On Saturday night, the Pine Bluff, Arkansas native was immortalized into the NFL Hall of Fame thus ending a legacy that enshrines Willie Roaf as one of the greatest offensive lineman in the history of the NFL.
“It's such an honor,” said the New Orleans Saints first round selection back in 1983. “I didn't get singled out in front of a large audience very often as an offensive lineman, and when I did, it was usually by a referee who was singling me out by saying, "Holding number 77." That's not going to happen today. And it wasn't too often when I played.”
Eleven Pro Bowls, including seven consecutive from 1995 - 2001 and a member of the NFL’s All Decade teams for the 1990’s and 2000 – Roaf reminisced and gave thanks to his family as he stood in front of a packed house after accomplishing the ultimate football players goal.
“You know, my dad always found time to be a part of my life. A successful dentist with a busy schedule, he drove from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to every one of my home games in college and my pro career. He only missed one game, and that's because my brother had another game in St. Louis at the same time,” Roaf said.
“He put a lot of miles on his cars, and he didn't sell them. He would overhaul them and get a new motor most of the time. So he put another hundred thousand miles on it when he got done with that hundred. My mom, Andree Layton Roaf, passed away in 2009. My mom was always my inspiration. Her love and guidance made me who I am. She is so, so much a part of the reason I'm here today.”
Roaf was the strong silent type. He led by example and was one of the most explosive players ever to play up front in NFL history.
“He was the most explosive player that I ever coached or saw,” Roaf’s head coach in Kansas City Dick Vermeil said. “He could dominate a great player. A Lot of times guys get a reputation of being a great player by beating average guys. Not Willie he dominated the best he went up against – guys that are in the Hall of Fame and did it every Sunday.”
Roaf, a Bulldog from Louisiana Tech played with many great players and made many NFL players better by working tirelessly like he did in 2003, his first year in Kansas City coming off of major knee surgery and going on to have one of the best seasons in his career. Willie Roaf is the definition of a consummate professional
“When I was notified that I was elected into the football Hall of Fame, I was so happy. I felt a strong sense of pride. Proud to have earned such an honor. Proud to be a part of the legends of the game,” Roaf continued his speech.
“But at the same time, I felt an overwhelming sense of humility, realizing that being elected into the Hall of Fame wasn't something I did alone. It was the result of the things I learned from others. Like the other Hall of Famer, the first New Orleans Saint, city champ, Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills, Jim Dunbrousy, Wayne Martin, Big Golf, Coach Dick Vermeil, Billy Long, Bill Kuharich, Will Shields, Eddie Kennison, Tony Richardson, Trent Green, Priest Holmes, Brian Waters, and Clarence Jones, and all of the offensive line coaches that I had over my 13 year career.
Many will remember Roaf as a New Orleans Saint but he holds a very special place in the hearts of Chiefs fans and in Kansas City history.
“The Kansas City Chiefs organization gave me another chance to play football after suffering a serious knee injury,” Roaf said as his eyes welled with tears of gratitude. “They were the only team that would really give me another chance to play, and I want to thank the Hunt family for bringing me to Kansas City, especially Lamar Hunt and Carl Peterson. I played on one of the best offensive lines in the league while I was in Kansas City, and we set the tone for the team every week.
In usual Roaf style, he wrapped up his time on the podium the way he played his 13-years in the NFL.
“I played with a lot of great athletes in my career,” Roaf said.
“To the guys that's I missed tonight and all the teammates I played with, thank you for being a part of my career. I know I worked hard and believed in myself and always strived to be the best, but I never dreamed that one day I would be in the Hall of Fame. I was just thankful every day that I was able to play the sport I love. To know that my bronze bust will be in the Hall of Fame forever is just unbelievable. To my fellow Hall of Famers, just as I strive to be a good teammate in high school, college and the pros, I promise you this: I will always be a Hall of Fame teammate you can be proud of. Thank you for welcoming me to this new team.”
Dave Barr is a 19-year sports radio veteran who has worked for ESPN, Sporting News Radio and in markets like Cincinnati, Little Rock and Tulsa. Currently Barr is the program director for 1450 The Score in Joplin, Missouri and hosts the A.M. Grind weekday mornings from 6-9am. Want more Dave follow him on Twitter @Daveabarr.
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