Richard Dent elected to Hall of Fame

DALLAS -- The wait is over for Richard Dent.

After being denied by the 44-member selection board six times in the last seven years, the former Chicago Bears defensive end was finally elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

"It feels great," Dent said. "I'm very appreciative and very happy. It was a long time coming."

At the time of his retirement (following the 1997 season), Dent's 137.5 career sack total was third behind Hall of Famers Reggie White and Bruce Smith. The Super Bowl XX MVP was selected to play in four Pro Bowls (1985, 1986, 1991 and 1994), while being named to the NFL's All-Pro teams four times.

Originally selected by the Bears in the eighth round (No. 203 overall) of the 1983 draft out of Tennessee State, Dent made eight interceptions and recorded 10 or more sacks eight times, including a stretch of five consecutive seasons from 1984-1988.

"When you start a career, you never think about the Hall of Fame. In my life, I've had a lot of dreams to do all the things in football -- win championships, Super Bowls, lead the league [in sacks] -- but you never think of the Hall of Fame thing. Watching a guy like Walter Payton for many years, he would always say, 'Don't do what I say, do what I do.' If you can do your thing the way he did his, there is a possibility you could be in the Hall of Fame. I'm so thankful to look at a guy like him, and many other guys I played with."

Dent, the 27th Bears player to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- the highest total of any NFL franchise, helped set a new standard at his position.

"I got a sense of it [that I was transforming the game from defensive end] watching LT [Lawrence Taylor] go at it. He was the only guy I thought that was getting there quick enough where you could make a decision whether to hit a guy or take the ball from him," said Dent. "You can be selfish and be out there just to get sacks, but I kind of thought like [Taylor], 'Let's take it to the next level and try to get the ball out.' That way you're off the field. The name of the game is turnovers. A sack is, I wouldn't say boring, but if you want to take a game to the next level it's all about turnovers."

Dent had 1.5 sacks, three tackles, two forced fumbles and one pass defense in the Bears' 46-10 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. Leading up to the Super Bowl, he registered 3.5 sacks in the Bears' NFC Divisional playoff win against the New York Giants at Soldier Field.

He played on seven division championship teams and won two Super Bowl rings (XX, XXIX). In addition to the Bears, Dent spent time with the San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles.

The Hall of Fame class of 2011 includes: Dent, Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe and Ed Sabol.

Chris Hanburger and Les Richter went in as veterans.

Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.