PHOENIX — One by one, the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame stepped onto the stage as their names were called. When the eighth man elected Saturday, the late Junior Seau, was announced, his two sons stood with the group.
“I wish,” 25-year-old Tyler Seau said later, “he was here in person with us.”
A field-covering, hard-hitting linebacker, the charismatic Seau, who committed suicide at age 43 in 2012, was the only first-time eligible candidate in the Hall’s class of 2015.
Also getting in Saturday, a day before the Super Bowl, were modern-day players Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley and Will Shields, contributors Bill Polian and Ron Wolf, and senior selection Mick Tingelhoff.
“It’s hard when you come into a group of men that have done what they’ve done, at their caliber, and they’re sharing stories and memories that they had together and playing against each other,” Tyler Seau said. “It makes you emotional.”
Researchers who studied Junior Seau’s brain said it showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease connected to repeated head injuries, including concussions.
His death, less than 2 1/2 years after the end of his playing career, resonated among players in the league, raising worry about the physical and emotional toll the sport takes.
Junior Seau played in the NFL for 20 seasons, the first 13 with the San Diego Chargers, followed by three with Miami and four with New England. He was Defensive Player of the Year for San Diego in 1992, made six All-Pro teams, and was a member of the league’s All-Decade team of the 1990s.
Bettis was a burly running back nicknamed The Bus who began a 13-season career by earning Rookie of the Year honors for the Rams. He capped it by winning the 2006 Super Bowl with the Steelers in a game played in his hometown of Detroit.
His 13,662 yards rushing rank fifth in history.
When Brown retired after the 2004 season, he ranked No. 2 in NFL history with 14,934 yards receiving, No. 3 with 1,094 catches, and No. 3 with 100 touchdown catches. This was his sixth year of eligibility.
Haley, a defensive end and linebacker, needed to wait 11 years to get in after becoming the first player in NFL history to play on five Super Bowl-winning teams. He called the late 49ers coach Bill Walsh “a father figure to me.”
Shields was a guard for Kansas City from 1993-2006, never missing a game in his 14 seasons. He was a first-team All-Pro three times, a second-team All-Pro four times, and was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
Polian and Wolf were general managers who built Super Bowl champions.
Tingelhoff retired in 1978 after starting all 240 games of his career as the center for the Minnesota Vikings.
A candidate needs 80 percent of the vote to get in.
The induction ceremony is in August at Canton, Ohio.
East Carolina bumps off Cincinnati
GREENVILLE, N.C. — B.J. Tyson scored 18 points and East Carolina came back from a nine-point second-half deficit to beat Cincinnati 50-46 on Sunday.
It’s the first time in nine all-time tries East Carolina (9-12, 2-6 American) has beaten Cincinnati.
The Pirates trailed 46-39 with 3:23 left but scored the last 11 points of the game as the Bearcats missed their last four shots.
Octavius Ellis recorded his first career Division I double-double with 14 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for Cincinnati (15-6, 6-3). Ellis was 5 of 6 from the floor and 4 of 4 at the line.
New York Giants matriarch Ann Mara dies at 85
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Ann Mara, the matriarch of the NFL’s New York Giants for the past 60 years, has died. She was 85.
Giants co-owner John Mara announced his mother’s death on Super Bowl Sunday. Ann Mara slipped in front of her home in Rye, New York, during an ice storm two weeks ago and was hospitalized with a head injury the following day. While there were initial hopes for recovery, John Mara said, complications developed and she died early Sunday surrounded by her family.
Ann Mara and her children owned 50 percent of the Giants, one of the founding families of the league, since the death of her husband, Hall of Famer Wellington Mara, in 2005. While she was not active in daily operations, her opinion was valued greatly.