Willie Roaf led the way, as offensive linemen always do, as six players got inducted into the pro football hall of fame in Canton, Ohio, unveiling his bronze bust, while Curtis Martin, a running back, closed the evening with tears and tales of his rough life, his mother’s pain and his life-long indifference to the game that allowed him to become famous.
The night was also about the fans, and noisiest of them all were Pittsburgh fans, also rooting for Martin who grew up in the city and played his College Football for the Panthers. He was inducted alongside Willie Roaf, Chris doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Dermontti Dawson and Jack Butler, who kept things short and simple, unlike the weepy Martin.
Willie Roaf – Roaf made it into the hall on his second year of eligibility, and it’s easy to see why one of the greatest offensive lineman (a left tackle) of the last 20 years didn’t need much time waiting on history’s sidelines. He played for two teams during his 13 year career in the NFL; For the New Orelans Saints, staying in the state he played college football for (Louisiana Tech), from 1993 to 2001 after being a first round draft pick, and later for the Kansas City Chiefs for four season, from 2002 to 2005.
Roaf made the Pro Bowl 11 times during his career and was a first team All-Pro selection 8 times. He was part of the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1990’s and the 2000’s and to date is the most decorated New Orleans Saints player, also earning a spot in the Arkansas and Louisiana sports hall of fame.
Chris Doleman – Doleman was the fourth pick in the 1985 NFL Draft, going on to play 15 seasons in the NFL, 10 of them with the Minnesota Vikings. He recorded 150.5 sacks in 232 career games, putting him fourth on the all-time list. The defensive end was an 8 time Pro Bowl selection and three time as an All-Pro, included in the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1990’s and entering the Minnesota Vikings ring of honr.
Cortez Kennedy – Another defensive lineman, tackle this time, who played in the NFL for exactly one decade, spending his entire career (1990-2000) with the Seattle Seahawks, through very bad times as well, not stopping him from being one of the league’s best defensive players.
Another Arkansas man, Kennedy played college ball for the U in Miami, being the number 3 pick in the 1990 draft. He finished his career with 58 sacks in 167 games, making the Pro Bowl 8 times and being a first team All-Pro three times during his career, including the NFL’s defensive player of the year award in 1992 despite the Seahawks finishing 2-14. SI chose him as the greatest athlete to ever wear the number #96.
Dermontti Dawson – Another player from the same era, Dawson played his football as a Center for the Pittsburgh Steelers between 1988 and 2000, playing in 184 games, making 7 Pro Bowl games and being a six time All-Pro selection, obviously putting him in the 1990’s NFL all-decade team. Although the Steelers don’t officially retire jerseys, no one has worn Dawson’s #63 since he retired.
Jack Butler – A cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 1950’s, Butler played in 103 games, recording 52 career interceptions. He was a 4 time Pro Bowl selection and 3 time NFL team all-pro. He’s part of the Steelers’ all-time team and is actually a fluke to get where he has – He started playing football only when arriving at College, and got to the Steelers’ roster as an undrafted hole filler. At 84, he became part of the hall of fame.
Curtis Martin – I played for a purpose bigger than the game because I knew that the love for the game just wasn’t in my heart; My greatest achievement in my life was healing my mother and nurturing my mother.
Martin was never really sure he wanted to become a football player, let alone an NFL star. Eventually, his mother and pastor in Pittsburgh, where he grew up, pushed him to a career that ended up being 11 years long, ending due to an injury, as it does for most running backs. Martin played for the Patriots (1995-1997) and the Jets (1998-2005), running for 14,101 yards in his career, 4th on the all-time list and scoring 90 touchdowns on the ground, 100 in total, 19th all-time.
He made 5 Pro Bowl games and 5 All-Pro teams, leading the NFL in rushing with 1697 yards in 2004, the oldest player ever (at 31) to lead the league in rushing yards and is the all-time leading rusher in New York Jets history.