While we may not have a Hall of Fame game to watch this year, that doesn't meant the celebrated weekend stops. This year saw 7 worthy inductee's into the Hall, filled with names that should be familiar to anyone who remotely follows the game. These men were all innovators in their own right and contributed to the great game we enjoy today.
Join me in welcoming the newest members of the National Football Hall of Fame, the class of 2011.
Deion Sanders- Deion “Primetime” Sanders, now an NFL analyst, was a two sport threat with unparallelled athleticism. While he played professional baseball, football was where he excelled. He was an excellent cornerback who also stood out on punt and kick returns. Heck, he even was a decent wide receiver as well.
Deion finished his career with 53 interceptions and 22 touchdowns. He made 8 Pro Bowls, won 2 SuperBowls, and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1994.
"This game," Sanders repeated dozens of times in his speech, "this game taught me how to be a man. This game taught me if I get knocked down, I got to get my butt back up.
"I always had a rule in life that I would never love anything that couldn't love me back. It taught me how to be a man, how to get up, how to live in pain. Taught me so much about people, timing, focus, dedication, submitting oneself, sacrificing.
"If your dream ain't bigger than you, there's a problem with your dream."
Marshall Faulk- The second pick in the first round of the '94 draft, Faulk turned out to be a steal for the Colts who drafted him, and eventually for the Rams who traded for him. Over his illustrious 12 year career, Faulk amassed over 12,000 yards and 136 touchdowns. He was selected to 7 Pro Bowls, won 1 SuperBowl ring and was the AP NFL MVP in 2000.
Faulk made it into the HoF in his first year of eligibility.
"I am a football fan just like all of you," Faulk told the crowd. "I have always, always been a fan and had an abiding passion and love and respect for this game of football, even when I was a kid selling popcorn in the Superdome because I couldn't afford a ticket.
"It's tough going from the projects to the penthouse."
Shannon Sharpe-One of the league's greatest trash talkers is now one of it's newest HoF inductee's as Shannon Sharpe earned the nod to be a part of this storied group. A tight end who played 2 years with the Ravens and 12 with the Broncos, Sharpe was an unstoppable force on the field. When he retired in 2001, he was the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions (815), receiving yards (10,060) and receiving touchdowns (62) by a tight end (all since broken by another future Hall of Fame player, Tony Gonzalez).
"When people told me I'd never make it, I listened to the one person who said I could: me," Sharpe said during his speech.
Richard Dent- A famed member of the famous '85 Chicago Bears, Dent was a defensive force during his playing days. He accumulated 137.5 sacks and 8 interceptions during his career as well as 1 SuperBowl ring and 4 Pro Bowl selections. He was selected MVP in the Bears epic SuperBowl win in '85.
"You must dream and you must be dedicated to something in your life," said Dent, who asked everyone in the audience to rise in applause for his college coach, Joe Gilliam, then thanked dozens of people, including many from the '85 Bears who also were in the stadium. He saved his highest praise for the late Walter Payton.
"When you have dreams, it is very tough to say you can do everything by yourself," Dent said. "It's all about other people."
Chris Hanburger- Hanburger was a standout linebacker for the Washington Redskins who had the rare feat of playing his entire 14 year career with the 'Skins. During that time he was selected to 9 Pro Bowls and played in over 180 games.
Hanburger called his induction "one of the greatest moments in my life and I mean that from my heart. I am just overwhelmed by this."
Ed Sabol- Sabol is the father of NFL films. He is uniquely responsible for a big percentage of the NFL's huge growth in popularity over the years thanks to his riveting films and innovating style.
Sabol, who is 94, said he "dreamt the impossible dream, and I'm living it right at this minute."
"This honor tonight really goes to NFL Films, I just happen to be accepting all the accolades," Sabol added.
Les Richter- Richter is this years senior nominee. He played nine seasons for the Los Angeles Rams, who acquired him in 1954 for 11 players after he was the second overall draft pick. He made eight straight Pro Bowls while also seeing time at center and as a placekicker for part of his career.