Boom! John Madden’s in the Hall of Fame

  Posted on Thu, Aug. 03, 2006


By Gordie Jones

The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

(MCT)

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – To sum up John Madden’s career as he might himself: Guy goes in the 21st round of the NFL Draft, back when they still had a 21st round, and – boom! – blows out a knee. Goes into coaching, wins a bunch of games, even a Super Bowl and – boom! – gets out of it when his stomach lining can’t handle it anymore. Winds up in broadcasting, where he collects all kinds of Emmys and even – boom! – lends his name to a popular video game.

But where the Pro Football Hall of Fame is concerned, there was no boom. Not for a long, long time.

Madden first became a finalist for the Hall 27 years ago, shortly after he ended his highly successful 10-year run as coach of the Raiders. But he couldn’t get in then, since voters were convinced he would un-retire at some point. He hasn’t been able to get in, in fact, until now.

He will be inducted Saturday, along with Troy Aikman, Rayfield Wright, Harry Carson, Warren Moon and the late Reggie White.

“It’s obviously the ultimate, and it will last forever,” Madden said in a conference call earlier this week.

That it seemingly took forever to gain admittance only makes it sweeter.

“A lot of good things happened in those 27 years,” he said. “Because I had to wait, I appreciate it more. This thing could not be appreciated more than I appreciate it.”

The Hall of Fame is about the only place you haven’t been able to find Madden. He has hopscotched from one network to another, serving as an NFL analyst for CBS, Fox and ABC before landing this year with NBC, the new home of the league’s Sunday night games.

He will once again be paired with Al Michaels, his play-by-play partner the last four years on Monday Night Football. The tandem debuts this weekend, when the Eagles and Raiders meet in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton.

Madden, 70, has also surfaced as corporate pitchman (Ace Hardware, Outback Steakhouse, Tinactin, etc.), author or co-author of five football-related books and, since 1990, the name on the video game “Madden NFL,” always a big seller.

“Some people call me ‘Coach,’ and some say, ‘Hey, Madden,'” he said. “When you get people who say ‘Hey, Madden,’ they’re the people that play the video game.”

Very, very few people would remember that the Eagles took Madden, a tackle from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, in round No. 21 in 1958. (One of the authors of “The Eagles Encyclopedia,” Hall of Fame sportswriter Ray Didinger noted during a recent television appearance that the Birds did not select anyone else from that school until this year, when they chose linebacker Chris Gocong.)

The knee injury came in Madden’s first training camp, and he never did play in an NFL game. He did, according to Sports Illustrated, sit in on film sessions with quarterback Norm Van Brocklin, thus getting a crash course in football strategy and laying the foundation for his coaching career.

In short order, he went from high school assistant to junior college assistant to junior college head coach to college assistant. And, in 1967, Al Davis hired him as the Raiders’ linebackers coach.

Two years later, Madden, then 32, succeeded the departed John Rauch as head coach, and, for the next decade, oversaw a team that came to be known for its “Just win, baby” credo.

And the Raiders, a raucous bunch, won plenty – 103 times under Madden. But year after year they were frustrated in the postseason, by “The Immaculate Reception” and everything else. Finally they broke through, thrashing Minnesota in Super Bowl XI.

Afflicted by an ulcer and other stress-related problems, Madden stepped down after the 1978 season. Wasn’t long after that that – boom! – he began showing up everywhere.

And now, he has finally made it to the one place he really wanted to be.

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~ by Sactown Raider Boosters on August 4, 2006.

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