Giving Football Propers
Today the National Football League began to seriously promote the ceremony for the players who will be inducted into the Canton, Ohio, Pro Football Hall of Fame. The inductees were announced during February of this year, but the ceremony will take place in Canton on August 7, 2005, at Fawcett Stadium, located directly across the street from the Hall of Fame. The class of 2005 is comprised of Benny Friedman, Dan Marino, Fritz Pollard, and Steve Young.
Most fans know Marino and Young as the super quarterbacks of our time. All of us football fans, are aware of the Miami Dolphins' Marino's greatness. Though he broke the passing records of Y.A. Tittle, George Blanda and Fran Tarkenton, Marino never won the big enchilada, the Super Bowl. The NFL’s really big game, the championship to be had, Super Bowl success, eluded Dan in his career. He was there. He just didn’t win it. It doesn’t make him any less a great star, athlete and football professional. It’s just kind of disappointing to him, I’m sure, and to his many fans.
Steve Young, on the other hand, the San Francisco 49er’s quarterback, formerly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a minute, threw a record six touchdowns in Super Bowl XXIX against the San Diego Chargers, passed for 325 yards and led San Francisco to a 49-26 victory. It was an incredible performance. He built a solid rep as an accurate passer.
Who are these other men being enshrined? Benny Friedman? Fritz Pollard?
Before being named to the Hall of Fame, Friedman’s claim to fame was that a football owner bought an entire team just to get him in the lineup. Friedman was a two-time All-America quarterback at Michigan. Official stats weren’t kept during his time, but he is believed to have completed more than half his passes. This was at a time when a very good performance was considered 35 percent for pass completion. Benny Friedman is considered to be the NFL’s first great passer. Remember this was when the equipment wasn’t nearly as protective as it is today. During Friedman’s era, just as during Pollard’s time the average player was tiny compared to the behemoths on the field today.
It’s Fritz Pollard who is really outstanding to me. He was the first African-American to play in the Rose bowl, and the second to be named an All-American in college football. Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard was also the first African American coach in the NFL. He was only one of two players of African descent in the NFL back in the 1920s. He paved the way for so many of the stars enshrined in the NFL’s Hall. An All-American half back from Brown University, Fritz was a pioneer in the NFL. He remained the only black to have coached an NFL team for nearly 60 years. Nearly 70 years after he left the game he's being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Another football great, Jim Parker, number 77, who played for the Baltimore Colts, and who won fame as the man who gave Johnny Unitas pass protection on the field, died this week. He was 72.
Parker, a two-time All-American from Ohio State, who hails from Macon, Georgia, has the distinction of being the first full-time offensive lineman named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jim Parker seemed to attract more publicity than is usually accorded to offensive linemen because he was assigned to protect such a famous teammate. He will always be remembered as an exceptional blocker, whose specialty was in protecting the quarterback.
You can read more about these wonderful athletes at the NFL'sPro Football Hall of Fame web site.
The NFL’s pre-season begins on Saturday, August 6, when the American Bowl returns to Tokyo, Japan.
On Monday August 8 the AFC-NFC Hall of Fame Game will be televised nationally on ABC's Monday Night Football. The Chicago Bears versus the Miami Dolphins are the featured teams in the NFL’s pre-season classic.