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Sidelined: Willie Roaf

Posted Feb 13, 2011

Willie Roaf's wait for Pro Football Hall of Fame induction shouldn't be a lengthy one

This article was originally a reaction to Willie Roaf’s omission from the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011.

It was going to be centered on a theme of patience, filled with quotes that reveal Roaf’s positive attitude towards the HOF process and examples of well-deserving Hall of Famers who had to wait years for their induction.

Richard Dent had to wait nine years before joining the Class of 2011 and we all waited for Derrick Thomas to get his proper recognition.

"I'm not bitter at all," Roaf told the New Orleans Times-Picayune last week. "I'm definitely not bitter. I made it to the final 10 of the Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot. I can't be bitter."

Roaf’s induction into pro football’s elite isn’t a matter of if, but rather when.

With all the recent back-and-forth national hubbub over Hall of Fame voter transparency, Roaf’s HOF snub hardly needs to be brought to the forefront. The entire debate is good news for fans of Roaf. People outside of the Kansas City and New Orleans communities are talking about a player who both cities overwhelmingly believe is the best left tackle to ever wear a football helmet. The fact that Roaf wasn’t a first-ballot Hall of Famer won’t change his legacy in either city. His exclusion from this year’s class may have brought the offensive lineman more attention than he received as an active player.

“It was an honor to play next to Willie,” teammate Brian Waters said. “Willie was, to me, the best pure left tackle to ever play this game.”

Despite playing only four seasons in Kansas City, Roaf is still one of the most appreciated linemen in franchise history. His impact didn’t just impress a fan base, but Pro Bowl teammates as well.

“He was known as the most dominant left tackle to ever play the game,” All-Pro G Will Shields saod. “What’s really unique was to watch him walk and watch him talk, seeing how he did things…and then watch him put his hand on the ground and show that athletic ability that was beyond compare for a man his size.”

“Athletically, there was nothing he couldn’t do,” Waters added. “He was explosive. He was just a great football player physically, but off the field he was a great player to be around.”

As a consolation for not being selected as part of the 2011 class, Roaf has a few Chiefs joining him for consideration next year. Both Shields and head coach Marty Schottenheimer will be HOF eligible for the first time in 2012. A straw poll of Chiefs fans has all three in the final 15.

Though we’re not certain how close Roaf was to becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer, we do know that he made it until the final cut. His candidacy for this year’s class was nixed after the board of selectors had already cut the finalist list from 15 players to 10.

 The most frustrating part about Roaf’s exclusion is the strength of his credentials compared to other first-ballot tackles Anthony Munoz and Forrest Gregg.

 Roaf’s 11 Pro Bowl seasons are matched only by Munoz and Jonathan Ogden, who isn’t eligible yet. He is part of two All-Decade teams and Kansas City was pro football’s most prolific offense over the four seasons that Roaf played (2002-05), leading the NFL in yards (24,797) and points (1,837). Trent Green never missed a game with Roaf protecting his blindside as the Chiefs churned out numerous franchise records.

Roaf’s nine seasons in New Orleans only add to his HOF resume.

“In my opinion, Wilie Roaf revolutionized and redefined the role of offensive tackle in the National Football League,” Mitch Holthus said. “In my years as Voice of the Chiefs, when Willie was at his best, he was as powerful as any player I’ve ever seen wear the uniform. His size, agility and speed made him a freak of nature.”

Debate regarding the HOF selection process will probably continue for the foreseeable future – too many members of the national media have weighed in on the issue for it not to carry. If anything, the topic makes for good off-season fodder and Roaf’s candidacy will be tied to the topic.

When Roaf does head into the Hall, both Kansas City and New Orleans will rejoice. The cities are in this together as Canton doesn’t require it members to make team designations.

Perhaps Mardi Gras will come early in 2012?

"I enjoyed doing all the interviews leading up to seeing if I got in or not," Roaf said. "It just wasn't time for me to get in. I had a lot of fun. Next year we'll just see what happens."

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