Archive for Sunday, August 10, 2003

Lott, Marino among hall headliners

August 10, 2003


— As roommates at Southern California, Ronnie Lott and Marcus Allen talked about achieving greatness.

Lott was one of 24 people inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame Saturday. His induction comes six days after Allen was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Now, both players have proof they have achieved greatness.

"I don't think either of us ever dreamed that being great meant that we would both be in both halls of fame. I think when we said great we were just trying to be the best that we could be," Lott said during enshrinement festivities.

Lott, who in 1980 led the nation in interceptions with eight, was enshrined Saturday along with former Pitt quarterback Dan Marino, former Tennessee defensive tackle Reggie White, former Missouri tight end Kellen Winslow and 20 others.

The inductees signed autographs, played a game of flag football and held a skills clinic for youngsters. Lott worked intensely with his group, recalling how important he held the words of encouragement he received from Deacon Jones and James Harris of the Los Angeles Rams.

"You couldn't help but be inspired," he said. "You never know. Something that I said today might encourage them the way those guys encouraged me."

Lott said he ran "video clips" through his mind as he listened to the other Hall of Fame inductees talk about their careers.

"As you look around the room, you can look at all the great players and you can feel the video clips of how they played the game," he said. "It's just an honor to be with so many great people."

During the flag football game, Marino threw for three touchdowns, took an elbow in the chin from former Texas tackle Jerry Sisemore while playing defense and tore the shorts of former East Central (Okla.) quarterback Brad Calip while going for his flags.

"It's always fun to play football," Marino said. "No matter what it is, to throw the football around is always fun."

Marino echoed the feeling of most of the inductees when he said it was an honor to be among such great players.

"Considering all the things you go through in your life and the dreams that you try to achieve, this is one that will go a long way in my mind," he said.

Winslow was actually booed by the crowd when he intercepted a pass intended for 85-year-old George "Sonny" Franck, a tailback with Minnesota from 1938-40.

"It's a game, people!" Winslow yelled to the crowd. "We came to play!"

Winslow described himself as an "accidental hall of famer," saying he never intended to play the game. Winslow said as a junior in high school he was working as a delivery man in East St. Louis, Ill., when his high school coach, Cornelius Perry asked him to go out for the team.

Winslow said he almost quit after the first practice, but Perry wouldn't let him. When college coaches came to the school recruiting other players, Perry urged them to look at Winslow.

"The University of Missouri thankfully took a chance on a kid who caught 17 passes in high school. They took a chance on a kid who had fewer touchdowns than the defensive end on the same team," he said.

Winslow said he learned about adversity and competition at college, and also learned about self-confidence.

"One day it clicked, and I said I can do this. And when that happened, I realized I can do it in the classroom also -- that the shy, reserved, very quiet young man, just blew up because of the game of football," said Winslow, now a lawyer. "Because of the game of football, I am the man I am today, point blank."

White, who arrived Saturday evening, told the crowd at dinner that he wanted to use his enshrinement to thank black athletes who came before him, like Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown and Bill Russell, who made it easier for future generations of black athletes.

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