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PRO FOOTBALL

Buffalo Bills lead Hall of Fame class

Bruce Smith and owner Ralph Wilson are inducted. Joining them in Canton are Derrick Thomas, Bob Hayes, Rod Woodson and Randall McDaniel.

August 09, 2009|Associated Press

CANTON, OHIO — All that was missing were the chicken wings, because the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony had a distinct Buffalo flavor.

Bills owner Ralph Wilson opened by loosening up the crowd with a few humorous anecdotes. And the chants of "Bruuuce!" resounded through Fawcett Stadium on Saturday night, even before former Bills defensive end Bruce Smith had taken the podium.

And once he took the stage, the cheers didn't stop for the player who had a record 200 sacks.

Smith acknowledged the fans -- a large contingent wearing Bills jerseys -- by saying, "This certainly feels like a home game."

Wondering where the time has gone after his 19-year career ended in 2003 with Washington, Smith said: "And now I come full circle. I stand before you humble and honored."

In between there were emotional moments, when Kansas City linebacker Derrick Thomas and Dallas Cowboys receiver Bob Hayes were inducted posthumously.

"For all Derrick Thomas fans, the light has gone back on," former Chiefs president Carl Peterson said of Thomas, who died in February 2000 following a car accident, cutting short what had already been a stellar 11-year career.

Hayes, meanwhile, was introduced by his son, Bob Hayes Jr., who noted his father always wondered why it took so long for this achievement to happen. Hayes died in 2002 at the age of 59.

"It hurts, because he's not here to enjoy this," Hayes said. "But I know wherever he is, he's smiling down."

Also inducted was defensive back Rod Woodson, who described himself as humbled, again letting his numbers speak for themselves as during his playing days. Woodson was a triple threat during a 17-year career, in which he excelled at cornerback, safety and returning kickoffs.

The NFL's defensive player of the year in 1993, Woodson was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection and was selected to the NFL's 75th anniversary team while still active.

And then there was Vikings offensive guard Randall McDaniel, who cracked that he didn't feel comfortable being up onstage alone without four other linemen next to him.

McDaniel was a 12-time Pro Bowl pick during a 14-year career, most of it spent with Minnesota.

The biggest cheers came from Bills fans, who are in town not only to honor their two Hall of Famers, but also preparing to see Terrell Owens make his debut in a Bills uniform today, when Buffalo plays Tennessee in the Hall of Fame game.

Smith was part of a speedy Bills defense that helped the team win four consecutive AFC titles in the early 1990s.

"In the annals of NFL history, the sum total of my career will forever be defined by the 15 years I spent playing for the Buffalo Bills," Smith said. "And what a ride it was."

Wilson's induction came as the NFL prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the American Football League. He was a member of the so-dubbed "Foolish Club," headed by late Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009

The six men inducted Saturday in Canton, Ohio

BOB HAYES

Wide Receiver, 5-11, 185. College: Florida A&M

1965-1974 Dallas Cowboys

1975 San Francisco 49ers

* The career: 11 seasons, 132 games . . . Selected as a future pick by Cowboys, seventh round, 1964 NFL draft (88th player overall) and future choice by Denver, 14th round (105th player overall) 1964 AFL draft . . . Won a pair of gold medals in the 1964 Olympic Games, earning him the title "World's Fastest Human" . . . As a rookie, his 46 receptions for 1,003 yards led all Cowboys receivers . . . His world-class speed was major factor in Cowboys offensive successes . . . "Bullet Bob" terrorized defensive backs and demanded deep double coverage rarely seen in the NFL at that time . . . Often said that bump and run defense was developed to slow him down . . . Four times was named first- or second-team All-NFL. . . . For 11-year career, Hayes accumulated 7,414 yards and 71 touchdowns . . . His 71 career touchdown receptions remain a Cowboys club record . . . Born Dec. 20, 1942, in Jacksonville, Fla. . . . Died Sept. 18, 2002, at age of 59.

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RANDALL McDANIEL

Guard, 6-3, 276. College: Arizona State

1988-1999 Minnesota Vikings

2000-01 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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