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Pro Football Hall of Fame coverage




AUDIO/VIDEO
Video
 Hall of Fame
Marcus Allen and James Lofton reflect on their careers.
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Sunday, August 3
Stram's taped speech highlights Hall ceremonies
Associated Press

CANTON, Ohio -- Hank Stram was pushed to the front of the stage in a wheelchair, wearing his newest blazer as 115 of the NFL's greatest names welcomed him.

The 80-year-old Stram, too weak to stand or walk on his own, then watched his prerecorded induction speech that showed a fiery, charismatic and innovative coach who would one day wind up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On a Sunday filled with emotional speeches, Stram's was the shortest, sweetest and most touching as he was enshrined into the Hall of Fame along with Marcus Allen, James Lofton, Elvin Bethea and Joe DeLamielleure.

"Look at all the red eyes,'' said former Kansas City running back Ed Podolak, one of dozens of former Chiefs players who came to Canton to take part in Stram's enshrinement. "I cried like a baby, and so did everyone else.''

During a 17-year pro coaching career that began in 1960 with the Dallas Texans, Stram led the Chiefs to three AFL titles and a Super Bowl upset over the Minnesota Vikings in 1970.

He was presented by Hall of Famer Len Dawson, his dear friend of 50 years and the best quarterback Stram has said he ever coached.

Dawson spoke lovingly of Stram, the coach's passion for football and his unwavering commitment to his players.

"He had the ability to make each and every one of us feel special,'' Dawson said. "I wear a Super Bowl ring on this hand, and a Hall of Fame ring on this one, and it's all because of Hank Stram.''

Shortly before Dawson's speech, the steady rains that threatened to move the ceremony indoors stopped, and the sun briefly peeked through, allowing fans to strip off ponchos and rain gear.

At about the same time, Stram's speech -- a video montage of career highlights with his induction remarks providing the voiceover -- was played on the video screens in Fawcett Stadium.

And suddenly, there was Stram, his high-pitched voice screaming, "Come on boys, put it in there, baby'' during Kansas City's 23-7 upset over Minnesota in Super Bowl IV.

The video was vintage Stram, pounding his rolled-up game plan into his hand while cheering for his players, demanding an official's explanation of a call, and above all, winning games.

"That was sure Hank,'' said Podolak, relieved that Stram was finally elected by the hall's seniors committee. "He should have been in here before but now he's in here forever. This was a a great day for him.''

Stram left the ceremony before the other Class of 2003 members made their speeches.

It was somewhat fitting that Stram's induction speech was taped.

Stram was the first coach to wear a microphone during a Super Bowl and his sideline antics, captured by NFL Films, helped bring the league into the video age.

Allen, one of the game's flashiest running backs, rushed for 12,243 yards during a 16-year career with the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs.

After being presented by his father, Red, Allen began and ended his remarks by thanking family members.

"Every inch, every yard, every hit, every hurt, every pain, every run, I did because of you guys,'' Allen said, his voice choked with emotion.

Allen also acknowledged Raiders owner Al Davis, whose ugly rift with the former Super Bowl MVP led to Allen's benching and ultimately to him joining the Chiefs.

DeLamielleure had the day's most lighthearted speech.

The former guard with the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns gave a special nod to his blue-collar roots, which began in Detroit as the son of a bar owner and the ninth of 10 children.

"Team work came from this: one bathroom, no lock, 10 kids,'' said DeLamielleure, whose blocks helped O.J. Simpson run for more than 2,000 yards in 1973. "We ran the ball because we couldn't pass.''

There were cheers from every corner of the stadium for Lofton, who played for Green Bay, the Raiders and Bills during 16 seasons in the league.

During a news conference before his speech, Lofton said it would have been difficult if he had to choose one team to represent as he entered the hall.

"I would split it down the middle, Green Bay on one side, Buffalo on the other and a Raiders emblem in the back,'' he said.

Bethea, who had 105 sacks while playing in 210 games during 16 seasons with the Houston Oilers, cried while thanking his deceased parents.

Bethea laughed while recounting that he outlasted seven coaches in Houston, and he paid tribute to two of them -- Sid Gillman and Bum Phillips, whose advice Bethea followed every time he snapped on his helmet.

"One of his favorite lines was, 'You play like you practice','' Bethea said. "And that's what I did every day.''