Talkative Randle left speechless by induction

CANTON, OHIO — John Randle was known as one of the best talkers in the NFL during his day, so there was some anticipation about his speech. Could he possibly match those hilarious mic’d up segments from NFL Films?

Let’s just say that maybe he should have put on the face paint and let loose, because this had to be one of the shortest speeches in recent memory. The normally demonstrative Randle, who always had something to say on the field, was overwhelmed by the enormity of his induction.

Randle thanked his family, including his mother, who raised three boys on her own, along with former coaches and teammates who turned him from a skinny, undrafted kid from Texas A&I into a Hall of Fame player.

Adam Rank

LeBeau proves that age is just a number

CANTON, OHIO — The Steelers waved Terrible Towels as Dick LeBeau kicked off the induction ceremonies on Saturday night. LeBeau was introduced by his brother, Bob, who said that he immediately poured four fingers worth of single-malt scotch when he found out that Dick was inducted into Hall of Fame.

Which should make it no surprise that I will be hitting up the LeBeau’s post-induction party tonight.

LeBeau said that it was going to be tough to put almost 50 years of experience into a 10-minute speech. But LeBeau pulled it off. LeBeau said one of the proudest moments of his life was when he was singled out by President Barack Obama when the Steelers visited the White House following their win in Super Bowl XLIII.

LeBeau said it was fitting that the 44th president called out old No. 44. But even then, the Hall of Fame certainly topped that.

LeBeau closed by making note of his age. LeBeau, 72, said that if he had adhered to the retirement age he would have missed out on two Super Bowl titles, a No. 1 defense, having his high school number retired, a building named after him, being inducted into the Ohio State Hall of Fame, the Lions 75th anniversary team and now the Hall of Fame.

LeBeau mentioned that it was a great day to be alive and age was just a number. He certainly proved it.

And to be honest, LeBeau’s speech is going to be a hard act to follow.

Adam Rank

Today is declared Cowboys day in Canton

CANTON, OHIO — Canton mayor William Healy, as tradition, takes a survey of the crowd prior to the opening induction ceremony to gauge where the fans loyalties lie.

The 49ers are heavily represented, but there was no denying that the Cowboys have the largest contingent. By my unofficial count, I would say there are 116,482 Cowboys fans in Fawcett Stadium today. At least that is what it felt like from the stage floor when the Cowboys fans started cheering.

So as no surprise, Healy declared today Dallas Cowboys Day in Canton.

Adam Rank

Steelers getting cheers in Ohio

CANTON, OHIO — There was no mistaking when the Steelers made their way into Fawcett Stadium on Saturday night. There was a considerable pop from the far corner of the stadium, and fans flocked to the end zone next to the stage where the Steelers started filing in.

The team is here to represent defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who is being inducted.

Try to figure out which photos were taken by a professional, and which were done with a camera phone.

Ben Roethlisberger makes his way into Fawcett Stadium. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL.com)

Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu grab seats in the front row. (Adam Rank/NFL.com)

A number of the Steelers wore Lions No. 44 jerseys in honor of Dick LeBeau. (Adam Rank/NFL.com)

Coach Mike Tomlin takes in the action. (Adam Rank/NFL.com)

Adam Rank

Jerry’s in the house

Amanda Herald/NFL.com

CANTON, Ohio — With Emmitt Smith going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night, Dallas Cowboys fans are all over the place inside and outside the Hall. So naturally, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — who is presenting Smith tonight — was a popular figure when he arrived.

Warner already in Hall of Fame

Adam Rank/NFL.com

CANTON, OHIO — There will be lengthy debate about QB Kurt Warner when he becomes eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

We kicked it around yesterday during Gil Brandt‘s Hall of Fame chat. But one thing that we did not realize was that Warner was already in the Hall of Fame. Or at least his jersey is.

Warner’s jersey that he wore on his record-setting day on Sept. 20, 2009 is prominently displayed at the Hall. Warner completed 24 of 26 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns in a win at Jacksonville, setting a record for completion percentage in a game (92.3 percent) breaking the previous mark held by Vinny Testaverde.

The Hall of Fame has a number of displays that it rotates in and out. Some exhibits even go on the road.

And for the record, Warner should be enshrined to the Hall of Fame, but that is a debate we can pick up on another day.

Adam Rank

Waiting on the real Emmitt Smith

Craig Ellenport/NFL.com

There certainly is no shortage of Cowboys fans in Canton. An early estimation has the Cowboys fans dominating all others, including the 49ers, by a large margin. There are so many Cowboys fans here, you would think that they were America’s Team or something.

Adam Rank

Three owners to present Hall of Famers

A 45-year tradition of owners presenting Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees continues Saturday night as three owners will serve as presenters in Canton, Ohio.

At the enshrinement, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson will present former Saints linebacker Rickey Jackson, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will introduce former Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith, and former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. will present former 49ers receiver Jerry Rice.

“Mr. Benson has always been good to me and stood by me since day one. I owe a great deal of my success to him,” Jackson said upon selecting Benson.

When he selected Jones, Smith tweeted, “I’m honored to have [him] intro me [because] he’s done so much for me in my career.”

“I was floored,” DeBartolo said in February when Rice asked him to serve as his presenter.

Hall of Fame fans arrive early

CANTON, Ohio – NFL.com’s Gil Brandt has always been an early riser. On Enshrinement Day in Canton, he’s not alone. Brandt showed up outside the Pro Football Hall of Fame at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, and the place was already buzzing with fans wearing the team colors of all seven men being inducted into the Hall – even though the ceremony wasn’t set to begin for another 10-plus hours.

Naturally, the Dallas Cowboys fans here to see Emmitt Smith go into the Hall were excited to see Brandt, the man who drafted and signed so many of the Cowboys already enshrined in the Hall.

“I spoke to one guy who’s here from Wheeling, W.Va.,” Brandt said. “His house burned down, he lost his hand. But he’s here to see Emmitt go in. He told me he bought a picture for $1,200 of the five Cowboys who were Super Bowl MVPs. He said his wife will kill him for spending $1,200 on the picture … but it’s the first thing he’s hanging on the wall of his new house.”

Brandt also ran into former Cardinals and Cowboys tight end Jackie Smith, one of the many returning Hall of Famers who will take part in autograph sessions throughout the day leading up to tonight’s enshrinement ceremony.

The souvenir and signing tents are already open, and local residents are charging $20 for fans to park in their driveways. The grounds will be packed soon, and football royalty will be on display.

Enshrinement caps a big week in Canton

CANTON, Ohio – The seven newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be enshrined Saturday night in ceremonies that begin at 7 p.m. ET. But the enshrinement is just the centerpiece of what is a week-long celebration for the good people of the Canton/Akron region.

Many local residents take their annual vacations to volunteer for duty, driving the class of 2010 and their families and making sure all the 80-plus returning Hall of Famers are well taken care of. They also flocked to downtown Canton for the parade that took place Saturday morning, after celebrating all week at the traditional Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Ribs Burnoff.

And for the record: Armadillo’s Ribs & BBQ, from Austintown, Ohio, won first place in the ribs competition for the fifth consecutive year. Even more impressive, Old Carolina Barbecue, in nearby Massillon, won the People’s Choice for the seventh consecutive year.

A pair of dynasties.

Franco Harris: Smith ‘reminds me of Rocky’

CANTON, OHIO — Listening to Hall of Famers talk about Emmitt Smith, you hear the same stories — it was his heart and desire that pushed him to great heights.

But give credit to Hall of Fame Steelers RB Franco Harris, who might have had the best comparison.

“He reminds me of Rocky,” Harris said. “They always talked about his athletic ability. They always talked about his size or his speed. But how do you measure heart and desire? When you see him on film, you see that heart and desire. You also see it in his accomplishments.

“When I watched him, I always loved the way he ran. The way he took on tacklers, made people miss, shows you that football is not a game of 40-times and agility drills. To me, Emmitt Smith was the ultimate football player running back.”

Adam Rank

PHOTO: Rice and Little share a laugh in Canton

CLICK PHOTO to see more images from the 2010 Hall of Fame induction weekend. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

Lending a hand

(Ben Liebenberg / NFL)

CANTON, Ohio — There are more than 80 returning members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame here to take part in this weekend’s Enshrinement Festival. Most are staying at the McKinley Grand Hotel, where NFL Auction has a room set up. By Friday afternoon, 64 Hall of Famers had already passed through the Jackson Room and signed footballs and helmets that will be auctioned off — with proceeds going to the Hall of Fame’s Enshrinees Assistance Program.

For the record, the hands that are signing in the photo above belong to none other than Green Bay Packers legend Forrest Gregg.

McDonald campaigns to be Mr. Canton

CANTON, OHIO — There are a couple of ‘must dos’ every time you travel to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One of them is to visit Munson’s in North Canton. The other is to talk to Hall of Fame receiver Tommy McDonald.

And all you have to do is watch McDonald’s Hall of Fame induction speech to know why. He is so engaging, I have now granted him the status of Mr. Hall of Fame.

Munson’s has been shuttered, but McDonald continues to go nonstop.

McDonald stopped by the conference room we are shoehorned in at the McKinley Grand Hotel to join us for a chat on NFL.com. And not content to just be Mr. Hall of Fame, he kicked off a campaign to be Mr. Canton — or maybe the Emperor of Canton.

“Coming back here is an absolute treasure,” McDonald said. “Canton is a town that will welcome anybody. I want to come back to see all of the guys I played with and against. Canton should be the capital of the world. I always look forward to coming back.

“The people in Canton are No. 1. I may move to Canton! The reason Canton is so great is because the people of Canton are great. Make sure you write that. You are like family in Canton. That’s F-A-M-I-L-Y.”

Seriously Tommy, you sure you don’t want to run for mayor?

“I would do it,” McDonald said.

I would move to Canton just to vote for him if he did that.

Adam Rank

Here’s your HOF starting lineup

CANTON, Ohio — The folks at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who do such a terrific job every year organizing Enshrinement Weekend, usually wait until late in the game to finalize the order in which the Class of 2010 will be inducted in Saturday night’s ceremony.

That list became set Friday afternoon. So here’s the official order:

1. Dick LeBeau
2. John Randle
3. Russ Grimm
4. Rickey Jackson
5. Jerry Rice
6. Floyd Little
7. Emmitt Smith

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