CANTON, Ohio — What a defensive backfield in gold jackets: Ed Reed, Ty Law and Champ Bailey.
All three entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
“Fitting to be in here with Mr. Johnny Robinson and Champ and Ty,” Reed said. “My DBs know it was always about us.”
The voices of Bailey, Reed and Law frequently broke during their speeches.
Law spoke of his family’s support, and his hometown, Aliquippa, Pa., which also produced his uncle, Tony Dorsett, and Mike Ditka — both Hall of Famers.
“I know there ain’t no crying in football,” Law joked.
“We are a community built on love, strength, struggle, and that Quiptown pride,” he said. “We did it, Aliquippa. We are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Law became the first inductee from New England’s standout defense that won three Super Bowls in the early 2000s. One of the most versatile and physical cornerbacks the NFL has seen, Law was selected for five Pro Bowl teams and was a two-time All-Pro. He finished with 53 career interceptions, twice leading the NFL in that category, had more than 800 tackles, 169 passes defensed, five sacks, and scored seven times.
Reed was just as big a playmaker for Baltimore, a safety who fellow enshrinee Ray Lewis called “a gift” to the Ravens and himself. He was elected in his first year of eligibility, just as Lewis was last year, and called for unity in America, setting a standard like a team’s — each pushing one another toward an achievement.
Reed, a five-time All-Pro safety and member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, was the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year and made nine Pro Bowls. He had 64 career interceptions, seventh overall; led the NFL in picks three times; and his 1,590 yards on interception returns is a league mark. His 13 non-offense TDs rank fifth all time.
In 2013, in his hometown of New Orleans, the Ravens won the Super Bowl.
Bailey played for Washington and Denver in his 15-year career, and was a force in each of those seasons. He intercepted 54 passes, including one against New England he returned for 100 yards in the 2005 divisional playoffs.
A 12-time Pro Bowler, a record for the position, and three-time All-Pro who made the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s, Bailey was the seventh overall draft pick by Washington in 1999. He was dealt to Denver in 2004 for running back Clinton Portis in a steal for the Broncos.
Referring to his fellow African Americans, Bailey asked that everyone listen “when we tell you about our fears. … When we tell you there are many challenges we face because of the color of our skin, please listen. And please do not get caught up in how the message is delivered.
“If we start listening, there is no limit to the progress we can make.”
Also inducted were Kevin Mawae, Pat Bowlen, Johnny Robinson, Gil Brandt and former Cal standout Tony Gonzalez.
Mawae never betrayed the lessons he learned when he first began playing football — flag football, no less.
Mawae was an outstanding center for three NFL teams, and a key union force during the 2011 lockout of players. His leadership, along with his talent and determination, made him a three-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler with the Seahawks, Jets and Titans, and the center on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
Mawae, who was presented by his wife, Tracy, is the first player of Hawaiian descent and the second Polynesian member of the hall, following the late Junior Seau. His speech paid warm tribute to his family and the inspiration and love they provided him.
“I knock on this door and I tell all of you,” he concluded in his speech, “I am home.”
Bowlen’s Denver Broncos made more Super Bowls (seven, winning three) than they had losing seasons. Under Bowlen’s leadership, Denver went 354-240-1 from 1984 through last season. He was the first owner in NFL history to oversee a team that won 300 games — including playoffs — in a span of three decades.
On the league level, the highly respected Bowlen, who died in June, worked on several influential committees, including co-chairing the NFL Management Council and working on network TV contracts such as the league’s ground-breaking $18 billion deal in 1998.
Brandt has been in the NFL so long he scouted Robinson. Brandt was procuring talent for the Dallas Cowboys in their initial season of 1960 when Robinson came out of LSU as a running back and eventually became a star safety.
“After all this time, I thought I had been forgotten,” Robinson said. “To receive that knock on the door … was surreal to me.”
Brandt paid tribute to his true calling: talent evaluation.
“What you do in securing talent is the lifeblood of football,” he said. “Seeing that player that was something special … or going to a D-3 campus and finding a diamond in the rough. I want all of you to look at my election into the Hall of Fame as a tip of the cap to you.”
For six decades, Brandt has been involved in the sport at a high level, from personnel director with the Cowboys to league consultant to draft guru to broadcaster.
Brandt, who was enshrined as a contributor, developed the Dallas scouting system that emphasized computers far before most other teams; scouted the historically black colleges and small colleges for talent; made signing undrafted free agents a science; and worked with Hall of Famers Tex Schramm, the team president, and coach Tom Landry, to build a dynasty.
Barry Wilner is an Associated Press writer.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Three-defensive-backs-among-8-inductees-to-14279001.php.