Sanders, Theisman, Green lead Hall class
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Barry Sanders scampered right and threw a 20-yard pass that Joe Theismann stood waiting to intercept. Darrell Green bolted in front of his former teammate to catch the TD pass.
The three were out of position, yet all were right where they belonged Saturday, playing in the annual flag football game before being enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame.
"It's like coming home," said Theismann, who 34 years ago played just five minutes away, at Notre Dame.
Among the 17 players enshrined Saturday were late USC tailback Ricky Bell, Pittsburgh tackle Jimbo Covert, SMU receiver Jerry LeVias and Georgia quarterback John Rauch. Five coaches also were enshrined, including Doug Dickey, who coached at Tennessee and Florida, and Hayden Fry, who coached at SMU, North Texas State and Iowa.
Theismann said at the banquet Saturday night that he had been both lucky and blessed.
"Every one of us seated here is humbled by this experience," he said. "We're honored to grace this stage where so many men have come before us and done so much."
For Sanders, the 1988 Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma State, it was his second hall of fame ceremony in six days. On Aug. 8, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Sanders said he hasn't had time to think about the significance of the honors.
"I have to get away for a couple of days and let it all sink in," he said. "To be inducted in both is beyond my wildest dreams."
Sanders said the college hall is just as special to him as the pro hall. Growing up, his dream was to play college football, not pro football, he said.
"College to me is unique and special in its own right," he said. "You're not playing the game for a paycheck -- at least not at Oklahoma State."
At the banquet Saturday night, Sanders also joked about a comment his father, William Sanders, made during his induction into the pro hall that his son was the third best running back ever, behind Jim Brown and himself.
"I'm thinking his stats have incredibly improved over the years," Sanders said.
Green, who retired two years ago after playing 20 seasons with the Washington Redskins, showed his speed and athleticism in the flag football game, throwing three touchdown passes, catching another, intercepting a pass and breaking up another.
Green, who played only two years of football in high school and almost quit Texas A&I (now known as Texas A&M-Kingsville), said he still has a hard time believing how far the sport has taken him.
"This is all a surprise," he said. "I was just fortunate to get the chance to play."
He said the best part of his success is being able to have an influence on others, both young children and lawmakers. He said he is able to talk about things that are important, such as education and volunteering.
"We as athletes have an incredible voice," he said. "But athletes have to take responsibility. ... I always want to influence in such a way to cause all of the heavens to rejoice. If it causes the heavens to rejoice, it should cause the earth to rejoice."
Dan Ross, a tight end at Northeastern who went on to play in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, said being inducted into the hall was overwhelming.
"I've played in Pro Bowls. I've played in the Super Bowl. I hold the record for passes caught in the Super Bowl, and I thought I reached the top of the football ladder. But nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to this," he said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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