Theologians would have you believe that a promise delayed is not a promise denied. For retired Houston Oiler linebacker Robert Brazile, the 29-year delay is over. Brazile is a proud member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
The Mobile, Ala. native is joined by linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, safety Brian Dawkins, offensive lineman Jerry Kramer, wide receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens and contributor Bobby Beathard.
The enshrinement ceremony will air at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4. on NFL Network and ESPN.
“People ask you, ‘How does it feel?’ All I can say is you have to be in my shoes,” said Brazile, nicknamed “Dr. Doom.”
“We all have different feelings. There’s no one word that expresses or tells you how we feel. I felt good, but I do hope that everybody that played the game or had a chance to put a football helmet on at least gets this feeling at least once in their life about football.
“This is what the NFL is telling me right now: ‘Robert, you worked so hard, you loved the game, and we love you back. We haven’t forgotten about you. We love you, man.’ That’s how I feel about it.”
Brazile was the sixth player selected in the first round of the 1975 NFL draft from Jackson State. At 6-feet-4, 240 pounds and with 4.6 forty speed, Brazile was the perfect complement to Oiler head coach Bum Phillips newly installed 3-4 defensive alignment.
The position fit Brazile like a glove. He was the 1975 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, a seven-time Pro Bowler, five-time first-team All Pro and a member of the NFL’s All-Decade team for the ‘70s.
He is widely regarded as the preeminent outside linebacker in the NFL during a 10-year career. The mold for the linebacker position made famous by NFL greats like Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas was created by Brazile.
With Brazile’s impressive resume, why did it take 29 years for him to receive his invitation to Canton? The opinion here is that the Oilers’ move to Nashville in 1997 had an adverse effect on Brazile’s HOF candidacy.
Media and fans in Nashville had no real knowledge of their new franchise’s rich history or the players who created it. Brazile and all his accomplishments were literally exiled to the NFL’s “Twilight Zone.”
One place where there was never a question about the greatness of Brazile was at his alma mater, Jackson State. Former JSU athletic director and Tiger historian Dr. Walter Reed recalled that the university’s teams featured not only Brazile, but Walter Payton, the late Chicago Bears star running back and Hall of Famer.
“There was never any doubt in my mind when I saw Bubba, that’s what we called him here at Jackson State, play that he would be a great pro,” Reed said. “He came here from Mobile as a tightend. Head coach Bob Hill moved him to defense and he adapted immediately.
“With Bubba on defense and [Payton] running the ball, Jackson State could have actually competed against some of the larger schools. Both players were first round draft picks in 1975.”
With the moment of induction at hand, Brazile reflected on those who helped him get to this moment in time.
“I thought about all the people that got me to this point,” he said. “I started to think about Walter and what part he played…I talk to him like he’s still here sometimes. I think about Bum Phillips. I think about Bob Hill, who passed away. This is the news I think they would want to hear from me, that I finally got that pat on the back; that somebody shined my shoes that day and said, ‘Okay, you can take another step, brother.’ ”