After a record 7 1/2-hour debate, a seven-man class was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011: Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Chris Hanburger and Les Richter will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 6.
Seven men were picked for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2011 — one for each hour it took for the debate.
Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the eve of Super Bowl XLV were Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders and Shannon Sharpe.
A full crew from Canton, Ohio, was on hand to push the pace required to satisfy the announcement as a live NFL Network show. Hall of Fame Executive Director Stephen Perry was handed “The Envelope” at 7:30 p.m. EST.
Joe Horrigan, Dave Motts, Pete Fierle and Saleem Choudhry of the Hall of Fame all looked intense as they walked around a gargantuan Sheraton Dallas ballroom with cell phones at the ready.
One of their tasks was to make quick contact with each new member of the Class of 2011.
It’s a standing joke at the Hall that they have all kinds of time on their hands to run the election now that the announcement has been pushed to night-time.
It was no joke when Saturday’s meeting, which began at 9 a.m. in the Sheraton, ran a record 7 1/2 hours.
Motts said the talk all week had been that there would be much debate over one of the more evenly matched fields of finalists.
“It was a tough one,” Motts said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the selection committee today.”
The ballroom was packed. Attendance figures aren’t kept, but this looked like a record. The overflow left numerous spectators having to stand in the back. One who chose to stand, poking his head in just long enough to hear the announcement, was Hall of Famer Warren Moon.
A quick look at the class:
• Hanburger, 69, was not seen as prime beef when he entered the league as an 18th-round draft pick in 1965.
He became the bell cow of Washington Redskin defenses, known for wearing a single-bar facemask and using a single arm to make clothesline tackles.
One was shown on the giant screens in the ballroom, drawing a collective shudder.
“They kind of outlawed that during my career,” said Hanburger, who only played for the Redskins, from 1965-78.
His nickname was “The hangman.” His mantra was, “If they don’t like it, they should duck.”
• Faulk, a running back, became a superstar in “The Greatest Show on Turf,” the 1999 Super Bowl champion Rams.
Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was a Colts coach when Faulk was an emerging force with a struggling team.
In Faulk’s last year with Indianapolis — Peyton Manning’s rookie year — the Colts went 3-13; yet, he ran for 1,381 yards and caught 86 passes for 830 yards. He scored 26 rushing-receiving touchdowns.
“Marshall Faulk is one of the toughest, one of the smartest players I ever coached,” Arians said. “An unbelievable talent.”
• Sharpe, 42, retired as the most prolific pass-catching tight end in NFL history after a 14-year career with the Broncos and Ravens.
He got in in his third year of eligibility, thinking of a grandmother who raised him.
“I couldn’t sleep last night,” Sharpe said. “I woke up, worked out 1 1/2 hours, took four showers.... tried to take a nap. All I could think about was ... is it gonna happen today?
“All those years my grandmother worked at the nursing home where she lives now ... I didn’t know what I did to deserve it. All I ever wanted to do was make her proud.”
• Dent was part of the Chicago Bears’ 1985 “Shufflin’ Crew” that caught the nation’s attention by making a rap video. He was a fierce defensive end who spent his first 11 years (1983-93) with the Bears and jumped to the 49ers in 1994, winning another Super Bowl.
“This takes me back to following Walter Payton,” Dent said of a Hall of Fame running back. “He would always say, don’t do what I saw, do what I do. ... I’m so thankful for the example he set.”
• Richter died on June 10, 2010.
He played linebacker for the 49ers from 1954-62. Richter never played in a postseason but was known as a quintessential hard-nosed player.
Voters took into account the fact he made All-Pro six straight years and might have done it more had he not spent what would have been the first two NFL seasons serving in the Korean War.
• Sanders, 43, played cornerback for five teams.
He won a Super Bowl in his only season with the 49ers, 1994, then won his only other Super Bowl a year later with the Cowboys.
He played in 188 games overall. No one disputed his talent, although his style played to mixed reviews.
“I remember him for his extreme quickness,” said Hall of Fame defensive back Ken Houston said. “And his showmanship. You couldn’t miss it.”
• Sabol, 94, is the founder of NFL Films, credited with setting a tone that was a key in the NFL becoming the nation’s most popular pro league.
Sabol brought an in-your-face style to the league’s moving pictures, along the line of blood running down the bridge of Jack Lambert’s nose.
His son, Steve, proudly noted that his father is in the Swimming Hall of Fame and was part of the Normandy Invasion in World War II.
“He’s done a lot in his life,” Steve Sabol said. “His love was making movies.”
Steve Doerschuk writes for the Canton (Ohio) Repository.