Introducing the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013
It's a wonderful time of year for football fans everywhere.
Saturday's induction ceremony and Sunday's Hall of Fame game can mean only one thing: The 2013 NFL season has arrived.
For seven men, however, Saturday has a much larger meaning.
For those men, Saturday is the culmination of a lifetime of hard work; of two-a-day practices, playing hurt and time spent away from their families.
For those seven men, Saturday is both a celebration and a coronation, as each are presented for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Here's a look at the class of 2013.
Larry Allen, Offensive Guard/Tackle, Dallas Cowboys
Larry Allen was a mountain of a man on the football field—350 pounds of no way are you getting to the quarterback.
A 14-year veteran who earned a Super Bowl ring and 11 Pro Bowl nods over his stellar career with the Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, Allen was named to the NFL's All-Decade team for both the 1990s and 2000s.
Allen is also widely regarded as one of the strongest men ever to lace up. Football analyst and former scout Bryan Broaddus was in the room in 2001 when Allen bench-pressed 700 pounds. Broaddus recapped the feat for DallasCowboys.com: "When Allen got the bar to safety, the room exploded. I remember Rocket Ismail diving over the top of Allen as he still was on his back after the lift."
Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones was also effusive in his praise for Allen recently, telling The Associated Press via CBS-11 TV, “He has to be one of the strongest guys to play the game. I think Larry would have been a Hall of Famer at guard or tackle, and either side. He was special like that.”
Allen did indeed star at both tackle and guard during his NFL career, and there will be yet more praise heaped on the big man when his bust is unveiled Saturday in Canton.
Cris Carter, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings
Cris Carter's Hall of Fame candidacy was a lot like his playing career. It took a while to get going, but Carter eventually found the end zone.
Carter's NFL career almost never got off the ground, as substance abuse problems led to his release from the Philadelphia Eagles after three seasons.
In fact, a quote that has been used throughout the years to show what an idiot head coach Buddy Ryan was is actually a testimonial to Ryan's loyalty, according to Carter himself.
I knew exactly what Buddy was doing. He told me he would never reveal my past (drug and alcohol abuse) to anyone. Someone asked him a question, "Why did you cut him?" And he said, "Well, he only caught touchdowns. He wasn't a complete receiver." It was what he decided to do to try to protect me.
After his release by the Eagles, Carter got clean and latched on with the Minnesota Vikings. In 12 seasons in the purple and gold, Carter topped 1,000 receiving yards eight times, reeled in 110 touchdown passes and made eight trips to the Pro Bowl.
Now, on the sixth try, the fourth-leading receiver in NFL history has made the cut. Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey has a detailed look back at Carter's 16 NFL seasons, while Andrew Garda examines Carter's top 10 moments in the NFL.
Curley Culp, Defensive Tackle, Kansas City Chiefs
It may be hard to imagine after last year's 2-14 debacle, but once upon a time the Kansas City Chiefs were Super Bowl champions.
It happened in 1970, and was in large part due to the play of defensive tackle Curley Culp.
Despite being undersized (even for those days) at only 265 pounds, Culp terrorized opposing offenses for 14 seasons, notching five Pro Bowl nods and taking home the 1975 NEA Defensive Player of the Year award as a member of the Houston Oilers.
According to The Associated Press via Fox News, former teammate Emmitt Thomas, who also made it to Canton as a senior nominee, said of his old friend: "He did it with his strength and quickness, but part of that was from his wrestling, and we were fortunate with those guys to have some very intelligent guys on defense. And [he was] ornery as hell."
Jonathan Ogden, Offensive Tackle, Baltimore Ravens
In addition to the titles of the Hall of Famer and Super Bowl champion, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden holds a distinction that no other player in NFL history ever has or ever will.
The former UCLA standout was the first-ever draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens.
Over 12 seasons in the National Football League, Ogden protected 15 different starting quarterbacks with a combination of strength and athleticism that had rarely been seen before him. Ogden was named to 11 Pro Bowls and 10 All-Pro teams.
Ogden helped to redefine the value placed on left tackles in the NFL draft and free agency, and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome didn't mince words when talking to ESPN's Jamison Hensley about Ogden's importance to the franchise.
"Jonathan is the foundation of this franchise," Newsome said. "If we don’t pick Jonathan Ogden with that first pick, I may not have this job."
Bleacher Report AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst has a retrospective on the foundation of the Baltimore Ravens, while Matt Stein presents the top 10 highlights from over a decade spent dominating in the trenches.
Bill Parcells, Head Coach, New York Giants
Bill Parcells has racked up his share of frequent flyer miles over a long career as a coach and later general manager, but given that Parcells twice hoisted the Lombardi trophy as head coach of the New York Giants, "The Big Tuna" will enter the Hall of Fame with Big Blue.
Those victories came in Super Bowl XXI and XXV, and Parcells would make a third trip to football's biggest stage, leading the New England Patriots to a loss in Super Bowl XXXI.
However, the two-time Coach of the Year's true impact on the NFL can't be judged just by his 183 career victories, or the front office moves he made in Miami and New York.
Parcells is the only head coach in NFL history to reach the postseason with four teams. The NFL is littered with coaches who cut their teeth under Parcells, including three-time Super Bowl champion Bill Belichick and two-time Super Bowl winner Tom Coughlin.
As Parcells told Jim Corbett of USA Today, being elected to the Hall of Fame truly is a culmination for his career.
The Hall of Fame is very personal to me. When you hoist that Lombardi Trophy (as Super Bowl champion), it's only momentary. I'm a student of the game, my predecessors. To be in the Hall with guys like Al Davis, all he did for me. ... John Madden. ... It's a special fraternity of football guys.
Chris Trapasso took a look back at Parcells' two-plus decades walking the sideline and prowling the booth, while Brandon Alisoglu picked out the 10 biggest achievements of a career that was littered with big moments.
Dave Robinson, Linebacker, Green Bay Packers
They could dedicate almost an entire wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame just to Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers.
With the induction of linebacker Dave Robinson this year, an even dozen players from those great teams of the 1960s will have been inducted into Canton.
Robinson played in the NFL for 12 years and has several championships to show for it. Not only was he a part of the winning team in the first two Super Bowls, but Robinson already had an NFL title to his credit before that.
Robinson was also a player ahead of his time. A converted defensive end, the three-time Pro Bowler was phenomenal in coverage, and his 27 career interceptions still rank in the top-10 of all time among linebackers.
The biggest play of Robinson's career came in coverage. As Steve Doerschuk of CantonRep.com pointed out, Robinson forced an interception by teammate Tom Brown in the 1967 NFL title game that propelled the Packers on to Super Bowl I.
Robinson feels like that play may have changed the course of NFL history. "If we lose that game, and Dallas goes to the Super Bowl instead of us," said Robinson, "it could be the Tom Landry Trophy now instead of the Vince Lombardi Trophy."
Warren Sapp, Defensive Tackle, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sometimes a player comes along who not only stars as an individual, but who also changes the future of his position for years to come.
Lawrence Taylor did it for linebackers with the New York Giants, and Warren Sapp did it for defensive tackles with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Now both men are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Over 13 seasons with the Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, Sapp racked up 96.5 sacks, was named to seven Pro Bowls and was included in the NFL's All-Decade teams for both the 1990s and 2000s.
The 1999 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Sapp was an absolute terror over a four-year stretch from 1997 to 2000, tallying 46.5 sacks over that span.
A member of the Buccaneers team that destroyed Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII, Sapp is nearly as well-known for his outgoing personality and willingness to offer an opinion off the field as he is for wreaking havoc on it.
Sapp told Hal Habib of The Palm Beach Post that he's going to be just as open with his emotions on Saturday: “I’m not even trying. I’m going to cry like a baby. I’m going to put a towel to my head, just as if I was out here to fight off this sun.”
Sapp's career contained a ton of big moments, but only the top 10 made it into Matt Miselis' look back at the highlights. For even more information on Sapp, be sure to read Bleacher Report NFC South Lead Writer Knox Bardeen's look at Sapp's playing days.
Looking Forward...and Back
Just as soon as Saturday's ceremony has concluded, many fans and pundits will turn their focus and speculation toward who will be a part of the class of 2014.
A new group of nominees such as Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison will make their cases for the first time.
However, it may well be an uphill battle for Harrison, who will have to get in line behind Andre Reed of the Buffalo Bills and Tim Brown of the Oakland Raiders as the logjam at wideout continues.
It's never too soon to take a look ahead, and Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey has done just that, assembling a voting committee of his own to announce Bleacher Report's predictions for the 2014 Hall of Fame inductees.
Ryan Riddle takes things further still, with a breakdown of the odds that some stars of the present have of being Hall of Famers in the future.
Finally, before we close the book on the class of 2013, Russell S. Baxter examines how this year's group stacks up against other Hall of Fame classes, while Alessandro Miglio lets us know if anyone from the class of 2013 makes the cut as one of the top 25 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.