Tagli­abue named to Hall of Fame

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By BARRY WILNER

For­mer NFL Com­mis­sioner Paul Tagli­abue has made the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame in his fifth at­tempt. Tagli­abue and for­mer New York Giants gen­eral man­ager Ge­orge Young made it to the hall in Can­ton, Ohio, as con­trib­u­tors. Ex-Dal­las Cow­boys safety Cliff Har­ris and for­mer Cleve­land re­ceiver Mac Speedie com­pleted the cen­ten­nial class an­nounced Wed­nes­day.

For­mer NFL Com­mis­sioner Paul Tagli­abue has made the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame in his fifth at­tempt.

Tagli­abue and for­mer New York Giants gen­eral man­ager Ge­orge Young made it to the hall in Can­ton, Ohio, as con­trib­u­tors. Ex-Dal­las Cow­boys safety Cliff Har­ris and for­mer Cleve­land re­ceiver Mac Speedie com­pleted the cen­ten­nial class an­nounced Wed­nes­day. The class of 10 se­nior can­di­dates, three con­trib­u­tors and two coaches are part of the hall’s cel­e­bra­tion of the NFL’s 100th sea­son.

Tagli­abue re­placed Pete Rozelle as league com­mis­sioner in 1989 and served 17 years, dur­ing which there was la­bor peace, ex­pan­sion to 32 teams and wide­spread up­grades in sta­di­ums. The NFL’s tele­vi­sion rev­enues un­der Tagli­abue sky­rock­eted, and he helped es­tab­lish a pen­sion sys­tem for for­mer play­ers.

The is­sue that seemed to keep him from ear­lier se­lec­tion to the hall was how the NFL dealt with con­cus­sions and head trauma. But, as with all com­mis­sion­ers, Tagli­abue was do­ing the bid­ding of his bosses, the team own­ers. He made some un­wise com­ments about the con­nec­tion be­tween con­cus­sions and foot­ball for which he later apol­o­gized.

“Deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion to the Hall of Fame and just as much to all the peo­ple who worked with me for al­most 50 years in the NFL,” Tagli­abue said. “Foot­ball is the ul­ti­mate team sport, we were not play­ing the game on the field ... the team was peo­ple who worked for me at the NFL and the teams and our part­ners.”

Cur­rent Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell noted that Tagli­abue is “a guy who made such a dif­fer­ence to the game. I think when you look back at his ca­reer, he brought it into the mod­ern era and not only from a busi­ness stand­point. He un­der­stood how a com­mu­nity and the NFL have to op­er­ate to­gether ul­ti­mately.”

Young, who also worked un­der Tagli­abue in the league of­fice, was a front-of­fice ex­ec­u­tive for the Colts and Dol­phins be­fore join­ing — and turn­ing around — a mori­bund Giants fran­chise. New York won two Su­per Bowls un­der his guid­ance.

“Ge­orge is cer­tainly very de­serv­ing of be­ing in the Hall of Fame,” Giants co-owner John Mara said. “My only re­gret is that he’s not around to en­joy this. He took our or­ga­ni­za­tion from be­ing in last place and not hav­ing a lot of re­spect around the league, to be­ing a Su­per Bowl cham­pion. He made ev­ery foot­ball depart­ment in our or­ga­ni­za­tion more pro­fes­sional. He changed the rep­u­ta­tion and level of re­spect that our team had for the bet­ter.”

Har­ris was one of the hard­est-hit­ting de­fen­sive backs in the NFL, a ma­jor part of the Dal­las de­fenses of the 1970s who made three All-Pro teams and six Pro Bowls. He played in seven con­fer­ence ti­tle games and five Su­per Bowls, win­ning two.

Speedie was part of the un­stop­pable Cleve­land Browns of­fense in the AAFC and then in the NFL. As one of two pri­mary tar­gets for quar­ter­back Otto Gra­ham, along with Dante Lavelli — both al­ready are in the hall — Speedie av­er­aged 16.1 yards on 349 re­cep­tions and scored 32 touch­downs. Twice he gamed more than 1,000 yards re­ceiv­ing.

An­other mem­ber of the Steel Cur­tain, safety Don­nie Shell, made it as did fel­low safety Bobby Dil­lon and de­fen­sive tackle Alex Kar­ras. Shell is the 10th man from the Pitts­burgh dy­nasty of the 1970s to be elected, and the fifth from the de­fense that dom­i­nated the NFL.

Also, Duke Slater, one of the NFL’s first black play­ers, de­fen­sive stand­out Ed Sprin­kle and NFL Films pi­o­neer Steve Sabol were an­nounced. So were wide re­ceiver Harold Carmichael and of­fen­sive tack­les Win­ston Hill and Jim Covert.

Over the week­end, the elec­tion of coaches Bill Cowher and Jimmy John­son as part of the spe­cial class cel­e­brat­ing the NFL’s 100th sea­son was re­vealed. Four more 2020 mem­bers are up­com­ing.

Shell had to be spe­cial to keep up with the likes of Joe Greene, Mel Blount, Jack Ham and Jack Lam­bert on the Steel Cur­tain. A pun­ish­ing hit­ter with ter­rific ball skills, Shell played 14 sea­sons, had 51 in­ter­cep­tions, made three All-Pro teams and five Pro Bowls. He also won four Su­per Bowls.

As­so­ci­ated Press

INTO THE HALL — In this March 8, 2006, file photo, thenNFL Com­mis­sioner Paul Tagli­abue smiles while ad­dress­ing the me­dia at an NFL own­ers meet­ing.

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