|Former Lions TE Charlie Sanders first inductee from Class of 2007|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 04 August 2007 13:14|
Citing what he called a ``simple but memorable life,'' Sanders entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night by thanking a mother he never knew - she died when he was 2 years old.
Noting how players often mug for the camera and salute their mothers, a teary-eyed Sanders said: `I thought it was something that was always special and I would want to do, but couldn't. So I take this time, right here and right now, in Canton, Ohio, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to say, `Hi Mom.' ``
The versatile tight end with the Detroit Lions from 1968-77 was the first of six men enshrined. Following Sanders' enshrinement were the inductions of Michael Irvin, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Matthews, Gene Hickerson and Roger Wehrli, the maximum six that can enter the hall in one year.
To punctuate his speech, Sanders also read from a poem, ``The NFL: Just Passing Through,'' that he wrote in 1976.
``So give your all and nothing less, today we win, tomorrow we rest.
``You are not just my teammate, but my very best friend. Let's play together until the very end.''
``At a young age, I learned to challenge myself, even if it was work or chores that was the opponent,'' Sanders said, noting how his family taught him ``to work hard, stand proud and give in to nothing.''
The 74th player chosen in the 1968 draft, Sanders foreshadowed the era of pass-catching tight ends that spawned fellow Canton inductees Kellen Winslow and Dave Casper. As a rookie, he made 40 receptions for 533 yards, almost unheard-of numbers for his position. The only rookie selected to play in the Pro Bowl following that season, Sanders would play in seven all-star games. He was selected to the NFL's all-decade team of the 1970s.
``Charlie is what you look for today at that position. He was a pioneer,'' said Lions owner William Clay Ford, his presenter. Sanders, currently an executive with the team, has spent all 40 of his years in pro football with the Lions.
``Charlie richly deserves to be in this Hall of Fame ... and the Hall of Fame is better off for having Charlie.''
The ceremony was held at night for the first time, and 62 Hall of Famers were in attendance, including such greats as Jim Brown and Mean Joe Greene, and recent inductees Troy Aikman and Harry Carson.