Someday Canton?


Kickoff Weekend, for many players around the National Football League, marks the culmination of a lifelong dream. Rookies around the league will get their first taste of action at the pro level and realize their work that began in youth football, continued into high school years and then at the collegiate level has paid off.

For perhaps a special few, this weekend may mark the first game of a Hall of Fame career. Of course, we won't know for many, many years just who from the 2010 crop of first-year players will one day, if ever, receive a bronze bust in Canton.

Here's a look at five of many memorable starts to Hall of Fame careers.

Marcus Allen, RB, Class of 2003
The former Heisman Trophy winner from USC made his NFL debut for the Los Angeles Raiders on Sept. 12, 1982 on the road against the defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers. He had a spectacular day as he gained 116 yards on 23 carries and added an additional 64 yards on four catches to help the Raiders to a 23-17 win. He also scored his first career TD on a three-yard run in the second quarter.

Earl Campbell, RB, Class of 1991
Arguably no player had a bigger impact as a rookie than Campbell who was selected first overall by the Houston Oilers in 1978. He made it known right away that he could dominate at the pro level. Despite losing 20-14 in the opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 3, 1978, Campbell proved he was a star. He racked up 137 yards on 15 carries that included a 73-yard touchdown run. It was the first of seven 100-yard games he recorded his rookie season.

Ozzie Newsome, TE, Class of 1999
The "Wizard of Oz" didn't initially show what type of receiver he ultimately would become as he caught just one pass for six yards in his rookie debut against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 3, 1978. However, he did electrify the Browns fans when he surprised the Bills defense on an end-around right tackle. He raced 33 yards on the play in the second quarter for his first career touchdown. It put Cleveland in the lead for good that day as Newsome and the Browns rolled to a 24-7 win.

Barry Sanders, RB, Class of 2004
Believe it or not, Sanders did not start the first game of his career. The Lions' offense was spread out in a four wide-receiver formation. In fact, Sanders didn't set foot on the field until midway through the third quarter of Detroit's 16-13 loss to the Phoenix Cardinals on Sept. 10, 1989. But, once he did, he immediately drew the attention of the Lions fans. He handled the ball four straight times. He ripped through the Cardinals line for an 18-yard gain on his first NFL carry. After that, he added gains of 3, 5, and 3 yards, the last of which was his first NFL TD and Detroit's only touchdown of the day. On the next series, Sanders had another "signature" 26-yard gain. He finished his first NFL contest with 71 yards on just nine carries.

Fran Tarkenton, QB, Class of 1986
Tarkenton's pro debut was one of storybook fashion. The third-round draft pick was inserted into the Sept. 17, 1961 opener against the Chicago Bears after the expansion Vikings were showing no signs of moving the ball under the direction of veteran signal caller George Shaw. Tarkenton ignited the Vikings and moved the team quickly down the field and threw a TD to give his team a 10-0 lead. He added three more touchdown passes in the second half and scored on a three-yard scramble to lead the Vikings to a stunning 37-13 upset of the Chicago Bears. His final stat line read 17 of 23 for 250 yards, 4 TDs; and four rushes for 11 yards, and one TD.

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