Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame

Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith took different routes to National Football League touchdown records. Last night, the sport’s most accomplished wide receiver and its premier running back entered the Hall of Fame together.

Rice is the NFL’s career touchdown leader with 208. Smith, the career rushing leader, is second to Rice with 175 touchdowns. They were joined by Dick LeBeau, Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, John Randle and Floyd Little as the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The former players were elected on Feb. 6 by the 33 media representatives making up the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. Nominees must receive votes from at least 80 percent of the members to win entry to the hall.

Rice, 47, began his career when the San Francisco 49ers drafted him 16th overall in 1985 out of Mississippi Valley State University. Even though Rice had a record-setting college career, his time of 4.71 seconds in the 40-yard dash caused some teams to shy away from him.

“The fear of failure is the engine that has driven me all my life,” Rice said. “The reason nobody caught me from behind is because I ran scared. That fear of failure coming in again.”

First in Receptions

Rice won three Super Bowls in his 16 seasons with the 49ers, then played four more years with the Oakland Raiders and one with the Seattle Seahawks before retiring in 2006.

Rice ranks first in NFL receptions with 1,549, in all- purpose yards with 23,546 and in touchdown catches with 197. He set a record with touchdown receptions in 13 consecutive games, and also dominates the records for Super Bowl catches.

Smith, 41, helped the Dallas Cowboys capture three Super Bowl championships in the 1990s. Small for an NFL running back at 5 feet, 9 inches, Smith was taken with the 17th overall pick in the 1990 draft by the Cowboys.

Smith spent 13 seasons in Dallas and his final two years with the Arizona Cardinals. He ran for 937 yards in his rookie season, then more than 1,000 yards in each of the next 11 seasons. His string of five straight seasons with at least 1,400 yards rushing, from 1991 to 1995, has not been matched.

Rushing Records

“At the age of 21, I knew I wanted to be the all-time leading rusher. I knew Walter Payton was one of the best to ever play the game and I wanted to achieve that level of greatness,” Smith said. “As I am standing at the same podium as he did and being inducted into the 2010 Hall of Fame class, I am now the all-time leading rusher.”

Smith holds NFL career marks with 164 touchdowns rushing, 18,355 yards rushing and 4,409 rushes. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 1993 Super Bowl, rushing for 108 yards in Dallas’ 52-17 victory against the Buffalo Bills.

LeBeau, 72, made three NFL Pro Bowls during his 14-year career as a defensive back with the Lions. He began his coaching career in 1973 with the Philadelphia Eagles and is credited with inventing the zone blitz while coaching the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense. LeBeau, currently the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive coordinator, has won two Super Bowls with that team. He was head coach with the Bengals in 2000-2002, compiling a 12-33 record.

‘Don’t Drop Out’

“Life is a joy, don’t drop out of it,” LeBeau said. “If I had retired at 62 or 65, I would have missed two world championships. I got to be part of the No. 1 defense. I had my number retired from high school and a building named for me in my home town.”

Grimm, 51, was an offensive lineman for the Washington Redskins for 11 years, helping them win three Super Bowls. He was a member of the “Hogs,” the offensive line that fans pay tribute to by wearing pig noses at Redskins games. Grimm is currently the assistant head coach and offensive line coach for the Arizona Cardinals.

“Growing up I dreamed of playing college football. In college I dreamed of playing in the NFL,” Grimm said. “In the NFL, I dreamed of winning Super Bowls and championships. I never dreamed of standing here tonight.”

‘A Good Thing’

Jackson, 52, was a linebacker who played his first 13 seasons with the New Orleans Saints before finishing his career in San Francisco. He won the Super Bowl with the 49ers in 1995, his last year in the NFL. Jackson, a six-time Pro Bowler, ranks 10th on the NFL’s career sack list with 128, the third most by a linebacker.

“Football has always been my life,” Jackson said. “To the NFL: When you have a good thing going, don’t let it get away.”

The 42-year-old Randle was a defensive tackle who played 11 of his 14 years with the Minnesota Vikings before finishing his career with three seasons in Seattle. Randle was a seven-time Pro Bowler, ranks sixth in career sacks with 137.5 and led the NFL in sacks with 15.5 in 1997.

“I want to thank the Vikings when many thought I was undersized and I wouldn’t make the team,” Randle said. “I’m so humbled by this incredible honor.”

Little, 68, played running back for the Denver Broncos in both the American Football League and the NFL. He played for the Broncos for nine seasons from 1967-1975, making five Pro Bowl teams. Little led the NFL with 1,133 yards rushing in 1971 and led the league in touchdowns with 12 in 1973.

To contact the reporter on this story: Barry Rothbard in New York at brothbard@bloomberg.net

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