December 6, 2005

Nine new Hall of Famers speak out

The College Football Hall of Fame is inducting 13 new members Tuesday in New York City and Rivals.com spoke with nine of them about the honor earlier this week.

We asked them about a variety of subjects, from what being inducted meant to each of them to what they remember most about their college careers to who had the most influence on their success on the gridiron and much more. We also found out what they are doing and where they are now.

Cornelius Bennett, Alabama - Linebacker
Credentials: First Team All-America in 1985 and '86, Lombardi Award winner in '86.
Pro Career: 12 years with the Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts.
Occupation: Father.
Residence: Golden Beach, Fla.
What does joining the Hall of Fame mean to you?: "I think it really means something for all the guys I played with. I wouldn't be here without them and it gives them something to be a part of that will last forever. I'm most proud of that."
How did you first find out you were being inducted?: "I got a call from someone at the Hall of Fame. I wasn't expecting it so it was pretty exciting."
Biggest highlight of his college career: "Actually, I would say signing with Alabama. I wouldn't say it was a childhood dream of mine, but to know I was going to play for the school where Bear Bryant had been was the start of something special."
The one game I remember the most is "My sophomore year we beat Auburn (17-15 in 1984) in Birmingham. We had lost the year before and I went 2-2 against them in my career. If you haven't played in that rivalry you just can't understand what it is all about."
The person most responsible for his career: "Without a doubt my family. My older brother Curtis played a huge role and so did my parents, Loni (deceased) and Lillie."
Who are you looking forward to meeting at the ceremony?: "Probably David Williams. We were on an All-American team together and it will be fun to see him again."
Tom Curtis, Michigan Defensive back
Credentials: 1969 First Team All-America, set NCAA record with 431 interception return yards, intercepted 25 passes.
Pro Career: None.
Occupation: Owns and publishes the Football News and three NFL team publications.
Residence: Miami.
What does joining the Hall of Fame mean to you? "It's a great feeling to get recognized for what you did and to be placed among all these other great players. At this point, it's really something for my family and teammates and Michigan to share in which is a great feeling as well."
How did you first find out you were being inducted?: "Well, I had an inkling because my daughter is married to Lloyd Carr's son and before my wife and I left for Las Vegas a few months ago she told me that I was going to get in. Then, my wife, who knows nothing about football, said she felt it was my year. When I got home I got the letter so I guess they must have known something."
Biggest highlight of his college career: "My last year we beat Ohio State in the Big House (24-12) to earn a spot in the Rose Bowl. I had two interceptions in that game and that gave me 25 career interceptions, which was special because I wore the No. 25."
The one game I remember the most is "That Ohio State game. To play one of my best games in such a big game against your rival was how you want to finish."
Who are you looking forward to meeting at the ceremony?: "None of the other inductees played in my era, but I grew up watching Paul Wiggin and Jim Houston play for the Browns. Those guys were like heroes and it will be great to speak with them."
Anthony Davis, USC Running back
Credentials: 1974 Heisman runner-up, First Team All-America that same year, broke 24 NCAA, Pac-10 and school records.
Pro Career: Three years with Tampa Bay, Houston and Los Angeles Rams, plus stints in the CFL, USFL and WFL.
Occupation: Real estate developer.
Residence: Irvine, Calif.
What does joining the Hall of Fame mean to you? "Well there has been a little bit of controversy surrounding me. A lot of people have asked me why I didn't get in earlier and I don't know why. I can't really speak to that and I guess it probably just wasn't my time. But when I reflect back, I think this is about what I did against Notre Dame (scored 11 career touchdowns against the Irish, including six in 1972). Those were my signature games. People know me for the 1972 and '74 games."
How did you first find out you were being inducted?: "A FedEx package came to the door with all the information. I figured it's about time and I'm glad it came now. I was worried that I would be on Viagra before I got in."
Biggest highlight of his college career: "The 1974 season. We had a great team concept that year and that was when I had my 6-touchdown game and 102-yard kickoff return. We went 12-0 and won the national championship. I believe that was the greatest college team of all time."
The one game I remember the most is "For me, it was my sophomore year when we beat Notre Dame (45-23) and I scored the six touchdowns. I started the last four games that year and that was the final regular season game. It was the best moment for me."
The person most responsible for his career: "I wouldn't say that it was necessarily one person. I was motivated the most by my humble beginnings at an early age. I grew up in a rough area about 40 minutes outside Los Angeles. There were plenty of talented guys around me that didn't make it. That environment drove me to be successful."
Who are you looking forward to meeting at the ceremony?: "Definitely Joe Washington. He was one of the top kick returners at the same time as me. We battled in college in my junior year. We are both from Texas and I remember him telling me after the game that 'They don't make them like us anymore.' We haven't talked in 31 years."
Pat Dye (Auburn) - Coach
Credentials: Led Auburn to four SEC titles (three in a row from 1987-89), Selected National Coach of the Year in 1983, overall record of 153-62-5.
Pro Career: None.
Occupation: Auburn fundraiser, member of Master Coaches Survey.
Residence: Notasulga, Ala.
What does joining the Hall of Fame mean to you?: "It just means either by choice, luck or fate I have been surrounded by winners and champions throughout my football career. I have always been fascinated by football history so it's very humbling for me to join names like Coach (Bear) Bryant and Bobby Dodd."
How did you first find out you were being inducted?: "The chapter here has been pushing for this, but I had no idea it would ever happen. Then a few months ago I got a letter and the next week a call from somebody from the Hall of Fame. Nobody starts out shooting for the Hall of Fame, it just happens. I was fortunate enough to play on a state championship team in high school, play at Georgia and in the SEC and coach under Coach Bryant and receive all the benefits that come along with that. The fans have also contributed along the way. I wish they could all participate in the honor and share in it. Unfortunately, it goes to an individual."
Biggest highlight of his college career: "The biggest is getting the job at Auburn. If I hadn't gotten that opportunity to compete at this level none of this ever would have happened."
The one game I remember the most is "The 1982 Alabama game. We had lost to them nine years in a row and the year before they beat us for Coach Bryant's 315th win, which broke the all-time record. We ended up winning 23-22. We had a pretty good freshman running back named Bo Jackson. I'm not even sure how many yards he ran for, but in the fourth quarter he broke off a long run that set up a key field goal and later he got it down to the goal line where we scored the game-winning touchdown."
The person most responsible for his career: "It all started with my high school coach Frank Inman at Richmond Academy in Augusta, Ga. I'm taking him to the ceremony with me. Coach Bryant also played an important phase, but Inman took a bunch of little guys to a state title. We had a couple of college players and the team we beat had a dozen players that got scholarships."
Who are you looking forward to meeting at the ceremony?: "I've been to the Hall of Fame ceremony a number of times and have friends all over the country. I'm a member of the Master Coaches Survey which includes Vince Dooley, R.C. Slocum, Gene Stallings, Don Nehlen and others. We get together each week on a conference call and pick a top 25 which is always a lot of fun, so I'm looking forward to seeing all those guys again."
Jim Houston, Ohio State - End
Credentials: 1958 First Team All-America, two-time All-Big Ten selection.
Pro Career: 13 years with Cleveland Browns.
Current Occupation: AIG insurance agent (since 1960).
Residence: Sagamore Hills, Ohio.
What does joining the Hall of Fame mean to you? "It's the recognition of my accomplishments in college and there is no question that I am proud of that. I'm going to be joining my old coach Woody Hayes."
How did you first find out you were being inducted: "A member of the National Football Foundation told me I was one of the guys. It felt great. I think that would be anybody's reactions. Obviously I would have liked to get in earlier, but it really doesn't matter if it's sooner or later. It's now."
Biggest highlight of his college career: "My sophomore year we won the national championship. I started the opening game on the bench against Texas Christian. A senior and I were battling for a starting job and I thought I had beaten him out. He was very capable and a good end, but my objective was to start my first game at Ohio State (he sat out his first year due to a head injury). I was on the return team and after the opening kickoff I was mopping around. About 15 seconds came off the clock and Woody called my name. I ended up playing 444 of the 600 possible minutes that year, going both ways. Sitting out that first season really helped, because I could practice with the team without any contact. I learned all the different sets and formations and nobody could fool me after that."
The one game I remember the most is "I would say the 1957 Rose Bowl because of its importance obviously. We won the game 10-7. It was my first 60-minute game and I lost 18 pounds off a 218-pound frame. I caught a couple of passes and proved to the world that I could catch and also tackled the quarterback in a key situation."
The person most responsible for his career: "I would have to go with my brother Lin (short for Lindale) who played for the legendary Paul Brown in high school, college and the pros. He went through all that stuff before me and that really helped."
Who are you looking forward to meeting at ceremony?: "Paul Wiggin and I played together for seven years with the Browns. We have remained friends and it is a real honor to go in together."
Roosevelt Leaks, Texas - Fullback
Credentials: 1973 First Team All-America, finished third in Heisman voting that same year.
Pro Career: Nine years with Baltimore and Buffalo.
Occupation: Real estate appraiser.
Residence: Austin, Texas.
What does joining the Hall of Fame mean to you?: "It's a great feeling and it says that the teams I played on accomplished a lot. It takes a great team to have the seasons I did."
How did you first find out you were being inducted?: "Coach Royal (Darrell Royal coached Leaks at Texas) called and said I made the Hall. I said 'Thank you, sir,' but was actually very excited and shocked that it happened."
Biggest highlight of his college career: "We had a game up in Waco (Texas) against Baylor where I got the ball about 13 times in a row and got hit every time. The Arkansas game my junior year (the Longhorns won 38-7) here was also special."
The one game I remember the most is "Most folks talk about the game against SMU where I ran for 342 yards, but I would probably pick the Baylor or Arkansas games myself."
The person most responsible for his career: "When it comes right down to it, I would probably say my family. Everybody wanted me to play baseball, including my father, Roosevelt Sr., but they all supported me."
Who are you looking forward to meeting at the ceremony?: "I want to meet all the running backs there, especially Anthony Davis and Joe Washington, and I want to talk to Coach Dye, too."
Joe Washington, Oklahoma Running back
Credentials: Two-time First Team All-America in 1974 and '75, finished third and fifth in Heisman voting those years.
Pro Career: Nine years with San Diego, Baltimore, Washington and Atlanta.
Occupation: Wachovia Securities stockbroker.
Residence: Baltimore.
What does joining the Hall of Fame mean to you? "Somebody thought I did some things worth taking note of and for me that is a big deal. It's gratifying for anyone, but especially for me because we were on probation for my junior and senior years. That was probably one of the biggest factors that prevented me from getting into the Hall of Fame earlier. We had some great players like Lee Roy Selmon that everybody knows about, but we had some other good players and a very good football team that people don't know a lot about."
How did you first find out you were going to be inducted?: "My wife got the letter and tried to be sneaky about it. She wished me congratulations on my nomination and then said she was kidding. It was really a shock for me. I really didn't expect it as soon as this. I thought some of the great players that came before me at Oklahoma like Clendon Thomas (1955-57) would get in before me so I'm deeply honored."
Biggest highlight of his college career: "On the field I would have to say it was my final game at Oklahoma. It was a bone-chilling experience and I didn't realize how much it meant to me until 30 years later. Coach (Barry) Switzer took me out of the game and everybody stood up from the players to the coaches and all the fans. I have a picture where you can actually see everybody and their cousin standing up and applauding. I'll never forget that."
The one game I remember most is "That same year we played at Missouri and had to win to keep our national title hopes alive. Late in the game we faced a fourth-and-1 near the goal line and I scored (the Sooners won 28-27). That was my defining moment and if it doesn't happen we don't go to the Orange Bowl or win the national title. It was the ultimate feeling to accomplish that with my teammates. A lot of us still stay in contact to this day and remain among my best friends."
The person most responsible for his career: "My dad, Joe Washington Sr., my backfield coach Wendell Mosley and Barry Switzer (legendary OU head coach). Without Barry there is no Joe Washington. There is no doubt about. He is the one that believed in me and I feel fortunate and lucky to have played for him when he was there."
Who are you looking forward to meeting at the ceremony?: "Roosevelt Leaks and Anthony Davis. Leaks was a big name in the Southwestern Conference and Davis and I made a lot of All-American trips together. We always liked each other. He was a fantastic player and I had a lot respect for his skills and prowess on kickoff returns."
Paul Wiggin (Stanford) Defensive tackle
Credentials: Two-time First Team All-America in 1955 and '56, two-time All-Pac 10, selected Stanford's Defensive Player of the Century.
Pro Career: Eleven years with Cleveland.
Occupation: Senior consultant for Minnesota Vikings (21st year with organization)
Residence: Edina, Minn.
What does joining the Hall of Fame mean to you?: "It means a lot. I'm the 17th guy in Stanford history to make it and when you add up the numbers you feel very honored. The most important thing is gaining the respect of your teammates on any level. I feel that is vital and captained my high school, college and pro teams. This is certainly a different kind of an award, but one I certainly coveted."
How do you first find out you were being inducted?: "I came home from dinner a few months ago and there was a FedEx package my wife had already opened. We had some indications that this might happen, but I never paid much attention. Now I'm officially thrilled. It's a little different this far along in my life, but it's really nice for my family. I've got daughters and they and their significant others came over and we poured champagne. They were all thrilled for me and it was as meaningful for them as it was for me."
Biggest highlight of his college career: "Beating Ohio State 6-0 in my junior year in 1955. They had Hopalong Cassidy and a lot of other All-Americans. That was special."
The one game I remember the most "It could be a victory over USC. Beating Cal was one huge win. That was a big intersectional game in those days with huge crowds. I was on cloud nine for a long time after that one."
The person most responsible for his career: "I would probably say Chuck Taylor (former Stanford coach). He is in the Hall of Fame and probably the most influential person in my life. I hate to leave out Dutch Fehring (another Stanford coach). He also played a pivotal role and this couldn't have happened without him."
Who are you looking forward to meeting at the ceremony?: "Jim Houston was a teammate of mine with the Browns and we are really good friends. It's always fun to see him and meeting people form all sides of the spectrum is interesting. I'm definitely the elder statesman here."
David Williams, Illinois Receiver
Credentials: Two-time First Team All-America in 1984 and '85, holds every Illinois receiving record, finished career as second leading receiver in NCAA history with 245 receptions and 3,195 yards.
Pro Career: Two years with Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Raiders.
Occupation: Sales Representative, Jorgensen Steel.
Residence: Los Angeles.
What does joining the Hall of Fame mean to you?: "I guess this means I'm officially a legend, which is very cool. It represents something for my family and the school. I am a fixture now and anytime they mention other Illinois greats like Dick Butkus and Red Grange I will be right along with those guys."
How did you first find out you were being inducted? "I got a letter from FedEx and I read it twice and then asked my wife to read it again just to make sure I understood it right. I had been nominated a handful of times and you always think, well maybe next year. I wasn't completely sure until she read it."
Biggest highlight of his college career: "We played Michigan on Oct. 29, 1983, and I made the final score to send us to the Rose Bowl (Illinois beat Michigan 16-6). On the first play of the fourth quarter I ran a 20-yard in route and caught a pass and headed towards some space and down the left sideline. I just remember running as fast and as hard as I could and reaching the end zone."
The one game I remember the most is "Definitely that Michigan game. We hadn't been to the Rose Bowl in 20 years and just a year prior we went to the Liberty Bowl. We were picked to finish ninth in the league so it was a huge accomplishment."
The person most responsible for his career: "My big brother Oliver Williams. He was an All-Big Ten receiver at Illinois and played right before me in 1981 and '82. We learned to play football in the yard and in the parks and in the street. That is where we developed our passion for the game."
Who are you looking forward to meeting at the ceremony?: "Cornelius Bennett and I went to some different All-American events together so it will be neat to see him again. I remember watching Anthony Davis and Joe Washington so I want to meet those guys too."

Rivals Radio spoke with three of the inductees. To listen to the interviews click on the links below:

Jim Houston

Joe Washington

Roosevelt Leaks

Others being inducted: Keith Dorney (Penn State) Offensive tackle, John Huarte (Notre Dame) Quarterback, Don Nehlen (West Virginia) Coach, Mark May (Pittsburgh) Offensive tackle




 

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