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 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, former Penn State standout Dave Robinson and Curley Culp as the newest inductees on 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.
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.”
Before playing for Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers, Robinson helped the Nittany Lions to a 24-8 record from 1960-62 under coach Rip Engle, including wins in the 1960 Liberty Bowl and 1961 Gator Bowl.
The two-way end was named MVP of the 1962 Gator Bowl, even though the Lions lost the game to Florida. Robinson is a member of the Gator Bowl Hall of Fame.
A 1962 All-American, Robinson is the 22nd former Penn State player to be enshrined in the pro and college halls of fame.
He is the sixth Nittany Lion to be honored in Canton, joining Jack Ham, Franco Harris, August Michalske, Lenny Moore and Mike Munchak.
The only member of the Class of 2013 who didn’t win an NFL title, Carter used a handkerchief to wipe away the 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’ve 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, including drug and alcohol issues. The first one to call him and offer a job was Parcells.
Carter ever told his agent he wanted to go to the Giants, but he 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 with the 1969 Chiefs.
Quite a group, and a record 121 hall members are expected to attend the ceremonies.
“It’s somewhat overwhelming,” said Ogden, the Baltimore Ravens’ first-ever draft choice and the first team member elected to the hall. “You look around and there’s Joe Greene and Joe Namath — heck, they are all there, you can’t stop naming names.”
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.
Allen became the anchor of the Cowboys’ blocking unit for a dozen seasons, then finished his career with two years in San Francisco. He made six All-Pro teams and 11 Pro Bowls, playing guard and tackle.
“It’s great, great company to be in,” said Allen, who Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones believes “would have been a Hall of Famer at guard or tackle, and either side. He was special like that.”
Adds Curtis Martin, the Jets and Patriots running back who was inducted last year: “If there were two guys I would have wanted to run behind, it would be Larry and Jonathan.”
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.
As for his speech, Sapp said he has “been trying to imagine how everything will feel and still haven’t gotten it. My anticipation is nowhere near complete.”
Like Sapp in Tampa, Parcells also was heavily involved in making popular — and successful — 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, says 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.