Hall of Fame Nominees Football

Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed

ATLANTA — One waited a lifetime.

One waited three years.

And one didn't have to wait at all.

In what turned out to be a banner day for Louisiana, three players with ties to the state will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

St. Rose native and former Destrehan High School standout Ed Reed, along with former LSU stars Johnny Robinson and Kevin Mawae were all announced as part of 2019 Hall of Fame Class during the NFL Honors ceremony Saturday night at the Fox Theater.

"That's huge," said Reed. "I don't even know if that's ever happened. Just being a part of something groundbreaking like that shows the power that's around us. That says something about Louisiana athletes because we don't get that respect. " 

Reed spent 12 years becoming the gold standard at safety.

Now he'll have a gold jacket.

Reed's selection as a first ballot Hall of Famer came as no surprise. At first, he thought it had come even earlier than he expected. The Hall of Fame notifies its inductees by knocking on their door and telling them. Reed got a knock on his door early Saturday morning. It was housekeeping. The real knock came a little later. 

It's the latest honor for the ball-hawking safety from St. Charles Parish. Reed is already in the Hall of Fame at the University of Miami and is in the Baltimore Ravens' ring of honor. And just this past summer, he was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame last summer.

"As I sit and talk about it, I get emotional," Reed said. "I think about where I come from. A one-bedroom apartment. To be playing football with cans. We used to play football with anything we could get our hands on." 

Reed's selection to this Hall of Fame, like all the others he's in, was a no-brainer.

Reed, who spent 12 years in the league, redefined the safety position while at the same time rewriting the record book. Not only did he have a knack for interceptions (64 in his career), but he also made an impact whenever he got one. His 1,590 yards on interception returns is the most in NFL history. His 108-yard interception return in 2008 still stands as the longest ever, surpassing his own previous mark of 106 set four years earlier. He also has nine interceptions in the postseason, which ties the league record. One of those interceptions came six years ago in Super Bowl XLVII in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, just 15 miles away from where Reed grew up.

For Mawae, the third time on the ballot was indeed the charm.

The former LSU standout played 16 NFL seasons with Seattle, the New York Jets and Arizona, earning three first-team All-Pro honors and eight trips to the Pro Bowl.

Mawae attended Leesville High School.

Mawae will be joined by Robinson, another LSU product.

"That's special," Mawae said. "I had never even heard of Mr. Johnny until this process and to go back and watch what he did in his career is amazing."

The 80-year-old Robinson, a Baton Rouge native was the the lone senior committee nominee for this year's class.

"It's taken a long time, 46 years," Robinson said. "But it's been worth it. I'm thankful to be in the Hall of Fame. It's nice to go in with an LSU Tiger."  

Robinson, who played at University High before going to LSU where he was on the Tigers' 1958 national championship team, was drafted in the first round of the 1960 draft, played his entire career with the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs franchise. He finished his career with 57 interceptions, leading the AFL with 10 in 1966 and the NFL with 10 four years later.

He helped the Chiefs upset the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.

Robinson was a six-time Hall of Fame finalist after his career ended in 1971. But after not being voted in, he had to wait for selection by the senior committee. That committee votes on players who have been out of football for at least 25 years.

The other members of the Hall of Fame class are: Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez, Champ Bailey, Ty Law, Dallas Cowboys former VP of player personnel Gil Brandt and Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen.

"You always hear that the Hall of Fame is a like a family and Canton, Ohio, is your new home," Mawae said. "The first thing that said when they told us we made it was welcome to the family and welcome home. And that's special. There are select few men who get to wear that jacket. No doubt it's the highlight of my life."   

Reed agreed. 

"These are the moments you remember," Reed said. "You can do anything you put your mind to." 

Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.