TAMPA, JAN. 26 -- Former Washington Redskins fullback John Riggins failed to win election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame today in his first year of eligibility. He was in good company, because selectors also passed over Raiders owner Al Davis and former Colts tight end John Mackey, both of whom had been among the six finalists. Riggins was not a finalist.
Voters did select former Dallas Cowboys president Tex Schramm, running back Earl Campbell, kicker Jan Stenerud, and linemen John Hannah and Stan Jones, a University of Maryland graduate who spent most of his career with the Chicago Bears before finishing with the Redskins in 1966. Jones was recommended by the Hall's seniors committee because he played most of his career before 1966.
"I don't want this to sound like sour grapes, because it's not," Riggins said today from his home in the Washington area, "but there are people in the Hall who probably don't belong and people not in the Hall who probably do belong. To let it affect you or overaffect you is ridiculous. Life goes on."
Riggins, whose career spanned 14 years and left him the NFL's No. 6 all-time rusher, survived the first cut from 14 to 11, but did not make the final six.
A total of 29 media representatives voted in a downtown Tampa hotel. They discussed the candidates for almost two hours, then in the cut to 11 (there was a tie for the final spot) eliminated wide receiver Lynn Swann, quarterback Ken Stabler and defensive lineman Jack Youngblood. The next ballot went from 11 to six, with Riggins, defensive linemen L.C. Greenwood and Carl Eller, tackle Bob Brown and cornerback Lem Barney eliminated.
On the final ballot, each voter was asked to say yes or no on the remaining six modern era candidates. All the new inductees, including Jones, had to be affirmed on at least 82 percent of the ballots.
Selectors are asked not to publicly reveal the nature of the discussions on the players. Riggins had been considered a strong candidate, and many selectors agreed afterward that it would simply be a matter of time before he is voted in.
"I do think John is going to make it," said selector Cooper Rollow of the Chicago Tribune. "I think he's a very deserving candidate. It's a numbers game, that's all."
Said Frank Luksa, a selector from the Dallas Times-Herald: "I thought his numbers said it all, and I'm surprised he didn't make it. Certainly he will in due time, and I hope it will be very soon. Someone said he had 74 touchdowns after the age of 30. That's just amazing. He's got to get in."
But not today. Riggins said he was "a little disappointed, not so much for myself as for all the other people who are affected. After all, it's not something I applied for. . . . I have always played for my fans, my friends and my family, and I feel badly for them. It's kind of like being sent out on a mission and coming back with nothing, being a little short of your goal. You just have to go on from here and hope you get another chance at it."
Davis and Mackey know that feeling. Davis has been on the final list of 15 six times, Mackey four, though this is the first time both made it to the final cut. Both had controversial careers taking on the NFL establishment, Davis in his efforts to move his team, Mackey as an outspoken leader in the early years of the NFL Players Association when it was still known as a union.
Schramm was the quintessential league man who played a major role in professional football over a 44-year career, 29 as chief executive officer of the Cowboys.
Campbell is the NFL's 10th-leading rusher, a 233-pound brute of a back named the NFL's MVP and rookie of the year in 1978 with the Houston Oilers. He gained 1,934 yards in 1980, third-highest total in NFL history, and had a career 4.3-yard average, with 74 touchdowns.
Stenerud is the first pure specialist to make the Hall of Fame. His career lasted 19 years, 13 with the Kansas City Chiefs, and he never missed a game injured or ill. He is second to George Blanda in all-time scoring with 1,699 points.
Hannah as a 6-foot-3, 265-pound guard with the New England Patriots made many believe he was the greatest offensive lineman of his era. He was named all-pro 10 straight years and offensive lineman of the year four times.
Jones played 13 seasons in the NFL, 12 with the Chicago Bears before persuading George Halas to trade him to the Redskins in 1966 so he could play a final season near his home in Rockville. He played offensive tackle and guard, played both ways in 1962, then switched to defensive tackle permanently in 1963, helping lead the Bears to the NFL title. Jones was an assistant coach with the Cleveland Browns last season, and will coach defensive linemen for the New England Patriots in 1991.
The five new inductees will be honored in ceremonies at the Hall in Canton, Ohio, July 27.