Marcus Allen Heads Hall Of Fame Class Of 2003

Jan 25, 2003

AP Sports Writer

SAN DIEGO - Marcus Allen has no hard feelings. Not now. Getting electedthe Pro Football Hall of Fame on his first try helped him forget some of hisbitterness for the Raiders.

'Today's a great day, the greatest day of my athletic career,' Allen saidSaturday after he and four others were selected for the game's highest honor -on the day before his old team plays in the Super Bowl against the Tampa BayBuccaneers.

Joining the former Raiders running back in the Class of 2003 are defensiveend Elvin Bethea, guard Joe DeLamielleure, wide receiver James Lofton and coachHank Stram, who went in as a seniors candidate.

Allen's departure from the Raiders and owner Al Davis a decade ago was amessy affair, one he preferred not to discuss Saturday.

'I don't want to get into anything negative,' he said. 'This is the mostpositive day of my career. I wish the Raiders the best. I wish Mr. Davis thebest in his quest of another championship.'

Allen played a crucial role in the Raiders' last title, when he won the MVPaward in the 1984 Super Bowl. He ran for 191 yards that day, including aspectacular 74-yard touchdown. In 1985, he won the league's MVP after rushingfor 1,759 yards.

But a contract dispute with Davis, who called Allen 'a cancer on theteam,' prompted him to leave for Kansas City. He spent four more productiveseasons with the Chiefs before retiring after the 1997 season.

'I had a problem with one individual, which made my stay uncomfortable,'Allen said of his years with the Raiders and Davis.

Allen said he thought he had Hall of Fame potential right from the start ofhis career. The Heisman Trophy winner from USC faced San Francisco in his firstgame.

'I gained 116 yards,' he said. 'I don't know how many catches I made. Idid some incredible things out there. Ronnie Lott's my best friend. I gave himfits that day.'

It was the start of a brilliant career. Allen became the first player in NFLhistory with 10,000 yards rushing and 5,000 receiving; he finished with 12,243rushing and 5,411 receiving. He scored 145 touchdowns and was regarded as oneof the game's best goal-line and short yardage runners.

'If you ask me if I was deserving (the Hall of Fame), I would say 'Yes,''Allen said.

The voters agreed, making Allen the 52nd player elected to the Hall in hisfirst year of eligibility.

Bethea played 16 seasons, all with the Houston Oilers. He made the Pro Bowleight times and led the team in sacks six times, finishing his career with 105.

'I'm very nervous,' he said by phone from Houston. 'I took two showerswaiting for this call. It's been a long ride, a wonderful ride. Finally, it's agreat day.'

DeLamielleure played 13 seasons with Buffalo and Cleveland and was the leadblocker for Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson, who became the NFL's first 2,000-yardrusher in 1973.

'I'm overwhelmed,' he said. 'It's been 13 years. I'm a lineman. Nobodyknows your statistics. Nobody knows anything. I was a piece of a cog that waspretty good. I loved the game. I would have played for a cap and T-shirt.'

Lofton played 16 seasons at wide receiver and had more than 50 catches in aseason nine times. He was the first NFL player to score a touchdown in threedifferent decades and finished his career with 764 catches for 14,004 yards and75 touchdowns.

Stram coached for 17 seasons, starting with the AFL's Dallas Texans, whomoved to Kansas City. He was with the franchise from 1960-74 and then coachedin New Orleans for two more seasons. He led the Chiefs to two Super Bowls,losing the first one to Green Bay and then beating Minnesota after the 1969season.

Stram went into the Hall of Fame as a seniors candidate, a separate categoryfor nominees who completed 70 percent of their career more 25 years ago.

There were 15 finalists for the Hall. In the first cut, cornerback LesterHayes, wide receiver Art Monk, quarterback Ken Stabler and owner Ralph Wilsonwere eliminated. The field was then cut again, with offensive linemen GaryZimmerman and Bob Kuechenberg, linebacker Randy Gradishar and defensive endClaude Humphrey dropped from consideration.

That left seven finalists. Of that group, administrator George Young andlinebacker Harry Carson failed to get the necessary 80 percent of the votesneeded for election.

The 39-member selection committee consists of media representatives from theleague's 32 franchises. There is one voter representing the Pro Football Hallof Fame and six at-large voters.

Bill Parcells was originally a finalist but removed himself fromconsideration when he signed to coach the Dallas Cowboys.

Enshrinement of the class of 2003 is scheduled for Aug. 3 at the Hall ofFame in Canton, Ohio.

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