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Bethea waited long time for call from HOF

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 Sunday Conversation
Marcus Allen looks back at his Hall of Fame career.
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Friday, August 1
Updated: August 2, 7:44 PM ET
Dedication and longevity highlight Hall class
By John Clayton
ESPN.com

The Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2003 may not be the flashiest, but the five inductees are a tribute to dedication and longevity.

Look at halfback Marcus Allen, who heads the class in terms of notoriety. With the Raiders, he was great back even though he wasn't the fastest or most elusive. Everyone remembers his 74-yard touchdown run against the Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII leading the Raiders to a 38-9 victory. It's still the longest TD run in Super Bowl history and propelled him to a 191-yard game and Super Bowl MVP honors.

Marcus Allen
Marcus Allen played the final five seasons of his career with the Chiefs.
They also remember how exceptional he was at scoring touchdowns. Allen found the end zone 145 times in his career, placing him third in all-time touchdowns.

But what was amazing is how he bounced back from the way his time with the Raiders ended. Raiders boss Al Davis fell in love with Bo Jackson and at the same time seemed to sour on Allen. At times, Allen ended up as a backup halfback and fulltime fullback. He blocked for Jackson and scored some touchdowns.

After 11 seasons with the Raiders, Allen went to Kansas City and re-established himself among the elite backs in the NFL. In five seasons in Kansas City, Allen rushed for 3,698 yards and regained his nose for the end zone, scoring 47 touchdowns.

He finished his career with 12,243 yards rushing, 5,411 yards receiving.

While Allen was one of the best running backs of his era, he'll be joined in Canton by one of the best wide receivers of the same era -- James Lofton. Lofton had the perfect body for a wide receiver. He had sprinter speed and long-jump leaping ability. Starting his career in Green Bay, Lofton faced double coverage but was also one of the game's best deep threats.

In nine seasons with the Packers, Lofton caught 530 passes for 9,656 yards. Following his tenure in Green Bay, Lofton made stops with the Raiders and Bills, before splitting time in his final season with the Eagles and Rams. In his four seasons in Buffalo, the Bills appeared in three Super Bowls.

While the bulk of his career was spent with the Packers, it was his longevity (16 seasons) that turned a Hall of Fame body into a Hall of Fame inductee.

He went to eight Pro Bowls and caught 764 passes. More importantly, he was still a valuable third receiver after 16 seasons.

Former Bills guard Joe DeLamielleure made the all-decade team in 1970, but sometimes that's a curse. People seem to forget about that 1970s greatness 30 years later, and DeLamielleure was clearly a talented guard who slipped through the cracks among voters.

Like former Oilers defensive end Elvin Bethea, DeLamielleure had a resurgence among voters because he was possibly heading into the void of being a Seniors candidate. DeLamielleure was part of the Electric Company that led the way for O.J. Simpson. He went to eight Pro Bowls.

Bethea, meanwhile, shed a lot of tears during his football career. He was a dominating defensive end in the Oilers 3-4 scheme. He banged against bigger bodies and while it wasn't an official statistic, Bethea finished with 105 career sacks. That's a lot when you consider he was going against a tackle and maybe a tight end.

Where the tears came in was his postseason losses to Pittsburgh that prevented the Oilers from going to the Super Bowl. Bum Phillips used to say that the Oilers kept knocking on the door, but needed to kick it down.

Bethea didn't kick down the Super Bowl door, but he enters the Hall of Fame with open arms.

While Allen, Lofton, DeLamielleure and Bethea excelled on the field, Hank Stram was an innovator along the sideline. He was ahead of his time with offensive formations with the Chiefs and Saints. He tried little backs. He tried many backs. He moved his quarterback around.

A younger generation knows him for his analysis of games on radio and television and his ability to anticipate play calls. The NFL remembers him for his brilliance on the sidelines.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com