Laughter, tears as Pro Football Hall of Fame gains 7 new members
CANTON, Ohio — What a defensive backfield in gold jackets: Ed Reed , Ty Law and Champ Bailey.
And what a challenge they had throughout their careers, trying to cover fellow inductee Tony Gonzalez.
All four entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
“Fitting to be in here with Mr. Johnny Robinson and Champ and Ty,” Reed said. “My DBs know it was always about us.”
Sort of. But Gonzalez, like Bailey elected in his first eligible year, showed how pro football could be all about the tight end.
A six-time All-Pro, Gonzalez helped revolutionize the position, lining up in traditional tight end spots as well as flanked out or in the backfield — pretty much everywhere on the field. Then he beat many of those defensive backs everywhere on the field in 12 seasons with Kansas City and five with Atlanta. He stands second in receptions with 1,325 only to Jerry Rice.
His final totals included 15,127 yards receiving and 111 touchdowns in the regular season. He made 14 Pro Bowls and the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
He particularly thanked his 101-year-old grandmother, his wife, who he said doesn’t like football, and the fans in KC. Gonzalez was one of the most popular players in the entire league for those 17 seasons.
“After I was traded, I went back to play a game in Kansas City,” he recalled. “During pregame they introduced me, which I thought was very special. Then something happened, one of the greatest moments of my career: The fans began yelling for me.”
While Gonzalez, now a broadcaster, delivered a smooth speech until his eyes welled up when addressing his mother, Bailey, Reed and Law’s voices frequently broke during theirs.
Law spoke of his family’s support, and his hometown, Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, which also produced his uncle, Tony Dorsett, and Mike Ditka — both Hall of Famers.
“I know there ain’t no crying in football,” Law joked.
“We are a community built on love, strength, struggle, and that Quiptown pride,” he said. “We did it, Aliquippa. We are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Law became the first inductee from New England’s standout defense that won three Super Bowls in the early 2000s. One of the most versatile and physical cornerbacks the NFL has seen, Law was selected for five Pro Bowl teams and was a two-time All-Pro. He finished with 53 career interceptions, twice leading the NFL in that category, had more than 800 tackles, 169 passes defensed, five sacks, and scored seven times.
Perhaps Law’s most noteworthy game came in the 2002 Super Bowl, when his hard-hitting style upset Rams receivers and threw off the “Greatest Show on Turf. That was emblematic of his attacking style — and soon after led to rules changes limiting how physical defenders could be against receivers.
Reed was just as big a playmaker for Baltimore, a safety who fellow enshrinee Ray Lewis called “a gift” to the Ravens and himself. He was elected in his first year of eligibility, just as Lewis was last year, and called for unity in America, setting a standard like a team’s — each pushing one another toward an achievement.