on February 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Smith, Woodson among class elected to Hall of Fame

TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) – Pass rusher Bruce Smith, defensive back Rod Woodson and former Olympic gold medal sprinter and NFL receiver Bob Hayes were among six men elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday.

Linebacker Derrick Thomas, guard Randall McDaniel and Buffalo Bills owner and founder Ralph Wilson, Jr. were the others to win election from among a group of 17 finalists.

The class of 2009 will be inducted in Canton, Ohio, on August 8.

The last players eliminated by the selection committee were receivers Cris Carter, defensive end Richard Dent, guard Russ Grimm, defensive tackle John Randle, tight end Shannon Sharpe and senior candidate Claude Humphrey, a defensive end.

The six new members will bring the number enshrined in the Hall of Fame to 253.

“Just thinking about my father and all the sacrifices that he and my mother made when I was a child growing up to become a man…,” defensive end Smith, the NFL’s all-time sacks leader, told the news conference, his voice shaking with emotion.

“How he wanted me to have a life better then he had. I just wish he was with me. He would be extremely proud of this day.”

DOMINANT PART

Smith, an 11 times Pro Bowl selection who played for 19 years, including 15 seasons with the Buffalo Bills, was a dominant part of Buffalo’s four AFC championship teams.

Woodson, who began his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, played 17 seasons, won a Super Bowl in 2000 with the Baltimore Ravens and appeared in the 2002 Super Bowl for the Oakland Raiders. His 71 interceptions ranks third on the NFL list.

He was chosen to play in 11 Pro Bowls, including seven as a member of the Steelers.

Hayes, nicknamed “Bullet Bob,” became a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys after winning the 1964 Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters. His world class speed made him a big threat on deep patterns for quarterback Roger Staubach.

Hayes, who died in 2002 aged 59 of kidney failure, was one of two posthumous selections.

Thomas, a pass-rushing linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, saw his 11-year career cut short when he died in a car accident after the 1999 season aged 33.

McDaniel, who had a streak of 202 consecutive starts that carried over from his first year with the Minnesota Vikings through his final season with Tampa Bay, earned nine successive first-team All-Pro selections.

Wilson, 90, founded the Buffalo Bills in 1959 as one of the original owners in the American Football League. He saw his team win two AFL titles and reach four consecutive Super Bowls starting in the 1990 season, although they lost them all.

(Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Ken Ferris)