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Friday, Oct 31, 2014
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tingelhoff’s time draws closer

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— The Senior Committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame has done its homework once again.

By selecting former Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff as the lone senior candidate for the Class of 2015, the committee has struck a blow for consistency and durability. For 17 seasons as the anchor of Minnesota’s offensive line, Tingelhoff never missed a single practice or game as the Vikings reeled off 10 division titles within an 11-year span.

Four times, the Vikings reached the Super Bowl, losing to the Chiefs, Dolphins, Steelers and Raiders.

Those setbacks might have stuck in the minds of voters when it came to evaluating Tingelhoff during the 25 years he was eligible for the Hall as a modern-day nominee, beginning in 1984.

If those Super Bowl losses hurt Tingelhoff’s chances, shame on the Selection Committee.

Kansas City, Miami, Pittsburgh and Oakland boasted superior teams in those particular seasons. What shouldn’t be forgotten is Tingelhoff’s contributions for a franchise that captured one NFL (pre-merger) and three NFC championships.

There is only one senior candidate for the 2015 class because of a new rule just instituted by the Hall of Fame. In an effort to usher in some worthy nominees, contributors will now be voted on in a separate category, just like seniors.

In 2015, there will be two contributor candidates and one in the senior class. Those numbers will be reversed in 2016.

“It feels great,’’ said the 74-year-old Tingelhoff when informed of his nomination. “I thought maybe history forgot me.’’

Fortunately, the Senior Committee did not.

Somehow, Tingelhoff fell through the Hall of Fame cracks for three decades before being recognized as a 237-pound pillar on Bud Grant’s NFC powerhouse, a group that includes Hall of Famers Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Carl Eller, Paul Krause and Ron Yary.

Tingelhoff needs to receive at least 80 percent of the votes to enter Canton next summer and it’s rare for senior candidates to be rejected because they aren’t competing for a spot against modern-era players.

Going forward, the Senior Committee should have little problem pinpointing other players who have been overlooked.

As Tampa Bay’s representative on the Hall of Fame Selection Committee for the past decade, I routinely get letters from fans advocating a particular candidate. Jerry Kramer’s supporters are especially passionate and persistent.

Kramer is still waiting for his day in Canton, despite leading the famous Green Bay power sweep from his right guard position. He was also named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team, co-authored the classic book “Instant Replay,’’ and threw the block that leveled Jethro Pugh in the final seconds of the “Ice Bowl’’ as the 1967 Packers rallied past Dallas at frozen Lambeau Field.

Who else?

Don’t forget about Denver middle linebacker Randy Gradishar, the 1978 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and leader of the “Orange Crush.’’

Hard-hitting linebacker Tommy Nobis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1966 draft, played for some bad Atlanta teams but he always demanded the full attention of opposing offenses. Cornerback Bobby Boyd registered 57 interceptions in his nine-year career with the Colts and Dallas wide receiver Drew Pearson made more than his share of clutch catches from Roger Staubach.

Defensive tackle Alex Karras was a disruptive defensive tackle with the Lions for 12 years before an acting career that included playing Mongo in “Blazing Saddles.’’ Like Nobis, Karras wasn’t fortunate enough to be surrounded by much talent. Fittingly, in Karras’ final game, the 1970 Lions dropped a 5-0 decision to the Cowboys in the only postseason game Karras ever experienced.

ikaufman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7833

Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO

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