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Sanders, Theisman, Green lead Hall class

8/15/2004

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.