Rice, Smith lead class of 2010 into Pro Football Hall of Fame

Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith headlined the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2010 that also included John Randle, Dick LeBeau, Rickey Jackson, Russ Grimm, and Floyd Little. Each player gave moving speeches on Saturday, August 7 in Canton, Ohio and the evening ended with an emotional speech from former Cowboy star Emmitt Smith.

Smith immediately praised Walter Payton, the man he surpassed as rushing king, and recognized the two other Pro Football Hall of Fame members of the Cowboys’ Triplets, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. He began to cry when recognizing his former fullback, Daryl Johnston. “You took care of me as if you were taking care of your little brother,” Smith said through tears. Smith rushed for 18, 355 yards, with 164 touchdowns, 11 seasons with 1,000 or more yards on the ground, and 78 games with 100 yards rushing.

Jerry Rice proved to be as classy off the field as he had been on the field for 20 seasons. “This is finally it,” he said, ” There are no more routes to run, no more touchdowns to score, no more records to set. That young boy from Mississippi has finally stopped running. “Let me stand here and catch my breath.” Earlier in his speech he thanked coaches and teammates including Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young and Joe Montana. He also paid homage to Bill Walsh, the 49er coach who drafted Rice from Mississippi Valley State in 1985. Rice caught 1,549 passes, gained 22, 895 yards, and scored 208 touchdowns in his career.

Floyd Little was sandwiched between Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith but he held his own with a wonderful speech of his own. Little was a star running back for the Denver Broncos from 1967-1975 and waited nearly 3 decades after becoming eligible to get elected. He thanked Jim Gray, sportscaster, for his help in getting Little elected into the Hall of Fame. He also personally thanked several members of his family giving specific examples on how they have helped him over the years. Little was sincere as he recognized the important people in his life and went on to give advice to young players playing the game that he loves. The main idea of his speech is that football is important but family is more important.

Dick LeBeau and John Randle were the first two players inducted on Saturday night. LeBeau was inducted after a 32 year wait. He played 14 years for the Lions but is best known as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has been defensive coordinator with the Steelers for several years and is the author of the zone blitz. Randle made six straight All-Pro teams (1993-1998) and was chosen for seven Pro Bowls during his career. He is well known for talking constantly during games but his Hall of Fame speech lasted only six minutes.

Russ Grimm and Rickey Jackson played together at the University of Pittsburgh and are now teammates in the Hall of Fame. From 1981-1991, Grimm led the Redskins’ “Hogs” offensive line and won three super bowls. He is the first member of that offensive line to make the hall. Jackson was a talented linebacker and is the first Saints player to be enshrined. Jackson made six Pro Bowls and had 128 sacks.

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