View Full Version : Elway, Sanders Headline HOF Class of '04

01-31-2004, 05:15 PM
January 31, 2004

By John Pezzullo SportsTicker Pro Football Editor

HOUSTON (Ticker) - John Elway retired as the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. Barry Sanders just walked away. Together, they are headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Elway, the NFL's second all-time leading passer, and Sanders, the third all-time leading rusher, were elected in their first year of eligibility on Saturday.

Patience finally paid off for Carl Eller and Bob Brown, who were also elected to the Class of 2004.

Eller, the starting left end of the Minnesota Vikings' defensive line nicknamed "The Purple People Eaters," was elected in his 20th year of eligibility along with Brown, a Seniors Committee nominee.

The Hall of Fame's board of selectors whittled a list of 15 finalists to six before announcing the Class of 2004 at Super Bowl headquarters. Rayfield Wright, a six-time Pro Bowl tackle of the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s, was among the top six and will qualify as a finalist in 2005.

Bob Hayes, another former Cowboy, was the other Seniors Committee nominee.

Elway is synonymous with the Denver Broncos, playing 16 years with the franchise and passing for 51,475 yards and 300 touchdowns. Elway's passing yards are second only to Dan Marino's total of 61,361 and he led the Broncos to five Super Bowl appearances and back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998.

"This truly is the highlight of my career and a reflection of all the guys I played with," said Elway, who had the NFL's best record by a quarterback at 148-82-1 and was 14-8 in the postseason.

Elway was selected by the Baltimore Colts with the first overall pick in the famed 1983 quarterback class despite insisting he would never play for them. Baltimore traded him to Denver for two players and two draft picks. Marino and Hall of Famer Jim Kelly were also in the 1983 draft class.

Many coaches believe Elway was the most physically gifted quarterback to ever play the game. At 6-3, 215 pounds, Elway had a cannon arm and could escape pass rushers with his speed. He is the only player in NFL history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 200 yards in the same season seven consecutive times and only the second to record more than 40,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing.

Elway retired after the Broncos won the second of two straight Super Bowls in 1998 and holds the NFL record with 47 fourth quarter game-winning or game-tying drives.

The most notable comeback is called simply "The Drive," a 15-play, 98-yard game-tying march against the Cleveland Browns in the 1986 AFC championship game. The Broncos went on to win in overtime.

"I know 'The Drive' is something that put me on the map and legitimized me as a quarterback," Elway said. "I have not been back to Cleveland but I heard many fire hydrants there have my number on them."

A nine-time Pro Bowler, Elway beat Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers, 31-24, in Super Bowl XXXII for his first championship after three previous failures in football's marquee event. Elway earned Super Bowl Most Valuable Player honors the following year and rode off into the sunset with back-to-back championships.

There was no such fanfare for Sanders, who released a retirement statement to the Detroit Lions before the start of training camp in 1999. At the time of his retirement at age 31, Sanders was within 1,457 yards of surpassing Walter Payton as the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

"I think the most dominant rusher was Jim Brown," Sanders said. "He was a man among boys. After that, Gale Sayers and Walter Payton. I'm somewhere up there, but a few guys are ahead of me."

Sanders may have been the best. Known for his electrifying speed and stutter-step running style, Sanders is the only player in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first 10 seasons, recording 15,269 yards and 99 touchdowns and averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his 10 seasons and became the first running back to record five 1,500-yard rushing seasons.

Sanders was named NFL Most Valuable Player in 1997 when he rushed for 2,053 yards, gaining 100 or more in 14 straight games. In his last season, Sanders rushed for 1,491 yards.

"No matter how I announced (retirement), it still would have been taken the wrong way," Sanders said. "But the issue was not how I retired, but when I retired."

Eller retired 25 years ago and had to wait two decades for his election.

"It took a lifetime to get to and that makes it better in ways," Eller said. "It makes you realize things are worth waiting for. After so many disappointments, I tried to put it out of my mind. But it was always something I wanted and thought I had earned."

Eller joins defensive tackle Alan Page, another member of "The Purple People Eaters" in the Hall of Fame. Eller played in 209 games over 15 seasons with the Vikings before finishing his career with the Seattle Seahawks in 1979.

Starting in 1968, Minnesota won 10 division titles in 11 seasons. The Vikings won the 1969 NFL championship and NFC Conference crowns in 1973, 1974 and 1976, but lost all four Super Bowls.

A six-time Pro Bowler, Eller was an excellent defender against the run and effective in rushing the passer. Sacks did not become an official statistic until 1982, but Eller unofficially had 44 sacks from 1975-77. He also recovered 23 fumbles, the third-best mark at the time of his retirement.

Jim Marshall, the right end on "The Purple Eaters," was among the 15 finalists that did not get elected. He also was in his 20th year of eligibility.

A six-time Pro Bowl tackle known for his bone-crushing blocks, Brown played 10 seasons in the NFL from 1964-73 - five with the Philadelphia Eagles, two with the Los Angeles Rams and three with the Oakland Raiders.

"He was probably my most feared competitor," Eller said of Brown. "His intent was to do bodily harm."

Other finalists were Harry Carson Richard Dent, Cliff Harris, Lester Hayes, Bob Kuechenberg, Art Monk, Gary Zimmerman and former general manager George Young.

Enshrinement of the Class of 2004 will be held at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on Sunday, August 8.

01-31-2004, 05:18 PM
I was just about to post this...

with Elway and Sanders...a good year...

now maybe Sanders will come back and become the first active Hall of Famer...

01-31-2004, 05:25 PM
lol ... would be cool, but it will never happen. When he was in town and playing nice with Millen at Ford Field annoucing his book signing, he was asked again and again, the answer was always an emphatic no.

01-31-2004, 05:31 PM
Yeah...I don't see him ever coming back...christ...how old is he now...35...36?...

lol...younger than Emmitt...and probably still better...

it would be classic if he came back for one year...rushed for 2,000 yards...passed Emmitt...and retired again...

01-31-2004, 05:39 PM
Would be fucking awesome. I've seen 40 yard days of his that were more exciting than some of Emmitt's 100 yard days.

Dude was one of a kind. A few too many runs for minus yards in my opinion, but even some of those were unreal.

01-31-2004, 05:41 PM
I forget what his stats are...something like 25% of his runs were for 4 yard losses or more...

think about that...take those away...and may them back to the line of scrimmage runs...and the guy would have 20,000 yards rushing...

01-31-2004, 05:44 PM
Freaking scary too say the least. I always wanted them to throw it to him a little more too. He was murder on a linebacker trying to cover him.

Not sure if you saw the game where Rod Woodson hurt his knee playing corner for the Steelers. It was a Sanders juke. I want to say 1995, early in the season. Unreal.

02-01-2004, 01:58 AM
Anybody else agree with me that Art Monk got fucked again?

Bent over, greased, and plugged.

Mama's Fool
02-01-2004, 09:25 AM
Originally posted by DLR7884
Anybody else agree with me that Art Monk got fucked again?

Bent over, greased, and plugged.

Was just going to post that.

02-01-2004, 11:04 AM
Sanders was the best "runner" I've ever seen, it was like trying to tackle a fire hydrant on skates!!

My boy Richard Dent of da Bears did not get in, maybe next year!!!

02-01-2004, 11:05 AM
Originally posted by DLR7884
Anybody else agree with me that Art Monk got fucked again?

Bent over, greased, and plugged.

Art Monk was one of the best receivers of his era and definitely belongs in the Hall....