CANTON, Ohio — To put an exclamation point on a weekend former Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said “might not really totally sink in for a long, long time,” the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019 was set to be formally enshrined Saturday night at Tom Benson Stadium.
The eight newest enshrinees include 55 combined Pro Bowl selections in all to go with one of the league’s most successful owners in Pat Bowlen and one of its formative personnel executives in Gil Brandt.
Each of the newest Hall of Famers, sporting the signature gold jackets they received in a ceremony in downtown Canton on Friday night, will do the best they can to acknowledge those who help point them in the right direction along the way and to put, into words, what it all meant to them.
“You know there are so many people to thank, your family, your coaches, your teammates, everyone,” Bailey said as he prepared for his time at the podium. “Just sitting here right now I know there are a bunch of names that aren’t in the speech who should be, but it’s impossible maybe to thank everyone. So, you do the best you can to put it all into words. I don’t know how you put it all into words, but you do the best you can.”
The 86-year-old Brandt will lead off the evening as he tried to sum up a career in football that began with the Los Angeles Rams in 1955 and continues today in his variety of radio and television duties. In his 28-year run with the Dallas Cowboys the team had 20 consecutive winning seasons, won 13 division titles and had two Super Bowl wins.
Brandt has often been credited with aiding the movement of scouting and player evaluation into the computer age. During his tenure, the Cowboys also mined smaller schools for talent — like Hall of Famer Bob Hayes — as well as scouting players in other sports, given they were regulars at the NCAA track meet as well as early scouting forays into Europe and Canada.
Johnny Robinson, who was the Seniors Committee selection, was set to follow Brandt. Robinson was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, as well as a six-time, first-team All-Pro selection as a defensive player. He started his career on offense, rushing for 458 yards as a rookie and had two 600-yard receiving seasons in the earliest days of the AFL.
Also set for enshrinement, in order of their presentations and speeches:
–Former Seahawks, Jets and Titans center Kevin Mawae, the player Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells said was unlike any other player at the position. In his career, Mawae blocked for five 1,000-yard running backs, including Hall of Famer Curtis Martin. The five backs combined for 13 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
–Bowlen, who died last month after a long fight with Alzheimer’s Disease. He is the only owner in NFL history whose team tallied 300 wins in the first 30 years of his tenure, and he also served as an important voice in league affairs in his time on several committees, including the management council executive committee and broadcasting committee. In his tenure the Broncos had the same number of Super Bowl appearances as losing seasons — seven.
–Former Patriots, Jets, Chiefs and Broncos cornerback Ty Law, a three-time Super Bowl winner who did some of his best work in the postseason. He had six interceptions in 13 career postseason games, including three in New England’s run to close out the 2003 season with a Lombardi trophy — he finished with 53 career interceptions, including a league-leading 10 in 2005 as a 31-year-old.
–Former Ravens, Jets and Texans safety Ed Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection who led the league in interceptions three times and finished as the all-time leader in interception-return yardage (1,590). He had seven seasons when he had more than 100 yards worth of interception returns, four with more than 150 yards of interception returns and two season with more than 200.
–Bailey, a cornerback for the Redskins and Broncos, was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection, three-time first-team All-Pro selection and an All-Decade pick for the 2000s. He finished his career with 52 interceptions.
–Former Chiefs and Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, a 14-time Pro Bowl selection who led the league in receptions (102) in 2004 and finished among the league’s top 10 in receptions five times. He is the first tight end to ever be enshrined in his first year of eligibility and is second all-time in receptions for a tight end with 1,325.