Even in his grandest moment, intrigue clings to George Blanda.
As Blanda sat in front of Pro Football's Hall of Fame here today, about to be inducted for his many achievements in his 26 years as a pro, he was surrounded by his fellow inductees. To his right was Morris (Red) Badgro, a player of the 1930s, and to his left were Willie Davis (Packers) and Jim Ringo (Packers/Eagles), two players of the 1960s.
Each player brought along someone of importance -- someone who had helped his career reach these revered steps -- to do the introductions. Badgro had a former teammate, Davis had his college coach and Ringo had his high school coach.
George Blanda brought Al Davis, the man who salvaged Blanda's career in 1967 when he picked up the 39-year-old player for the $100 waiver price.
Today, Davis -- ever with his Oakland Raiders in mind -- wore a black suit. No one wears a black suit in Canton, Ohio, in the summer. Only Al Davis. This was simply pride, poise and perspiration.
"When I go out there with Al Davis," Blanda told several reporters before his induction, "it will be two renegades, me and Al Davis. It will be great."
Blanda was the second player introduced, following Badgro. The crowd of several thousand responded just as other crowds did during 1970 when the Riader kicker/quarterback went on his miracle streak, winning five games and earning a tie in another with last-second touchdown passes, field goals and/or extra points. They stood and cheered.
First, Al Davis spoke. "For the last three decades the Oakland Raiders have dominated pro football," Davis began humbly.
"George Blanda inspired a whole nation in 1970," said Davis. "I really believe he is the greatest clutch player in the history of this game."
Blanda was cut by the Raiders -- "I didn't retire willingly," he said -- prior to the 1976 season. He was several weeks shy of his 49th birthday. The fact is, he is seven years younger than the National Football League.
Still, he siad, "I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for Al Davis."
Grambling College Coach Eddie Robinson, in presenting Willie Davis for enshrinement, said the Packer great was the complete defensive end. "For 10 years, Willie was the standard of excellence by which defensive ends were judged," Robinson said.
Ringo, now an assistant coach with the New England Patriots, told the crowd, "I feel I was created. I wasn't a very good athlete. Without my teachers of the past, I would not be here today."
Badgro, who had to wait an unprecendented 45 years to be enshrined, said, "This is absolutely the greatest thrill in my life, There is no way I can express my feelings."