For Pete's Sake

By: Pete Fierle

Pete Fierle, Manager - Digital Media/Communications
Pete's familiarity with the game's history is a result of spending two decades surrounded by the world's largest collection of pro football information. His many duties include overseeing the Hall's website as well as the day-to-day operation of the Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center.

Do you remember 1983?

Apr 08, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday. That is except for last Thursday when I took a day off!

Maybe it’s my age. Or perhaps it’s my job. More than likely, it’s a combination of both.

Last week we posted this on our Facebook page (@ProFootballHOF):

Off the top of your head (without the help of Google, Wikipedia, or anywhere else) ... can you name the
7 HOFers drafted in 1983? Really impress us if you can list them
in the order they were drafted!

One particular comment to our wall post caught my eye.

Can't expect anyone to remember no matter how big of a fan
you are! I came up w/... Elway, Marino, Kelly, Dickerson... But I
couldn't remember the order! I think it's safe to say it's impossible to
remember unless you really are obsessed w/ football!

Hmmm…obsessed with football. I suppose that would be a good characterization of the staff bunkered down in the Hall of Fame’s Archives. On a typical day, we spend between 8-10 hours immersed in the history of this great game. So, posing a question like the order of the seven Hall of Famers taken in 1983 seemed like a fair challenge. After reading the Facebook reaction, I guess that’s when I have to step back and gander at our Mission statement that is prominently displayed on my office credenza.

“Educating the public” is one of the chief responsibilities of my position. So, I will use the rest of this space to flash back to the 1983 NFL Draft.

The buzz around the ’83 draft when it occurred on April 26-27, 1983 was the fact that six quarterbacks were taken in the first round (interestingly, all five teams of the AFC East at the time used their first round picks on a quarterback)! So famous was this “Class of 1983” – John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O’Brien, and Dan Marino that the group was profiled in an exhibit that chronicles the important moments of the game’s first 100 years.

All of these QBs went on to varied success at the pro level. Three – Elway, Kelly, and Marino – led their teams to the Super Bowl during playing careers that landed them in Canton. Elway was the headline of the class not solely because of his stellar career at Stanford that earned him the honor of being selected first overall but more for his decision not to play football for the Baltimore Colts, the team that drafted him.

Rumors heading into that year’s draft focused on Elway’s desire to play pro baseball. By the time the NFL Draft took place, Elway had already signed a contract with the New York Yankees and played six weeks of Class A ball in Oneonta, NY in 1982. The Colts tried to deal the No. 1 pick but had no takers. So, they did what any other team would have done in that position and selected Elway.

He threatened to take the baseball route but the Colts eventually worked a deal that sent him to the Denver Broncos in exchange for QB Mark Hermann, the rights to offensive lineman Chris Hinton and a first round pick in 1984 (which turned into guard Ron Solt).

As they say, the rest was history!

Speaking of history, time can reshape events. That’s exactly what has happened to the “Class of 1983.” For so many years, the focus was on the group of quarterbacks taken in the first round. Over time, all of the players who made it to the NFL from that year’s draft crop have now completed their careers. So we can reflect and accurately measure their success.

That has resulted in the draft class of ’83 now being more noted for producing Hall of Famers than first-round quarterbacks.

And, for the record and the answer to our Facebook post, here they are (in order). All of them were taken in the first round except for Richard Dent who waited until the 8th round before the Bears picked him.

1.    John Elway, QB-Stanford, Baltimore Colts (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2004)
2.     Eric Dickerson, RB-Southern Methodist, Los Angeles Rams (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1999)
9.     Bruce Matthews, OL-Southern California, Houston Oilers (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2007)
14.   Jim Kelly, QB-Miami (FL), Buffalo Bills (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2002)
27.   Dan Marino, QB-Pitt, Miami Dolphins (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2005)
28.   Darrell Green, CB-Texas A&I, Washington Redskins (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2008)
203. Richard Dent, DE-Tennessee State, Chicago Bears (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011)

Maybe it’s my age. Or perhaps it’s that I was destined for my job. But, the 1983 NFL Draft remains vivid in my mind and was one I watched live from my college dorm room. Check out this video of ESPN, in its infancy, covering the '83 draft.