Some former NFL players believe they should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while others — a precious few — demand to know why they aren’t inducted.
And then there’s former Houston Oilers’ linebacker Robert Brazile.
The only all-decade linebacker from the 1970s not in Canton, Brazile has the credentials to be in the Hall. In a 10-year career, he was chosen to the Pro Bowl seven times, named to the All-Pro team six times (including five first-team choices), honored as the NFL’s 1975 Rookie of the Year and given one of the most memorable nicknames in NFL history.
So he has a case. But listen to Robert Brazile on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, and he neither complains that he’s not enshrined in Canton nor pushes his candidacy on voters who overlooked him the past 27 years.
“I don’t think I’ve been overlooked,” he said. “I really believe you all (voters) have got one of the … I couldn’t have you all’s job to decide to pick and choose who goes in and who’s not. You’ve got so many great athletes who are out there. You talk linebackers … you’re talking back from my era to today’s date. I don’t know what you all (are) going to do in the future when you put somebody in from the linebacker position.
“I thought that I was very versatile at the linebacker position. A lot of people don’t understand this, but from the weakside linebacker I almost led the team every year in tackles. So I played the run defense as well as I did in pass coverage.
“I had to cover Walter Payton, Tony Dorsett or Mike Pruitt. That’s a helluva job to do. But that was one of the qualities that Bum (former Houston coach Bum Phillips) saw in me, and he put me at that position where we had to float … and do those types of things for his 3-4 defense. I mean, we just shut down people. My thing on defense was to play the run first and the pass second.”
Houston excelled with Brazile anchoring a lockdown 3-4 defense that, along with star running back Earl Campbell, put the Oilers in back-to-back AFC championship games. But he’s never been a Hall-of-Fame finalist or semifinalist and is now one of dozens of qualified candidates awaiting selection by the Hall’s senior committee.
“Do you think you should belong in the Hall?” he was asked.
“I want to be in the Hall,” he said. “I feel like I’m already in the Hall. You know, it’s not up to me. Yes, I want to be in the Hall. I’d be foolish to sit here and say, ‘Nah, I don’t want to be in the Hall.’ I would love to be in the Hall. It would make Robert Brazile so happy to be in the Hall of Fame. I want the Hall of Fame.”
With the senior committee endorsing two candidates this summer, maybe, just maybe, Robert Brazile gets his wish. Though he wouldn’t say it, we would: It’s not only time his case is heard; it’s well past it.
“I have both parents living,” he said, shortly before signing off, “and one day I would love to bring them to Canton along with me.”