Quiet men will speak up at induction

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CANTON, Ohio --- Art Monk and Gary Zimmerman spent most of their careers trying to stay in the background.

Good luck today when they're the feature attraction in Canton, Ohio.

The two quietest members of the six-man 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame class are making a one-time exception to their self-imposed rule with induction speeches that will not be short on words -- or perhaps tears.

"It's OK, it's kind of like a game," Monk said before Friday's news conference. "You get some butterflies, but once you take that first hit, you're ready to go."

Both have warmed to this weekend's public speaking engagement, given the circumstances.

Zimmerman is the 12th Hall-of-Famer to play exclusively at offensive tackle, and it took Monk, who retired as the NFL's career receiving leader with 940 receptions, eight years to reserve his spot alongside the league's greatest players.

Some suggest the wait might have taken longer for these two because they rarely drew attention to themselves, preferring instead to let their performances speak volumes.

"I was always a shy and reserved person who just wanted to work hard and stay in the background," Monk said. "There's no need to talk when you're a good athlete."

Zimmerman stopped doing interviews for another reason.

He said Friday that while he was playing in Minnesota, he told a reporter that the Vikings lost because neither the offense nor defense played well enough to win. When he woke up the next morning, a headline implied Zimmerman had criticized the defense.

"Half of my teammates were mad at me, so I said it's better not to say anything," he said.

He took the same approach to Denver where he protected John Elway's blindside for five seasons and helped initiate the Broncos' tradition of offensive linemen not doing media interviews.

Despite their reticence to speak while playing, neither is reluctant now.

Zimmerman has spent two weeks editing his remarks, while Monk spent the past two weeks crafting his own speech.

So what fans will get today is a rare opportunity to see both of them talk, back-to-back.

"He may not like it (public speaking) so much, but he is really good at it," said James Monk, Art's son who will introduce his father for induction. "He has good things to say and people want to hear what he has to say."

Aside from Darrell Green, Monk's teammate in Washington, this might be the most reserved Hall-of-Fame class in years.

The other inductees are Fred Dean, the fierce pass rusher from San Diego and San Francisco; New England linebacker Andre Tippett; and Emmitt Thomas, Kansas City's career record-holder with 58 interceptions.


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