Aikman, Smith believe Irvin deserves to be in Hall

DETROIT -- Emmitt Smith believes Hall of Fame voters are
holding Michael Irvin's personal problems against him.

And he's incensed by it.

Smith, the NFL's career rushing leader and eligible for the Hall
in four more years, campaigned vigorously Friday for his former
Dallas Cowboys teammate.

Irvin, who works as a football analyst for ESPN, is on the ballot for the second time, and election results
will be announced Saturday. Smith senses the wide receiver didn't
get in last year because of Irvin's off-field trouble.

"But you're going to try to bring this personal side of it?"
Smith said. "This is what he's done off the field -- what has that
got to do with what he's done on the football field?"

Pounding his finger on a table and emphasizing every single
word, Smith made his point.

"This is the Pro Football Hall of Fame, not the Life Hall of
Fame. His stats are what they are. They are not going to change."

"There should be a set criteria in terms of understanding …
what it takes to get to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If you're an
athlete and you've got credentials like Michael Irvin -- Pro Bowls,
records, Super Bowls, all those things -- if you stack up against
that, whoever the panel is, somebody needs to sign off on it."

Irvin was arrested in November for an outstanding warrant on an
unpaid speeding ticket, then charged with misdemeanor possession of
drug paraphernalia after police searched his car.

In 1996, Irvin pleaded no contest to felony cocaine possession
in exchange for four years of deferred probation, a $10,000 fine
and dismissal of misdemeanor marijuana possession charges. He also
was arrested on drug possession charges in 2000, but they were
later dropped.

Irvin is one of 15 finalists for Saturday's election. Also on
the ballot is the other member of the Cowboys' Triplets,
quarterback Troy Aikman, in his first year of eligibility.

The late Reggie White, Warren Moon and Thurman Thomas also are
eligible for the first time.

Other finalists are Harry Carson, L.C. Greenwood, Russ Grimm,
Claude Humphrey, Bob Kuechenberg, Art Monk, Derrick Thomas and Gary
Zimmerman. John Madden and Rayfield Wright are senior candidates.

Three to six of the finalists will be selected for the class of
2006 and will be inducted in Canton, Ohio, on the weekend of Aug.

A 39-member panel will vote on the finalists. A candidate must
get 80 percent of the vote to be elected. If fewer than three get
80 percent, the candidate with the next highest percentage will be

Smith, who should be a slam-dunk for enshrinement when eligible,
doesn't like the secrecy of the voting.

"If you're going to sit there behind closed doors and not show
your face and not tell people who you voted for, shame on you," he
said. "Shame on you for a lot of reasons, because No. 1 if you're
man or woman enough to make a vote against a person, you should be
man or woman enough to tell someone why you did it. That's the part
for me that's totally disappointing.

"A player should be honored to be here. And when you start
seeing stuff like this, what honor is there? Some people get
snubbed because of what? Nobody knows. Everybody's behind closed
doors still making their vote. Still walking up to the player's
face and smiling in their face and talking behind their back at the
same time, that's not cool."

Last year, Aikman campaigned for Irvin, who set a record with 11
100-yard receiving games in 1995, when the Triplets won their third
Super Bowl. He finished his career with 750 receptions for 11,904
yards and 65 touchdowns.

"If we went in together it would mean a lot," Aikman said.
"I'm biased. If there was ever a receiver that had a Hall of Fame
career, in my opinion it's Michael Irvin."

This year, Aikman and White appear the front-runners for

"I played it to win championships and win as many games as I
could," Aikman said. "I feel like I did it as well as anybody
that's played the game. I'm happy that we won three world

White, who suffered from sleep apnea and sarcoidosis, died Dec.
26, 2004, at age 43. Considered one of the great defensive ends of
his era, he was the career sacks leader with 198 when he retired.

White also was the first major free agent to sign with the
Packers, in 1993. That helped turn the storied franchise back into
winners, and he won the 1997 Super Bowl with Green Bay.

Moon could become the first black quarterback in the hall.

"It would solidify everything that's been talked about the
position back in the '60s and '70s, when blacks first wanted to
play that position," said Moon, who played for Houston, Minnesota,
Seattle and Kansas City in the NFL after starring in the CFL.

"All the stereotypes that were out there -- that we couldn't
lead, that we couldn't think, that we couldn't throw the football --
all the different things that were talked about us … if you can
get into this elite group as the best ever who played the game at
quarterback, then those questions can all be answered."