View Full Version : Fixing the Hall of Fame, Part 2: Safeties
02-14-2007, 12:00 AM
There are currently four safeties in the Hall of Fame (active 1970 or later). There should be nine, so we need five more than we already have. Post your nominees here, and make your argument for them. Once we get enough names, I'll create a poll.
02-14-2007, 12:04 AM
Nominee #1: Ken Houston (current Hall of Famer)
Strong Safety >>> 6-3, 197
(Prairie View A&M)
1967-1972 Houston Oilers, 1973-1980 Washington Redskins
Kenneth Ray Houston. . .Ninth-round pick, 1967 draft. . . Traded to Redskins for five players, 1973. . .Acclaimed NFL's premier strong safety of 1970s. . .Excellent speed, quickness, size, punishing tackler. . .Intercepted 49 passes for 898 yards, nine TDs. . .Also scored on blocked FG, fumble, punt return. . .Named to two AFL All-Star games, 10 Pro Bowls. . . All-Pro or All-AFC/NFC eight of nine years, 1971-1979. . .Born November 12, 1944, in Lufkin, Texas.
Ken Houston excelled as the premier free safety of his era in a 14-year span that began with the 1967 Houston Oilers who drafted him in the ninth round of the AFL-NFL draft. He earned a starter’s role by the third game of his rookie season. Two weeks later, in a game against the New York Jets, he scored two touchdowns, one on a 71-yard blocked field goal attempt, and the other on a 43-yard interception return.
After excelling for six years with the Oilers, Ken was traded to the Redskins for five veteran players in 1973. The Redskins once referred to Houston as "pro football's most underrated super-star," but his capabilities were widely recognized. He won all-league acclaim with the Oilers in 1969 and 1971, and then was either All-Pro or All-NFC with the Redskins every year from 1973 to 1979.
He was selected for either the AFL All-Star game or the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl 12 straight seasons from 1968 through 1979. With a long, fluid stride, he had excellent speed and quickness. His 6-3, 197-pound frame made him an ideal pass defender. Yet his lean, muscular body helped him to become a punishing tackler.
Once he got his hands on the ball, he was a talented runner. Even before he finished his tenure with the Oilers, Houston had assured himself of a spot in the NFL record book by returning nine interceptions for touchdowns. He also tied two other records with four TDs on steals in one season and two interception touchdowns in a single game. Altogether, he stole 49 passes and returned them 898 yards. He also recovered 21 fumbles and scored 12 touchdowns, nine on interceptions and one each on a punt return, a fumble return, and a blocked field goal return.
02-14-2007, 12:06 AM
Nominee #2: Paul Krause (Current HoF Member)
Safety >>> 6-3, 200
1964-1967 Washington Redskins, 1968-1979 Minnesota Vikings
Paul James Krause. . .Redskins’ No. 2 draft pick, 1964. . . Outstanding rookie year, led league with 12 interceptions, named All-Pro. . .Retired as history’s all-time interception leader with 81. . . Traded to Vikings for player and draft pick, 1968. . .Played in eight Pro Bowls. . .All-NFL four times. . .All-Eastern Conference 1964, 1965. . .All-NFC five times. . . Started at free safety in four Super Bowls, five NFL/NFC championship games. . .Born February 19, 1942, in Flint, Michigan.
Paul Krause, a 6-3, 200-pound free safety from the University of Iowa, became the leading pass intercepter of all time with 81 steals during a 16-season career with the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings from 1964 to 1979.
A two-way star at Iowa, he was the second-round draft pick of the Redskins in 1964. Although he intercepted 28 passes in his first four seasons, he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings for linebacker Marlin McKeever and a seventh-round draft choice in 1968. He went on to excel with the Vikings for 12 more seasons before retiring after the 1979 campaign.
Krause had the kind of a blue-ribbon rookie season in 1964 that few ever achieve. He led the NFL in interceptions with 12 and was named to the All-NFL first team. He was named to his first of eight Pro Bowls and was second only to teammate running back Charley Taylor for NFL Rookie of the Year acclaim. In his second Pro Bowl following the 1965 season, he intercepted two passes. Named All-NFL four different times, Krause was also selected All-Eastern Conference twice, and All-NFC five times.
Born on February 19, 1942, in Flint, Michigan, Paul was the starting free safety in Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX, and XI, in the 1969 NFL championship game and NFC title games in 1973, 1974, 1976 and 1977. He intercepted one pass in Super Bowl IV and recovered a fumble in Super Bowl IX.
During his landmark rookie season, Krause intercepted passes in seven straight games and he came near to matching that mark in 1968, when he had steals in six consecutive games. It took a three-interception season in his final 1979 campaign to surpass Emlen Tunnell, who had 79 steals, for the all-time record. The durable Krause missed only two games with injuries in 16 seasons.
02-14-2007, 12:08 AM
Nominee #3: Larry Wilson (Current HoF member)
Free Safety >>> 6-0, 190
1960-1972 St. Louis Cardinals
Larry Frank Wilson. . .Two-way star at Utah, No. 7 draft pick, 1960. . . Cat-like defender, exceptional team leader. . . Became NFL's top free safety, made "safety blitz" famous. . . All-NFL six times. . . Played in eight Pro Bowl games. . .Had steals in seven straight games, led NFL interceptors, 1966. . .Once intercepted pass with both hands in casts. . . Had 52 career interceptions. . .Born March 24, 1938, in Rigby, Idaho.
From 1960 through 1972, all of the National Football League's great quarterbacks felt the sting of the St. Louis Cardinals' sterling free safety, Larry Wilson. If the league's passers weren't being smashed to the ground after a safety blitz, they were watching helplessly as Larry, far downfield, was picking off one of his 52 career interceptions.
It’s amazing now to ponder that this standout of the 1960s at one time had serious doubts if he would even make the team when he joined the Cardinals as their seventh-round draft choice in 1960. Wilson, a 6-0, 190-pound native of Rigby, Idaho, had been a two-way performer and a scoring leader at Utah but, in the NFL, he quickly found that offensive play was not for him. An early try at cornerback on defense also proved disastrous for the rookie. But in the final preseason game in 1960, Wilson got a chance to start at safety and he made the most of it.
Except when sidelined briefly by injuries, Wilson anchored the Cardinals defenses for the rest of his career. Contrary to popular belief, however, he did not invent the safety blitz, but he did capitalize on the maneuver to a degree not reached by any other pro player of the decade. It was, in reality, the abilities that he demonstrated every time he tried the safety blitz that first attracted the attention of the St. Louis coaching staff and assured Larry a place on the team.
Larry won first- or second-team all-league honors seven times during his career and played in eight Pro Bowls. He reached his zenith with interceptions in seven straight games in 1966, a year that he led the NFL with 10 steals. Wilson, during his Hall of Fame career, recorded 52 career interceptions for 800 yards and five touchdowns.
02-14-2007, 12:10 AM
Nominee #4: Willie Wood (Current HoF member)
Safety >>> 5-10, 190
1960-1971 Green Bay Packers
William Vernell Wood. . .Signed as free agent, 1960. . .Soon developed into premier free safety. . .Played in six NFL championships, Super Bowls I, II, eight Pro Bowls. . .All-NFL six times. . .50-yard interception return key play in Super Bowl I. . . Career record: 48 interceptions, 699 yards, 2 TDs; 187 punt returns, 1,391 yards, 2 TDs. . .Led NFL in punt returns (1961), interceptions (1962). . .Born December 23, 1936, in Washington, D.C.
Willie Wood is another of the talented athletes who teamed to give Green Bay pro football dominance in the 1960s. Yet the 5-10, 190-pound University of Southern California quarterback who specialized in running the ball, was not drafted by any National Football League team.
He had to seek a tryout and prove his worth before the Packers accepted him as a free agent in 1960. Within a short time, Willie was recognized as a premier free safety in the NFL. He became a starter in his sophomore 1961 season and held that job for more than a decade until his retirement following the 1971 campaign.
Wood, who was born in Washington, D. C., won first- or second-team All-NFL honors nine times in a nine-year stretch from 1962 through the 1970 season. A Pro Bowl participant eight times, 1963, 1965 through 1971, Wood also played in six NFL championship games. The Packers won all but the first one in 1960.
Willie also was the starting free safety for Green Bay in Super Bowl I against the Kansas City Chiefs and Super Bowl II against the Oakland Raiders. His 50-yard interception return of a Len Dawson pass early in the third quarter of Super Bowl I broke open a close contest and paved the way for the Packers’ 35-10 triumph over the Chiefs.
Like many Packers who had a chance to handle the football, Wood compiled impressive statistics with 48 career interceptions, which he returned for 699 yards and two touchdowns. He won the NFL interception title in 1962 with nine steals. Doubling on the punt return team, Willie also won the league punt return championship with a 16.1-yard average in 1961. In 12 years, he carried back 187 punts for 1,391 yards and two touchdowns.
02-14-2007, 12:14 AM
Nominee #5: Deron Cherry
11 seasons, 6 pro bowls
50 interceptions for 688 yards, 1 TD
Is one of the most celebrated and popular players in franchise history . . . Was the finest free safety in the AFC throughout the 1980s, grabbing six straight Pro Bowl berths (1983-88), including five as a starter in the game . . . Was selected to the Chiefs 25-Year All-Time team in 1987 . . . Entered the pro ranks as a rookie free agent punter, making him one of the most successful free agents in NFL history . . . Owner of six 100-tackle seasons . . . In 148 career games, he had 927 tackles, 50 interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries and three touchdowns . . . Ranks third on the team’s all-time interception list . . . Led Chiefs in tackles four times and in interceptions on six occasions . . . Won AFC interception title in 1986 with nine . . . Wore jersey number 20 . . . Was a strong safety and punter at Rutgers University and was a high school quarterback . . . Born September 12, 1959, in Palmyra, New Jersey . . . Is one of nine partners of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
02-14-2007, 12:25 AM
Nominee #6: Kenny Easley
7 seasons, 5 pro bowls
32 interceptions, 538 yards, 3 TDs
Easley was drafted as the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 1981 NFL Draft by the Seahawks where he started in safety as a rookie. He earned AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors that season when he recorded three interceptions for 155 yards and one touchdown. In 1983, Easley was selected as AFC Defensive Player of the Year and recorded seven interceptions. In 1984, Easley led the National Football League in interceptions with ten, returning two of them for touchdowns and was named as NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Afterwards he signed a five year contract with the Seahawks which made him one of the highest paid defensive players in the league. He missed part of the 1986 season for ankle surgery.
Prior to the 1988 season, the Seahawks traded Easley to the Phoenix Cardinals for quarterback Kelly Stouffer. There he was diagnosed with a kidney disease and failed the physical. The trade was soon canceled and Easley announced his retirement a few months later. He made a lawsuit against the Seahawks, the team trainer, and the team doctors saying that an overdose of Advil for the ankle injury a few years earlier caused his kidney to fail, it was later settled out of court. He received a new kidney two years later. 
In his seven year career, Easley made 32 interceptions for 538 yards and three touchdowns. In 2002 Easley was elected to the Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor. He was also selected for the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team.
Up until 2003 Easley was part-owner of a now defunct semi-pro football team, the Norfolk Nighthawks. He is currently a business entrepreneur.
'The most talented Seahawk'
Kenny Easley's career was cut short
Mike Sando; The News Tribune
Published: October 11th, 2002 12:01 AM
Lockers for the NFL's annual all-star game were assigned by jersey number. Todd Christensen, the prolific tight end who wore No. 46 for the Los Angeles Raiders, found himself dressing next to the best strong safety he'd ever seen.
Except the man who wore No. 45 for the Seattle Seahawks wasn't playing safety for the AFC squad that January day. Kenny Easley, the NFL's reigning defensive player of the year, had been moved to cornerback because the Raiders' Mike Haynes was injured.
To the amazement of Christensen, Easley allowed not a single completed pass for the entire second quarter - against an NFC receiving corps featuring Art Monk, James Lofton and Roy Green.
"To see this guy go from being that 6-foot-3, 205-pound monster in the middle, then put the glove on somebody out on the corner, I said 'this is unbelievable,'" Christensen said. "Remember, this is a Pro Bowl. It's not like guys are saying, 'Oh, yes, I'm going to kill myself for 10 grand.' You can actually smell the Mai Tais in the huddle."
Easley smelled blood.
Christensen, still in awe when the players reconvened at their lockers during halftime, served up a compliment.
"Kenny turns to me and he actually grumbles and says, 'You know what? I would have done a lot better if I'd had smaller shoulder pads, but I have to wear these big ones,'" Christensen said. "And I couldn't believe it. The guy was a stud. I was just so impressed."
Fifteen years after Easley played his final game, the 43-year-old NFL legend is returning to Seattle for his induction into the Seahawks' Ring of Honor. The ceremony, planned for Seahawks Stadium at halftime of the Seattle-San Francisco game Monday night, was a long time coming.
Easley, now co-owner of the semipro Norfolk Nighthawks, did not participate for this story. But his legacy was abundantly accessible through the men who shaped pro football in the early 1980s.
Their testimony, coupled with a little-known historical precedent, form an intriguing case for Easley to one day leap from the Ring of Honor to the Hall of Fame.
Coaches, teammates and opponents described Easley as one of the top two safeties in NFL history, as good or better than 10-time Pro Bowl choice Ronnie Lott.
They said his legacy had been wrongly diminished by his premature exit from the game and the Seahawks' inability to reach a Super Bowl during his career.
To them, Easley and a few others - namely Lott and linebacker Lawrence Taylor - changed the game by bridging the talent gap that favored offenses for years.
"Kenny Easley is Hall of Fame material," said Rick Upchurch, former Pro Bowl receiver for the Denver Broncos. "It's unfortunate that he had to quit so early."
A first-round draft choice from UCLA in 1981, Easley was 29 in April 1988 when his career ended with the revelation he needed a kidney transplant. Easley sued the Seahawks, contending doctors encouraged excessive use of ibuprofen to combat a 1986 ankle injury.
Easley's induction into the Ring of Honor helps bring some closure to the broken relationship he had with the team.
"I think it's healed," said Jacob Green, Easley's friend and former teammate. "I think with age, with his kids, his son - all that played a factor in him saying, 'Yes, I'll do it.'"
The occasion provides Easley's fans with a long-awaited opportunity to reminisce. For the uninitiated, it's a chance to meet one of the two or three best players in franchise history.
"I think a lot of times people say 'great' loosely, but he was truly the most talented Seahawk, the best athlete we ever had," said Green, the Seahawks' all-time leader with 116 sacks.
Easley seemingly excelled at almost any sport. The stories have become part of his legend.
Former UCLA coach Terry Donahue, now general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, recalled an incident involving Easley and an impromptu tennis match not far from campus.
"This was just a team barbecue," Donahue marveled, "but I remember where I was sitting watching it. I just said, 'My goodness gracious, don't let the tennis coach see this.'
"I mean, really, you watched him play tennis and you said, 'This guy could go be a pro tennis player.'"
Donahue was convinced Easley could have played for the Bruins' championship-caliber basketball team.
"I don't believe that he would have started, but he would have been the sixth or seventh man," Donahue said. "He was just too athletic and competitive. He has a fierce zeal for competition."
Easley was known to play nine holes of golf before the morning practice during Seahawks training camp at Eastern Washington University.
Hours later, he confounded teammates by wearing a long-sleeved nylon jacket under his pads and uniform, as if the 90-degree heat wasn't a worthy competitor by itself. Then, as teammates trudged off the field, Easley would sprint past them, bunny-hopping over a 4-foot fence along the way.
When the afternoon practice was over, Easley often found a way to squeeze in another nine holes before dinner and meetings.
"He was as fine a strong safety as there has been in the National Football League," former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox said.
Dominating defensive players make opposing offenses account for them. And then there are players like Easley.
"I can tell you this: He was so dominating on film that when you were on the field playing against him, you could be on the other side of the field and you could feel him," Hall of Fame receiver Charlie Joiner said. "You just had that feeling that he was around somewhere."
In 1984, Easley picked off three passes during a 24-0 road victory over Joiner's San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football.
A week later, the Seahawks returned four interceptions for touchdowns - one by Easley - during a 45-0 pounding of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Seattle defense was at its peak and Easley was the catalyst.
"The guy was a force," Joiner said. "I just don't know very much more I can say about him."
Great football players choose their adjectives carefully in describing their peers. But they don't hold back when the subject turns to Easley.
"Kenny could do what Jack Tatum could do, but he also could do what Mike Haynes could do," Lott said. "He was not only a great hitter and great intimidator on the field, but he was a great athlete.
"Kenny, Lawrence Taylor and those guys changed the game of football on the defensive side because they were not just big hitters. Now, all of sudden, you were seeing guys who were big hitters, but also as athletic as anyone on offense."
Easley's matchups with Christensen and Chargers tight end Kellen Winslow were eagerly anticipated in the AFC West.
"Kellen caught some passes on Kenny, but Kenny dogged him," said Ralph Hawkins, the Seahawks' secondary coach at the time. "We also put Kenny on Christensen and that was a battle - man, that was a battle."
Christensen averaged better than 87 receptions per season during a four-year stretch ending in 1986; Winslow was named to the NFL's 75th anniversary team in 1995, the year he entered the Hall of Fame.
Both commanded double coverage from opponents. Easley was often good enough on his own.
"The thing that I always respected about him is that when they went single coverage in those days, it wasn't as if he had linebacker help," said Christensen, who averaged 4.3 catches for 53 yards in 14 career games against Easley.
Christensen caught 11 passes for 152 yards during a classic 38-36 loss to the Seahawks in 1983. He was limited to one catch for 21 yards during Seattle's 13-7 playoff victory over the Raiders the following season.
Winslow caught 21 passes for 270 yards in five match-ups.
"It's not fair to say I caught all of those 21 passes against Kenny," Winslow said. "Maybe 50 percent.
"The key to our offense was taking advantage of mismatches and because I played wide receiver and tight end, I was quicker than linebackers and able to use my body against safeties."
Winslow stood 6-foot-5 and weighed 250 pounds, attributes he used to catch 541 passes for 6,741 yards and 45 touchdowns. But he never found the end zone against Easley.
"The guys I had problems with were guys like Kenny and (Oakland's) Mike Davis," Winslow said. "They were big enough, strong enough and quick enough to give you trouble. I had to use basketball skills to post them up and keep my body between them and the ball."
The 1986 Washington Redskins were the only team to truly neutralize Easley before the onset of kidney failure began to extract an increasing toll in 1987, Hawkins said.
The Redskins lined up two receivers near one sideline while splitting a tight end to the other side. Seattle later regretted leaving Easley on the tight end.
“If the cornerback remained on the receiver, the Redskins ran the ball. If the corner cheated to the inside, they threw downfield.”
The formula produced a 19-14 victory for Washington. The Redskins, like many opponents, went out of their way to avoid Easley.
"I remember a game where we played them and I flexed out 10, 12 times for the sole reason of getting him out of the running game," Christensen said. "He was that good as the eighth man in the box."
Easley was clearly among the most feared and respected players of his era, yet he always resisted talk about the Hall of Fame.
"What would please me is to be remembered as a guy who really played hard all the time," Easley told The News Tribune in a 1990 interview. "That would be enough for me."
That Easley played in only 89 NFL games - for the sake of comparison, Lott played in 192 - hardly disqualifies him from consideration.
Former Detroit Lions safety Jack Christiansen was enshrined in Canton after playing 89 games from 1951 to 1958. He picked off 46 passes, scored eight times on punt returns and was All-NFL six times.
Easley finished with 32 interceptions, five Pro Bowls and two defensive player of the year awards (NFL, AFC). He averaged 12.1 yards per punt return in 1984, when he also led the NFL with 10 interceptions.
At his peak, Easley arguably set the standard for safeties - including Lott, a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
"It goes without saying what Ronnie did in his career," Christensen said. "But in all candor - and this is no knock on Ronnie - Kenny Easley was a better football player."
Mike Sando: 425-822-9504
SIDEBAR: From Kenny Easley's peers . . . .
There is not a football game that goes by where you don't see a defensive back drop an interception. This guy made catches. His weakness was the fact that he would play so hurt."
Todd Christensen, Raiders tight end, '79-88
There was a game back at San Diego that stands out. ... He grabbed me around the collar and it was like one of those rodeo events. Calf roping. For about three seconds, it was one of the most unpleasant times in my life.
Wes Chandler, Chargers receiver, '81-87
He'd be a Hall of Fame player (had he played longer). Maybe he still is. He was that good.
Bill Walsh, 49ers coach, '79-88
Nobody hit like Easley. Nobody. He should be in the Hall of Fame.
Ralph Hawkins, Seahawks DB coach, '83-88
I don't think we really saw all the talent Kenny Easley had to offer. But having had the chance to really see him in person, he was a fine athlete. He could play in any era, any time with any team and could make a difference. He was an impact ballplayer.
Rick Upchurch, Broncos receiver, '75-83
That's one of those things in sports: A great, great player that because of not winning or going to the Super Bowl, he isn't put in that (elite) category. And yet the guys who go to the Super Bowl want to be like him. The guys around the league want to be like him. That's what you take away.
Ronnie Lott, 49ers defensive back, '81-90
02-14-2007, 12:26 AM
Nominee #7: Cliff Harris
Harris wasn't chosen in the 1970 NFL draft, but the Cowboys found him and invited him to training camp. He beat out Cowboys 3rd round draft choice Charlie Waters (who did not crack the starting lineup until the retirement of Cornell Green following the 1974 season) for the free safety position his rookie year. Military obligation caused him to miss the second half the season, although he returned in time for the Cowboys' victory in Super Bowl VI over the Miami Dolphins. He continued as starting safety until his retirement following the 1979 season. During his career he made 5 Super Bowl appearances, was chosen for the Pro Bowl six consecutive times and was voted All Pro four times.
Nicknamed "Captain Crash" by his teammates for his reckless pursuit of ball carriers. Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Larry Wilson said of Harris, "I feel Harris is the finest free safety in the business today. He changed the way the position is being played. You see other teams modeling their free safeties around the way Harris plays the pass, and striking fear in everyone on the field because he hits so hard."
During Super Bowl X, Harris taunted Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Roy Gerela after Gerela missed two field goals. After the second miss, Harris patted Gerela on the helmet, only to be thrown to the ground by Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert.
Cowboy fans were surprised when Harris announced his retirement following the 1979 season at the age of 31 to concentrate on his business ventures. He is in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, the NAIA Hall of Fame and Sports Illustrated writers named him their Dream Team free safety. In 2004 he was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was added to the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2004.
He and teammate Charlie Waters wrote a book about their Cowboy memories called "Tales From the Dallas Cowboys."
Harris finished his 10 NFL seasons with 29 interceptions, which he returned for 281 yards and 1 touchdown, and 18 fumble recoveries, which he returned for 91 yards. He also gained 418 yards on punt returns and 1,622 yards returning kickoffs.
02-14-2007, 12:28 AM
Nominee #8: Steve Atwater
8 pro bowls
He was drafted out of the University of Arkansas by the Broncos with the 20th pick in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft. During his ten seasons with the Denver Broncos, he was selected for the Pro Bowl eight times, the second most in franchise history. He played in seven straight Pro Bowl games 1990-1996, which tied the franchise record. Atwater, and fellow Broncos safety Dennis Smith formed one of the most feared safety tandems of their generation.
Steve started in all 155 games while he was with Denver, which ties for seventh in franchise history for games started. He also started in 14 post-season games. Of particular note was Super Bowl XXXII, where he posted one of the best performances ever by a safety in a Super Bowl. In that game, he is credited with six solo tackles, one sack, two passes defensed (one of which cemented Denver's victory) and a forced fumble.
02-14-2007, 12:31 AM
Nominee #9: Joey Browner
10 years, 6 pro bowls
"Those hands were so unbelievable, so strong, no one could get by Joey, remember the Gerald Willhite tackle, Gerald was never the same, as he broke his ankle in 3 places being stopped in full stride by the Browner hands." Benny Ricardo, Former Kicker & Vikings Teammate
"One of the greatest Defensive Backs and a true gentleman that the game has ever seen, a real pleasure to Coach and most importantly an Honor to call a true Friend" Pete Carroll, USC Head Football Coach
"Oh man, a real throwback to the good ol' days of hitting a player to keep him out of his zone...that's how Joey Browner played this game." Bob Lilly, Dallas Cowboy's Hall of Fame Defensive Lineman
Joey has been a celebrated All Pro Player recognized as best in the NFL for six consecutive years during his ten-year playing career. Joey earned his sixth consecutive Pro-Bowl trip after tying for league lead with seven pass interceptions in 1990. He was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month, November 1990 after recording 23 solo tackles, four assists, one sack and four interceptions. Joey holds nine Top Ten rankings in the club record book. His seven pass interceptions tied him with Charlie West (1971) for most interceptions in a season by a Viking Safety. Joey was a member of 1980's All Decade Team, and three-time conscriptee to the All-Madden Team.
Known as one of the most intimidating players in the NFL, he surpassed the 100-tackle mark for seven consecutive years, and made over 1000 tackles during his nine-year career as a safety with the Vikings. Joey joins Reggie White as the only two players ever to be accorded perfect grades in CPFN's NFL player ratings.
02-14-2007, 12:35 AM
Nominee #10: Darren Woodson
Darren Ray Woodson (born April 25, 1969 in Phoenix, Arizona) was an All-Pro strong safety for the Dallas Cowboys (1992-2004). He was drafted by the Cowboys as a converted linebacker in the second round of the 1992 NFL Draft (37th overall) out of Arizona State University. Woodson was a 5-time Pro Bowl selection who had a feared reputation as an effective run-stopper and a ferocious hitter. He sat out the 2004 NFL season due to a herniated disc, and finally announced his retirement in December 2004.
At a time when some of his teammates had problems with the law, he was a classy player both on and off the field. As the final active player who had been on all three Cowboys Super Bowl teams of the 90s, Woodson was respected as the leader of the locker room and a mentor to Roy Williams.
02-14-2007, 12:36 AM
Nominee #11: Carnell Lake
12 seasons, 5 pro bowls
02-14-2007, 12:37 AM
Nominee #12: Johnny Robinson
Johnny Robinson (born 1938) was an American college and professional football player from Louisiana State University. He operates a boys' camp in Monroe, Louisiana, and has been a long-time supporter of children's causes. He was a master thief for the American Football League's Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs, leading the team in interceptions with 10 in 1966, and 58 for his career, a team record.
In Super Bowl IV, the underdog Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7. Late in the first half, Robinson picked up a Minnesota fumble to help seal the Viking's fate. With Chiefs rushing to congratulate him, lying on the turf, Robinson symbolically held one finger high to signify that the Chiefs were the best team in professional football. Robinson also had an interception off Joe Kapp in the fourth quarter.
Robinson was a six-time All-American Football League selection who played that Super Bowl game with three broken ribs. Five times the interception leader on the Chiefs, Robinson redefined the role of the safety in professional football. Opposing quarterbacks soon learned to keep the ball away from him. A member of the All-time All-AFL Team and one of only twenty players who were in the American Football League for its entire ten-year existence. In May 2004 he suffered a heart attack and stroke and is currently recovering. The above photo of Johhny Robinson was taken during the 2nd quarter of Super Bowl IV after he recovered a fumble by John Henderson on the Minnesota 46 yard line with Kansas City leading 6-0 at the time
02-14-2007, 12:41 AM
Nominee #13: Jack Tatum
John David Tatum (born November 18, 1948) is a former American football defensive back who played ten seasons from 1971 to 1980 for the Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers in the National Football League. He is popularly known as the "Assassin."  He was voted to three Pro Bowls (1973-1975) and won one Super Bowl in his nine seasons with the Raiders.
Tatum earned a reputation as a fierce competitor and was considered as one of the hardest hitters ever to play the game. In a recent poll by Sports Illustrated on the century's best defensive backs, Tatum finished with eight percent of the vote. He is best known for a tackle he made against former New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley in a 1978 scrimmage that paralyzed Stingley from the chest down and for his involvement in the notorious Immaculate Reception play during a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault."
Tatum was drafted by the Oakland Raiders as the 19th pick in the first round of the 1971 NFL Draft to replace former Oakland safety, Dave Grayson, who retired after the 1970 season. A few weeks later, Tatum signed a three year, six figure contract with a fifty thousand dollar-signing bonus. When the contract was released to the press, there was a statement that state that the Raiders hired the Assassin, hence his nickname. Tatum then played his first professional game against the Baltimore Colts, where he tackled and knocked out the Colts' former tight ends John Mackey and Tom Mitchell. Soon after the game, sportswriters started to compare him to former Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus because of his hard-hitting skills and he became the starting free safety in his rookie year.
Tatum was involved in one of the most famous plays in National Football League History, the Immaculate Reception, during a 1972 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. With 22 seconds left in the game, Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass to running back John Fuqua. Tatum collided with Fuqua, knocking the ball into the air. The ball fell into Steelers running back Franco Harris's arms, who ran it down 42 yards for a game winning touchdown.
In one of the most lasting images from Super Bowl XI, Tatum knocked the helmet off Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Sammy White. This is considered as one of the biggest hits in Super Bowl history. But his most infamous hit was in a 1978 preseason game against the New England Patriots. Tatum hit Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley as he was leaping for a pass. This badly damaged Stingley's spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the chest down. Tatum claims that he attempted to visit Stingley in the hospital soon after the hit but was forbidden by Stingley's family. The two have not spoken since that day. Tatum has never apologized for the hit. "I don't think I did anything wrong that I need to apologize for. It was a clean hit." Neither the NFL nor Stingley have taken action against Tatum. Tatum also never tried talking to Stingley about the incident until he was promoting his autobiography. In 1997, Tatum asked the NFLPA if they could give him a catastrophic injury pension for having to live though the Stingley incident but the league declined after thinking it wasn't a catastrophic injury.
Tatum was traded to the Houston Oilers for running back Kenny King and two draft choices in the 1980 NFL Draft. He finished his pro career with them in 1980, when he played all sixteen games that season, and recorded a career-high seven interceptions to finish with a career total of 37, which he returned for 736 yards. He also recovered nine fumbles in his career, returning them for 164 yards. Tatum also holds the record for the longest fumble return in NFL history. In a 1972 game against the Green Bay Packers, he returned a fumble 104 yards for a touchdown which could have been called back because of an officiating error. The record has since been tied by Aeneas Williams.
02-14-2007, 12:44 AM
Nominee #14: Jim David
Selected in the twenty-second round of the 1952 draft (261 overall)…Ranked second in the NCAA for receptions all-time…Extreme quickness helped David persevere as an NFL defensive back…Teams regularly avoided throwing to David’s side…Currently ranks fifth all-time on the Lions’ interception career list with 36…Was selected to five Pro Bowl’s during eight-year career.
History Week Q&A from June 11, 2001
Jim David was an unlikely person of sorts. When he entered the NFL as a 22nd-round draft choice out of Colorado A&M, he seemed too small at 5-10, 170 pounds to ever make an impact.
College teammate and Lions safety Jack Christiansen knew better, though. At Christiansen's urging, the Lions picked up David. After eight seasons with the Lions in which he made six pro bowls and four World Championship game appearances, David still stands as one of the Lions' all-time greats.
While the physical size belied his fierce competitiveness, David was given the moniker "The Hatchet" for his devastating hits. In his second year in 1953, David made a number of enemies in the NFL as he knocked San Francisco's quarterback Y.A. Tittle and Los Angeles Rams receiver Tom Fears out of commission on successive weeks.
David was the first special guest to kick off Detroitlions.com History Week by answering questions from fans in an exclusive question and answer session on Monday, June 11. The following is a transcript of that interview.
Q: What were your thoughts when they retired Tiger (Briggs) Stadium? -- Mike Hazledine from Lincoln, Nebraska
A: "I really have a lot of fond memories from that place. There were a lot of stitches left in that place and quite a few memories that I will never forget. It was a sad day, but life moves on."
Q: Do you think that the players your size (5'10"--170 lbs.) can make a difference in the NFL the way you did when you played? -- Tim Ostrom from Saginaw, Michigan
A: "Size really doesn't make that much of a difference. If you are a defensive back, you better be able to cover people. There have been quite a few people since the beginning of football and in today's game that are small, but play big. You just need to have a belief that you can compete, even if you're small."
Q: Jim, teams of the 1950's were a very closely knit. I've heard legendary stories of Bobby Layne leading you guys on some "fun" outings. Do you feel that the teams of today are as closely knit as your teams? -- Chris Bullaro from St. Clair Shores, Michigan
A: "It's hard for me to answer that question. But one thing I do know is that we definitely were a very close bunch. There was a willingness to do anything during that time. Everybody jumped in and said, 'what can I do to help this team win?' It was a "we" bunch of people. We all worked together for the same goal and we accomplished that goal. It wasn't a one-letter word in "I". If you have the "I" attitude you will never survive. If we were playing the New York Giants and somebody would take a cheap shot at one of our guys, we would be all over that player. That's the way it was.
"When we played the Pro Bowl game one year out on the West coast, all of the players would stay at the same hotel. We would all be together and you would stay with the same person that you would try to take his head off the next day. It brought everyone, even guys from the other side, together."
Q: What did you love most about being a Lion? -- Josh Crowton from Goodells, Michigan
A: "It's a combination of a lot of things. I know we touched on this briefly in another question, but I think the closeness of all of the guys on the team probably was the best thing about being a Detroit Lion. We were all in it together. That is a feeling that is very special."
Q: Who was the toughest receiver that you ever faced? -- Kevin from St. Petersburg, Florida
A: "I definitely couldn't name just one because there were so many talented receivers during my time with the Lions, but I'll name a few for you. Lenny Moore (1956-67) from the Baltimore Colts was a very talented receiver. From L.A., Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch (1949-57) and Tom Fears (1948-56) were a tough combination to cover. I'm forgetting a couple of the guys I would like to mention on this list because it's been quite a while since I've heard their names, but there were a lot of talented guys back then."
Q: What is your greatest memory as a Detroit Lion? -- John Shaible
A: "Let me put it this way -- when you win a World Championship you are a happy camper. We won three (1952, 1953, 1957). And we also lost one World Championship game in 1954 to the Cleveland Browns. Then in 1955 it was a rebuilding year for us because we lost a few guys to injury and then in 1956 we came very close again, but we did it the following year in 1957. Anytime you can win it all, that makes for the best memory."
Q: What was the biggest injury you had while playing football and does your injury still physically bother you to this day? -- Will Burke from Englewood, Florida
A: "My back is currently bothering me a little bit, but I will get through that.
02-14-2007, 12:46 AM
Nominee #15: Jake Scott
Jacob E. Scott (born July 20, 1945 in Greenwood, South Carolina) is a former American football free safety and punt returner who played nine seasons from 1970 to 1978 for the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins of the National Football League. Scott went to the Pro Bowl five consecutive times between 1971, and 1975. He recorded 35 interceptions in his six seasons as a Dolphin, and another 14 in his three years with the Redskins.
Scott played college football in the University of Georgia and was drafted in the seventh round by the Miami Dolphins in 1970 where in his rookie year, he made five interceptions for 112 yards and made one touchdown in a punt return. The following year, he recorded 7 interceptions and 318 punt return yards, assisting the team to Super Bowl VI, which they lost 24-3 to the Dallas Cowboys. Scott recorded a 21-yard punt return in the game.
Scott was a key member of the 1972 Miami Dolphins undefeated season, and finished that season as Super Bowl MVP of Super Bowl VII, recording 2 interceptions and 63 return yards in the Dolphins' 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins including one in the fourth quarter. He also played for the Dolphins in their 24-7 Super Bowl VIII win, recording a fumble recovery, 20 punt return yards, and 47 kickoff return yards in that game.
Overall, Scott finished his 9 seasons with 49 interceptions which is the Dolphins all-time leader in that category and 551 return yards, along with 13 fumble recoveries for 35 return yards. On special teams, he gained 1,357 yards and a touchdown returning punts, and 137 yards on 6 kickoff returns.
In the late 1980's, NFL Films named Scott as the Dolphins All-Time Neutralizer sponsored by Tums. He was inducted into the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame in 1998.
02-14-2007, 12:47 AM
Nominee #16: Donnie Shell
Donnie Shell (born August 26, 1952) is a former American Football strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the National Football League between 1974 and 1987. Shell was a member of the Steelers famed Steel Curtain defense in the 1970s.
Shell won four Super Bowls, and retired as the NFL strong safety career leader in interceptions with 51. He started eleven straight years for the Steelers and was selected to the Steelers All-Time Team, the College Football Hall of Fame, and to the NFL Silver Anniversary Super Bowl Team.
Shell was a five time Pro Bowler between 1978 and 1982 and was the Steelers team MVP in 1980.
02-14-2007, 12:49 AM
Cherry deserves to be in there.
Sorry, but Darren Woodson isn't even eligible for the HOF yet.
02-14-2007, 12:49 AM
Nominee #17: Dave Grayson
(courtesy of raidersonline.com)
Dave Grayson (born 1939) played offensive and defensive halfback at the University of Oregon. He was drafted by the American Football League's Dallas Texans in 1961 and played four years with the Texans/Chiefs before joining the Oakland Raiders in 1965. Grayson held the AFL record for longest interception return for a td, 99 yds against the New York Titans in 1961. He had an interception off George Blanda in the Texans' classic 1962 double-overtime championship game victory over the defending AFL Champion Houston Oilers. Grayson was All-AFL in Dallas/Kansas City in 1962, 1963 and 1964, and in Oakland in 1965 and 1967, when he again played on an AFL Championship team. At Oakland in 1968, he led the American Football League with ten interceptions.
He is the all-time AFL leader in interceptions with 47, for a 20-yard return average and 5 tds, and he averaged 25.4 yards on 110 kickoff returns. He is a member of the American Football League All-Time Team.
02-14-2007, 12:51 AM
Nominee #18: Tim McDonald
Tim McDonald (born January 6, 1965 in Fresno, California) was a former football player who played strong safety in the National Football League.
 Professional Career
He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the second round (34th pick overall) of the 1987 NFL Draft. He signed as a free agent by the San Francisco 49ers on April 7, 1993 and was a six-time Pro Bowler where he helped the 49ers win the Super Bowl XXIX, and retired after the 1999 season.
02-14-2007, 12:52 AM
Any other nominees?
02-14-2007, 12:54 AM
No faders please-lol The are allready part of the Criminal Justice Hall of Fame
Well I think that Darren Woodson shouldnt be a nominee right now, hes only been out of the league for 2 years.
02-14-2007, 02:22 AM
a bit of trivia...Tim McDonald is the real person that told Lee Steinberg, "Show me the money", thus inspiring the line from Jerry McGuire.
02-14-2007, 05:26 AM
If you ever saw Kenny Easley play, there really is no debate.
The man bordered on superhuman.
02-14-2007, 08:34 AM
Off the top of my head when I think of great safeties I think of Atwater, Lott, Butler, Easley and Cherry.
02-14-2007, 08:57 AM
Easley, Atwater, Robinson, Cherry, Lott, Shell
02-14-2007, 09:38 AM
Ronnie Lott's finger should also be in the HOF..
btw.. I was a really big fan of Joey Browner.. that guy was a stud
02-14-2007, 09:44 AM
I was a really big fan of Joey Browner.. that guy was a stud
Dang good call! he was a stud.
02-14-2007, 11:54 AM
Well I think that Darren Woodson shouldnt be a nominee right now, hes only been out of the league for 2 years.
The voters shall delete Darren Woodson from their ballot cards.
Any other nominees?
02-14-2007, 12:01 PM
Off the top of my head when I think of great safeties I think of Atwater, Lott, Butler, Easley and Cherry.
Butler? I'm blanking. You wanna nominate him?
02-14-2007, 12:03 PM
If you ever saw Kenny Easley play, there really is no debate.
The man bordered on superhuman.
Yeah. Easley was part man, part man-beast. He's one of those guys who I would support for the Hall of Fame even if his career wasn't that long. I openly feared for our wide receivers when he was roaming around in Seattle's backfield.
02-14-2007, 12:17 PM
Butler? I'm blanking. You wanna nominate him?
Leroy Butler of the Packers.
1990-2001. 953 tackles, 38 INTS, 20.5 sacks, 4 pro bowls, 1 Super Bowl Ring, All decade team 1990's, and the inventor of the Lambeau Leap.
02-21-2007, 12:37 AM
Okay voters, the poll is up. Cast your votes unless you're Bob Gretz.
02-21-2007, 11:43 AM
I need more votes.
Okay, Gretz, you can vote, too.
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