Dent will learn Hall of Fame fate Saturday ev
Dent will learn Hall of Fame fate Saturday evening
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – When the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011 is announced Saturday evening, Mike Singletary hopes to hear the name of longtime former Bears teammate Richard Dent.
“Richard should be in the Hall of Fame. He made the ‘46’ defense go,” said Singletary, who was enshrined in 1998. “Richard was very instinctive. He had such a great feel for the game.”
One of 17 finalists for the seventh time in the last eight years, Dent played 12 of his 15 NFL seasons with the Bears, registering a franchise-high 124½ sacks. He was named Super Bowl XX MVP, was an integral part of a championship defense that's considered one of the best ever, and was selected to four Pro Bowls.
“I certainly am hopeful that Richard gets the recognition that I think he richly deserves,” said former Bears safety Gary Fencik, who played five seasons with Dent. “For his teammates, I don’t think there’s any dispute about the contributions that Richard made.
“To be inducted into the Hall of Fame, you had to have been dominant and particularly dominant in key games. And when you needed the sack or a big play, Richard was there.”
Selected by the Bears in the eighth round of the 1983 draft out of Tennessee State, Dent blossomed in his second season, leading the NFC with a team-record 17½ sacks. In 1985, the talented defensive end recorded 17 sacks to help the Bears win their first league championship in 22 years.
“If you understand his career, he probably exemplifies what the Hall of Fame is all about,” said former teammate Kevin Butler, a Bears kicker for 11 seasons from 1985-95.
“He came in a little undersized, as a late-round draft pick, and developed probably beyond the expectations of the people who brought him in. He did it the right way. He worked at it hard and he kept getting better and better, culminating in a Super Bowl MVP. He was dominating that whole year [in 1985] and the whole time he played with the Bears.”
Dent was a premier defensive end for the Bears for more than a decade. He registered 10 or more sacks in five straight seasons from 1984-88 and in eight of 10 years from 1984-93. The only times he failed to reach double digits in that span was when he had 9 sacks in 1989 and 8½ in 1992.
The Bears compiled a 119-72 record in his 12 seasons. In Dent’s first six years, the Bears went 70-25 with no losing seasons, winning at least 10 games five straight years from 1984-88.
Selected All-Pro four times and All-NFC five times, Dent still holds Bears post-season records with 10½ career sacks and 3½ sacks in a game Jan. 5, 1986 against the New York Giants.
“The biggest compliment you can give a defensive end is to say that he’s an every-down player,” said former teammate Tom Thayer, a Bears guard for eight seasons from 1985-92. “Richard wasn’t a situational player. He didn’t turn into a pass rush specialist later in his career. He stopped the run and he played the pass as well as anybody in the league.
“You think of a guy like that today, just because they can rush the passer, they’re considered specialists and they get paid a lot of dollars. But sometimes you get lost in the fact that you’re also playing first and second down and the offense is really limited in its success against you.”
On Saturday, the Hall of Fame’s Board of Selectors will choose 4-7 inductees for enshrinement. The Class of 2011 will then be announced at 6 p.m. (CT) on NFL Network.
The other modern-era finalists are Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Marshall Faulk, Charles Haley, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, Andre Reed, Willie Roaf, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe and NFL Films founder and president Ed Sabol. Two senior nominees are Les Richter and Chris Hanburger.
When Dent retired following the 1997 season, he ranked third on the NFL’s all-time list with 137½ sacks, trailing only Reggie White and Bruce Smith.
“Richard deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,” Thayer said. “When you look at him statistically, where he was at the end of his career, and how the game has changed in terms of sacks and pressures, I think Richard is as deserving of it as anybody.”
More on Dent's bid for the Hall of Fame