Upcoming enshrinement still carries weight for Eller
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Carl Eller waited a long time to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It took even longer to get into the college hall.Both waits were worth it, he said.
"I think it means more just simply because I'm older and can appreciate it more and understand the significance of it," the former University of Minnesota lineman said Friday. "I realize this is quite an honor and achievement and not something I've taken lightly. I'm very appreciative of it."
Other 1960s college football players who are being enshrined Saturday in the College Football Hall of Fame agree.
Former Stanford linebacker Jeff Siemon, who played professionally with Eller on the Minnesota Vikings defensive unit known as the Purple People Eaters, compared the feeling to finding an old sport coat up in the attic with a $20 bill in the pocket.
"Long after you expected the sport coat to be functional, it's still providing benefits," he said. "It's been a long time since I played, but it's a wonderful blessing to have this honor 35 years later."Former Purdue quarterback Mike Phipps, who finished second to Oklahoma halfback Steve Owens for the Heisman Trophy in 1969, acknowledges having doubts he would ever get in.
"I kind of put it out of my mind because every year it would come around and they didn't make the announcement," he said. "You were always wishing that induction letter was coming and you begin to wonder, 'Is it going to happen or not?' "It finally has for the Boilermaker who threw for 5,423 yards and 37 TDs. Others who played in the '60s being enshrined are former Colorado running back Bob Anderson and former Tennessee guard Chip Kell. Joe Kendall, who led Kentucky State to a national championship in 1934, is being inducted posthumously.
They'll be going in with younger players such as Florida's Emmitt Smith, Virginia Tech's Bruce Smith and Heisman Trophy winners Charlie Ward of Florida State and Mike Rozier of Nebraska.
The 20 former players and coaches will take part Saturday in a parade and flag football game, then an evening banquet.The National Football Foundation changed the rules to allow Florida State coach Bobby Bowden to be enshrined this year while he's still coaching. The 65-year-old Eller, meanwhile, has been waiting since he retired from the NFL in 1979. "I wouldn't say I didn't think about it, but it wasn't one of those things I stressed over," he said. Eller, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004, played both offensive and defensive line for the Gophers from 1961-63 and went on to play for the Vikings (1964-1978) and Seattle Seahawks (1979). He was known as a pass rusher in the pros. "But in college I played the run, I wasn't even a pass rusher," he said. "I learned that in the pros." Eller's favorite college memory is from his final game against Wisconsin, when he caught a pass. "They had a tackle-eligible pass and I caught it," he said, laughing hard. "I didn't score, but I made a lot of yards on it." Siemon, who played in three Super Bowls, helped Stanford win two Rose Bowls, making 15 tackles in a 27-17 victory over previously unbeaten Ohio State. "That was our most glorious victory," he said. "It was a tremendous victory." Unfortunately for Siemon, he was on the losing side in Phipps' greatest victory. Although Phipps beat Ara Parseghian-coached Notre Dame three times while the Irish were ranked in the top 10, he said a regular-season victory over Siemon's Stanford squad his senior year is the game he remembers most fondly. He threw for five touchdowns and the game-winning 2-point conversion to beat Stanford, which was led by Jim Plunkett. "Oh boy, there were a lot of yards in that game," Siemon said. Phipps said it has been good to reminisce with college greats and it's wonderful to finally be in the Hall. "It was a great, great feeling. It's hard to describe," he said. "What do they say? Good things come to those who wait."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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