Staff and wire report
CANTON: Dave Robinson lives just 25 minutes away in Akron and served on the Pro Football Hall of Fame board for 27 years.
Yet it took the former Green Bay Packers’ linebacker 38 years to make it to Canton as an official inductee into the hall of fame.
Robinson was inducted Saturday night at Fawcett Stadium along with Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Curley Culp, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells and Warren Sapp as part of the Class of 2013.
That’s why the humble Robinson promptly addressed the elephant in the stadium during his enshrinement speech: why it took so long for him to be honored.
“I’d like to thank the selectors, especially the senior committee who looked back and said, ‘Whoa, wait a minute! We forgot Dave Robinson, let’s put him in there,’ ” he said. “Fellas, I really thank you.”
“Let’s just say this celebration is long, long, long overdue,” master of ceremonies Chris Berman said of Robinson, a Penn State All-American, three-time Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s.
“You’ve always been a hall of famer to me,” Robinson’s son, Dave Robinson said in a pre-taped introduction before his father took the stage. “I’m really honored and proud that they finally got it right.”
How tough was Robinson before his retirement in 1974?
“He swatted me like a mosquito,” Baltimore Colts great Raymond Berry said Friday during festivities at the hall of fame.
Robinson, the Packers’ first-round selection in 1963, still ranks fifth all-time among NFL linebackers in interceptions with 27.
“Bill Parcells said Dave Robinson was Lawrence Taylor before there was a Lawrence Taylor,” said the younger Dave Robinson. “My dad was the original big, fast, strong linebacker. He made sure that the person who had the ball knew Dave Robinson was on the field that day.… [To him], the defense wasn’t there to stop the other team, the defense’s job was to get the ball and score.”
But one of football’s original tough guys appears to have mellowed over the years, turning the spotlight away from himself at the beginning of his induction acceptance speech and shining it on a handful of those close to him by wishing a happy birthday to two friends and two family members.
As he spoke, Robinson referred to the family members and coaches along the way who helped him become one of the game’s best. But in a nod to how much time has passed since he became eligible for enshrinement, he often found himself ending the sentiment by saying: “They’re all gone, but I know many of them are looking down on me right now.”
Robinson said he learned pretty quickly and came to respect that the game of football is a true gladiator’s sport.
“A former coach of mine said it’s a Spartan game,” Robinson said. “It’s a game of hitting and getting hit. … I tell people that when you play football, you’ve got to like the taste of blood. And you’ve got to remember that 50 percent of the time, it’s your blood.”
When Robinson began playing in the NFL in the ’60s, he never dreamed of becoming a hall of famer.
“Unlike a lot of people, I never dreamt of coming to the hall of fame,” Robinson said. “It never crossed my mind … I never dreamt of it, never even thought about it in college. People ask me, ‘Didn’t you ever have dreams about it?’ I say, ‘No, there was no hall of fame. The hall of fame didn’t exist until my rookie year.
“But Vince Lombardi thought that the hall of fame was the greatest thing that ever happened to football. And you know what? As his disciple, I can say, he’s right, it was.”
Forcefully and emotionally, Carter summed up the 50th induction ceremony.
The seventh and final inductee, Carter honored dozens of people in his life who were “going into the hall of fame with me tonight.”
“I appreciate the process you have to go through to get to be a hall of famer,” said Carter, who had perhaps the best hands of any receiver the NFL has seen. “To be able to join these men on this stage in football heaven is the greatest day of my life.”
Carter needed six tries to make the hall even though he retired as the No. 2 career receiver behind Jerry Rice. He choked back tears as he made his speech after being presented by his son, Duron, and he spoke of his problems with alcohol while playing three years for the Eagles before being released.
He hooked on immediately with the Vikings and hooked onto nearly everything throw his way: Carter finished his 16-season career with 1,101 catches for 13,899 yards and 130 touchdowns.
Parcells also seemingly spoke for everyone in the hall of fame.
“There’s a kinship created that lasts for the rest of your life,” he said about his experience as one of the NFL’s most successful coaches.
The only coach to take four franchises to the playoffs, Parcells won Super Bowls with the New York Giants in the 1986 and 1990 seasons. The master of the team turnaround with the Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys, Parcells was called “the definitive winner” by former player George Martin, who presented him for induction.
Parcells’ career record was 183-138-1 and he won Coach of the Year honors in 1986 and 1994.
Ogden became the first Baltimore Raven enshrined in the hall. Ogden was the first player drafted by the Ravens after the franchise moved from Cleveland in 1996 and was renamed. The man who made that selection, fellow hall of famer Ozzie Newsome, now the Ravens’ general manager, presented the massive offensive tackle.
At 6-foot-9, 345 pounds, Ogden was an imposing presence at tackle for a dozen seasons in Baltimore, winning the 2000 Super Bowl.
Ogden made the hall in his first year of eligibility. He was a six-time All-Pro, made the Pro Bowl 11 times and was the main blocker when Jamal Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards in 2003.
“Talent isn’t enough,” Ogden said. “A lot of people have talent, they don’t always live up to it. For me it is about maximizing, striving for perfection. I am so proud to be the Baltimore Ravens’ first hall of fame inductee.”
Allen was one of the key blockers for the Cowboys as Emmitt Smith became the NFL’s career rushing leader, Allen made six All-Pro squads and 11 Pro Bowls in his 14 seasons, the final two with San Francisco. He won the Super Bowl in the 1995 season and was voted into the hall of fame in his first year of eligibility,
“I just knew I had to win every play,” he said. “That’s the reason I am here I knew if I lost a play, I had 45 seconds to get even.”
Sapp became only the second Tampa Bay Buccaneer to be enshrined, 18 years after Lee Roy Selmon made it. He was elected in his first year of eligibility following 13 seasons in which he went from instant starter after being selected 12th overall in the 1995 draft to Defensive Player of the Year in 1999.
“I sit here with the greatest among the great,” Sapp said, breaking into tears. “We’re here, baby.”
Culp was one of the game’s most dominant defensive tackles for much of his 14 pro seasons, including the 1969 season when he helped the Chiefs win the NFL title.
A five-time Pro Bowler, Culp also played for the Houston Oilers and Detroit Lions, retiring in 1981, then waiting more than three decades to be enshrined as a senior nominee.
“It gives me joy and inspiration that will last the rest of my life,” Culp said.