Smith, Rice frontrunners for Hall of Fame
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – With Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice all but shoo-ins for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, get ready for a little Canton Two-Step.
Smith ran for more yards than any NFL player. Rice caught more passes and scored more touchdowns than anyone else.
Sure seems fitting that they would enter the hall together, a slightly more significant honor than making the finals of “Dancing With The Stars.” Or winning it, in Smith’s case.
Voting by a panel of media members takes place Saturday at the Super Bowl. Inductions will be Aug. 7 in Canton.
Smith and Rice, in their first year of eligibility, are among 17 finalists.
The others are receivers Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed; running back Roger Craig; center Dermontti Dawson; defensive ends Richard Dent and Charles Haley; defensive tackles Cortez Kennedy and John Randle; tight end Shannon Sharpe; linebacker Rickey Jackson; guard Russ Grimm; and coach Don Coryell.
Senior nominees are defensive back Dick LeBeau, now Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator, and running back Floyd Little.
“It’s not something I can say I ever really dreamed about,” Smith said. “I never said, ‘I have to make the Hall of Fame.’ If I could make steps that could set me apart in my career, then I’ve had a successful career.
“I feel I achieved every goal I had as a player, from Pop Warner to the NFL. My goals were winning championships and winning Super Bowls. When I thought I could reach Walter Payton’s all-time rushing record, it became a goal.”
By attaining all of those objectives, Smith might have made his selection to the Hall a slam-dunk. Known for his determination as much as his skills, he rushed for 18,355 yards and 164 touchdowns, adding 515 receptions for 3,224 yards and 11 TDs for the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals. The NFL MVP in 1993, Smith also was the most valuable player in the Super Bowl that season.
Like Smith, Rice won three Super Bowls and earned the game’s MVP honors in 1989 with San Francisco. He also played for Oakland and Seattle in a 20-season career.
The perfect receiver for the West Coast offense, Rice set dozens of records, some of which might never be broken. He made 1,549 catches for 22,895 yards, had 14 1,000-yard seasons and scored 208 touchdowns.
Rice was the offensive player of the year in 1987 and 1993.
Brown also is in his first year of eligibility. He played 16 seasons with the Raiders and one with the Buccaneers, finishing with 1,094 catches (fourth all-time) for 14,934 yards (fourth) and 100 touchdowns. Brown also was an outstanding kick returner.
Carter, in his third year on the ballot, is third in career receptions (1,101), fourth in TD catches (130) and eighth in yards receiving (13,899).
The two senior committee nominees didn’t get enough support from the media members who vote for the Hall. LeBeau, considered one of pro football’s great defensive innovators as a coach, was a standout player for the Lions from 1959-72 and finished with 62 interceptions, second for cornerbacks when he retired. Little starred for the Denver Broncos in the AFL and NFL, leading the NFL in rushing in 1971 with 1,133 yards and in touchdowns rushing in 1973 with 12.
A minimum of four and maximum of seven new members can be voted into the Canton, Ohio, shrine in one year. At least one senior nominee must be part of a six-member class; both seniors must be included if seven new members are elected.
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