Among Rest of Class of '08, Dean Loses Glasses but Steals Show
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Former Washington stars Darrell Green and Art Monk received the most applause as they joined the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but they weren't the only members of the Class of 2008 to contribute memorable moments to the induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio.
Former Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett spoke first, followed by former Chiefs cornerback and Redskins assistant coach Emmitt Thomas. Then came a colorful speech by Fred Dean, the former Chargers and 49ers defensive end. Green preceded former Vikings and Broncos offensive lineman Gary Zimmerman and Monk, who gave the final speech.
Thomas, a Redskins assistant from 1986 to '94, spoke of the hardship of growing up after his mother died when he was 8 years old, and as a tribute to his grandfather asked the Hall of Fame to let him enter with the name Emmitt Earl Fyles Dean.
"My late grandfather is still my hero. I remember those long, hot summer nights sitting on the porch listening to a game or a fight," he said. "He taught me about honor, commitment, love, religion and respect."
Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the former 49ers owner who presided over the team's five Super Bowls, presented Dean, gushing over the player he acquired from the San Diego Chargers in Week 5 of the 1981 season. The 49ers won their first Super Bowl at the conclusion of that season.
He called Dean, who finished with 93 sacks in his career, the forefather of the hybrid position of stand-up pass rusher as he outmaneuvered and overwhelmed slower, bigger players in a 3-4 defensive scheme. DeBartolo said Dean "led the way for players" such as Tippett, the late Derrick Thomas, former 49ers and Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley, and "also this era's Dwight Freeney and Jason Taylor."
Dean, undersize for his position, recalled in his speech that he told his high school coach he wanted to play on the defensive line instead of at linebacker. "I wanted to get down in the dirt," he said. He began to ramble, his speech slightly unorganized, when he admitted: "What I did is go on and leave my glasses. So I can't read my words."
The crowd burst into laughter before Eric Dickerson finally handed him a pair of sunglasses.
Dean was listed at 6 feet 2, 235 pounds during his career but probably played around 220 pounds. Today, Dean appears an easy 300-pounds plus. The largesse of his personality and his backwoods Louisiana roots shone through as he delivered a moving and poignant induction speech.
Zimmerman talked about going from Minnesota to Denver, and learning about "the Curse."
"It happens when you're protecting someone like John [Elway] and what happens is the night before the game you get little or no sleep," he said. "Because if you didn't do your job, you'll forever be known as the guy who lost our franchise. . . . I would also like to thank John. It was worth every sleepless night.
"We are inconspicuous, but we defend our quarterbacks like we defend our mothers."
Others reflected on how they learned the game and what helped them aspire to Hall of Fame careers.
Tippett, a fearsome pass rusher, talked about how he and his college teammates at Iowa would imagine they played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"In my youth, I watched every game I could," he said. "I studied all the great players -- [Jack] Lambert, [Jack] Ham, Bobby Bell and many others."