MIAMI — Two former Los Angeles Rams, running back Eric Dickerson and guard Tom Mack, joined Lawrence Taylor, the troubled former New York Giant linebacker, in the five-man Pro Football Hall of Fame class chosen Saturday by a panel of 36 nationally based selectors.
The two others elected were Ozzie Newsome, onetime Cleveland tight end, and this year's old-timer candidate, former Buffalo guard Billy Shaw.
Two who got close but just missed were Howie Long, a former Raider defensive tackle, and Lynn Swann, who after a career as a USC All-American receiver became a Pittsburgh all-pro. Long and Swann made the final cut to seven candidates and needed the approval of 80% of the selectors but didn't get it.
Mack, on a conference call, said of his election: "I'm overwhelmed. This is a pretty wonderful surprise."
Dickerson, who rushed for a single-season record of 2,105 yards in 1984 but who never played in a championship game, said: "This is my Super Bowl."
Taylor said in a statement that he would have nothing to say.
Mack had been a finalist for 11 years. This was his 15th and last year of eligibility. For Dickerson and Taylor, who both played until five years ago, each was a first-time candidate. And although Dickerson's election had been considered a formality after a career in which he was often grouped with Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson as the best of all running backs, the Taylor candidacy this winter has been controversial.
As a player, Taylor was dogged by drug problems, which accompanied him into retirement. He was the subject of the longest and most heated period of discussion at the selectors' meeting Saturday.
Pro Football Hall of Fame voters aren't bound by a morals clause of the kind that keeps admitted gambler Pete Rose out of baseball's Hall of Fame.
In the football Hall's bylaws, selectors are specifically and pointedly warned to consider only action on the playing field.
The bylaws were written by the Hall's board of directors in Canton, Ohio. On the board are, among others, a federal judge and former coach Pete Elliott.
Simpson, who was charged with the murder of his former wife and her friend, and Paul Hornung, the former Notre Dame and Green Bay running back who was banned one year for gambling, are examples of different kinds of troubled players who are in the football Hall of Fame. There are no plans in Canton to remove either or even consider such a removal, officials said.
And in the end Saturday, most selectors agreed with Canton's philosophy and with NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who said Friday that Taylor belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Those who made the next-to-last ballot Saturday were Minnesota defensive end Carl Eller, coaches George Allen and Marv Levy and Pittsburgh President Dan Rooney.
Those who did not make the first cut Saturday were USC and Minnesota tackle Ron Yary, Pittsburgh receiver John Stallworth and Raider punter Ray Guy.
Dickerson has been spending the week in Florida. Turning up at NFL headquarters shortly after his election, he said he would ask former Ram lineman Jackie Slater to be his presenter at the enshrinement in Canton next summer.
Asked what it takes to gain 2,105 yards in one season, Dickerson said: "You have to finish strong. A lot of guys have stayed on our pace for quite a few weeks, but you tire late in the season, and you also have to stay healthy. I did it at the end, the last eight games. I didn't have a strong beginning."
He said he always enjoyed playing against Taylor.
"In one game, I had to cut L.T. on one play, and I cut him flat," Dickerson said. "He got up and came at me. 'Don't you ever cut me again,' L.T. said.
"I said, 'OK.'
"When I went back to the bench, they said they wanted me to cut Taylor again on the next series.
"I said, 'No, you'll have to get somebody else. I promised.' "
Dickerson resides in California, living alone in a 3 1/2-level, six-bedroom, eight-bath, 10,000-square-foot mansion he bought 14 years ago in Calabasas. He has a chef who each week prepares seven meals, one of which Dickerson transfers every day, he said, from a freezer to a microwave. He dines alone. Never married, he has an 11-year-old daughter, Erica Nicole, who joins him on trips each summer to Texas, where they vacation with the other women in his life, his mother and aunt.
As a Ram star in the 1980s, Dickerson was a slasher who stood 6 feet 3 and weighed 230 pounds. He looks no bigger today. Seemingly a power runner, he was actually a sprinter. Speed, he acknowledged, was always his long suit, starting at Southern Methodist. But he never learned how fast he was.
"When I won the high school 100 in Texas, it was 100 yards, not meters, and they timed me in 9.3," Dickerson said. "But I won it by a full yard. I don't know how much speed I really had because I was never pressed, and never ran it again."
For the Rams from 1983-86, Dickerson, who had been chosen second to John Elway in the 1983 draft, gained 1,808, 2,105, 1,234 and 1,821 yards for a four-year NFL record of 6,968 yards.