Richard Dent on HOF: 'I was patient'

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Gratitude continued to flow from the podium at Halas Hall on Wednesday long after the press conference had come to an end.

Surely, reporters could wait for him to finish that extra few minutes. Richard Dent, a former Chicago Bears defensive end, earned them having gone through the Hall of Fame voting process nine times, including seven of the past eight years as a finalist, before finally gaining entrance.

"It took a little bit of time, but I was patient," Dent said. "It's a relief because it's been some time. I've always felt that you can't take a star from the sky. It can be cloudy, but sooner or later he has to shine. I guess this is my shining time."

The team's all-time leader in sacks and MVP of Super Bowl XX, Dent will become the franchise's 27th player -- the most in NFL history -- to enter the Hall of Fame when he is inducted on Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio. He will join Walter Payton, Mike Singletary and Dan Hampton as inductees from the 1985 championship team.

Dent made it a point to praise friends, family members, former teammates and coaches: "All the people that supported [me] and helped [me] be the best that [I] could be."

"The teammates that I played with in Chicago, week in and week out, we bragged, we were hard on each other, and I truly feel that a team that competes with one another never loses," Dent said. "Being able to come to Chicago and practice and play against a guy like [former offensive tackle] Jimbo Covert. ... Jimbo made my game easy. I knew that I wasn't gonna face a guy better than him in the National Football League. I appreciate him so much [along with former defensive tackles] Steve McMichael, Jim Osborne, William Perry, Dan Hampton, [linebackers] Otis [Wilson], Wilber [Marshall], [Mike] Singletary, [safety Gary] Fencik, [cornerback Mike] Richardson, [defensive end] Tyrone Keys, who probably was my closest friend here.

"There's so many great memories and people that I love and cherished to play with. You can never get here by yourself. You can only get here with the people who gave you the opportunity to do what you do best once you earn that opportunity."

Dent still hasn't made a decision about his presenter for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony but sounded as if he's leaning toward his former college coach at Tennessee State, Joe Gilliam Sr.

"It's probably going to be [Gilliam], but I have to figure out something for my daughter [Mary, who delivered the news to the former defensive end last week about him finally making the Hall]," Dent said.

Having produced eight double-digit sack seasons over a 15-year career, in addition to forcing 33 fumbles and picking off eight passes, Dent said he never held any ill will toward the Hall of Fame selection committee for passing on him for induction over the years.

Dent said the fans kept him "fulfilled" despite induction seemingly always eluding him.

The 2011 Hall of Fame class includes linebackers Chris Hanburger and Les Richter, and Ed Sabol, the creator of NFL Films, in addition to cornerback Deion Sanders, tight end Shannon Sharpe and running back Marshall Faulk.

"I didn't understand the process. I was patient; didn't care to call anybody out," Dent said. "I didn't really know what the hang-up was. I felt I was one of the guys who made a change in the game in pass rushing and taking the ball from the quarterback. The average citizens out in Chicago, anywhere it may be told me, 'Just wait, your day is gonna come.' My day has come."

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.