NFL Hall of Fame Class of 2010: "Greatest Class of All-Time" (Video)

Chris YoungCorrespondent IAugust 8, 2010

NFL Hall of Fame Class of 2010: "Greatest Class of All-Time" (Video)

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    On Saturday evening, seven NFL legends took center stage at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio for enshrinement into the league's Hall of Fame.

    Those seven legends, who I am presenting to you in this slide show, are Rickey Jackson, Russ Grimm, John Randle, Emmitt Smith, Dick LeBeau, Floyd Little, and Jerry Rice. Together they comprise one of, if not the best, Hall of Fame classes ever.

    Watching each inductee give their speech and take their place among the previously enshrined players I get goose bumps all over.

    When I was younger, I remember dreaming about being one of the greatest football players of all time.

    Even though physical limitations put that dream out of reach, I grew up with football. The sport is a huge part of my life and every Sunday spent watching football games has made my life that much more enjoyable—especially when I got to watch truly special players like the seven listed above.

    The Hall of Fame is a place where each player, coach, or contributor enshrined within has contributed something so great to the sport they are considered among the greatest of all time.

    The Pro Football Hall of Fame opened in 1963 with 17 inductees: Sammy Baugh, Bert Bell, Joseph Clark, Dutch Clark, Harold Grange, George Halas, Mel Hein, Pete Henry, Cal Hubbard, Don Hutson, Earl Lambeau, Tim Mara, George Preston Marshall, John McNally, Bronko Nagurski, Jim Brown, and Jimmy Conzelman.

    With the addition of the 2010 class, the Hall of Fame now includes 260 all-time greats.

    Through 2008, all but one of the player inductees played some part of their pro career in the NFL—the lone exception being Buffalo Bills guard Billy Shaw, who played his entire career in the American Football League (AFL) prior to the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

    Canton, Ohio was selected as the location for the Hall of Fame for three reasons: first, the NFL, then known as the American Professional Football Association, was founded in Canton in 1920; second, the now-defunct Canton Bulldogs were a successful NFL team based in Canton during the first few years of the league; and finally, the community of Canton successfully lobbied the NFL to have the Hall built in their city.

    To be eligible for the nominating process, a player must have been retired at least five years, and as of 2007, a coach must also have been retired for five years. Any other contributor such as a team owner or executive can be voted in at any time.

    I felt honored on August 7, 2010 to have watched the induction ceremony for this class because they are so great

    Congratulations to each of them for making the NFL the greatest sport of all and for making my Sundays that much more enjoyable.

    We have all witnessed one of the best, if not the best, Hall of Fame classes assume their rightful place in Canton amongst their fellow legends of the gridiron.

    I hope you all enjoy this article. Do not be afraid to comment or like this article, but please show respect when commenting.  Thank you for your time!

Rickey Jackson — OLB/DE — Saints 1981-1993 and 49ers 1994-1995

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    Rickey Jackson was drafted by the New Orleans Saints with the 51st pick in the second round of the 1981 NFL Draft.

    Jackson, along with fellow 2010 Hall of Fame inductee Russ Grimm, will be joining four other Hall of Famers from the 1981 NFL Draft Class: Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Mike Singletary, and Howie Long.

    He is the first long-time player for the New Orleans Saints to earn election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    While he spent the majority of his 15 year career with the Saints, other former Saints in the Hall played a total of three years or less with the team.

    He is arguably the best Saint of all time.

    He was a member of the Saints' famed "Dome Patrol," a four-man linebacking corps recently ranked as the best in NFL history by the NFL Network.

    He played left outside linebacker for the Saints (1981-1993) and was switched to right defensive end with the San Francisco 49ers (1994-1995).

    Rickey was named to the Pro Bowl six times (1983-1986, 1992-1993) during his career. He was a four-time First-Team All-Pro and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro selection.

    Jackson racked up over 136 career sacks.

    He recorded eight or more sacks in 10 different seasons and his 123 sacks with the Saints is still a team record.  

    He also recovered 29 fumbles, leading the NFL in that category in 1990 (7) and 1991(4).

    At the time of his retirement, his 29 defensive fumble recoveries were the second most in NFL history behind Jim Marshall's 29.

    Jackson also proved to be one of the toughest men to ever put on a helmet.

    Prior to the 1989 season, he was involved in a car accident. As a result, he needed to have his jaw wired shut. Despite the injury, he only missed two games and still recorded 7.5 sacks.

    Although Jackson is primarily known as a devastating pass rusher, he was equally great at stopping the run.

    And while he wasn’t well known for his ability to defend the pass (he only picked off eight passes in his career), the truth is he was one of the top outside linebackers in coverage throughout his career.

    Rickey Jackson played a complete game:

    "There was nothing he couldn't do. You couldn't say he could do this but not do that. He could rush the passer. He could play the run. He could drop into coverage. He could do all those things." - Jim Mora, former coach

    At the time of his retirement, Jackson was second in fumble recoveries (29) and third in career sacks (128). As a Saint, Jackson is first in games played (195), first in career sacks (123)—including eight unofficial his rookie year, first for most seasons played (13), first in fumble recoveries (26), first in fumbles recovered in a season (7), and has the Saints record for most sacks in a game (4).

Russ Grimm – OL – Washington Redskins 1981-1991

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    Drafted by the Washington Redskins in with the 69th pick of the 1981 NFL Draft's third round, Russ Grimm established himself as a preeminent offensive lineman throughout his career.

    Grimm was an anchor for the Redskins offensive line famously known as “The Hogs”. The unit received the nickname in 1982 from offensive line coach Joe Bugel.

    The Hogs consisted of Center Jeff Bostic, left guard Russ Grimm, right guard Mark May, right tackle Joe Jacoby, and left tackle George Starke, along with tight ends Don Warren and Rick Walker. Starke retired in 1984 shortly after the team won their third NFL Championship in Super Bowl XVII, but Bostic, Grimm, Jacoby, and Warren stayed together until the early 1990s.

    Their successes inspired a group of male fans who came to be known as "The Hogettes." The group attended games dressed in "old lady" drag, replete with dresses and wide-brimmed hats, and wearing plastic pig snouts.

    The tradition is still practiced by some Redskins fans today despite the retirement of the original hogs long ago.

    Grimm played 11 seasons with the Redskins, helping them to four Super Bowls and winning three (XVII, XXII, and XXVI).

    Because of his great play during the 1980s, Grimm was selected to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team, selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls (1983-1986), and was an All-Pro each of those years as well.

    He is also considered one of the 70 Greatest Redskins of all time.

    According to Mark May, a teammate both at Pittsburgh and on the Redskins, no one lived up to the "Hog" persona more than Grimm: "He was a blue collar stiff and proud of it."

    Grimm had all of the essentials of an offensive guard and quickly became one of the most feared offensive guards of his era.

    "Russ was the consummate athlete, everything came easy to him. He was exceptionally quick, had great feet, very fine strength, and was a very smart player. Russ was a great puller, a great trapper, could make terrific adjustments in ball games. He had it all." - Jim Hanifan, former Redskins offensive line coach.

John Randle – DT/DE – Vikings 1990-2000 and Seahawks 2001-2003

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    John Randle started his career with the Minnesota Vikings in 1990 as an undrafted rookie free agent.

    Randle's size was a big factor in his going undrafted, and his struggle making it on an NFL team’s roster. At 6’1” 287 lbs. he was considered too short and a bit under weight to play defensive tackle.

    The scouting report from Gil Brandt read: He's not a butterball, but he's not a racehorse. He's undersized. He's a one-gap penetrator. Plays with great leverage. Rolls his hips. Has no fear. Loves collisions. Never took a play off. He is very explosive out of his stance.

    He initially tried out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but was cut. They tried him at linebacker and on the defensive line, but felt they couldn’t find the right spot for him.

    Tampa would have been quite happy if they kept him.

    The Vikings picked Randle up during training camp and thought his best chance would be at defensive end. The coaches knew he could play and saw it in him.

    Dennis Green told the other coaches that Randle was going to be a star one day.

    In 1992 the Vikings switched him to defensive tackle, which paid off.

    From 1992-1999 Randle racked up double digit sacks in each year.

    Throughout his 14 year career, Randle would become the all-time sack leader for defensive tackles and sixth all time in NFL history with 137.5 sacks.

    Randle was a dominant force in the trenches, despite his lack of size, due to his tenacious play and drive for success.

    He was named to the Pro Bowl seven times (1993-1998, 2001) and named to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team.

    Randle is also known for his trash talking and his warrior face paint.

    Before coming out of the tunnel for each game, Randle would boldly announce, “Big Dog’s in the house!”

    He had an ongoing rivalry with Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, whom he sacked more than any other quarterback (11.5 times); Favre has said that Randle was the toughest defensive player he's ever faced and that "on artificial turf he's unblock able".

    Randle wasn’t the usual hefty run stopper that clogs up the middle.

    He changed the way defensive tackles played and changed the dimensions of the defensive line.

    Using his quickness and uncanny strength, Randle recorded more sacks than anyone in the league from 1991-2002.

    Although he may have been talked a lot of trash, John Randle backed it all up with his play on the field.

Emmitt Smith – RB – Dallas 1990-2002 and Arizona 2003-2004

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    Emmitt Smith began his career with the Dallas Cowboys in 1990.

    They selected him with the 17th pick in the first round that year.

    Coming out of the University of Florida, Smith was thought to be just another undersized running back that was too slow to be effective in the NFL.

    He quickly went to work proving his doubters wrong.

    In his rookie season he totaled 1,165 yards for 11 touchdowns earning him the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.

    Smith was the first player in NFL history to have five consecutive seasons of over 1,400 rushing yards.

    He is also one of three players, along with Jim Brown and LaDainian Tomlinson, to have 10 total touchdowns in their first seven seasons in the league, and is the only player to rush for 1,000 yards in 11 consecutive seasons.

    Many people say he wasn’t a flashy running back like his contemporary, and fellow Hall of Famer, Barry Sanders.

    It is true that he was more of a second effort back, but he was arguably the best second effort runner of all time.

    Smith never had that blinding speed, top notch trucking ability, or ankle breaking moves.

    He was more of a north-south style guy, but he had enough speed, power, and agility to earn himself eight Pro Bowl selections (1990-1995, 1998-1999), a NFL MVP award (1993), three Super Bowl Championships, a Super Bowl MVP award (XXVIII), and a spot on the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.

    If all those accolades are not enough, consider that Smith holds the NFL career rushing yard record (18,355), NFL career rushing touchdown record (164), the record for most 100 yard rushing games (78), and the record for yards from scrimmage as running back (21,579).

    Sometimes it doesn't seem like Smith gets enough credit for how truly great a player he was.

    Those of you who haven’t seen Emmitt play, try watching some of his highlights, or “The Story of Emmitt Smith: Run With History”.

    "He darts, feints, shifts back and forth like a typewriter carriage. He stops in the hole—comes to a complete stop—looks unhurriedly for a seam and skates across the field like a hot dog wrapper." - Jere Longman, Philadelphia Inquirer

    Between Emmitt and Walter Payton it’s hard to say, who was the best all around back of all time.

    Personally, I give the edge to Emmitt.

    Longtime teammate, fullback Daryl Johnston, even said Smith was a better pass blocker than he was.

    Understanding Emmitt's greatness by looking at his awards and stats is one thing, but to hear how good of a player he was without the ball is that much more impressive.

Dick LeBeau – DB/Coach – Detroit Lions 1959-1972 & Coach 1973-present

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    To the younger generation of NFL fans, Dick LeBeau seems to be known more for his coaching career than his playing career with the Detroit Lions.

    LeBeau was signed by the Lions as a rookie free agent in 1959 after he was cut by the Cleveland Browns, who initially drafted him in the 5th round of that year's draft.

    He played 14 seasons for the Lions as a defensive back.

    During his career, he picked off four passes or more in 11 seasons and made the Pro Bowl three times (1964-1966).

    He teamed up with three fellow Hall of Famers, Dick Lane, Lem Barney, and Yale Lary.

    In the early 60's, the trio of LeBeau, Lane, and Lary formed one of the most fearsome defensive backfield of all time.

    LeBeau is widely considered to be one of the best defensive backs in Lions history.

    He recorded 62 interceptions, 6th on the all time list and most in Lions history. His three interceptions returned for a touchdown ranks fifth in Lions history.

    ''He was a corner who could play the ball. When the ball was in the air, he had as much of a chance of getting it as the receiver did. He could judge its flight, it was easy for him." - Mike Brown, Bengals President (son of Paul Brown)

    LeBeau was a key cog in one of the greatest eras of defense in Lions' history.

    From 1961-70, the Lions ranked in the top five in total defense eight times. That included finishing first in 1962 and 1965, second in 1969-1970, third in 1961 and 1967, fourth in 1968, and fifth in 1964.

    One of his greatest accomplishments throughout his storied career, is his NFL record 171 consecutive games played as a defensive back.

    After retiring in 1973, LeBeau started another legacy as one of the greatest defensive coaches of all time.

    He is credited with the creation of the zone-blitz-defense as a coach for the Steelers in the 1990s and the 2000s.

    Sure the Steelers have always had a great group of players, but it is LeBeau's defensive schemes that made a talented goup of guys that much better.

    LeBeau was and still is a magnificent mind to have on your coaching staff.

    As a coach, LeBeau has been to four Super Bowls including four Super Bowl victories, helping the Bengals to the Super Bowl in 1988 and the Steelers to the Super Bowl in 1995, 2005, and 2008, winning in the latter two years.

    LeBeau consistently improves the defenses he coaches. If his team does not have the top defense in the NFL any given year, you can bet they'll be in the top 10.

    "Everything he touches, he leaves it better than he found it. That is the special mark of the man." - Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals head coach.

Floyd Little – RB – Denver Broncos 1967-1975

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    What would the Broncos be today if there was no Floyd Little?

    Floyd Little was the Denver Broncos in the late 60s and early 70s.

    Little was the Broncos first ever first round draft pick.

    Drafted with the sixth overall pick in the 1967 AFL/NFL Draft, the diminutive Little (5'10" 196 lbs) was the big time player that lead the resurgence of the Broncos franchise.

    Little was known as “The Franchise” simply for saving the team from relocation.

    His efforts on the field were phenomenal. He led the AFL/NFL in either rushing or all-purpose yards from 1968-1973.

    "Although his playing career with the Broncos took place before my time with the team, I am well aware of what Floyd Little means to this franchise, city and league. Aside from his stellar play on the field, he helped make the Broncos relevant in the NFL and strengthened the bond between this team and its fans. He has waited a long time for this honor, and I couldn't be happier for him." - Pat Bowlen, Broncos owner

    When Little retired in 1975 he was the 7th all-time leading rusher with 6,323 yards and 54 total touchdowns.

    He was also a three-time Pro Bowler (1970, 1971, and 1973) with the Broncos and a two-time AFL All-Star (1968 and 1969). He was also named to the Broncos Ring of Fame.

    Making Little's accomplishments even more impressive was the fact that the Broncos never had an offensive lineman selected to the Pro Bowl during Little's career.

    Little was the flash that passed the defenses eyes.

    He was one of the most exciting and explosive players of his era, playing on a team that was no good.

    He was the heart and soul of the Broncos, gaining over 12,000 all purpose yards. Those 12,000 plus all-purpose yards were more than anyone from 1967-1975.

    Little was the first Bronco to have the honor of his jersey (#44) being retired.

Jerry Rice – WR – 49ers 1985-2000, Raiders 2001-2004, and Seahawks 2004

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    Jerry Rice–the greatest wide receiver and NFL player to ever suit up! 

    "Jerry Rice doesn't rank in the all-time greats. He is the greatest receiver and maybe the greatest football player of all time." - Darren Sharper, safety, New Orleans Saints.

    In the 1985 NFL Draft, the 49ers traded their first two picks for New England's first-round choice, the 16th selection overall, in order to select Jerry Rice before the Cowboys who, according to some reports, intended to select him with the 17th pick.

    His 40 yard dash was the main reason he slid to the 16th overall pick in the draft. The scouting report on his speed was a 4.71 40.

    In fact, Rice was valued higher in the draft by the USFL where he was the number one pick overall in their 1985 draft.

    He started his career with his first great accomplishment, of which there were to be so many, when he was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Year after recording 49 receptions for 927 yards and three touchdowns.

    After his rookie year, Rice would blow the league away. He would record 1,000 receiving yards in his next 11 seasons (1986-1996) and 10 straight seasons (1986-1995) with 10 or more touchdowns.

    Jerry Rice has done just about everything a wide receiver can do in the National Football League.

    The numbers and marks he set in the NFL may never be touched again.

    During his 20 year career Rice was named to 13 Pro Bowls (1986-1996, 1998, and 2002), won three Super Bowl Championships (XXIII, XXIV, and XXIX), a Super Bowl MVP (XXIII),  was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, as well as the NFL’s 1980s and 90s All-Decade Team, was a two-time NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year, and holds over 20 NFL records.

    He has branded the record book with his name in any category having to do with the catching the ball.

    The most notable records he holds are: Receptions (1,549), Receiving yards (22,895), and Touchdown receptions (197).

    Even in his age 39 and 40 seasons, Rice managed to do what he does best: in both years he caught over 80 balls, for over 1,100 yards, and totaled 16 total touchdowns over the two seasons.

    He is the only wide receiver to appear on the top ten list of most career touchdowns by a quarterback /wide receiver tandem with two different QBs!

    Another example of Rice's dominance is his performance against Deion Sanders, considered by many as the best coverage cornerback of all-time.

    From 1989 to 1996, Rice and Sanders faced off ten times, with Rice compiling 60 receptions for 1,051 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns against Sanders' teams.

    "He sets the standard for everyone else." - Joe Montana, Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2000.