 15th receiver to earn such an honor.

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com