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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Skills of inductees changed the game
By wire services
Published August 7, 2005
CANTON, Ohio - You don't come here at this time of year without being ready to cry, which is what Dan Marino and Steve Young get today as a reward for trying so hard for so long to be the best they could be and succeeding at it.
Yet you don't get inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the first year you're eligible, like Marino and Young, just because you tried hard.
It takes a special skill set, plus longevity, a little luck and perhaps - if your bust is going up decades after your death, and more than half a century after you played - because you were a game-changer, which is why the late Fritz Pollard and Benny Friedman also will be immortalized.
There are several sports halls of fame, but something about this one renders tough men peaceable, shrinking the egos of newcomers from melons to peas.
The game's most prolific passer will be humbled. Marino, like Young, will have 500 or more family, friends and former teammates and coaches in the crowd. He might bawl, especially when son Daniel makes his presenting speech.
"That could happen," said the former Dolphin, who will join Eric Dickerson, Jim Kelly and John Elway as the fourth member of the famed draft class of 1983 to enter the Hall. "I was going to have my dad do it, but he didn't want to do it because he said he'd rather sit back and enjoy the afternoon. ... I think Dan-o will do fine.
"I saw (Hall of Famer) Joe Greene and he said, "Listen, make sure you are prepared. ... It is a real humbling experience.' He said for him when he got up there it was kind of overwhelming to think about all things that happened to you during your life. He said, "You better have it together.' I'm not sure I will."
This is where, for a scant few, a circle completes itself.
Young, a two-time NFL MVP with the 49ers who was the most efficient quarterback in league history (and first left-handed quarterback to enter the Hall), retired after the 1999 season. Although he was not ready, concussions forced his hand.
"Not playing anymore, this is as good as it gets, and this is the end," said the man whom the Buccaneers made the No.1 overall pick of the 1984 supplemental draft. "I think that it ... allows you to put it to rest.
"I appreciate that because, you know, you keep thinking to yourself, "Maybe I didn't play long enough, maybe I should have played longer, maybe I should have played better, maybe I could have done this or that.' And now you go to the Hall of Fame, and it's done."
Pollard, who died in 1986, was one of the first African-Americans to play in the American Professional Football Association (precursor to the NFL) in 1919, suiting up for the Akron Pros. A few years later, he became the NFL's first black coach while continuing to play.
He was something of a precursor to Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's racial barrier about a quarter century later. Legend says after being tackled, Pollard would spin on his back with cleats in the air to keep defenders from piling on.
"Even in Akron, at his home-team stadium, they had to bring him on the field just before the game started so he wouldn't get hurt, and then have a bodyguard there to protect him," wrote John Carroll, author of Fritz Pollard: Pioneer in Racial Advancement. "He showed a sense of bravery that's hard for people today to relate to."
Pollard and Friedman, who died in 1982, are the 26th and 27th players selected to the Hall by the seniors committee. That practice began in 1972, sending the likes of George Allen and Hank Stram to Canton.
Friedman was a pioneer as well.
He was the first prolific passer in NFL history, and the 53 touchdowns he threw in his first four seasons were more than all but 10 of the Hall's other 28 quarterbacks, including Joe Montana (52), Terry Bradshaw (41), Dan Fouts (30), Young (24) and Young's boyhood idol, Roger Staubach (18).
Playing in 1928 for the Detroit Wolverines, he led the NFL in passing and rushing touchdowns, the only player to do that. So New York Giants owner Tim Mara bought the entire Detroit team just to get Friedman.
Giants owner Wellington Mara recalled Friedman as "the Johnny Unitas of his day."
HT./WT.: 6-4, 218
PROFESSIONAL: 1983-99 Miami Dolphins
NOTABLE: Selected in first round (27th overall) of 1983 draft. Earned starting role early in rookie season and guided Dolphins to a 12-4 record and AFC East title. Named rookie of the year. In 1984 led Dolphins to 14-2 record and AFC East title. Became first to pass for 5,000 yards in single season (5,084). Threw record 48 TDs in a season, breaking mark of 36. Set six league records and named Most Valuable Player. In 1984 AFC Championship Game passed for 421 yards and four TDs in 45-28 win over Steelers, earning only trip to a Super Bowl. In his career, completed 4,967 of 8,358 passes for 61,361 yards and 420 TDs. Passed for 3,000 yards in a season 13 times, including six in which he reached the 4,000-yard plateau. Named first or second team All-Pro eight times and All-AFC six times. Born Sept.15, 1961, in Pittsburgh.
HT./WT.: 6-2, 205
COLLEGE: Brigham Young
PROFESSIONAL: 1985-86 Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 1987-99 San Francisco 49ers
NOTABLE: Entered NFL in first round of 1984 supplemental draft after two seasons in USFL. Became 49ers starter in 1991. Despite knee injury that forced him out of five games, passed for 2,517 yards and 17 TDs for league-high 101.8 passer rating - first of four straight passing titles. Added passing titles in 1996 and 1997, tying him with Sammy Baugh as only QBs to win six. Passed for 325 yards and a Super Bowl-record six TDs in 49-26 win over Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Named Super Bowl MVP. During NFL career, threw for 3,000-plus yards six times and 20 or more TDs in a season five times and posted a passer rating of 100 or higher six times. Rushed for 4,239 yards and 43 TDs. Named All-Pro four times, earned All-NFC honors three times, named to seven Pro Bowls and two-time league MVP. Born Oct.11, 1961, in Salt Lake City.
HT./WT.: 5-10, 183
PROFESSIONAL: 1927 Cleveland Bulldogs; 1928 Detroit Wolverines; 1929-31 New York Giants; 1932-34 Brooklyn Dodgers
NOTABLE: Two-time All-American. Threw NFL record 11 touchdowns as a rookie in 1927. Set another in 1929 with 20 TD passes. Led league in TD passes 1927-30. His 66 career TD passes were an NFL record until 1944. Led league in scoring in 1928. Born March 18, 1905, in Cleveland. Died Nov.23, 1982.
NOTABLE: All-American. In 1920, Pollard led Pros to 8-0-3 record and NFL's first crown. As member of new league, Pollard was one of two African-Americans in the NFL. In 1921 became first African-American head coach in NFL when Pros named him co-coach. After playing career, organized and coached all-black independent pro team, Chicago Black Hawks from 1928-32. Born Jan.27, 1894, in Chicago. Died May 11, 1986.