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Cheers welcome White into Pro Football HOF

CANTON, Ohio -- The glory of the newest Hall of Famers'
achievements was punctuated by a steady stream of tears and a
singular chant:

"REG-GIE, REG-GIE."

Though a fair share of the crowd sported No. 8 jerseys in
tribute to Troy Aikman, their passion Saturday was reserved for the
late Reggie White.

The two joined Warren Moon, John Madden, Rayfield Wright and
Harry Carson as the newest inductees in the Pro Football Hall of
Fame.

Nearly all of them choked up or cried during the four-hour
ceremony, even the usually unflappable Aikman. Most poignant was
the way White, also an ordained preacher who died in December 2004,
was honored.

His son, Jeremy, was White's presenter, and his widow, Sara,
made the acceptance speech. Both crying, they shared a long hug
after unveiling Reggie's bust before a rapt audience.

"Reggie was an honest, humble, honorable, dedicated,
determined, passionate and caring man," Sara White said. "He is
inducted today not only because of his athletic achievements, but
because he was a great player on the field in accordance with being
a great person throughout life."

Often, the fans chanted Reggie's name. It didn't matter if they
were dressed in Packers or Eagles green -- a collection of current
Eagles, including Donovan McNabb, sat in the crowd wearing White's
No. 92 -- or even Cowboys, Giants or Oilers blue or Raiders black.

They all stood and cheered for the Minister of Defense,
including Aikman, Dallas' three-time Super Bowl champion
quarterback.

"I too am saddened by the absence of Reggie White, a great
player and a man who left us too soon," Aikman said. "It's an
honor to be a member of the Hall of Fame class that includes five
men I have so much admiration and respect for. They played the game
the way it should be played, and John Madden coached the game the
same way."

Aikman's voice cracked as he explained his emotions:

"I was able to live a dream. I played professional football,"
he said. "That I was able to do so with so many great players and
coaches and win three championships and wind up here -- it is almost
too much to believe. I am humbled to be welcomed to the Pro
Football Hall of Fame."

White was a two-time defensive player of the year who made 13
straight Pro Bowls. He was the career sacks leader with 198 when he
retired -- Bruce Smith since has passed him -- and won a Super Bowl
with Green Bay in 1997 after starting his illustrious career in the
USFL, then moving to Philadelphia.

"It's not how we die, it's how we live," Sara White said. "I
encourage you to live like Reggie lived. His legacy will live on
through you."

Aikman won 90 games in the 1990s, the most by any quarterback in
one decade.The top overall pick in the 1989 draft, he guided the
Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles in four seasons and made six Pro
Bowls.

He saved his strongest praise for his teammates, including NFL
career rushing leader Emmitt Smith, who was in the audience and
certainly will be on the stage for his own induction someday.

"I did what was asked to help the team win," he said, "and
after a career of putting team goals first, it is so extremely
gratifying to receive the highest individual honor a player can
receive."

Moon became the first black quarterback in the Hall. The only
one of the inductees not to win an NFL title, he captured five
straight Grey Cups for the Edmonton Eskimos after being undrafted
out of the University of Washington.

"I was not really invited to the combine and no coaches came
out to give me workouts," Moon said. "It was a foregone
conclusion quarterback was not in my future in the NFL, but
changing positions was. I was going to play quarterback and I was
looking for somebody who would let me do that.

"Thank you Canada."

Moon came back to the United States as a free agent in 1984 and
spent 10 seasons in the Houston Oilers' run-and-shoot offense. He
also played for Minnesota, Seattle and Kansas City in 17 NFL
seasons and passed for more than 70,000 yards (over 42 miles)
before he retired at age 44.

"A lot has been said about me being the first African-American
quarterback in the Hall of Fame," he said. "It's a subject I am
uncomfortable with at times, because I want to be judged only as a
quarterback.

"But significance does come with that, I accept that. I
remember all the guys before me who blazed that trail to give me
the inspiration. I always had that extra burden that I had the
responsibility to play the game for my people. I carried that
burden proudly."

It took nearly a quarter century for Madden to make it to the
Canton shrine. When the moment came Saturday, he got "goofy."

"I started thinking about this after I was voted to the Hall of
Fame, and now I know," said Madden, elected by the senior
committee for a 103-32-7 coaching record, no losing seasons and the
1977 Super Bowl championship. "At night, when the fans and
visitors all leave, then the workers start to leave, then just one
person turns out the light, locks the door, and I believe the busts
talk to each other. And I can't wait for that conversation.

"We'll be there forever and ever talking about whatever. That's
what I believe will happen and no one is ever going to talk me out
of that."

Madden might be best known now for his announcing and his video
game, but Madden was 36-16-2 against other coaches in the Hall.

Carson became the first inside linebacker from a 3-4 defense to
make it to Canton. It was a long-awaited honor -- he retired in 1988
after 13 seasons, nine Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl title with the
New York Giants -- that Carson recently had given up on.

Two years ago, after making the final 15 candidates for the
sixth straight year but not being elected by a panel of sports
writers, Carson asked to have his name withdrawn from
consideration.

Carson gave his presenter, son Donald, a long hug before
addressing the crowd. Donald Carson suffers from a rare blood
disorder.

"This isn't about me, this is about my family," Carson said.
"I am so thankful my son presented me this afternoon; he is
definitely a man. He's been through so much in the last seven
months, more than I could ever have gone through. I never knew
needles could be so long."

Wright also played 13 seasons, and won two Super Bowls. He
retired in 1979 and was voted in by the seniors committee.

A former college basketball player expecting to play in the NBA,
Wright was a tight end who was "stunned" when coach Tom Landry
said he was being moved to tackle. "Big Cat" went on to make six
consecutive Pro Bowls and help the Cowboys win 10 division titles.

Wright cited the poem "The Road Not Taken" for inspiring his
career.

"Through this poem I discovered life would give me choices. It
was recognizing those choices that proved to be the greatest
challenge," he said in a teary speech. "My instinct was to always
take the easy road, but the easy road never came my way.

"I'm privileged to be in such a stellar class."