Sports

Elvin Bethea Selected To Pro Football Hall of Fame

HOUSTON, TEXAS—When he retired in 1983 after 16 years of giving his blood and sweat to the Houston Oilers, Elvin Bethea had no idea he would be selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame 20 years later.
HOUSTON, TEXAS—When he retired in 1983 after 16 years of giving his blood and sweat to the Houston Oilers, Elvin Bethea had no idea he would be selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame 20 years later.

"I'm loss for words," the eight-time Pro Bowl player remarked after learning he will make the journey to Canton, Ohio(site of the Hall of Fame) to join the greats of professional football. "I 'm really speechless. I was waiting all day for the call. I didn't eat. When Bob Hyde(Tennessee Titan executive) called I was speechless wen he told me I had been selected. It is such a great honor. It is something I have thought about a lot but as the years passed I had my doubts about it happen. Bob spoke to others with votes about why I should be in the Hall of Fame. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle went before the Hall of Fame and told them why I should be in. I owe them and all of the fans and supporters of the Hosuton Oilers and me. I can't thank them enough."

Bethea joined the Houston Oilers in 1968 as a third round draft pick out of North Carolina A&T. He was a Pittsburgh Courier All-American three years in a row. He played both offensive and defensive line. In his early Oiler days he played both ways also before finally settling in on the defensive where he demonstrated fear Sunday after Sunday in the summer, fall, and winter for 16 years.

Bethea started playing in the NFL before sacks and tackles were recorded. As a result many of his sacks and tackles aren't part of his statistical history. He played in 210 games, with 135 coming straight without a miss due to anything. The NFL didn't start keeping sacks officially until 1982. He had a team best 105 career sacks with 16 in the 1973.

Bethea says his college coach Hornsby Howell Will present him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was his leadership that led Bethea to pro football.

"He made me a football player," the now 56-year-old Bethea remarked. "I will never forget the long hours of practice he sent me and my teammates through. He worked us hour after hour under two lights. We didn't have the equipment of a major college but that didn't stop him from working us."

From the start of his career to the end Bethea was known for his threat to holdout for more money from Oiler ,now Tennessee Titan owner Bud Adams. There clashes over money are legendary.

"He (Adams) was one of the first persons to call me," Bethea added proudly. "It was great of him to call. He was the only owner I had in the NFL. I'm going into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Houston Oilers. Mr. Adams was able to keep me in Houston for my entire career. We had some disagreements about money but that is all in the past."

In a 72 hour period after being selected to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Bethea had received more than 200 e-mails. He had appeared on the "Extra Points" program on KTRK-TV(Channel 13-ABC) locally with Tim Melton. He was a guest on "SPORTSRAP" on KCOH-AM radio. While on the radio he received congratulations from a host of fans including retired baseball star Enos Cabell and another all-pro football great Claude Humphrey of the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee State University. In fact Humphrey was on the ballot with Bethea for the Hall of Fame 2003 but didn't get in.

"I will be waiting at the door for you when you get in,"Bethea told Humphrey. "You will get in. You deserve it."

"I'm just glad for you right now, "Humphrey told Bethea. "You are so deserving of this honor. You played the game hard and long. It couldn't happen to abetter man."

Enos Cabell, like many others, thought Elvin should have been in Canton, Ohio years and years ago.

"You were a key player for the O

April 28, 2003
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