Muscle Sport Magazine

Smith, Woodson Lead Class of 6 into HOF

The elite club known as the Pro Football Hall of Fame grew by six on Saturday to bring the number of bronze busts up to 253. Bruce Smith and Rod Woodson both were in their first year of eligibility, and were joined by Randall McDaniel, Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. and the late Derrick Thomas and Bob Hayes.

Woodson, who starred for four franchises as a cornerback and safety but is mostly remembered as a Pittsburgh Steeler, was humbled by the entire experience. “I didn’t start playing football because I wanted to be in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “I started playing because my brothers played it.”

Still the NFL’s career sack leader with 200, Smith spent the majority of his 19-year career in Buffalo. The ex-defensive end spoke of what his former head coach Marv Levy told him before he approached the podium. “He said to me, ‘You have cause to celebrate tonight and there’s no curfew.'”

A special announcement followed Wilson’s name being called with this year’s Hall of Fame Game on August 8 to feature the Bills taking on the Tennessee Titans, who – along with Buffalo – were one of the original American Football League teams when they were still known as the Houston Oilers. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of the “rival league.”

Unable to attend was Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Randall McDaniel, but via telephone he gave credit to the two most important people in his life. “I’ve got to thank my folks for raising me the right way.”

Representing Thomas was Kansas City Chiefs Chairman Clark Hunt, who remembered more than just the linebacker’s talent on the gridiron, speaking of his annual Thanksgiving food drives and Third and Long Foundation.

“He was an incredible player and an incredible person,” Hunt said. “Derrick Thomas was the cornerstone of the modern era of the Kansas City Chiefs.” Thomas died nine years ago in an automobile accident while he was an active player.

Lucille Hester, the sister of Hayes, read a note that he had left for her to read for him “in case this day ever came.” When she finished, there was not a hush in the overcrowded auditorium at the Tampa Convention Center. The former Dallas wide receiver died in 2002 at the age of 51 after suffering liver ailments, prostate cancer and kidney failure.

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