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2001 Hall of Fame inductees

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 28, 2001


Nick Buoniconti

POSITION: Middle linebacker.

DATE OF BIRTH: Dec. 15, 1940.

PLACE OF BIRTH: Springfield, Mass.

COLLEGE: Notre Dame.

TEAMS: Boston Patriots (AFL, 1962-68), Miami Dolphins (1969-76).

CAREER: 14 seasons.

IN THE HALL BECAUSE: Late Cowboys coach Tom Landry once said that the only way to beat the Dolphins in their heyday was to block Buoniconti. That was because the 5-foot-11, 220-pound undersized run stopper was a menace to offense. The leader of Miami's vaunted No-Name Defense, Buoniconti brought the fire from his days with the AFL's Boston Patriots to the Dolphins. In the end, he was an eight-time All-Star/Pro Bowl selectee, played in three Super Bowls and won two titles.

A FINAL WORD: "As I go into Canton, I won't just be representing Nick Buoniconti, I will be representing a No-Name Defense that has a lot of names on it. I'm just so proud to have this opportunity."

Marv Levy

POSITION: Coach.

DATE OF BIRTH: Aug. 3, 1925.

PLACE OF BIRTH: Chicago.

COLLEGES: Coe, Harvard.

TEAMS: Kansas City Chiefs (1978-82), Buffalo Bills (1986-1997).

COACHING CAREER: 17 seasons.

IN THE HALL BECAUSE: Led Buffalo to an unprecedented four consecutive Super Bowls and finished with a career record of 154-120, ranking 10th in history at the time of his retirement. With one of the more storied coaching careers in history, Levy was the AFC's coach of the year in 1988, 1993 and 1995.

A FINAL WORD: "When I heard my name, the names of thousands of people who I have known for 47 years of coaching flashed across my mind. I can't begin to name them all and thank everybody. ... It's great, by the way, to have something to celebrate on a Super Bowl weekend."

Mike Munchak

POSITION: Guard.

DATE OF BIRTH: March 5, 1960.

PLACE OF BIRTH: Scranton, Pa.

COLLEGE: Penn State.

TEAM: Houston Oilers (1982-93).

CAREER: 12 seasons.

IN THE HALL BECAUSE: He made the Oilers' first-round pick in 1982 a profitable investment from the get-go, earning a starting spot as a rookie. Munchak was a key reason the Oilers led the NFL in total offense in 1990 and passing offense in 1990 and 1991. The nine-time Pro Bowl player was named to the 1980s All-Decade team and retired having played 159 games.

A FINAL WORD: "It's a great feeling, especially for offensive linemen, for people to recognize my consistency year in and year out. To retire and five years later to be on the list, starting with the 70 or 80 that they pick, and then making the finals the last couple of years, to me was just unbelievable."

Jackie Slater

POSITION: Tackle.

DATE OF BIRTH: May 27, 1954.

PLACE OF BIRTH: Jackson, Miss.

COLLEGE: Jackson State.

TEAM: Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams (1976-95).

CAREER: 20 seasons.

IN THE HALL BECAUSE: He protected 24 quarterbacks and blocked for 37 running backs, including seven 1,000-yard rushers. He made it to only one Super Bowl (the Rams' 31-19 loss to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV) but earned seven Pro Bowl selections. He played a remarkable 259 games and holds the NFL record for the seasons played with one club.

A FINAL WORD: "I just can't even explain it. In 1976, when I came to the National Football League, I played one year with Merlin Olsen and I looked into his eyes and saw what it meant to be a pro. ... I wanted to do my best. I wanted to be remembered as one of the best that ever played. Right now, it's just overwhelming."

Lynn Swann

POSITION: Receiver.

DATE OF BIRTH: March 7, 1952.

PLACE OF BIRTH: Alcoa, Tenn.

COLLEGE: Southern California.

TEAM: Pittsburgh Steelers (1974-82).

CAREER: Nine seasons.

IN THE HALL BECAUSE: Swann's credentials include winning four Super Bowl rings and being named a Super Bowl MVP and to the Super Bowl Silver Anniversary team. The 21st overall pick in 1974, ended his career with 336 receptions, 5,462 yards and 51 TDs. A three-time Pro Bowl player, Swann held Steeler records for receptions, yards, touchdowns and punt returns at the time of his retirement.

A FINAL WORD: "Over the last 14 years, those teammates, Dan Rooney, the people of Pittsburgh, have kind of kept me propped up. (They) said, "Hang in there; you deserve to be there.' And fans and people across the country have said the same. So, I appreciate this more than you could ever know."

Ron Yary

POSITION: Tackle.

DATE OF BIRTH: July 16, 1946.

PLACE OF BIRTH: Chicago.

COLLEGE: Southern California.

TEAMS: Minnesota Vikings (1968-81), Los Angeles Rams (1982).

CAREER: 15 seasons.

IN THE HALL BECAUSE: Yary turned out to be a pretty good investment, considering the Vikings used a bonus pick acquired in the Fran Tarkenton trade with the Giants. He rewarded the Vikings with a 199-game career and seven Pro Bowl selections. He played in four Super Bowls, losing all four.

A FINAL WORD: "The guys that I played with (were the best part of football). I hope the players today have the closeness and type of friendships that I developed during my career. From college all the way through (the NFL), they were the best people that you could ever work along side of."

Jack Youngblood

POSITION: Defensive end.

DATE OF BIRTH: Jan. 26, 1950.

PLACE OF BIRTH: Jacksonville.

COLLEGE: Florida.

TEAM: Los Angeles Rams (1971-84).

CAREER: 14 seasons.

IN THE HALL BECAUSE: Following in the footsteps of other great Rams defensive linemen, such as Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen, Youngblood made his mark on the game based on his durability and rugged approach to the game. He played 201 consecutive games. Stories about Youngblood begin with the fact he played the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl with a broken left leg. He appeared in seven consecutive Pro Bowls (1974-80) and was defensive player of the year in 1975.

A FINAL WORD: "I looked at Jack Youngblood and he wasn't so big and I figured I was just as tough as him" Rams tackle Jackie Slater said. "On a daily basis, in systematic drills, it wasn't all about being physical. Once, I figured out that Jack wasn't being physical, that was when my mind began to work that, "Hey, I don't know how to handle this guy.' Just when I got it figured out, he would do something else."

-- Compiled by Roger Mills.

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