Irvin's the spark for Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2007
Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin’s current team is smaller, but still well-rounded.
Irvin looked around center stage during Sunday’s Enshrinees Gameday Roundtable and saw Thurman Thomas, a multidimensional running back. Charlie Sanders, who helped expand the tight end’s role, was there.
Across from Irvin sat Roger Wehrli, one of the game’s best cover corners. Tackle Bruce Matthews and guard Gene Hickerson, who could not attend, were ironmen on the offensive line.
Irvin said the Hall of Fame Class of 2007 consists of an incredible bunch of guys. And he would be their emotional spark plug.
‘A Great Class’
“Athletes are so competitive,” Irvin said. “One thing I learned at the Nitschke Luncheon that we had is each class kind of looks at the other classes and says, ‘Oh, we’ll beat your class.’
“So I was telling these guys we have a great class. It works out great. They got us a tackle, an offensive guard, a running back, some defense and a tight end.
“It does bring us all close together. I enjoy and thank God for this class of guys.”
Hickerson, who suffers from symptoms associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s, did not attend the Enshrinees Gameday Roundtable. The event at Memorial Civic Center kicked off the final day of the Hall of Fame Festival.
Moderator Rich Eisen, host of NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access,” spent about a half-hour talking with the Class of 2007 in the only event outside the enshrinement ceremony where the public can hear from the inductees.
Irvin was very jovial a day after giving an emotional speech at the enshrinement ceremony. He said Sanders told him that if this year’s class formed a team on the field, he would rather block than catch passes.
“That’s exactly what I was expecting,” Irvin said. “I’m the one who will catch the passes, don’t worry about it.”
Sanders responded later, “Those are Michael’s words. I’ve never been one to really go out and catch a lot of passes. I had a philosophy that if I don’t take a lick, I can save that. That’s another game.
“I’m not like Michael where you catch a pass and don’t get touched. I didn’t have all the afterburner speed. I was a struggling tight end. I just believed if you let somebody else have all the accolades and all the numbers, that’s called self-preservation.”
Irvin and Thomas talked on the phone 30 minutes before the Class of 2007 was announced in February. The two were one-time adversaries on the field in the early 1990s when the Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys met in back-to-back Super Bowls. Now they will forever be linked together with the rest of the class.
‘A Special Feeling’
“When you put ‘Hall of Famer’ before your name, it has a meaning to it,” Thomas said. “It has a special feeling to it. I couldn’t go in with a better group of guys than I’m going in with this Class of 2007.”
Matthews livened things up when he told Irvin and Thomas that he never really liked them when he faced them.
“There’s part of you that has to demonize your opponent,” Matthews said. “For me, I never wanted to know them because I’d start to like them. Then I couldn’t do my job the way I needed to.
“I apologize for my feelings in the past. I’m honored to be on the same team as you.”
So was Wehrli, who endured a long wait with Sanders and Hickerson to enter the Hall of Fame.
“To get to know these guys has been a wonderful experience,” Wehrli said. “I love you guys. What a great class this is to be with.”
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