CANTON, Ohio — Forcefully and emotionally, Cris Carter summed up the 50th induction ceremony for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
The seventh and final inductee from the Class of 2013, Carter honored dozens of people in his life who were “going into the Hall of Fame with me tonight,” as he followed Jonathan Ogden, Dave Robinson, Larry Allen, Bill Parcells, Curley Culp and Warren Sapp in being inducted.
More than 120 hall members, a record, returned for the 50th anniversary celebration of the shrine.
“I appreciate the process you have to go through to get to be a Hall of Famer,” said Carter, who had perhaps the best hands of any receiver the NFL has seen. “To be able to join these men on this stage in football heaven is the greatest day of my life.”
Carter needed six tries to make the hall even though he retired as the No. 2 career receiver behind Jerry Rice. He choked back tears as he made his speech after being presented by his son, Duron, and he spoke of his problems with alcohol while playing three years for the Eagles before being released.
He hooked on immediately with the Vikings and hooked onto nearly everything throw his way: Carter finished his 16-season career with 1,101 catches for 13,899 yards and 130 touchdowns.
“This game gave me identity, gave me a sense of purpose,” he said.
Parcells also seemingly spoke for everyone in the Hall of Fame, and all the people gathered Saturday night.
“There’s a kinship created that lasts for the rest of your life,” he said about his experience as one of the NFL’s most successful coaches.
Parcells had several of his proteges in the crowd at Fawcett Stadium. The only coach to take four franchises to the playoffs, Parcells won Super Bowls with the New York Giants in the 1986 and 1990 seasons. The master of the team turnaround with the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys, Parcells was called “the definitive winner” by former player George Martin, who presented him for induction.
Parcells’ career record was 183-138-1 and he won Coach of the Year honors in 1986 and 1994. He asked to have his bust placed somewhere near Lawrence Taylor in the hall “so I can keep an eye on that sucker.”
As relaxed as if he had no one to block, Ogden became the first Baltimore Raven enshrined in the hall. Ogden was the leadoff inductee in his seven-member class, just as he was the first player drafted by the Ravens after the franchise moved from Cleveland in 1996 and was renamed. The man who made that selection, fellow Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome, now Baltimore’s general manager, presented the massive offensive tackle.
“He is part of the foundation of this franchise, part of the reason we have two Super Bowl championships,” Newsome said.
Allen, who sniffled his way through his speech, was just as dominating a blocker as Ogden. He also was, he said, NFL’s strongest man, once bench-pressing 700 pounds, and saying “I did it naturally.”
Sapp became only the second Tampa Bay Buccaneer to be enshrined, 18 years after Lee Roy Selmon made it. He was elected in his first year of eligibility following 13 seasons in which he went from instant starter after being selected 12th overall in the 1995 draft to Defensive Player of the Year in 1999. That season, he had 12 1/2 sacks as the Bucs won their first division title in 18 years. For his career, Sapp had 96 1/2 sacks, extremely high for a defensive tackle.