CANTON, Ohio (AP) — The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted eight people in a ceremony Saturday night in Canton, Ohio: cornerback Champ Bailey, tight end Tony Gonzalez, former Michigan cornerback Ty Law, center Kevin Mawae, safety Ed Reed, and safety Johnny Robinson. NFL executives Pat Bowlen and gil Brandt also were inducted into the Class of 2019.
Tony Gonzalez probably could have been a star in the NBA. Instead, he chose the NFL path, and the most productive tight end in history has entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A six-time All-Pro, Gonzalez helped revolutionize the position, lining up in traditional tight end spots as well as flanked out or in the backfield — pretty much everywhere on the field. Then he beat slower linebackers or smaller defensive backs everywhere on the field in 12 seasons with Kansas City and five with Atlanta. He stands second in receptions with 1,325 only to Jerry Rice, like Gonzalez a Hall of Fame inductee in his first year of eligibility.
A first-round draft pick by Kansas City in 1997, Gonzalez was 33 when traded to Atlanta in 2009. By then, he already held NFL records for catches and yards receiving by a tight end.
His final totals included 15,127 yards receiving and 111 touchdowns in the regular season. He made 14 Pro Bowls and the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
“Be fearless, and focus,” said Gonzalez, who was presented by his cousin, Dennis Allen. “I believe (success), it’s in your heart and your mind. I learned this just from watching the greats.”
Champ Bailey came to the NFL as a do-everything player who could be used on offense, defense and special teams. He stuck to cornerback, though, and was so outstanding that he made the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
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 the Redskins in 1999. He was dealt to Denver in 2004 for running back Clinton Portis in a steal for the Broncos.
Bailey immediately became a go-to guy in the Denver locker room, something he said he learned from his dad.
“If you are going to do something, try to be the best at doing something,” Bailey said. “I think I did my best, dad.”
He was presented by Jack Reale, his agent and attorney.
No less an authority than Ray Lewis once called Ed Reed a “gift” to his career. Now Reed has joined Lewis in the Hall of Fame.
Reed, a five-time All-Pro safety and member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, was a steady and often spectacular playmaker behind linebacker Lewis in Baltimore. Together, they won the 2012 league title, and one year after Lewis entered the hall, his sidekick joined him.
“There’s no place like Baltimore,” Reed shouted to loud applause from Marylanders on hand.
As for Lewis, Reed said, referring to Lewis’ number: “52 back to back, never been done. The guy that changed my life, brother for life.”
Reed was the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year and made nine Pro Bowls. He played both strong and free safety for the Ravens in his first 11 pro seasons, then split 2013 between the Texans and Jets before retiring. 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.
But he was more than a ballhawk. Reed was the glue of an outstanding secondary, a sure tackler and, like his “brother” Lewis, an unquestioned leader of a high-quality defense. That earned him first-ballot entry into the hall.
“I loved it all,” he said.
He was presented by his father, Edward Reed Sr.
Ty Law has become the first Pro Football Hall of Famer from New England’s standout defense that won three Super Bowls in the early 2000s.
Law, one of the most versatile and physical cornerbacks the NFL has seen, was inducted Saturday night.
“Hopefully, that’ll open up the door, finally letting one of us in, and hopefully that opens up the flood gates for a lot of other deserving guys to one day be Hall of Famers, as well,” Law said.
Law, whose uncle is Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett, 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.
He was a first-round pick by New England out of Michigan in 1995 and played 15 seasons in the NFL, 10 with the Patriots. He also had two one-year stints with the New York Jets and with Kansas City, and one with Denver.
Perhaps Law’s most noteworthy game came in the 2002 Super Bowl, when his hard-hitting style upset Rams receivers and threw off the “Greatest Show on Turf. “That was emblematic of his attacking style — and soon after led to rules changes limiting how physical defenders could be against receivers.
Law was presented by his friend, Byron Washington, and paid hefty tribute to his hometown of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, which also produced Hall of Famer Mike Ditka.
“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.”
The late Pat Bowlen, one of the most successful owners in NFL history, has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bowlen, a selection by the contributors committee, died in June. He was presented Saturday night by Steve Antonopulos, the Broncos’ longtime trainer.
Antonopulos and Bowlen’s children huddled around the Hall of Fame bust and several of them patted it while on the stage.
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. Bowlen had as many Super Bowl appearances (seven) as losing seasons, and won three Super Bowls.
On the league level, the highly respected Bowlen 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.
Kevin 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, have gotten Mawae into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A three-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler with the Seahawks, Jets and Titans, the center on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s, Mawae was inducted Saturday night in his third year as a finalist. Offensive lineman rarely should be judged by statistics, but consider that Mawae blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in 13 of his 16 seasons — by five different running backs, capped by the NFL’s sixth 2,000-yard rushing performance, by Tennessee’s Chris Johnson in 2009, Mawae’s final season.
“I learned to love the preparation, the plays and the puzzle,” Mawae said. “I loved putting on my uniform and cleats. I learned to never step on the field without being ready to work.”
Known for his ruggedness, intelligence and versatility, Mawae played 177 consecutive games at one point. From 2008-2012, he served as president of the NFLPA, guiding it through the difficult work stoppage that led to a 10-year labor agreement with the league.
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.
“I knock on this door and I tell all of you,” he concluded, “I am home.”
Safety Johnny Robinson’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame makes for a half-dozen members of the great Kansas City Chiefs’ defense of the 1960s who have been enshrined.
It took him longer than any of them.
Robinson joins Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan, Emmitt Thomas and Curley Culp. They formed the nucleus of an AFL powerhouse that made the first Super Bowl. Robinson was passed over six times during the 1980s, but got in as a seniors committee nominee.
One of 20 players to play all 10 seasons of the AFL, he made 57 interceptions, went to seven Pro Bowls, received all-league recognition five times and was chosen to the AFL’s all-time team.
Robinson was drafted in 1960, by the Detroit Lions in the NFL and the Dallas Texans in the AFL. He wound up in Dallas, helped the team beat the two-time defending champion Houston Oilers to win the AFL title in 1962, then followed the rechristened organization to Kansas City in 1963.
He was presented by Bob Thompson, his stepson.
If anyone is an expert on all things NFL, it’s Gil Brandt, who entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
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. And he has a story for every job and every situation.
Brandt cited finding NFL players on the basketball court and at historically black colleges, uncovering undrafted guys who became stars and kickers in Europe among his most rewarding experiences.
“My life has been an incredible journey, all inspired by football,” he said.
Presented by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — who fired Brandt 30 years ago when Jones bought the team — Brandt 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.
Brandt moved into media after leaving the Cowboys and as an NFL consultant has offered a guiding hand in the explosive growth of the draft.
Brandt entered the hall in the contributor category.
Tony Gonzalez believes youngsters should play multiple sports.
The most accomplished tight end in NFL history, who was voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, was an outstanding college basketball player. He says lessons he learned on the court helped him on the field.
“I have four kids,” he notes. “The best thing they can do is play. I was a skateboarder and learned a lot of my balance from it. Surfing, volleyball on the beach. All different sports backgrounds makes you a better athlete. Collectively, they all feed off each other.”
Gonzalez doesn’t wonder how he would have fared in the NBA, and why should he given his stellar career in football? But being so involved in sports built a foundation for his success in the NFL.
“You can’t beat it,” he says. “The ups and downs have an effect the rest of your life.”
Ty Law believes he already had a part in NFL lore before being elected this year to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The star cornerback is the first member of New England’s standout defense that won three Super Bowls in the early 2000s to make it into the Canton shrine. His aggressive style, which filtered through the Patriots’ secondary, eventually led to a rules change.
“I looked at it as a compliment,” Law said of the 2004 change that made it a penalty to be overly forceful with receivers before the ball was thrown. “The Ty Law Rule? I like that. It feels good.”
Law believes the current game — he retired in 2009 with 53 interceptions, more than 800 tackles and seven touchdowns — has gotten soft, in great part because of the rules limiting contact.
“I do feel the game is being brought down,” he said. “But the attitude has to be, ‘I know there are no rules they are going to implement that will take away from what we’re gonna do and from our success.'”