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Steelers Webster's induction ceremony kept light by snappy Bradshaw

Sunday, July 27, 1997

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Mike Webster went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame yesterday in much the same way he performed for 15 seasons with the Steelers.

Terry Bradshaw takes one last snap from center Mike Webster at the Hall of Fame ceremonies. (AP Photo)

OK, his sleeves weren't rolled up to show off those bulging biceps. But his tie was off, his jacket was discarded and he even snapped a football to his old quarterback, Terry Bradshaw.

Not exactly traditional Hall of Fame protocol on the steps of pro football's hallowed shrine. But, perhaps, the perfect format for Webster, 45, the former Steelers center who played in more Pro Bowls, nine, than any offensive lineman in National Football League history.

Webster became the 14th Steelers player - three other non-players are in - to be inducted into the Hall of Fame yesterday when he was enshrined along with Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history; cornerback Mike Haynes, who played seven seasons each with the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Raiders; and New York Giants owner Wellington Mara, who joins his father, Tim.

But, at a time when he is being celebrated for a playing career than spanned 17 seasons, Webster has been beset by personal and financial problems that include a separation from his wife, Pam, and treatment for depression.

"It's important for each and everyone of us to realize we have talents," Webster said during a speech that lasted 21 minutes - 13 more than the recommended limit.

"Do not be afraid to fail. You're going to fail, believe me. No one's keeping score. All we have to do is finish the game. Then we'll all be winners."

Bradshaw was the star of yesterday's induction ceremony, delivering a presentation speech that incited the throng of Steelers fans and had many of the past Hall of Fame inductees roaring with delight.

"I think Terry really set a real good tone for Mike, especially in light of things the last few weeks," said former teammate and Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris.

The former Steelers quarterback, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989, told of a dream he had as a kid in which he wanted to play on a championship team.

He detailed how he kept asking the dream, "I've got to have someone wearing No. 88 to go up and catch the ball . . . Give me a left guard to trap, trap, trap, and he gave me Sam Davis . . . They gave me a left tackle who also likes horses and his name was Jon `Cowboy' Kolb . . . Give me a fullback out of Penn State, and if he's gonna be a great one he's got to have a nickname - `The Italian Stallion.' . . . Give me a tackle who will spit on a reporter and he got a nickname for that, and it's Mean Joe Greene."

Bradshaw kept this up, gesturing and gyrating like a televangelist, until he said, "What good is a machine if you ain't got a center?" Then he added, "And, oh, did I get a center. I just didn't get any center. I got the best to ever play the game, to ever put his hands on a football. And I said `Make sure he ain't as pretty as me,' and he ain't."

And when he was done, Bradshaw pulled a football from underneath the podium and fulfilled his wish from his acceptance speech in 1989, when he said, "Oh, what I would give to put my hands under Mike Webster's butt one more time." So he did, and the place went berserk.

"Giving Bradshaw a forum and a microphone," Webster said, "is like giving Visine to a peeping Tom."

Haynes, 44, played 14 seasons in the NFL, the last seven with the Raiders, but he might be best remembered for suing the league when former commissioner Pete Rozelle voided his trade to the Raiders from the Patriots in 1983, saying it occurred after the trading deadline.

Haynes had 46 interceptions, but only 18 in seven seasons with the Raiders. Still, it was that Raiders mystique that Haynes said he will always remember and embrace.

"I feel more like a Raider," Haynes said. "Maybe because I ended there. If I had to make a choice, I'd say I'm a Raider, but since I don't, I won't."

Forgive Mara, 80, if he had a sense of deja vu yesterday. In 1977, he presented his former Giants running back, Frank Gifford, when Gifford was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Twenty years later, Mara and Gifford were riding in the same car again during the Hall of Fame parade yesterday. "We just switched sides of the car," Mara said.

During his presentation speech, Gifford called Mara "the most honest, decent person I've ever met."

Noting that Mara has 11 sons and daughters and 30 grandchildren, Gifford smiled and said, "That represents a lot of off-seasons."

Mara's greatest moment: The Giants' NFC championship game victory against the Washington Redskins in 1986, which sent New York to the Super Bowl.

"We hadn't done anything good in a long time. That was when Jim Burt climbed into the stands," Mara said of the former nose tackle. "I really would have liked to do the same thing."

Shula, the winningest coach in the history of the NFL with 328 victories, was presented by his sons - former Cincinnati Bengals coach Dave Shula, who is now working with his father handling their six steakhouses, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Shula.

It was the first time in the history of the induction ceremonies that someone had two presenters.

"Being better than everyone is all he ever thought about," Mike Shula said. "Excellence was expected."

Shula coached 33 years in the NFL - 26 with the Dolphins - and won back-to-back Super Bowls in Miami with the 17-0 team in 1972 and the 15-2 squad in 1973.

He had the largest contingent of family and friends yesterday - 350, a Hall of Fame record - mainly because he was born in Grand River, Ohio, grew up in Painesville, Ohio, and attended John Carroll University outside Cleveland.

He even played two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, 1951-52, before becoming a head coach with the Baltimore Colts in 1963 at age 33.

"It's 50 miles from Grand River to Canton," Shula said, "but it took me 67 years to get here. And I get eight minutes to talk about it."

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