Big-play LBs, WRs get call
Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher terrorized opposing offenses from the middle of the field. Randy Moss and Terrell Owens did the same to defenses on the outside.
The two hard-hitting linebackers and two big-play receivers highlighted an eight-person class voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Safety Brian Dawkins also received at least 80 percent support from the 47 Hall of Fame voters, along with contributor Bobby Beathard and senior nominees Jerry Kramer and Robert Brazile.
But the biggest stars of the class are the two linebackers that made it on their first tries, and the pair of lightning-rod receiver who sometimes caused as many problems for their own teams as for the opposition. Moss also made it on his first try, while Owens needed to wait for his third year on the ballot to get enough support.
Moss and Owens each played for five teams in their careers as they often wore out their welcome with their inability to get along with teammates and coaches at times.
But at their best, there were few players ever able to strike fear in defenses as much as Moss and Owens, who were both all-decade selections for the 2000s.
“The door knocked and I started getting excited,” Moss said of Hall of Fame President David Baker alerting him he has been elected. “All the emotions caught the best of me because it’s been a long journey and it ends in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tears of joy.”
Moss led the NFL in TD catches five times, including his record 23 for New England in 2007, and earned four All-Pro selections. He finished his career with 982 catches for 15,292 yards and ranks second all-time with 156 TD receptions.
Owens entered the league as a third-round pick by San Francisco in 1996 but developed into a star known for some memorable playoff appearances, including his nine catches for 122 yards in the 2004 Super Bowl against New England just seven weeks after breaking his leg.
Owens ranks second to Jerry Rice with 15,934 yards receiving and is third on the all-time touchdowns receiving list with 153.
Lewis won two AP Defensive Player of the Year awards and earned eight All-Pro selections. He anchored a dominant 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense in a season that ended with him winning Super Bowl MVP, then retired as a champion after Baltimore won the title over San Francisco in February 2013.
“Growing up as a child, I know what that looked like, Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus,” Lewis said. “Who dreams of being in that category, sitting with those guys?”
Lewis joined tackle Jonathan Ogden as the only Ravens voted into the Hall of Fame. Both were the team’s first-round picks in its initial season in 1996.
Lewis’ career was also marked by legal problems off the field. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice after initially being charged with murder in connection with two killings following a Super Bowl party in Atlanta in January 2000.
Urlacher is the latest in a line of great Chicago middle linebackers to make the Hall, joining Butkus, Singletary and Bill George. He was the Defensive Player of the Year of 2005 and joined Lewis on the 2000s all-decade team.
Dawkins spent most of his 16-year career in Philadelphia, earning five first-team All-Pro selections for his versatility that included 37 career interceptions and 26 career sacks.
Kramer got passed over 10 times previously as a finalist before finally getting enough votes as a senior to become the 14th member of the Vince Lombardi Packers to make the Hall. Kramer helped anchor the Green Bay line for 11 seasons, winning six NFL titles and making the block that cleared the way for Bart Starr’s TD sneak in the “Ice Bowl” for the 1967 NFL championship.
Brazile was a finalist for the first time after a 10-year career for the Houston Oilers that included five straight All-Pro selections.
Beathard helped build four Super Bowl champions in Miami and Washington and made seven trips to the title game during more than three decades as a personnel executive with a sharp eye for talent.
“I’m glad I didn’t have to vote for this class,” Urlacher said. “It’s a great class.”