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Hall welcomes seven

Sanders, Faulk, Sharpe inducted

Associated Press / August 7, 2011

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CANTON, Ohio - Prime Time has come to Canton - with an extra touch of gold. And a black do-rag.

Deion Sanders strutted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night sporting a pair of gold shoes to go with the gold jacket emblematic of the special company he has become a part of.

At the end of his riveting acceptance speech, he placed his ubiquitous do-rag on his hall bust.

Neon Deion indeed.

“This game taught me how to be a man,’’ Sanders said. “This game taught me if I get knocked down, I got to get my butt back up.

“If your dream ain’t bigger than you, there’s a problem with your dream.’’

Sanders joined Marshall Faulk in entering the Hall in their first year of eligibility. Shannon Sharpe, Richard Dent, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol also were enshrined before an enthusiastic crowd of 13,300.

When Sharpe headed to Savannah State, all he heard was how he was destined to fail.

“When people told me I’d never make it, I listened to the one person who said I could, me,’’ he said.

Failure? Sharpe went from a seventh-round draft pick to the most prolific tight end of his time. He won two Super Bowls with Denver and one with Baltimore, and at the time of his retirement in 2003, his 815 career receptions, 10,060 yards and 62 TDs were all NFL records for a tight end.

Sharpe patted his bust on the head before saying, “All these years later, it makes me proud when people call me a self-made man.’’

In a captivating acceptance speech, Sharpe passionately made a pitch to get his brother, Sterling, who played seven years with the Packers, considered for election to the shrine. Sterling, who introduced his younger brother for induction, wept as Shannon praised him.

“I am the only player who has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and am the second-best player in my family,’’ Sharpe said.

Faulk was the running back of running backs for much of his 12-season career.

As versatile and dangerous a backfield threat as the NFL has seen, Faulk was voted the NFL’s top offensive player in 1999, 2000, and 2001, and was the NFL’s MVP in 2000. He was the league’s scoring leader in 2000 and ’01, made seven Pro Bowls, and was the first player to gain 2,000 yards from scrimmage in four consecutive years.

Dent was a dynamic pass rusher on one of the NFL’s greatest defenses, the 1985 Bears. He was the MVP of that Super Bowl and finished with 137 1/2 career sacks, third all-time when he left the sport. He epitomized the Monsters of the Midway: fast, fierce and intimidating.

Hanburger called his induction “one of the greatest moments in my life. I am just overwhelmed by this.’’

Nicknamed “The Hangman,’’ Hanburger stood out for one violent move he practically patented in 14 seasons with the Redskins: the clothesline tackle, which eventually was outlawed.

Richter, who died last year, like Hanburger was a senior nominee. He played nine seasons for the Rams, who acquired him in 1954 for 11 players after he was the second overall draft pick.

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