DALLAS -- Saturday was old hat for Richard Dent. For six of the past seven years, he sat idle while the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee passed on his candidacy. He passed through the expected phases of disappointment: From anger to frustration to confusion to tranquility.
It seemed hard to believe that any man of Dent's generational impact would be excluded indefinitely from the game's highest individual honor. So Dent jetted off to Las Vegas for a weekend of golf. What the heck? If it happened this year, great. If not, well, Vegas is nice this time of year.
Dent's patience was rewarded Saturday when he finally received his invitation. Coincidentally, it came 25 years after he was named the MVP of Super Bowl XX.
"I'm just so thankful," Dent said. "My daughter Mary called me and everything was happening just at that time, and I kind of went into tears. ... It's very appreciated and I'm very happy. It's been a long time coming."
Indeed, Dent was one of the most dangerous pass rushers of his era, beginning with the Chicago Bears in 1983 and finishing with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1997. He was part of two Super Bowl champions, retiring with the NFL's third-highest sack total (137.5) and the second-most forced fumbles by a defensive lineman (37) at the time.
Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who worked as part of the NFL Network crew that announced Saturday's elections, suggested Dent transformed the game as one of the first ultra-athletic defensive ends who were just as comfortable rushing the passer as they were reaching up for an interception or poking the ball loose from the quarterback.
"I got a sense of that from watching [former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor]," Dent said. "He was the only other guy that was quick enough that he could decide whether to hit the guy or take the ball from him. If you're in it for yourself, you just care about sacks. But I kind of thought like him, that taking the ball away was the best thing because it got you off the field and getting turnovers."
In his most memorable game, Dent forced two fumbles and was credited with 1.5 sacks in the Bears' 46-10 Super Bowl XX victory over the New England Patriots. He is one of three defensive linemen in history to win MVP honors in the Super Bowl.
"You can get sacks," he said, "but if you want to take your game to the next level, it's all about turnovers."
Hall voters first tapped several other pass rushers from Dent's era, including Fred Dean, Bruce Smith and John Randle. The voting committee works in mysterious ways, but there was little doubt it would eventually happen for Dent. This was his year.
Note: Dent is the 27th Bears players to be elected to the Hall of Fame, the highest number among NFL franchises.