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Andre Reed Joins 2014 Pro Football Hall Of Fame Class

Andre Reed hugged former Buffalo Bills teammates and now fellow Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith so hard that his former quarterback Kelly yowled playfully, “You just broke my back, Andre!”Andre-Reed

“I’m just glad to be with my teammates,” Reed said inside Radio City Music Hall after he and six others were elected to the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. “This is the way it’s supposed to be, me and my boys. I look at my teammates and my coach (Hall of Famer Marv Levy) and we were family.

“Yes, I’ve waited. But my dad always told me, ‘Good things come to those who wait.’ These guys are immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and for me now to be with them, next to the birth of my kids, there is nothing better.”

It was quite the emotional scene as Reed wiped away a tear while he embraced Smith after waiting eight years to join his buddies in pro football immortality.

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Reed, Seattle Seahawks left tackle Walter Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams were the five modern-era selections to enter Canton, Ohio. Jones and Brooks are fellow Florida State alumni.

They were joined by two senior members, punter Ray Guy and defensive end Claude Humphrey. Guy became the first punter to make it into Canton.

Running back Jerome Bettis, linebacker Kevin Greene, linebacker Charles Haley, receiver Marvin Harrison, guard Will Shields made the cut down to the final 10 before they were eliminated.

The 46-member selection committee met for eight hours and 59 minutes. The longest debate – 46 minutes — involved first-time finalist Dungy, the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl.

Seven-time Pro Bowler Reed was Kelly’s go-to slot receiver. His 951 career receptions (87 TDs) were third most all-time when he retired. Reed and Kelly combined for 663 of those receptions and the former Kutztown State receiver finished with 13,198 yards. Reed joined Hall of Famer Jerry Rice as one of only two players to record 13 separate 50-catch seasons.

“He was one of the run-after-the-catch guys ever to play,” Kelly told USA TODAY Sports. “He was so consistent, tough and once he caught the football, he was tough to tackle.

“The bottom line is he’s in. Sometimes you have to wait a while. But thank God, he’s in.”

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Maybe Jones’ selection as a first-ballot entrant will prove an early sign of karma for Seattle when Jones’ franchise duels the Denver Broncos in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII.

A nine-time Pro Bowler during his 12-season career, Jones is considered arguably the game’s best left tackle.

The 6-5, 300 Jones was a first-team selection on the league’s 2000s All-Decade team, paving the way for Seattle to reach Super Bowl XL. Mike Holmgren called Jones the best offensive player he had, high praise considering Holmgren coached Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, HOF receiver Rice and former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre.

Jones joins receiver Steve Largent, Class of 1995, as the second player to spend his entire career with the Seahawks to be elected in his first year of eligibility.

“It’s been a long journey for me to get to this point,” said Jones, a native of Aliceville, Ala. “To be at the Super Bowl is like ice cream on the cake. I’m just having fun.”

Brooks, the 2002 Defensive Player of the Year, capped that season by returning an interception 44 yards for a touchdown in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl XXXVII whipping of the Oakland Raiders. Brooks never missed a game during his career, intercepting 25 passes, returning six for touchdowns, forcing 24 fumbles and notching 13 1/2 sacks.

“When my wife saw my face, to see her emotions pour out, that’s when it hit me,” Brooks said. “Then, to learn that I’m part of history, Walter Jones and I from the same alma mater, going into the Hall of Fame, that’s never been done before. …

“Then when I sat down and caught my breath. There was a bit of sadness. That’s what this process does to you. I started thinking about John Lynch, coach Dungy and Mr. DeBartolo, people that I have personal relationships with. And obviously they were not part of the plan.”

Williams, a third-round pick from Southern University, said he broke into “tears of joy” after receiving the call. During his 14-season career, Williams notched 55 interceptions and was a member of the 1990s All-Decade team.

Strahan narrowly missed induction last year when he made the cut to the final 10 only to get eliminated. The 1993 second-round draft selection still holds the single-season record for most sacks with 22 ½ in 2001. His 141 1/2 career sacks are fifth-most all time.

“Michael Strahan is the epitome of a Hall of Famer,” former Giants center Shaun O’Hara told USA TODAY Sports. “If Michael didn’t deserve the Hall, nobody does.”

Guy, who led the league in punting for three seasons, finished his 14-season career with a 42.4-yard average and averaged 41.9 yards for three winning Raiders Super Bowl teams. He enters Canton after 23 years of eligibility and will have his former Raiders coach and Hall of Famer John Madden present him at Canton.

“It’s been a long time, a lot of frustration,” Guy said. “This is going to give the younger generation hope now. “It (punting) is more recognized as a very important part of the game.”

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Humphrey waited a long time, too, making it after 29 years of eligibility. He was credited with 122 career sacks in 171 games with the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles.

“I never really gave up hope,” Humphrey said. “There’s been a lot of disappointments. But getting in is such a special experience. … It’s hard to explain.”

His fellow classmates all could empathize.


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