Sweetening the deal for his College Football Hall of Fame call for ex-Chief Willie Roaf is the company he’s keeping.
Roaf, a former All-America offensive lineman from Louisiana Tech, was one of 14 players in the 2014 class announced Thursday. Also in the class is former Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas, one of the greatest defenders in Chiefs’ history.
“For me to be going in with Derrick Thomas, that’s an honor,” Roaf said.
Roaf and Thomas already are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Roaf holds inclusion in the college hall in equal esteem. Louisiana Tech had transitioned from Division I-AA to Division I-A as Roaf was arriving.
“We were trying to play with the big boys,” Roaf said. “It was an uphill battle, but it shows how hard we worked at the program. I’m proud to represent Louisiana Tech.”
A big moment for Roaf and the program came in his senior year, when Tech lost in a competitive game to Alabama 13-0. The Crimson Tide went on to an undefeated national championship season, but Roaf held his own against Alabama All-America defensive end John Copeland.
“I had a good game, going against him and that team, and that kind of put me on the map,” Roaf said.
Roaf spent the final four years of his 13-year NFL career in Kansas City and made the Pro Bowl after each season. He was a left tackle who helped establish one of the league’s top offensive lines under Dick Vermeil, along with fellow College Hall of Fame member Will Shields.
Roaf was the Outland Trophy runner-up to Shields in 1992
Thomas was a pass rushing terror as a linebacker throughout his career at Alabama, where he amassed 52 career sacks. In 1988, his senior season, Thomas recorded an amazing 27 sacks and won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.
The NCAA started keeping defensive records officially in 2000. Thomas’ season and career sack totals would top the current leader.
Thomas was the Chiefs’ first-round selection in the 1989 NFL Draft, fourth overall. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, nine years after his death. Three weeks after his car went off Interstate 435 near Kansas City International Airport in January 2000, Thomas died as a result of a pulmonary embolism.
The other 12 players scheduled for induction are TCU running back LaDainian Tomlinson, Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan, North Carolina defensive back Dre Bly, Southern California tackle Tony Boselli, Purdue defensive tackle Dave Butz, Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton, Maine linebacker John Huard, Stanford running back Darrin Nelson, UCLA quarterback John Sciarra, South Carolina wide receiver Sterling Sharpe, McNeese State cornerback Leonard Smith and Mississippi tight end Wesley Walls.
Mike Bellotti and Jerry Moore are the two coaches who will be inducted. Bellotti posted a .630 winning percentage at Chico State and Oregon and Moore had a .641 winning percentage at North Texas, Texas Tech and Appalachian State.
An All-America season is a basic requirement for Hall of Fame eligibility as a player, which makes some 1,500 major college players eligible for the honor. A committee annually narrows the group to 75 finalists. There are another 87 finalists who were players below the Football Bowl Subdivision. Those two groups produce the 14-member class of players.
Coaches are boiled down to six from the major ranks and 26 others. From those groups, 14 players and two coaches become the class.
The Hall of Fame, presented by the National Football Foundation, is transitioning from South Bend, Ind., to Atlanta and is expected to open in its new $67 million home near the Georgia Dome in late August.