Appreciation, surprise and exhilaration are the themes of the day.
By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 28, 2001
TAMPA -- After 14 years of disappointment, Lynn Swann vowed he wouldn't be emotional. He broke the promise.
Not knowing that the Hall of Fame board of selectors was delayed about 10 minutes, the former Steelers receiver saw 11:30 a.m. come and go Saturday without word. Resigned to the fate of another disappointment, Swann called his wife and assured her that everything would be all right.
Then he turned on the television in time to hear his name called as one of seven inductees into the game's most hallowed hall.
"I cried all the way over here," Swann said about the three-minute walk from his hotel to the Tampa Convention Center. "I heard my name and I tried to take a deep breath, and say "Okay,' but I just started crying. ... You just can't know what an honor it is to be here after 14 years."
Joining him will be three offensive linemen who combined for 47 NFL seasons, (Ron Yary, Mike Munchak and Jackie Slater), a middle linebacker who piloted the defense of the only team to play an unbeaten season (Nick Buoniconti), a defensive end who once played with a broken leg (Jack Youngblood) and a veteran coach who led his team to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances (Marv Levy).
The Class of 2001's Magnificent Seven will be enshrined Aug. 4 in a ceremony on the steps of the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Swann goes into the Hall with impressive credentials. He is a three-time Pro Bowl player who won four Super Bowl rings and was MVP of Super Bowl X, catching four passes for 161 yards and a touchdown in a 21-17 win over the Cowboys.
"While (waiting) was difficult, maybe it will make me appreciate more the honor of being in the Hall of Fame," he said.
The 38-man selection committee also selected a trio of linemen remarkable for its durability.
Slater, a first-time nominee, played 20 seasons with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams and appeared in seven Pro Bowls. Munchak, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, suited up for the Oilers for 159 games through 12 seasons. Yary spent 14 of his 15 NFL seasons with the Vikings and appeared in four Super Bowls.
For Slater, a visible presence at the Convention Center all week, the announcement came with a touch of drama. While watching it on television, Slater thought he had been left off the list when John Bankert, executive director of the Hall of Fame, didn't read his name.
Bankert said there were seven inductees, but only read six names. Reminded by members of the media that he left one off, Bankert rechecked the envelopes and then read Slater's name.
"When he announced that that was the class, I said, "Okay, we've got next year,' " Slater said. "Then, I thought I heard someone yell my name and then sure enough John picks up the envelopes (and reads them again) and I'm going, "All right!' I'm happy. Didn't you hear me scream?"
Munchak said the induction of three offensive linemen is especially satisfying considering how difficult it is for linemen to gain recognition.
"I would say I am (surprised)," Munchak said. "I know in the past, on the offensive line, it's been harder to evaluate linemen as maybe other positions are."
Youngblood, the first former Gator and the only defensive player in this year's class, played 14 seasons with the Rams and becomes the ninth defensive end elected into the Hall of Fame.
"Wow! It's the first reaction that comes out," Youngblood said. "It's the epitome."
Noticeably absent was former Giants, Patriots and Jets coach Bill Parcells, a two-time Super Bowl winner whom many considered a lock to go in on his first year of eligibility.
But reports that Parcells could return to coaching might have hurt his candidacy.