CANTON, Ohio (AP) — Eight members of the centennial class of 2020 are being recognized posthumously with video tributes at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. All eight were enshrined in a special ceremony in April and now take their place with the rest of the 2020 class, which is being inducted a year later due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Those being honored posthumously are Bobby Dillon, Winston Hill, Alex Karras, Steve Sabol, Duke Slater, Mac Speedie, Ed Sprinkle and George Young.
Dillon was a star safety for the Packers in the 1950s, before Vince Lombardi arrived. Despite having lost one eye in a childhood accident, Dillon made four All-Pro teams and intercepted 52 passes — second overall when he retired to Emlen Tunnell.
Hill was one of the AFL’s premier blockers, a tackle who protected Joe Namath’s blind side as the Jets won the third Super Bowl and cemented the credentials of the upstart league. Hill still holds the Jets’ franchise records for offensive linemen with 195 straight games played and 174 consecutive starts.
Karras became renowned for his acting, particularly his punchout of a horse in the flim “Blazing Saddles.” But he was a fearsome three-time All-Pro defensive tackle for bad Lions teams and had only one playoff performance. He also was suspended for the 1963 season, along with Green Bay Packers star running back Paul Hornung, for gambling.
Sabol was the driving force of NFL Films. He joins his father Ed, who was enshrined in 2011, as the third father/son duo in Canton. While it was Ed Sabol who persuaded Pete Rozelle in 1964 that the league needed its own film company to promote and document the game, it was Steve Sabol who was creative mastermind. He made the game and players appear larger than life through cinematography, slow motion replays, orchestral music and putting microphones on players and coaches.
Slater was one of the first great Black players in the NFL. Slater tackled bigotry head-on, and blocked it, too. He was the NFL’s first African-American lineman — even playing for a while with no helmet — and often the only Black player on the field. After retiring, he broke down more racial barriers to become a judge in Chicago.
Speedie brought, well, speed to the championship Browns clubs of the AAFC, and then into the NFL. The surehanded receiver overcame a childhood disease and later delayed his playing career to serve in World War II. He led the All-America Football Conference in receptions three times and had the most catches in the NFL in 1952, when he had 62 for 911 yards and scored five touchdowns while being chosen MVP on a team loaded with stars.
Sprinkle was considered one of the hardest hitters in pro football for 12 seasons with the Bears. Ron Wolf, himself a Hall of Famer as a contributor, said Sprinkle “was one of the few guys that played back then (1944-55) who could play today.” Sprinkle made four Pro Bowls and the Team of the Decade for the 1940s as a defensive end.
Young was the general manager who helped turn around the fortunes of the Giants. A former high school teacher, coach and later NFL front-office executive, he was the league’s Executive of the Year five times and the team won two Super Bowls during his tenure.
The owner of the Atlanta Falcons is using the induction of former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to the Pro Football Hall of Fame to sponsor a fellowship for a recent college graduate from a Historically Black College and University.
Blank, who has a foundation in his name, has gifted the endowment for two years in Tagliabue’s honor through the James Harris-Doug Williams Fellowship. Honorees work at the Hall in various departments.
Tagliabue pushed for career advancement and diversity in football while he was commissioner. The NFL adopted the Rooney Rule, named for former Pittsburgh Steelers owned and Hall of Famer Dan Rooney, under Tagliabue’s watch and he was a driving force behind passage of the rule that requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when hiring a head coach.
The rule since has been expanded to general manager and executive positions across the league.
“His impact on the game during his tenure as commissioner is immeasurable,” Blank said. “Simply put, the NFL wouldn’t be what it is today without him.”
Akil Blount, son of Hall of Famer Ml Blount, was the first James Harris-Doug Williams fellow at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He now is an employee of the marketing team at the hall.
Lynyrd Skynyrd has withdrawn from the Pro Football Hall of Fame concert after band member Rickey Medlocke tested positive for COVID-19.
The band was set to co-headline the concert Monday night with country artist Brad Paisley, with Jimmie Allen opening the show. But Medlocke’s positive test forced the group’s withdrawal.
In a statement through its publicist, Lynyrd Skynyrd said: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, Lynyrd Skynyrd is unable to perform the next four shows. Longtime band member Rickey Medlocke has tested positive for COVID-19. Rickey is home resting and responding well to treatment.”
Allen has extended his set list to open the show. He also performs a duet with Paisley on current hit song “Freedom Was A Highway.”
Former Pittsburgh Steelers star safety Troy Polamalu has recovered from a bout with COVID-19 and will attend the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions.
Polamalu, a member of the class of 2020, has been at home since late last month and his status for the enshrinement ceremony had been in doubt. But he was cleared medically to travel to Canton and he took part in the Hall of Fame parade in the morning. He missed the Gold Jacket Dinner on Friday night when other members of the classes of 2020 and 2021 received their hall jackets.
A four-time All-Pro who twice won Super Bowls, Polamalu had to wait an extra year to be inducted because of the pandemic.