New Orleans – Former Buffalo Bills star Jim Kelly, the only quarterback ever to lead his team into four consecutive Super Bowls, headed a five-member class of 2002 elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.
The other former players elected on the eve of Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans were Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver John Stallworth, Chicago Bears defensive lineman Dan Hampton and Oakland Raiders tight end Dave Casper, who was celebrating his 50th birthday.
The late George Allen, who never had a losing season in 12 years as an NFL head coach with the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins, was selected by the Seniors Committee.
The five new members, who will be formally inducted on August 3 at the shrine in Canton, Ohio, brings the total number of Hall of Fame members to 216.
Kelly, whose team lost all four Super Bowls, was the only one elected in his first year of eligibility, the 51st player and eighth quarterback so honored at the first opportunity.
Kelly thanked the selection committee "for thinking what I was able to accomplish with my team mates was good enough to get me into this elite group."
"Ever since I was a kid I wanted to play in the NFL and I did, but to be in the Hall of Fame, that's just a step above everything," an emotional Kelly said.
He will be the first of the quarterbacks from the legendary college draft of 1983, which included John Elway and Dan Marino, to be enshrined in Canton.
"John was the first one to win a Super Bowl from that group, but I'm the first one into the Hall of Fame," said Kelly, who won four AFC championships but went on to lose Super Bowls 25 through 28.
PAID TO HAVE FUN
Kelly, who called his own plays while running Buffalo's famed no-huddle offense, passed for 35,467 yards and 237 touchdowns in his 11-year career. He passed for more than 3,000 yards in eight of those seasons.
But Kelly said he was never about stats.
"They paid me to have fun," he said. "I don't think there was ever anybody who had as much fun playing the position of quarterback."
Stallworth became the ninth member of the Steelers dynasty that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s to be elected to the Hall. He was elected in his 10th year of eligibility and eighth year as a finalist.
"It was well worth the wait," he said.
Stallworth, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, scored the winning touchdown in Super Bowl XIV on a 73-yard reception. He owns Super Bowl records for career average per catch (24.4 yards) and single game average (40.33) for Super Bowl XIV.
"I'm trying to calm my wife down, she's running around the house screaming," Stallworth said after being informed of his election by phone during the Hall of Fame news conference.
He was elected a year after acting as presenter for fellow Steelers receiver Lynn Swann at the 2001 induction ceremony.
"We both had a big play mentality when the game was on the line," Stallworth said.
In a 14-year career with the Steelers, Stallworth made 537 catches for 8,723 yards and 63 touchdowns.
Hampton, nicknamed "Danimal" for his ferocious play in a 12-year career with the Bears, was a key member of the Chicago team that crushed the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. That Bears defense shut out both playoff opponents on the way to the championship game.
"This is something that I never expected to happen. I'm bewildered," said Hampton, when reached by phone.
"I had the privilege of playing on a team that had perhaps the greatest defense of all time."
Casper, elected in his 13th year of eligibility, was a five-time Pro Bowl selection in an 11-year NFL career primarily with the Raiders.
He compiled 378 career receptions for 5,216 yards and 52 touchdowns, earning a championship ring for his part in the Raiders' 32-14 victory over the Vikings in Super Bowl XI.
"Sometimes in life you are on a great team like the Raiders. I happened to be in a good place and I guess I didn't screw up too much," said Casper.
Allen, who was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1967 and 1971, had a remarkable career record of 116-47-5.
He guided the Rams to two postseason appearances and took the Redskins to the playoffs five times, losing Super Bowl VII to the Miami Dolphins team that completed the only unbeaten season in NFL history.