DALLAS (AP) - Deion Sanders always was Prime Time. Now he's All
Sanders and Marshall Faulk led a class of seven voted into the
Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Joining them were Shannon
Sharpe, Richard Dent, Ed Sabol, Les Richter and Chris Hanburger.
As talkative as he was talented, known as much for his
celebration dances as his interceptions and kick returns, Sanders
was an outstanding cornerback and sometime wide receiver with five
teams. He's a two-time Super Bowl winner and was the Defensive
Player of the Year in 1994.
"I'm excited. These guys - are you kidding me? It's hard to
describe," Sanders said. "To be held up in high regard, to this
standard ... I am honored."
Sanders also played major league baseball. But football clearly
was his calling.
"He was an electrifying performer who put fans on the edge of
their seats every time he manned his cornerback position or dropped
back to receive a kickoff or field a punt," Falcons owner Arthur
Blank said. "Deion is, without question, one of the greatest
players in the history of the NFL."
Sanders got in a comical dig at Faulk and Sharpe.
"Man, this is real," he said, "and I got to see Marshall
Faulk and Shannon Sharpe cry."
Faulk won a Super Bowl with the 1999 Rams, was the 1994
Offensive Rookie of the Year, 2000 NFL MVP and a three-time
Offensive Player of the Year (1999-2001). Faulk is the 10th leading
career rusher with 12,279 yards, and for a half-dozen seasons was
the most versatile back in football, as much a threat as a receiver
as a runner.
"I wanted the ball in my hands so I could so something with
it," Faulk said, recalling how he briefly played quarterback in
high school and didn't find it exciting enough.
Faulk got teary-eyed when asked how his mother reacted to his
Sharpe starred for Denver and Baltimore for 14 seasons and won
three Super Bowls in a four-year span, two with Denver, one with
Baltimore. He held league records for a tight end in receptions,
yards and touchdowns when he retired in 2001.
"If I had a thousand tongues, I couldn't say how happy and
proud I am," Sharpe said. "I don't know what I did to deserve
John Elway knew.
"This caps off a tremendous football career by a guy who truly
was self-made and worked his tail off to become one of the best
players in the history of the NFL," said Elway, who was Sharpe's
quarterback in Denver.
Sharpe always knew football was going to be his profession.
"If you are going to have letters behind your name, I wasn't
going to have M.D. or PhD. HOF is pretty good," he said.
Bears defensive end Dent was the MVP of the 1986 Super Bowl and
finished with 137½ career sacks. He was the top pass rusher on one
of the NFL's greatest defensive units. Dent became a starter in
1984, beginning a 10-year period in which he made 10 or more sacks
in eight of 10 seasons.
"It was a long time coming, I am very happy," Dent said. "If
you can do your thing the way (Walter Payton) did his, you can be
in the Hall of Fame. I am so thankful for this."
Dent also won a Super Bowl in 1994 with the 49ers.
Richter played linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams from 1954-62.
They traded 11 players for him and waited two years while he was in
the military before he suited up. He made the wait worthwhile ,
going to eight straight Pro Bowls. He also was a center and kicker.
Richter died last June.
Hanburger spent all 14 pro seasons with the Redskins and played
in nine Pro Bowls. He played from 1965-78 and was called "The
Hangman." He was known for using clothesline tackles that
eventually were outlawed.
"It's wonderful. I am just overwhelmed. It's such a tremendous
honor to be nominated, let alone get in," Hanburger said. "Have
to think of all the men who played before me and all the men I
Sabol founded NFL Films and was selected as a contributor.
The finalists who did not get in were Curtis Martin, Dermontti
Dawson, Cortez Kennedy, Andre Reed and Willie Roaf.
Induction ceremonies are Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio.