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.

Immortality, sooner or later

Mar 17, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

The National Football League was founded in Canton, Ohio on Sept. 17, 1920. Since that time there have been nearly 22,000 men who've competed in the league. My guess is minimally ten times that number have tried to make it to the NFL and who knows how many young boys have dreamed of making it to the NFL. Add to that figure of the league's alumni the countless number of coaches and administrators who've been involved with the game.

The ultimate quest for anyone who has dedicated themselves to this sport is to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Perhaps it sounds a bit like a cliché, but the Hall of Fame represents immortality. The contributions of the legends bronzed in Canton are here forever. For some that moment comes sooner than later. For others, it takes years if not decades!

Seven new greats will be added this August with the formal enshrinement of the Class of 2011Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders, and Shannon Sharpe. When Faulk and Sabol step to the podium on the grand stage inside Fawcett Stadium on Saturday, August 6, they will represent opposite ends of the spectrum. Sabol is the oldest individual ever elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Faulk will be the 10th youngest person to be enshrined in Canton.

Sabol is just the second nonagenarian (a person in his 90s) to be enshrined. Buffalo Bills founder and owner Ralph Wilson was the first when two years ago at age 90 he was honored. Sabol will be just shy of his 95th birthday at this summer's enshrinement ceremony.

There are two other individuals in addition to Sabol and Wilson who were enshrined in their 80s. They are Wellington Mara in 1997 and Hank Stram in 2003 both of whom were 80.

Enshrinee Date of Birth Date of Enshrinement Age at Enshrinement
Ed Sabol September 11, 1916 August 6, 2011 94 Years, 10 Months, 26 Days
Ralph Wilson, Jr. October 17, 1918 August 8, 2009 90 Years, 9 Months, 22 Days
Wellington Mara August 14, 1916 July 26, 1997 80 Years, 11 Months, 12 Days
Hank Stram January 3, 1923 August 3, 2003 80 Years, 7 Months, 0 Days

It's worth giving an "honorable mention" to Morris (Red) Badgro who was 78 years, 8 months old in 1981 when he was enshrined into the Hall of Fame. A star of the 1930s, Badgro held the distinction of scoring the first touchdown in NFL championship game history. He waited 45 years from the time he stepped off the football field for the last time to when he stepped to the podium on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's front steps. At the time, he was the oldest person ever enshrined into the Hall. He remains the oldest former player to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Click on the image above to listen to Badgro's enshrinement speech
One memory that always stands out to me is the effort Badgro made to attend the 10th anniversary of his induction. In 1991, at the age of 88, he and his wife Dode drove cross-country from their home in the state of Washington to attend the Enshrinement Weekend.

On the flip side, Faulk is one of 19 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who will be enshrined before his 40th birthday. To be specific Marshall will be 38 years, 5 months, and 11 days old when he walks to the microphone on August 6.

The youngest person ever enshrined was Gale Sayers who was two months removed from his 34th birthday when he was inducted in the summer of the 1977.

Enshrinee Date of Birth Date of Enshrinement Age at Enshrinement
Gale Sayers May 30, 1943 July 30, 1977 34 Years, 2 Months, 0 Days
Jim Brown February 17, 1936 July 31, 1971 35 Years, 5 Months, 14 Days
Barry Sanders July 16, 1968 August 8, 2004 36 Years, 0 Months, 23 Days
Earl Campbell March 29, 1955 July 27, 1991 36 Years, 3 Months, 28 Days
Dick Butkus December 9, 1942 July 28, 1979 36 Years, 7 Months, 19 Days
Kellen Winslow November 5, 1957 July 29, 1995 37 Years, 8 Months, 24 Days
Lance Alworth August 3, 1940 July 29, 1978 37 Years, 11 Months, 26 Days
O.J. Simpson July 9, 1947 August 3, 1985 38 Years, 0 Months, 25 Days
Jack Lambert July 8, 1952 August 4, 1990 38 Years, 0 Months, 27 Days
Marshall Faulk February 26, 1973 August 6, 2011 38 Years, 5 Months, 11 Days
Eric Dickerson September 2, 1960 August 7, 1999 38 Years, 11 Months, 5 Days
Walter Payton July 25, 1954 July 31, 1993 39 Years, 0 Months, 6 Days
Jim Langer May 16, 1948 August 8, 1987 39 Years, 2 Months, 23 Days
Jim Parker April 3, 1934 July 28, 1973 39 Years, 3 Months, 25 Days
Jack Ham December 23, 1948 July 30, 1988 39 Years, 7 Months, 7 Days
Troy Aikman November 21, 1966 August 5, 2006 39 Years, 8 Months, 15 Days
Mike Singletary October 9, 1958 August 1, 1998 39 Years, 9 Months, 23 Days
Anthony Muñoz August 19, 1958 August 1, 1998 39 Years, 11 Months, 13 Days
Lamar Hunt August 2, 1932 July 29, 1972 39 Years, 11 Months, 27 Days