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Sunday February 1, 2009 6:00 am

2009 NFL Hall of Fame Inductees

Bruce Smith

Wow, am I feeling old.  On Saturday, the day before Super Bowl XLIII goes down between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL introduced its latest paragons of the sport that will be headed to Canton, Ohio, home of the NFL Hall of Fame.  Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson, the late Derrick Thomas, Randall McDaniel, Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, and Bob Hayes are the latest NFL Hall of Famers.  The feeling old comment is because I saw Smith, Woodson, Thomas, and McDaniel in their rookie years!  That said, let me speak on some of these players. 

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Bruce Smith was a straight up force as a DE, not only collapsing the pocket, but busting through it and making the QB eat dirt.  He is the NFL’s all-time sack leader with 200.0 and despite the prodigious efficiency he displayed on the field, he did not get as much press as he probably should have because Buffalo was known more for Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and of course, playing runner-up in Super Bowls.  Plus, Lawrence Taylor was all the sack rage while Smith’s NFC counterpart, Reggie White, was known more as the DE standard.  However, you can’t deny Smith’s numbers and, obviously, his candidacy for the Hall.

Rod Woodson was Troy Polamalu before Troy Polamalu - an exciting DB to watch and someone QBs should not throw towards.  He really made his mark with the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially during arguably his best season in 1992 when he finished the season with 100 tackles, 6.0 sacks, four interceptions, and four forced fumbles.  And during his latter years, he even helped the Baltimore Ravens win a Super Bowl in 2000.  However, as great as he was defensively, he was also a dangerous punt and kick returner that had the ability to take it to the house.  But the thing that stands out most to me - he made things look easy.

If it wasn’t for the aforementioned Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas would be the LB that everyone would have idolized during the late 80s and early 90s.  Thomas recorded 20.0 sacks in only his second season, leading the league in that category in 1990 and went on to become one of the best LBs ever, as well as one of the Kansas City Chiefs greatest players.  He was a consistent performer year-in and year-out, but unfortunately left the NFL field and this earth too soon in 2000 at the age of 33.  Thomas still could have played and who knew how much more he could have done on the gridiron, but more importantly, off the gridiron.

Randall McDaniel played the underpraised left guard position, protecting the blindside of most QBs.  However, McDaniel got his praise on Saturday.  He was a 12-time Pro Bowler and seven-time first team All-Pro during his 14-year career.  You didn’t hear too many offensive linemen names back during the 1990s with the Minnesota Vikings, McDaniel’s prime years, but when you did, McDaniel’s name was always mentioned.

Congratulations to the 2009 NFL Hall of Fame class!



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