When the door to Pro Football's Hall of Fame finally swungopen for John Mackey yesterday, the former Baltimore Colts great found richirony in the knowledge that Al Davis would be joining him.
"All the troublemakers go in together," Mackey said with devilish delightfrom a hotel room in Minneapolis.
A prototypical tight end for the Colts in the 1960s, Mackey bucked the NFLestablishment as president of the players' union. Later, he won a lawsuit thatmade the Rozelle Rule illegal, giving players a form of free agency.
Davis, president and general partner of the Raiders, waged a successfulcourt fight to move his team from Oakland, Calif., to Los Angeles in the1980s, creating franchise free agency. He also testified against the NFL inthe USFL's failed antitrust lawsuit against the league in 1986.
"I feel I am the establishment," said Davis, who had campaigned hard forhis election. "I'd rather have the word 'maverick' than 'rebel' [used todescribe him]."
Mackey and Davis were selected along with former Washington Redskinsrunning back John Riggins -- who once sat a season in a contract dispute --and Detroit Lions cornerback Lem Barney for induction into the Hall of Famenext summer. The four newest inductees were voted into the Hall by a 31-manselection committee made up of sportswriters across the country.
Mackey was elected in his 15th and final year of eligibility. He was afinalist five times. It has been speculated that that Mackey's unionactivities delayed his election. He, however, is evasive on the subject.
"I really don't know," he said when asked why election took so long. "Whatmakes me feel good is I have received thousands of letters after retiring fromfootball -- more than I got when I played -- saying I should be in the Hall ofFame. They even send fan mail to Indianapolis, and the Colts forward it tome."
Mackey, 50, who lives in Long Beach, Calif., said he didn't think aboutpossible repercussions when he directed the players' association after the AFLand NFL merged in 1966.
"In the middle of it, I never thought about the Hall of Fame, or whatmight happen with my career," he said. "In the middle of a battle, you do thebest you can to win it.
"[But] I never thought this day wouldn't come."
Mackey's career spanned nine seasons with the Colts and one with the SanDiego Chargers. He was a second-round draft pick in 1963 as a burly, 6-foot-2tight end out of Syracuse.
He caught 331 passes for 5,236 yards and 38 touchdowns in the NFL, andplayed in two Super Bowls. His most famous play came in Super Bowl V, when hecaught a tipped pass from John Unitas and turned it into a 75-yard touchdown,then a Super Bowl record.
But his own personal highlight reel would show Mackey clearing a path forthe Colts' running game.
"You're going to laugh about it, but I remember the 34 trap and 36 trap,"he said. "My job was to wipe out the defensive end and go get the linebacker.Man, that's what I loved. I ran over a lot of those guys."
Mackey was a devastating blocker in the mold of the Chicago Bears' MikeDitka. Fittingly, Mackey follows Ditka as the second pure tight end elected tothe Hall.
"The best part of my game was hitting," he said. "I liked Mike Ditka. Iused to study Mike. When he was at the University of Pittsburgh, I was atSyracuse and I watched him play. I wanted to be just like Mike. He'd hit youand annihilate you. I was quicker. I'd annihilate you with one hit."
Dick Szymanski, who played with him on those Colts teams, said fansprobably remember Mackey for his running ability after making a catch. WhatSzymanski remembers, though, are two long touchdown runs in which six to eightdefensive players "bounced off him like rubber balls.
"Mackey was an awesome football player," Szymanski said. "Once he caughtthe ball, he was hell to stop. He deserved to get in [the Hall] a lot sooner."
Mackey is the eighth Colts player to be elected to the Hall. The othersare Unitas, Raymond Berry, Lenny Moore, Art Donovan, Jim Parker, GinoMarchetti and Ted Hendricks. Weeb Ewbank, Colts coach during 1954-62, also isenshrined.
Mackey, who grew up in Long Island, N.Y., said he still has a fondness forBaltimore.
"My wife [Sylvia] and I will always have fond memories of $H Baltimore,"he said. "Our kids started their education there, and it was a wonderful timeto live and play in Baltimore. I'm hoping one day they have a team of theirown. And I hope they don't live in the past. I hope they let the new team growon its own."
There were two other finalists for the Hall of Fame -- Tom Mack, the1966-78 Los Angeles Rams guard who was voted into 11 Pro Bowls, and CharlieJoiner, the Chargers receiver who held the NFL record for catches (650) whenhe retired in 1986. Because Mack and Joiner made the final six, they will beon the ballot again next year.
Riggins, who is in Cancun, Mexico, where he is host to the Jose CuervoSuper Bowl Beach Party, said: "I did what I wanted, and I wouldn't change whatI did to belong to this club. My image was less than Jack Armstrong, but in myheart, I was probably Jack Armstrong with a different point of view. I wasIgor and Dr. Frankenstein in one, doing my own experiments.
"My personality is that I don't take too many things too seriously. Thiswill touch me more as time goes by. It hasn't made me better-looking, though."
Barney said he played golf yesterday. "I wasn't concentrating on this," hesaid. "I thought to myself, whatever happens happens. When I heard, it meantthat my career had come full circle."
Mackey said his only Hall of Fame regret is that his mother isn't alive tosee him inducted in Canton, Ohio.
"She was quite sure I'd make it," he said. "She used to say, 'I'm going tobe there when they induct you into the Hall of Fame.' 1% "I'll guarantee she'll be there."
Class of '92
A capsule look at the four men named for induction into the Pro FootballHall of Fame: LEM BARNEY
Cornerback, Detroit Lions, 1967-1977: His first year out of Jackson State,he was named defensive rookie of the year, sharing the NFL lead with 10interceptions and returning three for touchdowns. His 56 interceptions for1,079 yards in returns (seven for touchdowns) rank him 11th among all-timeinterception leaders. He played in seven Pro Bowls.AL DAVIS
Scout, assistant coach, head coach, general manager, league commissionerand principal team owner and chief executive officer, Oakland-Los AngelesRaiders, 1960-present: Named the Raiders head coach and general manager in1963 at 33, Davis led the team to a 10-4 record and was named the AFL Coach ofthe Year. He was 23-16-3 in three years as a head coach. During the first 27years of the "Davis era" (1963-1988), the Raiders' .671 winning percentage wasthe finest in all of professional sports. He became the AFL Commissioner in1966 and the AFL-NFL merger followed two months later. JOHN MACKEY
Tight end, Baltimore Colts-San Diego Chargers, 1963-1971: He missed onlyone game in his pro career, nine seasons of which was with the Colts. He wasconsidered a prototype tight end, a strong blocker with breakaway speed andthe ability to avoid tacklers. Despite his 6-2, 224-pound frame, he had thespeed to go deep: In 1966, he had touchdown catches covering 51, 57, 64, 79,83 and 89 yards. He totaled 331 catches for 5,236 yards and 38 touchdowns forhis career. JOHN RIGGINS
Running back, New York Jets-Washington Redskins, 1971-79, 1981-85: Rigginsis the NFL's sixth-leading rusher, with 11,352 yards, including 116touchdowns, third highest in the history of the NFL. He sat out 1980 becauseof a contract squabble. Riggins was the MVP in the 1983 Super Bowl.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun