For many of his 15 career seasons in the National Football League, Bruce Smith tormented opposing offensive coordinators, rending their game plans useless against him.
Today, he was rewarded for his relentless productivity.
The career sacks leader made it into the NFL Hall of Fame on his first eligible try.
Joining him were five other worthy candidates.
Defensive back Rod Woodson earned this top recognition while spending most of his playing days in Pittsburgh (current Super Bowl champs).
Woodson finished his career with the equally defensive-minded juggernaut Baltimore Ravens.
Also elected to the Hall of Fame were Bills owner Ralph Wilson, and former players Randall McDaniel, Bob Hayes, and Derrick Thomas.
In my mind, it was who didn’t make this year’s list that has the most significance.
Former hog and Redskin favorite Russ Grimm was left out when the media voters cut the field from 10 candidates to five.
Grimm did get to coach the Arizona Cardinals as their offensive line coach in this year’s Super Bowl.
Too bad the Cards fell just short of an amazing playoff run. It is always how you finish in this league that makes the biggest impression. No one is going to remember your three rushing touchdowns in a preseason game, off a second-string defensive unit.
To borrow a much adored sports movie phrase, “Off of a guy who is going to be bagging groceries in a week.” So for now, Grimm will have to bear with the process.
I only wish that the ordeal that Redskin fans went through with Art Monk does not occur with Grimm.
Bruce Smith was a menace in his heyday. So I extend to him my sincerest congratulations. Plus, the hated Daniel Snyder snagged him from the Buffalo Bills when he still had some juice left.
We enjoyed having him in Washington.
In a statement released by the Redskins Snyder said the following:
“We were fortunate to have Bruce as a Redskin for his final four playing years, and as a Redskin when he set the all-time sack record. He is a consummate professional in life as he was in the locker room and on the field. He’s a personal friend and the epitome of a Hall of Famer. He still joins us at games, and Redskin fans will always feel apart of his stellar career.”
And Smith returned the love right back to DC in his comments upon hearing he was selected to represent the game’s best.
“I built a relationship with an incredible person in Dan Snyder,” said an appreciative Smith. “It was like a homecoming for me being able to play three hours from my home. So many friends and family members were able to come see me play. I wish we would have won a little more.”
Perhaps what will always haunt Mr. Smith, is his legacy as part of a team that lost four straight Super Bowls.
The Bills came close to the sweet taste of victory in the 1990 Super Bowl game versus the New York Football Giants.
Kicker Scott Norwood pushed a late second 47-yarder wide left, and the Bills lost to Bill Parcells and Co. 20-19. Even so this day was all for him, and he clearly loved being in the limelight again.
Both Derrick Thomas and Bob Hayes received votes posthumously.
Hayes spent his glory years with the Dallas Cowboys as a wide receiver. He died in 2002 at age 59. Thomas was a fierce linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs. He died in 2000 at age 33 from injuries sustained in a car accident.
Randall McDaniel was picked from a list of offensive lineman that included the aforementioned Russ Grimm, Bob Kuechenberg, and Dermontti Dawson.
His best seasons came when he was with the Minnesota Vikings.
“I’m still in a bit of shock about it,” said McDaniel. “But I’m humbled. I’m overwhelmed. It feels great.”
Other significant names to be cut from this year’s Hall of Fame List:
1. Cris Carter – WR who played for the Minnesota Vikings
2. Richard Dent – DE who played for the
3. John Randle - DE who played for the Minnesota Vikings
4. Shannon Sharpe - TE who played for the Denver Broncos