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Allen Is Tearful and Thankful

During his Hall of Fame induction, former Raider acknowledges Davis, but it's his family that brings out his emotions. Stram cited for his innovation.

August 04, 2003|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

CANTON, Ohio — Marcus Allen thanked John Robinson, thanked his teammates with the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, and even thanked Al Davis, all without a quiver in his voice.

But when Allen addressed his family Sunday he gripped the podium at the Pro Football Hall of Fame and tried to steady his emotions.

"Every inch, every yard, every hit, every hurt, every pain, I did for you guys," he said, wiping his eyes.

An induction ceremony that started with rain, ended with tears.

Allen, a first-ballot enshrinee who went from Heisman Trophy winner at USC to the first NFL player with 10,000 yards rushing and 5,000 receiving, was the last speaker in a group that included defensive end Elvin Bethea, guard Joe Delamielleure, receiver James Lofton and coach Hank Stram.

Sitting directly behind Allen among the other 116 Hall of Fame members in attendance was Raider owner Davis, whose yet unexplained feud with his star running back put an end to Allen's career in Los Angeles. Davis gave three slow claps when Allen was introduced, and Allen thanked him in the speech for drafting him.

Although Allen will have both the Raiders and Chiefs on his plaque in Canton, he will receive his Hall of Fame ring in Kansas City at halftime of a game this fall. He considers himself a football player, not simply a Raider nor a Chief.

"I love football," he said. "It's in my DNA."

Allen did appreciate being able to finish his career with the Chiefs.

"For the sunset of your career, I couldn't have found a better place to play than Kansas City," Allen said. "It was just the shot in the arm that I needed."

It was a memorable day for the Chiefs, and not just because of Allen. Stram led them to two Super Bowls, winning one.

In his coaching days, Stram had his own language. Players were rats. Officials were sausage stuffers. Team priests were blackbirds. He humbly referred to himself as "The Mentor."

Stram's sideline theatrics were so entertaining, NFL Films paid him $1,000 in 1970 -- an unheard of fee at the time -- to wear a microphone as he coached the Chiefs to victory over Minnesota in Super Bowl IV.

Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films, was the cameraman assigned to keep his lens trained on Stram in that game and the task proved more difficult than it sounds.

"You see the camera jiggling because I was laughing," Sabol said. "I had to step away from the tripod to get the camera to stop vibrating."

That footage was replayed during the induction ceremony. Stram, who suffers from diabetes and has been so ill in recent months his friends and family feared he might not make it this far, watched from a wheelchair.

He slowly rose to his feet and waved to the crowd of 8,500 after his pre-recorded speech was played. His words were put to video, a montage that highlighted his career as coach of the Chiefs, who began as the Dallas Texans, and the New Orleans Saints.

"Someone said that friends are angels in disguise," Stram said on the tape. "If this is true, I've been surrounded by angels for most of my life."

A night earlier at the enshrinees dinner, Stram wiped his eyes when he was introduced, shuffling across the stage and stopping at his family's table for a kiss from his wife, Phyllis.

"If you didn't get emotional watching Hank walk up and down that stage, you don't have a heart," Delamielleure said.

Foul weather threatened to force the ceremony indoors for the first time in the hall's 40-year history, but the skies cleared enough for spectators to watch in comfort.

For the second consecutive year, the event took place in adjacent Fawcett Stadium instead of on the hall's steps.

Stram's star quarterback with the Chiefs, Len Dawson, himself a Hall of Famer, gave the introduction for his coach.

"I wear two rings," said Dawson, his voice trembling with emotion. "I wear a Super Bowl ring on this [left] hand and a Hall of Fame ring on this [right] one. I wouldn't have either of them without Hank Stram."

Stram was an innovator. He was credited with devising the moving pocket; the two-tight-end offense; the triple-stack offense, which features a fullback, halfback and wingback directly behind the quarterback; and the stack defense in which linebackers line up directly behind defensive linemen instead of filling the gaps.

It was Stram's stack defense that befuddled the heavily favored Vikings, helping the Chiefs to a 23-7 victory in Super Bowl IV.

"They took it to us in every way," Alan Page, a Hall of Fame defensive lineman for the Vikings, said Sunday. "It was a long afternoon for us but a great afternoon for football."

Stram was the lone nominee of the seniors committee and had to receive the same 80% voting support that is required of all finalists.

"If I were to get in the Hall of Fame," he told The Times in January, "it would match those Super Bowls."

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