Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 8/5/12
CANTON, Ohio (AP) -- The linemen led the way as they always do, accepting their inductions into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with an abundance of humility. Curtis Martin finished the evening by supplying plenty of tears. The last of the six players to have their bronze busts unveiled Saturday night, Martin used the big stage to recall his rough life, his mother's pain and his life-long indifference to the game that allowed him to become famous. "I don't necessarily have notes, so I'm going to just bare my soul," Martin cautioned. "So bear with me."His moving story was the longest of the six and had the audience of 12,100 cheering supportively whenever one of the NFL's greatest running backs got choked up or lost for words. It was quite a way to end a three-hour induction that celebrated some of the game's best blockers and tacklers.Linemen Willie Roaf, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy and Dermontti Dawson and 1950s cornerback Jack Butler were the first inducted, accepting their honor with simple thanks and generally short stories. All the way through, the evening had a strong Pittsburgh flavor. Martin soon had them dabbing their eyes. He described growing up in a rough neighborhood in Pittsburgh. "My greatest achievement in my life was healing my mother and nurturing my mother," Martin said. The night that belonged to those who didn't have it easy. Roaf was inducted first and set the tone. Standing in front of the large crowd in an unfamiliar role -- getting attention for something good -- he acknowledged feeling out of place. "You know, it's an offensive lineman," Roaf said. "I didn't get singled out in front of a large audience very often, and when I did, it was usually by a referee who was singling me out by saying, Holding No. 77.' "That's not going to happen today. And it wasn't too often when I played." Kennedy has something in common with Roaf. Like the offensive tackle from New Orleans, the defensive tackle from Seattle excelled on bad teams. It was his sustained excellence -- not his team's success -- that got him into the hall. Kennedy grew into the game's top defensive tackle during his 11 seasons with Seattle. Even though Seattle went 2-14 in 1992 and Kennedy got double-teamed, he was so good that he was chosen the league's best defensive player. "That's bad when you go to the game and the defensive coordinator says, Guys, we're not going to win the game. Let's don't embarrass ourselves.' You know we're in for a long year then," he said. Dawson got the Steelers fans revved with his induction speech honoring the town and the franchise. Dawson succeeded Mike Webster as the Steelers' center, then followed him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "Mike was a leader whether he wanted to (be) or not because he led by example, and I tried to emulate everything Mike did," Dawson said. "Mike had a profound impact on my life and even today, I try to lead by example and be like Mike." Dawson chose high school football coach Steve Parker to present him. If not for Parker, he might not have played the game. Dawson had a bad experience playing the sport in middle school and quit. Parker met him in a hallway of their high school during his junior year and made him rethink. "I came across this person who I thought was a man," Parker said. "I said to him, Sir, may I help you?' He said he goes to school here, and I said, Where have you been all my life?'" Doleman also traces his football roots to Pennsylvania, where he grew up and went to college. He recalled that his father had one rule: Finish what you start. "Thank you for teaching me the importance of finishing what you started," Doleman said. "And if it's any indication today, I finished the game I signed up for." Butler, inducted second, took the most unexpected path to the hall. He didn't play football in high school, picked the game in college at St. Bonaventure and entered the NFL as an undrafted player in 1951, just another player filling out the Steelers roster. Butler, now 84, thanked his family and friends for being in Canton for his long-awaited moment. "Heck, I'm thankful I'm here," he said. "I thank you all."
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