by Scott Benson
What a day today will be for Andre Tippett, his family and friends, and everyone associated with the New England Patriots.
The team’s all-time sack leader will become just the second career Patriot to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when ceremonies are held in Canton, Ohio later today (NFL Network and ESPN, 6:00 PM EST).
Legendary left guard John Hannah, who was named to the league’s All-Pro team ten times over his thirteen year career with New England, was inducted to the Hall in 1991.
Tippett will be presented for enshrinement by Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Often overshadowed by more heavily publicized contemporaries during his career, Tippett now gets his ultimate due. No less of an expert than coach Bill Belichick said this week that Tippett, along with Belichick favorite Lawrence Taylor, helped to redefine the outside linebacker position (and the 3-4 defense itself) during his twelve year career with the Patriots, which was highlighted by the team’s AFC Championship and Super Bowl appearance in 1985 and his five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances (1985-1989). He was later named as a member of the NFL’s all-decade team of the 80’s.
Happily, Tippett is still with the Patriots, serving in a variety of capacities since 1994. He is currently the team’s executive director of community affairs.
Today’s ceremonies will not only honor the career achievements of one of the game’s great players. They will also refocus the spotlight on a period of the team’s history that seems too often overlooked even by the most rabid of today’s Pats fans, who are understandably still engaged in one of the most successful decades ever for an NFL team. In his induction speech today, Tippett will undoubtedly reflect on the players and coaches who helped him on his way, such as the wonderfully talented Don Blackmon, who manned the outside linebacker position opposite Tippett before injury prematurely ended his career in 1987.
Blackmon is expected to be one of the thousands who will gather in Canton today to usher Tippett and the rest of the Class of 2008 into football immortality, the ultimate validation of their years of meritorious service to both their teams and the league itself. In a way, Blackmon and so many of his fellow Patriots alumni can share in Tippett’s ultimate validation today, as his induction also serves as a tribute of sorts to all the men who laid the very foundation of what has now become one of professional sports’ premier franchises.