Not Just a Lone Star State
By Kyle McKanna
Texas outdid its nickname on August 4, 2007 at the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions in Canton, Ohio. The state had three stars; Houston native Thurman Thomas, Oilers/Titan great Bruce Matthews, and Cowboys “Playmaker” Michael Irvin, received football’s highest honor, forever claiming their spot among the game’s legends.
Thurman Thomas played high school football at Sugar Land Willowridge HS, a career that earned him a spot in the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame. After high school he headed north to Oklahoma State and was later drafted by the Buffalo Bills. Thomas spent the bulk of his career with Buffalo, and is currently the team record holder for rushing yards and yards from scrimmage. Thomas is the only player in history to lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage four years in a row. He also joined greats Marshall Faulk, Walter Payton, Marcus Allen, and Tiki Barber as the only players to amass 400 catches and 10,000 yards rushing in a career. Thomas’ Bills were an NFL powerhouse in the early ‘90’s and won four straight AFC Championships, though they never achieved a win in the Super Bowl. Salary cap issues in Buffalo allowed the Miami Dolphins to sign Thomas, but after sustaining a knee injury during the 2000 season Thomas signed a one day contract with Buffalo and announced his retirement the way he should have, as a winner, as a legend, and as a Buffalo Bill.
Bruce Matthews became the 5th member of the 1983 NFL draft to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and it is hard to argue that he isn’t the best of the group. As a lineman, Matthews made 14 consecutive pro-bowls for the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans organization. Matthews made his name by being durable and versatile. He holds NFL records for games (296) and seasons (19) played for a lineman and started at least 17 games at every lineman position (center, guard, tackle). Matthews was a first ballot Hall of Famer, an honor rarely bestowed on linemen who, aside from the occasional called back touchdown, seem to never receive any recognition. However, a career like Matthews’ forced the voters to recognize the unrecognizable, and now his name is forever enshrined in Canton.
Michael Irvin, the standout receiver that helped the Dallas Cowboys win three Super Bowls, was also honored this past weekend. Irvin put himself on the map while playing for Jimmy Johnson at the University of Miami, and intrigued a man by the name of Tom Landry enough that he drafted Irvin in 1988. Irvin eventually became the last Landry coached player to retire from the NFL. Irvin’s career stats include 750 receptions, 11,904 receiving yards, and is 3rd all time with 47 100-yard receiving games. To go along with his three Super Bowls, Irvin was also selected to the Pro-Bowl 5 times, and won the Pro Bowl MVP in 1992. Irvin is 2nd all time in postseason 100-yard receiving games, yards (1,315), and receptions (87). Irvin’s on the field prowess was sometimes overshadowed by his off-field allegations. However, like a true Hall of Famer, Irvin continued to work hard in the midst of these trying times and continued to succeed in the NFL. Irvin was forced to an early retirement after a spinal cord injury he suffered in Philadelphia in 1999, but continues to contribute to the league by being an analyst on ESPN. Irvin’s induction speech was very emotional, and as the teary-eyed star stood before the crowd and wept it became apparent what an honor like this meant to him. For the “Playmaker”, you can’t imagine it being much better.
In every sport there are stars that enthrall the world with their athleticism, dedication, and heart. It is these stars that make sports what they are. Three stars of Texas football shined bright at the enshrinement ceremony in Canton this past weekend and received the honor they deserved. They are, now and forever, Hall of Famers.