Martin, Roaf, Kennedy lead the 2012 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
This weekend the NFL will induct its newest members into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. This article is not going to help you win your Fantasy Football league, it will not help you find that perfect sleeper pick to win a big week, but it will tell you how passionate Working the Wire is about the NFL and football in general.
I was never much of a football fan growing up. I have vivid memories of sitting in the basement of my Grandparents, Des Plaines, IL home. Sitting crossed legged in the middle of the floor at 3 years old I was fascinated and fixated on the molded wood encased screen, on the screen, Leon Durham, Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux. Baseball was my sport of choice. I grew up dreaming of turning two with Shawon Dunston as the starting second baseman for my beloved Chicago Cubs.
Being from Chicago, as the 1990’s rolled in, all attention turned to the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. Never before had a Chicago sports team completely dominated a league for such a long period. The Bulls run of championships, and the unmatched play of a beautiful sport overtook me. Baseball fell to second place on my favorites list and football, a distant third.
Now during these times, football would rise to the forefront. In 1985 the Chicago Bears were so dominate that it was impossible to avoid highlights of Walter Payton and Willie Gault, we marveled at the speed and force of Mike Singletary and Richard Dent. And who could forget the enigma that was the Fridge, William Perry. As I grew to appreciate football there were several players that I had to see play. I grew to appreciate a half back who could catch the ball out of the backfield. An offensive tackle who could stop a 260 pound defensive end with one are, and a 310 pound nose tackle with the other. A defensive tackle that moved in and out of lineman so smooth, with such speed and with an ungodly force that rivals that of Thor and the Hulk combined. These players were Curtis Martin, Willie Roaf and Cortez Kennedy.
As I enter into my mid 30’s, many of those players have retired and are now being honored by Canton. The previous named players are being inducted this weekend, along with other greats. I wanted to take some time and give my recollection of each of these players.
Curtis Martin: Martin spent 10 years in the NFL split between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. He rushed for over 14,000 (4th all time) rushed for 90 touchdowns and another 10 TD’s through the air. Now I was never a Patriots fan, and being from Chicago, I hate all teams New York, but when Curtis ran the ball, it was a thing of beauty. Watching him, I remembered times spent watching Walter run over bigger defensive lineman and linebackers, run away from and around faster defensive backs, Martin did the same thing. It was the first and only time that I’ve rooted for a player in New York to dominate, and he did.
Willie Roaf: I’m not 6 foot 5, I’m not 320 pounds, and I can’t bench press a Buick. Willie Roaf was all those things. Roaf, who always came across as a gentle giant, was anything but to opposing defensive lineman. Roaf had amazing strength in his legs which allowed him to hold his ground against any defender, that strength was only rivaled by that in his arms. I was not exaggerating when I said I watched him block two mammoth defensive linemen, one with each arm, unbelievable. Willie missed only 20 games in his 12 year NFL career, and most of those came in the last year of his career.
Cortez Kennedy: 58 sacks and 3 interceptions from the defensive tackle position. Kennedy only missed 9 games in an 11 year NFL career. He recorded 14 sacks in 1992 and was a force in both the run and passing game for over a decade. Cortez Kennedy had linebacker speed from the tackle position, and had the power of a Mack Truck. I can close my eyes and picture his 1991 Upper Deck football card, Kennedy standing over Patriots running back John Stephens after crushing him to the ground. An impact player with standards and ethics, Kennedy turned down a $1 million dollar contract offer the year after he retired, the Dallas Cowboy wanted him to play the last 5 games, Kennedy turned down the Cowboys saying it would be “stealing money”.
Chris Doleman: I have too many memories of Chris Doleman. One of my most feared and respected Chicago Bears opponents, right behind John Randle and Reggie White. Doleman’s time with the Minnesota Vikings left NFC Central (now NFC North) opponents shaking. His 150 sacks and 44 forced fumbles earned him his place in Canton, however it was his never ending motor, his sideline to sideline speed as a defensive end and an unwilling desire to dominate made Chris Doleman one of the most feared players in the 1990’s.
Also going into the Hall of Fame this year are Steelers great, Dermontii Dawson. Dawson spent 12 years in the black and gold of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a major factor in creating openings for multiple thousand yard rushing seasons (Jerome Bettis (4x), Barry Foster (led league)). With Dawson is fellow Steeler great Jack Butler. Butler was an interception specialist with the Steelers of the 1950’s. He racked up 52 interceptions in 103 games.