Dawson, Butler, Martin and Doleman make Pro Football Hall of Fame
Former Steeler Dermontti Dawson was among those selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012.
Former Steeler Jack Butler is among those selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012.
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The road for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012, selected here Saturday and inducted in Canton, Ohio, this summer, must go through Pittsburgh.
Of the six new Hall of Famers, four have strong Pittsburgh connections. Among those elected were former Steelers Jack Butler and Dermontti Dawson, and former Pitt Panthers Curtis Martin and Chris Doleman. Butler and Martin also are Pittsburgh natives.
Butler, 84, made it as one of two seniors nominees, 52 years after he retired at the end of the 1959 season. He played cornerback, Dawson center, Martin was a running back and Doleman a defensive end/linebacker.
Others in the new class include defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy and offensive tackle Willie Roaf.
"I never thought it would happen, but here I am!" exclaimed the happily emotional, but usually stoical Butler.
Butler's long wait finally paid off. He played nine seasons for the Steelers before a serious knee injury that almost ended his life did end his career in 1959. When he retired, his 52 interceptions were second-most in NFL history. He was one of only two players on the NFL's 50th Anniversary All-Star team who were not in the Hall of Fame.
"I believed I could catch the hell out of the ball," said Butler, a receiver at St. Bonaventure who was quickly converted to defensive end, then cornerback as an undrafted rookie with the Steelers in 1951.
"I didn't care who threw it, that ball was mine. I should have been a wide receiver and I would have been a good one, too."
Dawson, 46, followed the late Mike Webster's Hall of Fame career with one that now also will put his bronze bust in Canton. He played guard as a rookie in 1988 next to Webster at center, and then succeeded Webster at center in 1989.
He played until hamstring injuries forced his retirement after the 2000 season, appearing in 170 consecutive games of his 184 total, making seven Pro Bowls and six All-Pro teams. Webster is the only Steelers with a longer streak of playing at 177 consecutive games.
"I knew I had big shoes to fill," Dawson said. "I never would have thought I'd be in this position.
"It was just an honor to learn from Mike. A lot of the things Mike did I tried to emulate throughout my career."
Martin, who left Pitt after his junior season against the advice of the Panthers coaching staff, amassed the fourth-most rushing yards in NFL history (14,101) while playing 11 seasons -- his first three with New England, his last eight with the New York Jets.
Martin, 39, attended Allderdice High School, and the son of Rochella Martin, who worked several jobs to provide for her family, lived in some tough sections near Homewood and Wilkinsburg.
"She taught me how to come in the house and stay in the house by myself until she got home at 9:30 or 10 o'clock at night," Martin said Saturday. "To this day, it breaks her heart that she had to do that, but she didn't want me to go out of the house because she was afraid the CYS would take me."
Tragedy, though, did not occur outside but inside. His grandmother was murdered in their home when Curtis Martin was a fourth grader.
"This wasn't somehting I planned on doing," Martin said of his life. "Football was something I did so I wouldn't end up dead or in jail back in Pittsburgh. For it to turn out this way, it just humbles me.
"It goes to show that if you make up your mind to just do the right thing, do things the right way no matter what temptations are before you and you stick to it -- which I did -- how you can turn around. I feel my life turned around from what it used to be to what it is; I feel like anyone can have a chance."
Doleman, 50, a defensive end at Pitt who hailed from York (Pa.), played for three teams over 15 NFL seasons at both end and linebacker, starting in 1985 with the Minnesota Vikings. During that time, he had 150.5 sacks in 232 career games.
Among the final candidates not elected were former Steelers Jerome Bettis and Kevin Greene, along with Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Eddie DeBartolo, Charles Haley, Bill Parcells, Andre Reed, Will Shields and Aeneas Williams and the second seniors nominee, guard Dick Stanfel.
First Published February 4, 2012 6:13 pm