CANTON, Ohio – While his six other classmates for this weekend’s enshrinement sported blue golf shirts given them by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Cris Carter was dressed in a suit and tie.
He might never take them off.
“Man, I am in the Hall of Fame. I am wearing a suit every day,” Carter said Friday as the 50th anniversary festivities for the hall began.
Carter will join Jonathan Ogden, Larry Allen, Bill Parcells, Warren Sapp, Dave Robinson and Curley Culp as the newest inductees Saturday night. He was, by far, the most emotional during a news conference Friday as festivities began for the 50th anniversary celebration of the hall.
The only member of the class of 2013 who didn’t win an NFL title, Carter used a handkerchief to wipe away tears when asked about his career and the fact it took six tries to get elected.
“Minnesota fans didn’t judge me when a lot of bad things were being said about me,” Carter said, frequently pausing to regain his composure. “They always cheered for Cris. The only thing I really wish is we could have won that championship for those people. What they did for my life, every day I went out there, I played for those people.”
Carter was exiled from Philadelphia in 1989 after off-field problems. The first one to call him and offer a job was Parcells.
But Carter wound up with the Vikings, who had a stronger need for a wide receiver. All Carter did the rest of his 16-season career was wind up second at his retirement in 2002 behind Jerry Rice for all-time receptions and touchdowns. He’s fourth in those categories now.
As he mentioned, though, he doesn’t have that championship. For the other six, those Super Bowl rings will have a blinding shine to them Saturday night.
Parcells was a winner of two NFL titles as a coach and master of the franchise turnaround. Ogden, one of the premier offensive tackles of his time, grabbed a Super Bowl ring in 2000. Larry Allen, a 1995 champion with Dallas, was the rare equal of Ogden on the offensive line in their era.
Sapp, an outstanding defensive tackle with a personality as big as any football stadium, won the 2002 championship in Tampa Bay. Robinson, a major cog in Green Bay’s championship machine under Vince Lombardi, won the first two Super Bowls. Culp, one of the original pass-rushing demons at defensive tackle, got his ring when the Chiefs won the 1970 Super Bowl.
Ogden, Allen and Sapp have the distinction of making the hall in their first year of eligibility. It’s all the more impressive considering all three were linemen.
Sapp, whose induction speech might be the most anticipated because he’s liable to say anything, was a cornerstone of Tampa Bay’s powerful defense that was the key to winning the Buccaneers’ only title after decades of futility.
“We took a place where they said careers came to die to a place that’s become a destination,” Sapp said, noting the Tampa 2 scheme is now played by defenses everywhere.
Like Sapp in Tampa, Parcells also was heavily involved in making popular a specific alignment. The 3-4 defense came to life under Parcells with the New York Giants, and he led them to the 1986 and 1990 championships.
Parcells, who also took the Patriots, Jets and Cowboys from the bottom to near the top of the NFL as head coach, said it was his duty to provide a prosperous environment.
“You give the players a chance to succeed to the best of their ability,” he said. “That’s your job as a coach, your responsibility.”
Parcells mentioned his coaching tree, which includes the likes of Tom Coughlin, Bill Belichick and Sean Payton — all Super Bowl-winning coaches planning to be on hand Saturday — as among his proudest achievements. He promised to bring that up during his induction speech.
Robinson and Culp were voted in as senior members. Considering their pedigrees, it’s stunning it took so long for them to make it — Robinson retired in 1974, Culp in 1981.
“That bust means an awful lot,” Robinson said. “That bust will last forever.”