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Smith Heads Hall of Fame Class

Woodson, McDaniel, Hayes, Thomas and Owner Wilson Also Elected; Grimm Falls Short

Former Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas, sacking John Elway in 1989, joined Bob Hayes in being elected posthumously. He died following a 2000 car crash.
Former Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas, sacking John Elway in 1989, joined Bob Hayes in being elected posthumously. He died following a 2000 car crash. (Associated Press)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 1, 2009; Page D08

TAMPA, Jan. 31 -- Bruce Smith, the NFL's career sacks leader, was part of a six-member class elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. But the group to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, in the summer did not include former Washington Redskins guard Russ Grimm, who was not selected by the media members who serve as voters.

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Smith, who finished his career with four seasons with the Redskins after 15 seasons with the Buffalo Bills, was elected in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility. So was Rod Woodson, a defensive back who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, among other teams.

Also elected were Bills owner Ralph Wilson and former players Randall McDaniel, Derrick Thomas and Bob Hayes.

Grimm failed to make the cut when the selectors reduced the field of modern era candidates from 10 to five. But he does have one consolation: He's in Sunday's Super Bowl as the offensive line coach of the Arizona Cardinals, who face the Steelers at Raymond James Stadium.

Smith goes into the Hall of Fame with Wilson, owner of the franchise for which Smith had his finest seasons. The two embraced when Wilson arrived to speak.

"I remember when Bruce first came to Buffalo," Wilson said, and added later: "Since this fellow left us, we haven't been so good."

Former Bills coach Marv Levy was on hand as well. "He said, 'Bruce, I think you'll have something to celebrate. There's no curfew tonight,' " said Smith, who was part of Bills teams that lost four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s.

"This kind of takes away some of the pain from those Super Bowls," Smith said.

Smith spoke tearfully of his late father, George, during his comments after the announcement. He'd thought about his father during a morning workout, he said.

"I just had a moment thinking about my father," Smith said, "and all the sacrifices he and my mother made when I was a child growing up to be a man. He wanted me to have a better life than he had."

According to one voter, Smith's election was so automatic that the person who presented Smith's case to the other selectors was told to stop his speech shortly after beginning it. But Smith said he had reservations about the vote.

"You always have doubts," he said. "I just had to allow the process to unfold and take place."

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