Seahawks' Kenny Easley in Hall of Fame
CANTON, Ohio -- Kenny Easley, a hard-hitting safety for the Seahawks and a member of the 1980s All-Decade Team, was inducted Saturday night into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A seniors committee choice, Easley played only seven seasons and 89 games for Seattle. But what an impact he made as an intimidator and ballhawk.
The 1981 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Easley was the league's top overall defender in 1984 when he had a league-leading 10 interceptions, a career high.
Easley, who was presented for induction by his high school coach, Tommy Rhodes, retired after the 1987 season. He had to wait 24 years before being voted into the hall.
"I was first nominated for the hall in 1997," Easley said. "Twenty years later be anxious for nothing the Hall of Fame was dropped on the shoulders of Kenny Easley like a pair of shoulder pads. Some folks said I deserved to be in the hall earlier; I don't believe that. Others say he didn't play long enough, I don't believe that."
Easley concluded a politically and religiously toned speech by saying: "I thank you for welcoming me into your exclusive club."
Terrell Davis had one of the most spectacular short careers in NFL history. His seven seasons were brilliant enough to get him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The former Broncos running back was inducted Saturday night. He went from an obscure sixth-round draft pick from Georgia to a league MVP and two-time Super Bowl winner. Davis was the catalyst for the NFL titles Denver won in 1997 and '98 with another Hall of Famer, John Elway, at quarterback.
The 1996 and '98 Offensive Player of the Year, 1997 Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and '98 NFL MVP, Davis' meteoric stint came to an ugly end with a devastating knee injury in 1999. That in great part kept him out of the hall for more than a decade.
Now he's in, with a resume including one of the greatest seasons in NFL annals. In 1998, Davis became the fourth runner to rush for 2,000 yards in season (2,008) and led NFL with 21 TDs rushing. In the 1998 playoffs, he rushed for a franchise postseason-record 199 yards against the Dolphins, then for 167 yards against the Jets, and 102 yards in the 1999 Super Bowl victory over the Falcons.
A member of the 1990s All-Decade Team, Davis was presented for induction by his agent, Neil Schwartz.
During his speech, delivered in a burst of rain that temporarily thinned the crowd, Davis talked about once "staring down the barrel of a shotgun" as a troubled teenager.
"Thank god someone talked the guy out of pulling the trigger," said Davis, who then determined to turn his life around.
Davis also suffered from migraines through his high school, college and pro careers.
He campaigned Saturday night for Broncos owner Pat Bowlen to be enshrined in the hall before adding of everyone who helped him get to Canton: "I salute every single one of you."
Morten Andersen, the NFL's career scoring leader, became just the second placekicker inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
Andersen played an incredible 25 pro seasons, a league record, mostly for the Saints. He also was with the Falcons, Giants, Chiefs and Vikings, playing 382 total games.
The left-footed kicker from Denmark his selection in February set off celebrations back home, where American football hardly is a sports staple scored 2,544 points (565 field goals, 849 extra points). He is the all-time scoring leader for both New Orleans and Atlanta and was a five-time All-Pro.
A member of the NFL's 1980s and '90s All-Decade Teams, Andersen retired in 2004 with 40 field goals of 50 yards or longer, then an NFL mark. He joined Jan Stenerud as the only placekickers in the hall, and paid tribute to Stenerud as a trail blazer.
Andersen was presented for induction by his son, Sebastian. A soccer and team handball player back home, Andersen then delivered an often hilarious speech emphasizing how strange the adjustment to kicking a ball that was not round could be.
He also paid homage to his two homes.
"Good evening, Canton, Ohio," he began. "Good morning Denmark.
"My story isn't only about my love for my country of Denmark and its people," he said, "but also my deep appreciation and respect for what I discovered here in the United States of America."
Sackmaster Jason Taylor, elected in his first year of eligibility, was inducted Saturday night into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A star mostly with Miami, Taylor also spent one season with the Redskins and one with the Jets. In his 15 NFL seasons, the versatile end was a three-time All-Pro and the 2006 Defensive Player of the Year. He had 13 1/2 sacks, two interceptions returned for touchdowns, 11 passes defensed, 10 forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 62 tackles that season.
Taylor's 139 1/2 career sacks helped him make the All-Decade Team of the 2000s. He also was the NFL's Man of the Year in 2007.
A third-round draft pick from Akron just down the road from the Hall of Fame Taylor was presented for induction by Jimmy Johnson, who coached him for several years with the Dolphins.
"I honestly can't believe I am here," said Taylor, who kissed the shaved head atop his bust when it was unveiled. "In 1992 I was at the University of Akron, just 20 miles away. It took 20 years to travel 20 miles to put on this jacket. It was worth every step."
Taylor choked up several times, especially when talking about the late Gary Wichard, who was his agent and, Taylor said, "truly the father I never had.
Moments after one of the best running backs in NFL history entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame, another followed: LaDainian Tomlinson.
Preceded Saturday by Terrell Davis, the record-setting Tomlinson became the fifth inductee of the night, presented by former San Diego teammate (and lead blocker) Lorenzo Neal.
The fifth overall selection in the 2001 draft, Tomlinson won rushing titles in 2006-07, taking league MVP honors in '06 when he set a record with 31 touchdowns. Also a strong receiver, he added 4,772 yards and 17 TD receptions to his career numbers for 13,684 yards rushing and 145 scores. Tomlinson even threw seven touchdown passes.
From 2004-05, he set a league mark with 18 straight game with a rushing TD.
The 2006 NFL Man of the Year, Tomlinson was voted to the 2000s All-Decade Team.
In a powerful speech filled with religious references and a call to Americans to be open-minded and open-hearted, Tomlinson also paid tribute to his predecessors.
"I grew up dreaming about running the ball like the great Jim Brown, the late Walter Payton, and the NFL all-time rusher Emmitt Smith," he said. "Tonight I stand on the shoulders of you."
He spoke of two brief meetings with Smith at a football camp when he was 12, and how that gave him the confidence to pursue his football dreams.
And he asked "Team America" to "choose to be for one another."
Jerry Jones joined the likes of George Halas, Art Rooney and Al Davis, owners in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, when he was inducted into the shrine Saturday night.
Jones took the NFL by storm when he bought the Dallas Cowboys and, within three years won the Super Bowl. He added two more in the next three seasons, but his inclusion in the Class of 2017 was built on his overall contributions to the NFL.
A key figure as the league grew to a multi-billion dollar business, Jones has had a hand in many important decisions, from TV contracts to sponsorships to labor issues.
Yet he admitted in his speech that before buying the franchise, he had "become afraid of business heights" after having several failed enterprises. But he also had learned, "Don't let anyone know you are scared and just keep on keeping on."
He swallowed hard, bought the team that was losing $1 million a month and, now, his Cowboys are valued at $4.2 billion by Forbes, the most valuable franchise in the world.
"As someone who owned a team, I was always thinking how we could go to the next level," Jones said.
In front of nearly the entire current Cowboys team, Jones wore a pair of custom-made shoes gifted to him by Phil Knight, was presented for induction by his wife, Gene, who has never missed a Cowboys game since the Jones family bought the team in 1989.