Elway, Sanders honored

Along with the Broncos quarterback and the Lions rusher, the Hall of Fame will welcome Bob Brown and Carl Eller.

Carl Eller of the Minnesota Vikings, Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions, and John Elway of the Denver Broncos pose in Houston after being named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, February 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 1, 2004 at 12:59 a.m.

HOUSTON - John Elway and Barry Sanders made the Pro Football Hall of Fame on their first attempt Saturday, making it look as easy as everything else they did in their spectacular careers.

Elway, the winningest quarterback in NFL history, and Sanders, No. 3 in career rushing, were joined by Bob Brown and Carl Eller.

For Elway, who led the Denver Broncos to Super Bowl championships in his final two seasons, the selection was a reward for his remarkable skills, leadership and longevity.

``I'm really kind of speechless to be honest with you,'' Elway said. ``Just truly honored to be named to the Hall of Fame with the greats of all time.

``I want to tell every guy I played with, `Thanks.' ''

The first choice in the 1983 draft - the Year of the Quarterback, with six selected in the opening round - Elway lost his first three Super Bowls, all in routs. But he guided the Broncos to the 1997 and '98 NFL championships, capping his illustrious career with a Super Bowl MVP trophy.

Elway won 148 games and was the 1987 league MVP. He will be the only Bronco in the Hall of Fame when he is inducted this summer.

Unlike Elway, Sanders retired in his prime at 31. He was 1,457 yards from the career rushing record, then held by Walter Payton.

``When I think about the Hall of Fame, it seems like that's something that happens to someone else,'' Sanders said. ``You think Dick Butkus, Walter Payton, names of that light. To be here, I truly feel, in some ways a little out of place.''

Speaking about himself and Elway, he said: ``They saw something that was unique in us, something they might not see on any old Sunday.''

Sanders was the first player to rush for 1,000 yards in his first 10 seasons and he led the league in rushing four times. In 1997, he was co-MVP with Brett Favre after rushing for 2,053 yards, only the third player to exceed 2,000 yards in a season.He ran for 100 yards or more in 14 consecutive games.

``The guy would have held every record in the NFL if he hadn't retired,'' Elway said. ``It's truly an honor to go in with a guy like Barry.''

Brown, a six-time Pro Bowl tackle for the Eagles, Rams and Raiders, was one of the most fearsome blockers of his time. The second overall pick in the 1964 draft, the 6-foot-4, 280-pounder - small by today's standards - was a dominant player until retiring in 1973.

``I beat on people from the opening kickoff,'' Brown once said. ``I try to take a toll on them.''

Eller, a mainstay of the Minnesota Vikings' Purple People Eaters defensive line, played 16 seasons and 225 games. A five-time All-Pro, he used speed and guile to trap quarterbacks long before the sack was an official statistic. Eller, who played in four Super Bowls, joins Vikings defensive linemate Alan Page in the hall.

Two other finalists, Dallas tackle Rayfield Wright and wide receiver Bob Hayes, didn't receive enough votes to make the hall.

Also denied entry after making the final 15 were Harry Carson, Richard Dent, Cliff Harris, Lester Hayes, Bob Kuechenberg, Jim Marshall - a teammate of Eller and Page - Art Monk, George Young and Gary Zimmerman.

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