Trojan Marcus Allen Inducted Into Hall Of Fame
Aug 4, 2003
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
CANTON, Ohio (AP) - As Hank Stram's image appeared on the video screen andhis voice filled the stadium, many of his former players hugged and cried.
Their former coach was finally a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, atribute all the Kansas City Chiefs felt was long overdue.
'It was too late, but now he's in there forever,' running back Ed Podolaksaid. 'Thank God he was here when it happened.'
Stram's induction was the emotional high point of Sunday's enshrinmentceremony for the Class of 2003: Stram, Marcus Allen, James Lofton, JoeDeLamielleure and Elvin Bethea.
The 80-year-old Stram had to be pushed onto the stage in a wheelchair as 115of the NFL's greatest names and 8,500 fans welcomed him with a standingovation.
Wearing his gold Hall of Fame blazer, Stram then watched his prerecordedinduction speech that showed a fiery, charismatic and innovative coach whowould one day be immortalized in Canton.
On a day filled with emotional speeches, Stram's was the shortest, sweetestand most touching.
'Look at all the red eyes,' Podolak said. 'I cried like a baby, and sodid everyone else.'
During a 17-year pro coaching career that began in 1960 with the DallasTexans and ended with the New Orleans Saints, Stram led the Chiefs to three AFLtitles and a Super Bowl upset over Minnesota in 1970.
He was presented by Hall of Famer Len Dawson, his friend of 50 years and thebest quarterback Stram has said he ever coached.
Dawson spoke lovingly of Stram, focusing on the coach's passion for footballand his unwavering commitment to players.
'He had the ability to make each and every one of us feel special,' Dawsonsaid. 'I wear a Super Bowl ring on this hand, and a Hall of Fame ring on thisone, and it's all because of Hank Stram.'
Shortly before Dawson's speech, the steady rains that threatened to move theceremony indoors stopped, and the sun briefly peeked through, allowing fans tostrip off ponchos and rain gear.
At about the same time, Stram's speech - a video montage of careerhighlights with his induction remarks providing the voiceover - was played inFawcett Stadium.
Suddenly, there was the gregarious Stram screaming, 'Come on boys, put itin there, baby' during Kansas City's 23-7 upset of the favored Vikings inSuper Bowl IV.
The video was vintage Stram, pounding his rolled-up game plan into his handwhile cheering for his players, demanding an official's explanation of a call,and above all, winning games.
Stram, who was elected by the Hall's seniors committee, briefly stood andwaved to the crowd but left the ceremony before the other enshrinees' speeches.
It was fitting that Stram's induction speech was taped.
He was the first coach to wear a microphone during a Super Bowl and Stram'ssideline antics, captured by NFL Films, helped bring the league into the videoage.
Allen, one of the game's flashiest running backs, rushed for 12,243 yardsduring a 16-year career with the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs.
After being presented by his father, Red, Allen began and ended his remarksby thanking family members.
'Every inch, every yard, every hit, every hurt, every pain, every run, Idid because of you guys,' Allen said, his voice choked with emotion.
Allen also acknowledged Raiders owner Al Davis, whose ugly rift with theformer Super Bowl MVP led to Allen's benching and ultimately to him joining theChiefs.
DeLamielleure had the day's most lighthearted speech.
The former guard with the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns gave a specialnod to his blue-collar roots, which began in Detroit as the son of a bar ownerand the ninth of 10 children.
'Team work came from this: one bathroom, no lock, 10 kids,' saidDeLamielleure, whose blocks helped O.J. Simpson run for more than 2,000 yardsin 1973. 'We ran the ball because we couldn't pass.'
There were cheers from every corner of the stadium for Lofton, who playedfor Green Bay, the Raiders and Bills during 16 seasons in the league.
During a news conference before his speech, Lofton said it would have beendifficult if he had to choose one team to represent as he entered the hall.
'I would split it down the middle, Green Bay on one side, Buffalo on theother and a Raiders emblem in the back,' he said.
Bethea, who had 105 sacks while playing in 210 games during 16 seasons withthe Houston Oilers, cried while thanking his deceased parents.
Bethea laughed while recounting that he outlasted seven coaches in Houston,and he paid tribute to two of them - Sid Gillman and Bum Phillips, whose adviceBethea followed every time he snapped on his helmet.
'One of his favorite lines was, 'You play like you practice',' Betheasaid. 'And that's what I did every day.'
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