Familiar Faces Head Hall's Class of Six

Former Redskins cornerback Darrell Green reacts to the announcement that he will be part of the 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction class on Saturday in Phoenix, Az. Video by Jonathan Forsythe/washingtonpost.comPhoto support: Whitney Shefte/washingtonpost.com
By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 3, 2008

PHOENIX, Feb. 2 -- It was nothing but smiles for the Washington Redskins organization yesterday as cornerback Darrell Green and wide receiver Art Monk were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Green and Monk were part of a six-member class selected on the eve of the Super Bowl that also included former Redskins assistant coach Emmitt Thomas, Fred Dean, Andre Tippett and Gary Zimmerman.

"It's spectacular," Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said. "It's a great day. Darrell was so nervous. We were kidding him about it, but he was so nervous about it. With Art, it was a long time coming. But we're just ecstatic. It's fantastic."

Thomas is a former standout defensive back for the Kansas City Chiefs who has had a long career as an assistant coach, most recently with the Atlanta Falcons. Thomas served as Washington Redskins wide receivers coach in 1986 and as the team's secondary coach from 1987 to '94.

"Those guys have high character. I'm proud to go in with them," Thomas said of being in the same Hall of Fame class as Green and Monk, both of whom he coached.

Dean, a defensive end for the San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers, was a fearsome pass rusher who played most of his career before sacks became an official NFL statistic. He played on two Super Bowl champions with the 49ers and had a career-best 17 1/2 sacks in 1983, including a then-record six in one game that season.

"I didn't work for this. I worked for the love of the game," said Dean, who was selected to four Pro Bowls.

Tippett, who is the Patriots' director of community affairs, was a five-time Pro Bowl linebacker for New England between 1982 and '93. When he retired, Tippett had 100 career sacks, including 18 1/2 in a season, and 17 fumble recoveries. He was chosen for all-decade team of the 1980s.

"I was trying to keep my composure. I'm emotional. I will cry at the drop of a hat," said Tippett, who was selected after a 10-year wait. "It was pretty overwhelming for me. I tried to keep it together as long as I could."

Zimmerman was a tackle for the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos who was named to the NFL's all-decade teams of the 1980s and '90s. After seven seasons with the Vikings, Zimmerman helped solidify the offensive line in Denver.

Zimmerman won a Super Bowl in 1997, his final season, and is the second Broncos player to be selected to the Hall of Fame. The other is John Elway.

"I'm happy to be joining John Elway, but at the same time I'm sad because there's so many other Broncos who deserve to be in the Hall, too," Zimmerman told the Associated Press in an interview from his home near Bend, Ore.

Zimmerman fit right in with the Broncos' offensive line, which gained fame around the league for not speaking to the media. He insisted he wasn't expecting a phone call informing him he'd been selected to the Hall of Fame.

"It was like a dream, like it wasn't real, like I was in the 'Twilight Zone,' " Zimmerman said. "There was so many other great players that were up for induction, so I figured I was going to have to wait my turn."

The six-member class was one shy of the maximum. The 44-member media selection committee elected one nominee of the seniors committee, Thomas, but rejected the other, Marshall Goldberg.

The voters, huddled in a convention center meeting room in downtown Phoenix, eliminated former Redskin Russ Grimm, among others, when they reduced the number of modern-era candidates from 15 to 10. Also eliminated in that reduction were former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and former players Randy Gradishar, Ray Guy and Andre Reed.

When the voters cut the list of candidates from 10 to five, they eliminated Cris Carter, Richard Dent, Bob Kuechenberg, Randall McDaniel and Derrick Thomas.

Perhaps the most surprising outcome was that Tagliabue, again, did not get enough support.

In his 17 years as commissioner, the NFL experienced no labor stoppages, while its revenue from TV contracts skyrocketed. There also were expansions to Jacksonville, Charlotte, Cleveland and Houston under his watch, and several teams moved into new stadiums, many of them built with public funds.

But many, including some reporters on the selection committee, found Tagliabue unapproachable and uncooperative.

Inductions will be at the Pro Football Hall of Game in Canton, Ohio, Aug. 2.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company