|OL Bruce Matthews and TE Charlie Sanders first inductees from Class of 2007|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 04 August 2007 13:38|
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 tight end with the Detroit Lions from 1968-77 was the first of six men enshrined. Versatile offensive lineman Bruce Matthews of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, was next, followed by the inductions of Michael Irvin, Thurman Thomas, 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.''
Hall of Famer Mike Munchak, who introduced his former mate on the offensive line, lauded Matthews' ``work ethic, competitiveness and passion for the game, which were contagious. He raised the standard for all of us.''
Matthews' set an enviable standard for blockers. He played in more games than any positional player in NFL history, starting 292 of 296, and 15 playoff games. The most starts came at guard (99 on the left side, 67 on the right) and at center (87). Matthews had 22 starts at right tackle, 17 at left tackle.
Although he spent much of his time lauding his brother, linebacker Clay Matthews, hoping someday that Clay would join him in the hall, Matthews found kind words for the fans in Houston. When the Oilers abandoned the city after the 1996 season, Matthews called it ``a big shock for me, but it turned out to be a blessing'' in Tennessee.
``If someone had told me when I was a kid that I would play in the NFL and make it to the Hall of Fame, I would not have believed it,'' he said. ``Having your name mentioned with the all-time greats in the game is very humbling.''
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.