PRO BOWL WEEK
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The 2007 Pro Football Hall of Fame class includes Roger Wehrli, Michael Irvin, Thurman Thomas, Charlie Sanders, Bruce Matthews and Gene Hickerson (not pictured).
Famers not the first to know
HERE we are, checking in once again to see how the newest Pro Football Hall of Fame class gets the news.
"We were watching on TV like the rest of the world," said former Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, who, in case you've missed him on ESPN, is still very much Michael Irvin.
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"I just think they should do something to the process; we should get the news at least 15 seconds before the rest of the world -- anything!" Michael Irvin said.
Exactly. I agree completely. This is only right. Getting elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is an emotional experience, and there should be a dignified protocol here, instead of being forced to sit there 6 inches from the television like you're waiting for the winning lottery number to come in.
Irvin recalled the experience yesterday, as the newest class got together as part of this year's Pro Bowl festivities. He was there in front of the television, waiting for the moment to arrive, with his family all around:
"I said, 'Everybody get out.' "
Hey, it was tense. But then, the moment. The announcement. Alphabetically, I (for Irvin) was next. And ...
"And they started out, they started with a mmmmmm, that's the sound of an M."
Chaos. Craziness. Luckily, macho guy that he is, Irvin was able to fake composure. Then he went into the bathroom to get ready to head to the press conference: "I looked in the mirror and I was like (a sound effect that Bill Cosby might make)!"
See? This is too much. There should be some advance notice. Luckily, a few of his new classmates had it.
"Actually, my son, Kevin, was listening on speakerphone in College Station (Texas), and his television feed was about a second and a half faster than ours, so right before they made the announcement we heard a big 'Whoop!' through the telephone lines, so I found out a little bit earlier than everyone else," former Oilers and Titans lineman Bruce Matthews said.
And Bills great Thurman Thomas: "We were watching college basketball and watching ESPN, the tracker, whatever was going by. But before I found out my mom was coming down the hallway, freaking, 'We're in! We're in!' "
Roger Wehrli had 40 interceptions for St. Louis.
(OK, timeout. Cable company, let's take note here that not even THURMAN THOMAS has the NFL Network.)
And Charlie Sanders, a great pass catcher for the Lions from 1968 to1977: "I don't know if you'd say I was foolish enough to go to Miami (for the announcement), but I did. I got talked into it. I was realizing what I was going to do if I didn't get in ... I probably would've walked to South Beach, looked at the women, come home. Some way to enjoy this!"
Anyway, at least he didn't have to get his news via TV -- sort of.
"All I remember was I was locked into the television, and my wife was in my ear. That's a little joke -- she's always in somebody's ear. I don't even remember hearing my name, but I saw people taking pictures and yelling, and I figured something good happened," he said.
But then there was Roger Wehrli, the old cornerback who had 40 interceptions for the St. Louis football Cardinals from 1969 to 1982. He was nervous, of course. The time came, no call. He waited 5 minutes. No call. Ten minutes. No call.
"Then I got a phone call," he said. "And it was a Sporting News (radio) station, rather than from the Hall. And they said, 'Oh, we want to do an interview with you.' Well, what, did I make it? 'The Hall didn't call you?' No. That kind of set me back a little bit, and then he got a little worried that maybe he was calling the wrong person. He turns around, I heard him in the background: 'I'm talking to Roger Wehrli. Is he in? Is he in?' "
He is. And in the end, that was the most important thing. All is forgiven. It's amazing how emotional these men are about joining this great fraternity. Maybe Sanders, who waited a long, long time, got most emotional of all.
"I'm just happy," he said. "I'm just happy. Every day I wake up and it's just getting bigger and better, so I can't imagine six months from now what it's going to be, happening to me. But I know it's going to be good."
It's good to be in. It's good the suspense is over. The Class of '07 (including great 1958-73 Browns guard Gene Hickerson, who wasn't feeling well yesterday and skipped the event) is in.
"So, yeah, it was fearful," Irvin said of the wait. "And a lot of doubt.
"But that's for the next class! I'm in!"