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.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009
The six men inducted Saturday in Canton, Ohio
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.
Guard, 6-3, 276. College: Arizona State
1988-1999 Minnesota Vikings
2000-01 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
* The career: 14 seasons, 222 games . . . Selected by the Vikings in first round (19th player overall) of 1988 NFL draft . . . Played in all 16 games as rookie, starting 15 . . . Earned All-Rookie honors . . . Started in 13 consecutive playoff games with the Vikings . . . Started in 202 consecutive games before retiring . . . Possessed uncanny ability to either finesse-block or overpower opponents . . . Led Vikings offensive line that held opponents to a sack every 22.7 attempts (1994), and every 21.3 attempts in 1998 . . . Blocked for six 1,000-yard rushers and five 3,000-yard passers during career . . . With McDaniel leading the offensive line, team captured NFC Central Division titles in 1989, 1992, 1994 and 1998. Named All-Pro nine consecutive times (1990-98) . . . Selected to play in a record 12 consecutive AFC-NFC Pro Bowls (1990-2001) . . . Born Dec. 19, 1964, in Phoenix.
Defensive end, 6-4, 280. College: Virginia Tech
1985-1999 Buffalo Bills
2000-03 Washington Redskins
* The career: 19 playing seasons, 279 games . . . Bills’ first-round draft pick (first player overall), 1985 NFL draft . . . All-America choice at Virginia Tech . . . One of the most dominant defensive players in NFL history . . . Fierce pass rusher who possessed tremendous strength . . . His 200 career sacks are NFL all-time record . . . Recorded 10 or more sacks in an NFL-record 13 seasons . . . Most consider 1990 as his finest single season, during which he recorded 19 sacks, including four against Colts’ Jeff George in the first 20 minutes of a Week 14 game . . . Was a dominant part of Bills championship teams that between 1988-1995 won six AFC Eastern Division crowns (1988-1991, 1993, 1995) and four AFC championships (1990-93) . . . Named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 1990 and 1996 . . . Named to the NFL’s All-Decade Teams of the 1980s and 1990s . . . Named first- or second-team All-Pro 11 times and selected to play in 11 Pro Bowls (1988-1991, 1993-99) . . . Born June 18, 1963, in Norfolk, Va.
Linebacker, 6-3, 243. College: Alabama
1989-1999 Kansas City Chiefs
* The career: 11 seasons, 169 games . . . Selected in the first round (fourth player overall) in 1989 NFL draft . . . Consensus All-America . . . In 1990 recorded league-leading and team-record 20 sacks; including NFL record seven sacks in game vs. Seahawks . . . Named to nine Pro Bowls . . . No player amassed more sacks during 1990s than 116.5 by Thomas . . . Finished career with 126.5 sacks; fourth-highest total by linebacker in NFL history at the time . . . Had 10 or more sacks in a season seven times; recorded multi-sack games 27 times . . . Forced 45 fumbles, had 19 fumble recoveries, scored four touchdowns on fumble returns and added three safeties during career . . . Member of NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s . . . All-NFL three times . . . In 11 years Thomas anchored defense, Chiefs finished first or second in AFC West 10 times, made seven playoff appearances, won three division titles . . . Born Jan. 1, 1967, in Miami. . . . Died Feb. 8, 2000, at age of 33.
RALPH WILSON JR.
Founder/Owner. Colleges: Virginia, Michigan
1960-present Buffalo Bills
* The career: One of the founders of the American Football League, Wilson formed Buffalo Bills in 1959 . . . During tenure as team owner, Bills won AFL championships in 1964 and 1965, AFC titles in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 on way to unprecedented four consecutive appearances in Super Bowls XXV, XXVI, XXVII, and XXVIII . . . Bills’ 103 regular-season wins, second-most in NFL during 1990s . . . Helped lead AFL through early years, making tough decisions that were necessary for league’s survival . . . Began talks with Carroll Rosenbloom, then-owner of NFL’s Colts in January 1965, that eventually resulted in AFL-NFL merger . . . Considered “voice of reason,” Wilson served as president of AFL, was on AFL’s expansion committee and AFL-NFL negotiations committee . . . Was prominent in 1977 negotiations between NFL Management Council and NFL Players Assn. . . . Born Oct. 17, 1918, in Columbus, Ohio.
Cornerback/Safety, 6-0, 200. College: Purdue
1987-1996 Pittsburgh Steelers
1997 San Francisco 49ers
1998-2001 Baltimore Ravens
2002-03 Oakland Raiders
* The career: 17 playing seasons, 238 games with 229 starts . . . Steelers first-round draft pick (10th player overall), 1987 NFL draft . . . First-team All-American at Purdue . . . In 1995 suffered serious knee injury with recovery time projected to be six to 12 months. Returned to action in just four months and played in Super Bowl XXX . . . Member of NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team and NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s . . . NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 1993 . . . Intercepted 71 passes in career; third on NFL all-time list . . . Is NFL’s all-time leader in interception return yardage (1,483) . . . Holds NFL record for most interceptions returned for TDs (12) . . . Six-time first-team All-Pro choice (1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2001) . . . Earned All-Pro honors as cornerback, kick returner, safety . . . Chosen to play in 11 Pro Bowls . . . Born March 10, 1965, in Fort Wayne, Ind.
-- Associated Press