Sports News

Tearful Irvin leads class of 2007 into Hall of Fame

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Controversial Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin’s emotional 25-minute speech capped the induction of six former greats who entered the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on Saturday.

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Running back Thurman Thomas (Buffalo Bills), tight end Charlie Sanders (Detroit Lions), offensive linemen Bruce Matthews (Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans) and Gene Hickerson (Cleveland Browns), and safety Roger Wehrli (St Louis Cardinals) were also officially elected into the Hall along with Irvin.

Irvin’s address included several references to his problems off the field. At one point, he told his two sons to “be a better role model than Dad”.

By the end of the unscripted speech, Irvin, whose off-field woes and police arrests overshadowed much of what he did as a player, had tears streaming down his cheeks.

Talking about his Dallas teams that won three Super Bowls in a span of four years from 1992, Irvin said: “We did it with guys we love to play with and guys that we love.”

Quarterback Troy Aikman, inducted last year, was seated behind him, while running back Emmitt Smith, a future Hall of Famer, was among many Cowboys in the audience.

Irvin played from 1988-99 and was selected to five straight Pro Bowls.

He was presented by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who called Irvin: “The heartbeat, the heart and the soul of those championship teams.”

Thomas, the Most Valuable Player in the league in 1991, gained 16,532 all-purpose yards.

Sanders went to seven Pro Bowls, Matthews appeared in a record-tying 14 straight Pro Bowls and Hickerson was the lead blocker for Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly and Bobby Mitchell.

Wehrli was a member of the All-Decade Team of the 1970s.

Writing by Mike Shalin in Boston