Originally created 02/05/06

Class of 2006 is a big, talented one



DETROIT - Troy Aikman made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame's biggest class in years. The guy he threw to - Michael Irvin - will have to wait once again.

Reggie White, Warren Moon, Harry Carson, John Madden and Rayfield Wright also were elected Saturday. Not since 2001 had the maximum number of candidates been chosen.

Emmitt Smith, who played with Aikman and Irvin on three Super Bowl champions for the Dallas Cowboys, had campaigned vigorously for his two former teammates. But Irvin, plagued by off-the-field troubles in recent years, was left out in his second try.

The late White, the NFL career sacks leader when he retired in 2000, and star quarterbacks Aikman and Moon made it in their first year of eligibility.

Moon became the first black quarterback in the Hall.

"To be the first African-American quarterback into the Hall of Fame, all African-American QBs who played before me should share in this," Moon said. "I don't want to make this a racial thing, but I think it is significant. It shows that we have arrived at the pinnacle of our sport."

Madden and Wright were seniors committee candidates, and Carson was in his seventh year as a finalist.

The class of 2006 and will be inducted in Canton, Ohio, on the weekend of Aug. 5-6.

- Aikman, the first overall pick in the 1989 draft, guided the Cowboys back to prominence after some lean seasons. He led Dallas to three Super Bowl titles in four seasons - the Cowboys lost in the NFC Championship game the other year - and was among the most accurate passers in the league.

Aikman won 90 games in the 1990s, the most by any quarterback in any decade.

- White, who died Dec. 26, 2004, was known as the "Minister of Defense" - he was an ordained Baptist minister.

"I wish he was here, that is the only regret I have," said his wife, Sara. "But you know what, he is here. He is."

White had 198 sacks when he left the NFL after 15 seasons with Philadelphia, Green Bay and Carolina. One of the first major free-agent signings in 1993, his choice of Green Bay helped turn around that storied franchise.

- Moon's transient career took him from the CFL, where he won five consecutive Grey Cups, to Houston as a free agent in 1984. He also played for Minnesota, Seattle and Kansas City and completed his career with 51,061 yards of total offense and 313 touchdowns.

- Carson, a nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker who retired from the New York Giants in 1988, has been a frequent critic of the process, even saying he wanted off future ballots.

- Wright was a lynchpin of the Cowboys' staunch offensive line of the 1970s after coach Tom Landry moved him from tight end to tackle.

- Madden, best known for his television announcing and video game, has the winning percentage of any NFL coach with 100 victories (.759). He coached the Oakland Raiders for 10 years and won the 1977 Super Bowl.

"I'm not going to make a lot of sense and I don't care," Madden said after getting the news. "It comes from my heart. I am humbled and grateful and thankful. I just got to sit down. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

LET IT SNOW: With strong wind and 5 to 8 inches of snow forecast, snow removal crews girded for a winter storm as thousands of fans headed into downtown Detroit on Super Bowl eve.

About 250 state and local plows will be on the roads throughout Wayne and Oakland counties.

There also are hundreds of city workers and volunteers ready to work through the night to clear sidewalks so fans can get to today's title game at Ford Field, which has a steel roof.

SUPER BOWL (OR) BUST: Customs officials seized $26,000 from three people who were trying to enter from Canada to buy tickets.

The trio was inside a black H3 from Quebec that pulled up to the border at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel on Friday morning, Customs spokesman Ron Smith said.