The best stories that are heard at any Hall of Fame ceremony are the one from players who were convinced that they weren’t supposed to make it.
Charles Haley, Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown are three of the eight inductees in Saturday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Most likely, each inductee will tell stories of seminal moments in their lives. You may hear them say “I don’t know son” or “You're not good enough.” They will say that they didn’t let those comments get them down. and they'll tell stories of those who looked out for them and others who discarded them at the first sign of trouble.
The three aforementioned men have those such stories.
Growing up in Chicago, I saw a lot of Notre Dame football due to my city’s close proximity to South Bend and the strong Irish population. However, I instantly identified with players such as Rocket Ismail, Tony Rice, Chris Zorich, Brown, Bettis and Ricky Watters. After all, they looked like me, so I became a fan of the program.
The thing about Bettis that was so cool to me was he wasn’t a physical specimen. He was a running back who used his girth. To see a bell cow with a gut destroy defenses at will was something many fans had not witnesses very often. When we start to think about how he played the game, you start to notice that he played with more than one sense of purpose and determination; like he was trying to get away from something and definitely didn’t want to get caught. He mentioned that in a recent interview:
"The mindset was, we're in the hood, mom and dad are working their butts off, there's no money around and we need to make some money," Bettis told Graham Bensinger. "So we said, you know what, let's give it a shot. It was one of those moments you regret. But at the moment, that was the only thing that was really available to us. That's the disheartening part of it all, is that here you had two young men and this was the opportunity that was available. So we took it. We took it and we sold drugs."
Growing up as a Chicago Bears fan, I have a vivid memory of Bettis getting the better of Brian Urlacher as the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year stood between Bettis and the end zone. That day Urlacher learned what “The Bus” was all about. To see him finally win a Super Bowl, in his hometown of Detroit no less, was a culmination of his career. The Bus went out how early football player wants to go out- on top.
(Photo credit: Steelers.com)
When it comes to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, wide receivers aren't given the due quarterbacks and running backs are. Only 24 of them are enshrined and only one of them had more receiving yards in their careers than Brown did- Jerry Rice.
I won’t bore you with stats. However, let’s put Brown’s career in perspective. While at Notre Dame, he won the Heisman Trophy, a death knell to an NFL career in most cases. After all, the Golden Domers ran an option offense, which is predicated on the running game spearheaded by the quarterback and running back. Also, he didn’t exhibit the typical “diva” behavior often associated with the position; he was quiet, letting his game physically demonstrate his powerful presence. Brown proved to be an Outlier when obstacles presented themselves during his storied career. He was really good for a very long time. He was as consistent as they come.The fact he never played on a Super Bowl winning team should not be held against him. After all, that's an overrated stat. Ask any Super Bowl winner if they would take Brown on their team; they’d pull the trigger in a heartbeat.
(Photo credit: Cbs Sports)
At one point in time, Charles Haley, a five time Super Bowl winning defensive end, was sent to the island of misfit toys due to his numerous incidents and outspoken behavior.Due to those incidents, the 49ers traded him to the Cowboys, a team they would eventually battle for NFC supremacy. During this time, Haley would hold a grudge that he used as motivation. He once told the New York Times as much:
"And I guess it will never change as long as we live in a society where negativism is a plus. You're popular in this league if you're a good old boy and don't speak up about what's wrong, about racism or anything else. Everything is O.K. as long as you don't think for yourself. It's that or either have a gimmick. That sells. But you be truthful and you've got problems. Bill Walsh didn't operate that way. It tells you a lot that I didn't have any such problems when he was my coach because he treated me with honesty and like a man. It's always been negative somewhere, and I've always been a misfit. I've fought that all my life. It's been me against the world. You get tired."
After it was all said and done, Haley is what any hall of fame should embody. Just because someone may have ruffled many feathers by being honest and true to themselves doesn’t mean they weren’t good at their job. Many of his contemporaries have to reluctantly admit that.
(Photo credit: Cbs Sports)
Terrell Owens recently said that he didn’t care if was elected to the hall of fame.
Deep down, he cares. Why play the game then? Maybe he was caught on a bad day but every player cares from the minute they first lace up their cleats and touch the pigskin. If someone walked up to me and asked me if I would like to win a Pulitzer one day, I’d say “Hell Yeah! Who doesn’t want to be recognized as one the best to ever do it?”
T.O. may have let pride get in the way but deep down he wants some kid to walk up to his bust in Canton and ask their dad, “Who’s that?” Dad can readily answer that question in regards to Tim Brown, Jerome Bettis and Charles Haley and say it with pride as they did it right.