Archive for October, 2005
The preliminary list of candidates for induction into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame was announced yesterday. There are a number of great Steelers or Pittsburgh-related players listed including L.C. Greenwood, Donnie Shell, Dermontti Dawson and Jimbo Covert & Russ Grimm (who both played at Pitt and then on the famed Redskins “Hogs” lines). Dawson is in his first year of candidacy and so might not get in this year but he will eventually. I sincerely hope that Grimm & Covert get into the Hall at some point.
It’s long been my position that Greenwood and Shell are most worthy candidates for election into the Hall of Fame. How can a member of the famed Steel Curtain defensive line not be elected?! In addition, Shell was a great player on those teams, responsible for a lot of coverage and read assignments.
There are those who will counter that there are already too many players from the 1970’s Steelers teams in the Hall of Fame. I fail to see how a great player can be less deserving because he played with other great players. Having said that, I must admit that I have my doubts as to whether Lynn Swann & John Stallworth deserved induction – not over L.C. Greenwood, not over Donnie Shell or even Andy Russell.
It’s not fair to Greenwood that his greatness is often overlooked because he wasn’t as flashy as Mean Joe Greene or Jack Lambert or Lynn Swann or Franco Harris. Not having that signature moment that elevated Swann or some of the others shouldn’t diminish his candidacy nor should having played with other greats of the game.
I have come to the conclusion that the greatest football player of all-time is Tony Dorsett. Experts say that Jim Brown was the greatest NFL player of all-time and that Walter Payton was probably one of the most talented. Few players won more than Otto Graham’s 8 NFL titles in 10 years. Archie Griffin won two Heisman trophies at Ohio State. Doug Flutie rewrote the collegiate passing record books and put Boston College on the map. But no one in the history of the game accomplished more in both the collegiate and professional ranks. Let us review…
When Tony Dorsett came out of Hopewell high school in Pittsburgh, he was one of the most heavily recruited players in the country. He could have gone anywhere – USC, Oklahoma, Alabama, Notre Dame, Pennstate. He chose to stay home at Pitt and with his commitment to the Panthers came tremendous expectations. He became the first true freshman ever to start at tailback for the Panthers. By the time his four years at Pitt were done, Tony Dorsett ranked 1st on Division 1-A’s all-time rushing yards list. He won a Heisman trophy. He led Pitt to the 1976 National Title, smashing powerful foes like Notre Dame and Pennstate along the way. He was eventually elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Dorsett was drafted #2 overall in the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Once again, his selection came with tremendous expectations. He didn’t disappoint. By the time he retired from the NFL, Dorsett ranked 2nd on the NFL’s all-time rushing yards list. He played in two Superbowls and won one. He garnered a reputation as being one of the fastest players in the NFL. He was also eventually elected to the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
Now it’s true that a player’s legacy shouldn’t necessarily be diminished if he had the misfortune of playing on teams that stunk. Plenty of Hall of Fame players never sniffed the Superbowl or the National Title let alone winning one of each. But at the same time, a player’s legacy should be enhanced if he was the catalyst for turning good teams into championship teams and that was certainly the case with Dorsett. Every year, one maybe two college teams win the National Title. Every year, one team wins the Superbowl. There are always great players, great participants on each of these teams. How is it that of all the great players to have played in college and the pro’s, no one can match Dorsett’s record of both statistical and championship excellence. NO ONE. Look it up if you want; prove me wrong. I know I’m right.