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David Aldridge
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David Aldridge

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Dominant Dermontti

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A lot of people will argue for Bob Hayes or Jim Marshall, and I would have no quarrel with either. But there are plenty of wide receivers in the Hall already (and, given the explosion in passing stats over the last 15 years, more are on the way), and it's hard to believe Marshall will be out much longer.

I pick Dermontti Dawson, the Steelers' seven-time Pro Bowl center.

Sports Illustrated's long-time pro football writer, Paul Zimmerman -- "Dr. Z" to the kids -- often laments the lack of interest in stellar line play, and the lack of linemen in the Hall (there are only 33 offensive linemen, including five full-time centers, in Canton from the modern, post-1950 NFL era; by contrast, there are 23 modern-era quarterbacks enshrined, even though five times as many linemen, obviously, have played compared with QBs). Dawson, who was a six-time first-NFL Associated Press selection and a member of the NFL's Team of the '90s, fits each of my criteria for any sports HOF.

First, did he/she dominate his/her era at their position or sport? See above.

Second, were they dependable and/or did they avoid injury? Part of being great is showing up every night or every week, playing through injuries, poor performance, bad teammates, etc. Dawson started every game in Pittsburgh for 10 years and only missed three starts during his 13-year NFL career before injuries finally caught up with him.

Third, did they change or innovate the position they played in a meaningful way? Point guard play in the NBA was different after Bob Cousy; heavyweight boxing was different after Ali. And so it was with Dawson. I am not in any way an NFL historian, but I covered the league while Dawson played, and personnel people marveled at one of his amazing talents: the Steelers frequently used him as a lead blocker on sweeps, a job normally reserved for the guards on either side of the center. Dawson was so agile and quick that he could snap the ball, deal with a noseguard or slanting tackle, and still be able to pull out and lead Steeler backs around end.

Maybe centers did it before. Maybe some have done it since. But nobody did it as well as Dawson.

By David Aldridge  |  October 30, 2008; 12:37 PM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I agree. Dawson was the dominant center of the decade and a huge advantage for the Steelers. He should unquestionably be in the Hall of Fame.

Posted by: Big Ben | October 30, 2008 3:32 PM

The fact is linemen, especially O-linemen, NEVER get the props they deserve. A journeyman RB who is lucky enough to play behind a great O-line can end up in Canton, but it never, ever works the other way around. Look at all the 1,000 yard rushers in Denver.

The same may even be more true in college. Colt McCoy is having a great season, but his o-line may be playing even better. Against OU there were plays were they pancaked four or five defenders. They give McCoy time to throw and when he scrambles they are great about getting downfield and blocking. And no, I'm not a UT fan. Frankly, I think burnt organge is UGLY, but I know good football when I see it.

And without a great o-line you can't win. Ask Archie Manning. Both his boys have had what he never had in his NFL career - blocking!

Posted by: BigHawg | October 31, 2008 3:02 AM

Agree. The Steelers only had two guys play at center for a bunch of years and Iron Mike is in the HOF. Dawson had a great teacher and it showed.

Posted by: delOH | October 31, 2008 8:11 AM

And before Webster, Mansfield was the center for 12 years. He played 182 consecutive games.

Posted by: TomfromNJ1 | October 31, 2008 9:12 AM

The only way O lineman get HOF notice is if they happen to be on a multi superbowl winning team with a great line so the line itself gets noticed. The raiders line comes to mind because they had several great linemen so Art Shell and Gene U got in. The Hogs are another example. Because of their name fame and multi championships they all got noticed. At the same time Mark Schlereth played on a SB line in Washington and Denver but it will take him more time because he is known in denver instead of being a HOG.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 31, 2008 1:20 PM

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