Friday, February 26, 2010

Rice and Smith head Hall of Fame class

Weeping tears of joy, Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith led a class of seven inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Rice was a wide receiver primarily for the San Francisco 49ers and Smith was a running back primarily with the Dallas Cowboys. They were elected in their first year of eligibility.

“I never took anything for granted,” said Rice, who owns receiving marks for receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895) and total touchdowns (208). “I love this game. It was everything to me.”

Smith, who is the N.F.L.’s career leading rusher with 18,355 yards, appeared much calmer until he spoke of his father, whose football career was cut short because his mother became ill and he was not able to go to college. “He said, ‘You’re living my dream,’ ” Smith said, choking up.

The other three inducted among the modern-era finalists were Russ Grimm, part of the Washington Redskins’ offensive line of the 1980s that was known as the Hogs; Rickey Jackson, a linebacker primarily with the New Orleans Saints who played 15 seasons in the N.F.L.; and John Randle, a defensive tackle who spent most of his 14-year career with the Minnesota Vikings.

Also inducted were two senior nominees, Floyd Little, a running back who played nine seasons for the Denver Broncos, and Dick LeBeau, a cornerback with the Detroit Lions.

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