New Hall class had major influence on the game

New Hall class had major influence on the game
February 3, 2013, 12:15 pm
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Little things that come to mind looking over the Hall of Fame Class of 2013:

As I’ve said on more than one occasion, second-guessing is always easy, particularly with the NFL draft. But it’s still fun sometimes just from the what-might-have-been standpoint.

Seeing Dallas guard Larry Allen selected in his first year of eligibility evokes a chuckle. He was a second-round draft pick and was on the board, a small-college unknown passed over by the Bears in favor of another small-schooler, tackle Marcus Spears, a complete bust in Chicago before going on to play in Kansas City.

More important, a former Dallas teammate of Allen’s told me that Allen may have been one of the true tough guys on the field, but the most impressive part of him was what he wanted to be off the field. Allen came from the heart of urban darkness, with gangbangers and drugs. Talking with him at a Super Bowl, he once told me about the horror of standing with a friend on a street corner and seeing that friend stabbed to death in the head.

His teammate told me that what Allen was determined most of all to being was a good father, because he’d seen how bad things could be without a father. That is something for which to be truly honored….

I heard someone on Sunday run through the Class of 2013 current-era selections, then refer dismissively to the senior inductees – defensive tackle Curley Culp, linebacker Dave Robinson – with the remark, “but who cares about those guys?” without naming them.

Care about them. If you never saw some of these guys play, maybe you can’t appreciate what they were. Your loss.

Culp didn’t invent the position of true nose tackle but he took it to a level unseen before him. He was alongside Buck Buchanan with Kansas City when no one gave the Chiefs a lot of chance against the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. The Chiefs crushed the Vikings in large part because Culp, who had 68 career sacks, dominated perennial All-Pro center Mick Tingelhoff, which simply didn’t happen.

But Culp was part of something else easily overlooked. Joe Namath and the Jets had won Super Bowl III to raise eyebrows about the supposedly inferior AFL. What Culp, Buchanan and the Chiefs did the next year was establish that there were teams in the AFL that were vastly superior physically to the NFL teams. That established, later in 1970, the NFL and AFL merged.

Not to overstate the impact of an interior lineman, but it’s easy sometimes to overlook the giants on whose shoulders the next generations stood. Culp and Robinson were part of that foundation time when the game of pro football began its growth.