Sleepless Nights End with Hall of Fame Thrill

Robinson (Vernon Biever - Getty Images)

Dave Robinson figured he'd be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and be enshrined in Canton in 1980. Instead, Robinson's wait extended more than three decades. Finally, after a long couple of weeks, Robinson and his son celebrated with some champagne.

Like everyone else, Dave Robinson got the news on TV.

Robinson and his son, David, watched the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection show from a hotel room in New Orleans. Robinson thought he'd get elected in 1980, five years after his career ended. Instead, he had to wait 33 more years.

When Robinson became the sixth member of the seven-man class, David was ready to celebrate.

"When it was announced, he went to the other room and he had a bottle of champagne," Robinson said during a phone interview on Saturday night. "He popped the cork and poured me a glass and we toasted each other. I didn't know he had it. It was a good little touch. He's got class. Takes after his daddy."

An interminable wait grew ever longer during the last two weeks and, especially, the last two days. Robinson, the star left linebacker for the last three of the Glory Years champions, had seen left end Willie Davis and left cornerback Herb Adderley be enshrined. He'd also seen middle linebacker Ray Nitschke, left defensive tackle Henry Jordan and safety Willie Wood get the call from Canton.

Robinson knew he belonged alongside his fellow legends. He wanted it for himself and he wanted it to solidify the Davis-Robinson-Adderley trio as the finest left side in NFL history.

"When I got nominated back in August, I was kind of cavalier and took it in stride," Robinson said. "‘It's no big deal.' I was real nonchalant about it. The last two weeks, as it came closer and closer, I really, really, really got tied up and was excited. The last two nights, I have not had a full eight hours of sleep. I sleep an hour or two, wake up, and I dream about what it's like to be elected, then fall back asleep. Then I wake up again and think about what it's like to be not elected. It's back and forth. It's been terrible."

There probably wouldn't be much sleep coming on this night, either. Robinson is enjoying the thrill of a lifetime and said he phone was "blowing up."

"I never knew so many people," Robinson said with a laugh.

Robinson said he hasn't decided who would be his presenter, and for all his thinking about what could happen on Saturday night, he hasn't put together a mental rough draft of his acceptance speech.

"No, no, no! No, no no! I tried to play it down as much as possible so I wouldn't jinx myself," Robinson said.

Robinson said he'll have a lengthy list of thank-yous for his speech. Topping the list will be his family, which will make the speech a bittersweet moment. His wife, Elaine, and two of his three sons have passed.

"I can't tell you how many people I owe thanks to," Robinson said. "Joe Greene from Pittsburgh and Paul Warfield from Dallas and Cleveland, they were the two senior advisers to the Senior Board who nominated me. The board of five people who does the nominations, they bring in two Hall of Famers who talk about guys who played during that era that should be in the Hall of Fame. I understand that they gave me some glowing reports about how they couldn't believe I wasn't in there already. So, I've got to thank them. When you get the blessing from your competitors, that's more important than anything. Your teammates are always going to say favorable things about you but what do your competitors say?"

They can call him "Hall of Famer."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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