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AUDIO/VIDEO
Video
 NFL 2Night
Fresh off his election into the NFL Hall of Fame, Jack Youngblood sits down with Chris Berman and Tom Jackson.


 The class of 2001
This year's crop of NFL Hall of Famers sounds off on their elections.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Wait over for Hall-bound Youngblood
By Wayne Drehs
ESPN.com


TAMPA, Fla. -- Next to the podium where minutes earlier Jack Youngblood and six others were announced as inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a young boy stood in a plain, white t-shirt.

In one arm he cupped an all-white leather football and in the other hand, he squeezed tightly to a black Sharpie pen.

Youngblood, in his 13th year of eligibility for induction to the Hall, spotted the boy and offered an autograph. On the sweet spot of the shiny football he signed "Jack Youngblood, H.O.F. '01"

A proud smile crept across Youngblood's face.

Sat., Jan. 27
Jack Youngblood was a spectacular player in big games. And I don't care what anyone says: he didn't weigh a pound over 230. Which is probably the size of Daunte Culpepper's caddy. It's amazing Youngblood was able to do what he did. Youngblood was extremely quick, had underrated strength, and he got great leverage against the tackles.

Growing up in Southern California as a football fan, I'd love to watch Youngblood play. His tan arms hanging out of his sleeveless jersey, he'd put those pipes on the ground, and even at 230 pounds -- probably less after training camp--he would show great moves and natural strength for an undersized player. Very few guys played with a bigger heart and more guts than Youngblood. The Rams would tape him up and send him back on the field. And he's handled himself with grace while waiting to be elected to the Hall. Youngblood combined with fellow inductee Ron Yary is one heck of a matchup.

"I've thought of this moment for several years and dreamed of what it would be like," Youngblood said. "And, 'Wow,' is the first reaction that comes out. It's the epitome. I am truly humbled to be a part of all this."

Youngblood, a defensive end for the Los Angeles Rams from 1971 to 1984, missed only one game during his career, playing in a Rams' record 201 consecutive games. He was a five-time All-Pro selection and earned All-NFC recognition seven times. From 1973 to '79, he played in seven straight Pro Bowls.

During his tenure, the Rams played in five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl, losing 31-19 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIV.

In that Super Bowl loss, Youngblood, notorious for his rugged style and dogged determination, played with a fractured left fibula, suffered in a first-round playoff victory. His leg fitted with a special plastic brace, Youngblood still recorded one tackle, two assists and one pass defended.

Along with Jackie Slater, a fellow 2001 inductee and former Rams teammate, Youngblood becomes the 12th member of the Rams' franchise elected to the Hall of Fame. He's the ninth defensive end in the modern era to earn the honor.

"I'd been through all this before, so I didn't prepare much to say," Youngblood said, "other than to assure everyone how genuinely honored I feel to be a part of this group."

Youngblood, selected as the 20th player overall in the first round of the 1971 draft, made his dominating presence felt almost immediately upon arrival to Los Angeles. He performed so well as a backup to All-Pro Deacon Jones that first season, that the Rams traded Jones prior to the 1972 season.

Youngblood didn't disappoint, leading the Rams in sacks from 1980 to 1984, including 10½ sacks in 1983.

Former Vikings tackle Ron Yary, another 2001 inductee, often drew the daunting task of having to block the vicious Youngblood. When asked Saturday about their battles, Youngblood joked, "I don't think he blocked me at all."

Yary said it wasn't that far from the truth.

"In my opinion, he's one of the top four defensive linemen of all time," Yary said. "There wasn't anybody who was tougher to block than Jack."

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com.





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