The Professional Football Hall of Fame used the Pro Bowl tonight as a stage to announce its five new members, three of whom were here to sing the praises of the game that projected them into national prominence.
Quarterback Bart Starr, running back Gale Sayers, and running back-flanker-defensive back Frank Gifford reminisced, traced the growth of the game, and offered some advice on the importance of the draft in a news conference called to announce their selection.
Offensive tackle and guard Forrest Gregg and two-way guard Bill Willis, of another era, were unable to appear.
Gifford, also here as a sportscaster for tonight's Pro Bowl game, and Starr and Sayers, all of whom came up through the draft, agreed that some form of the draft is necessary to maintain competitive opportunity.
Referring to the league and NFL Players Association being unable to negotiate a labor contract since 1974, Gifford said, "I was a charter member of the union, I am proud of the guys who formed it. There are problems on both sides now. We were closer to management; we could have a dialogue. Now, the office is in Washington and the issues have been in the courts.
"I think the game needs an agreement. There definitely has to be a form of draft . . . a distribution of the top players. We (the ABC network in particularly and the broadcast industry in general) don't want ot televise a 48-0 game.
Former Chicago Bear Sayers agreed "There should be some form of draft," and Starr, coach of the Green Bay Packers he played for, said, "If you spent some time in Green Bay in late November or December you would know why we need a draft (to get athletes to play in the cold weather there)."
Willis, director of the Ohio Youth Commission, was one of the first blacks to play in the modern era of pro football, in 1946 with the Cleveland Browns of the old All-America Conference. He retired after the 1953 season.
Gregg, No. 2 draft pick from Southern Methodist and now coach of the Cleveland Browns, played with the Packers from 1956 through 1970 and retired after the 1971 season with the Dallas Cowboys.