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Dent finally gets his due but doesn’t thank Ditka, Ryan in Hall speech

Richard Dent unveils his bust with his former coach Tennessee State Joe Gilliam. | JasMiller~Getty Images

Richard Dent unveils his bust with his former coach at Tennessee State, Joe Gilliam. | Jason Miller~Getty Images

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Richard Dent

Defensive end, Tennessee State

1983-93 Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1995 Bears, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles.


Running back, San Diego State

1994-98 Indianapolis Colts, 1999-2005 St. Louis Rams.

Chris Hanburger

Linebacker, North Carolina

1965-78 Washington Redskins.

Les Richter

Linebacker, California

1954-1962 Los Angeles Rams.

Deion Sanders

Cornerback, Florida State

1989-93 Atlanta Falcons, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1995-99 Dallas Cowboys, 2000 Washington Redskins, 2004-05 Baltimore Ravens.


Tight end, Savannah State

1990-99 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens, 2002-03 Broncos.

Ed Sabol

Contributor, Ohio State

1964-1995 NFL Films.

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:23AM

CANTON, Ohio — Richard Dent thanked his childhood friends and his high school coaches during his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech Saturday night. He thanked college coaches and current Tennessee State administrators. He even thanked Steve Moore, one of the unfortunate New England Patriots offensive linemen who tried to block him in Super Bowl XX.

By the time he left the stage at Fawcett Stadium, the ex-defensive end had thanked everybody, curiously enough, except former Bears coach Mike Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan.

Dent said while preparing his induction speech that he wasn’t worried about forgetting to thank specific people, and that’s maybe all this was, an oversight. But it was odd given how he made a point to thank former defensive line coaches Dale Haupt and John Levra and personnel boss Bill Tobin, even encouraging them to stand and be recognized.

Nevertheless, it was a memorable night for the organization with more Hall of Famers (27) than any other. The McCaskey family showed up in force to watch Dent inducted along with running back Marshall Faulk, linebacker Chris Hanburger, NFL Films founder Ed Sabol, cornerback Deion Sanders, tight end Shannon Sharpe and linebacker Les Richter.

Hall of Famers Dan Hampton, Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers were on hand, as were Gary Fencik, Jim Osborne, Emery Moorehead, Neal Anderson, Al Fontenot, Mike Richardson, Tyrone Keys and Steve McMichael.

“Steve, I hope to see you up here some time,” Dent said to McMichael. “You were the heart of the defense. You made it work for us.”

The Bears might not see a night like this for a long time, and it could be the last Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the fabled 1985 Bears. Center Jay Hilgenberg is deserving after being voted to seven Pro Bowls, but he might have to wait for the veterans’ committee. Tackle Jimbo Covert, who was also in attendance, deserves a close look even if back injuries prematurely ended his career.

“Most important of all, it’s a guy by the name of Jimbo Covert that I had to line up against in practice day in and day out,” Dent said. “He made the game easy for me because I knew I wasn’t going to face a guy like him in a game. Me and Jimbo, we definitely pushed each other to make each other the best.”

In the end, however, this was Dent’s night, and he promised the stories, like the poor impression he made on Hampton during his first training camp, would be told late into the night.

“After a couple weeks, Buddy would ask me who I liked,” said Hampton. “Some guys were smoking dope. I wasn’t impressed. He asked me about Dent, and I said he might be the laziest son of a [expletive] I’ve been around. Buddy said, ‘Yeah, but he never makes a bad ­decision.’

‘‘I started watching him. It was uncanny. He always made the right decision. I can’t tell you how important that is.”

Dent grew up in Atlanta watching Tommy Nobis, Hank Aaron and Muhammad Ali. Ex-Tennessee State defensive linemen Claude Humphrey and Ed “Too Tall” Jones were idols. He wanted to be great, to make a success of his life, but he never expected to be where he found himself Saturday night.

“As a kid you look at some of these guys left and right,” Dent said, surveying the Hall of Famers sitting on either side of him. “I’ve watched these guys as a little one and never thought — everything in sports that I dreamed of and [saw] myself accomplishing — but I never thought I’d be in the Hall of Fame.

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