By Randy York
Anyone who’s been involved with sports anywhere knows that there is no such thing as a sure thing, but I have one possible exception. When I learned this afternoon that former Husker center Mick Tingelhoff is the single “senior” candidate to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the day before the next Super Bowl, I can’t help going out on a limb. Tingelhoff is as good as gold. He’s solid as a rock and fits any other idiomatic expression you might have in mind. In fact, I am so certain that Tingelhoff will become Nebraska’s fourth player enshrined in the NFL’s hallowed hall, I will give up a month of Training Table lunches for Lent next year if he isn’t.
The NFL has a great system to honor the best. It announces 15 modern-day players as Hall-of-Fame finalists every year. The day before each Super Bowl, the five highest vote-getters from 48 voters are elected to be inducted. The “senior status” Tingelhoff has earned is much simpler and infinitely more predictable. His entry into the Hall of Fame requires 80 percent approval from the same 48 voters. The best news is Tingelhoff is the only senior candidate up for vote this year, making him almost as automatic as a door lock.
Mick Tingelhoff and Jim Marshall were longtime Minnesota Viking teammates.
What Are the Chances of Two Husker Inductees?
The interesting twist to Wednesday’s announcement is Husker fans having a rare opportunity to hit the daily double with – 1) Tingelhoff a likely shoo-in; and 2) legendary College Football Hall-of-Fame offensive guard Will Shields can somehow move on up in into the top five after being one of the 15 modern-day finalists three times. What a day it would be if two of Nebraska’s greatest-ever offensive linemen could join former Huskers Guy Chamberlin, Roy “Link” Lyman and Bob Brown in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, at the same time.
So circle Jan. 31, 2015 on your calendars – the day voting in Arizona will be conducted to finalize the five honorees from the yet-to-be-named 15 candidates. The HOF Committee also will select two “contributor finalists” to complete the 2015 Hall-of-Fame Class prior to Super Bowl XLIX. We are finally deep enough into this blog for me to acknowledge why I am so certain that Tingelhoff is on the front step waiting for the Committee to open the door and let him in.
First, read this detailed document on the Hall-of-Fame’s official website, so you can understand how the selection process for a senior nominee differs from the “normal” selection process.
Peter King Presents a Powerful, Prevailing Point
Secondly, I invite any possible doubters to read this quote from Peter King, perhaps pro football’s most respected writer, who says: “Think of Tingelhoff’s greatest accomplishment: For the last 358 games of his 17-year career – 99 preseason games, 240 regular-season games, 19 postseason games – Tingelhoff started. He failed to start only once – the first exhibition game of his career for the Vikings in 1962. Amazing. He dressed for 359 games in 17 years, and started the last 358. “He never missed a practice either,’’ his onetime quarterback, Fran Tarkenton, said. He made first-team All-Pro seven times; no NFL center was voted first-team All- Pro more times. Back when the Pro Bowl meant something, a back playing behind Tingelhoff made the Pro Bowl 13 times.”
And here’s the real kicker. Chris Tomasson, who writes for the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn., said: “Missing in Peter King’s well-argued case is the fact that none of those backs that made the Pro Bowl behind Tingelhoff’s blocking were considered Hall of Fame-caliber players.”
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