Montana: "I don't see anyone more deserving" of Hall than DeBartolo

Former San Francisco owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. is the contributor candidate for the Class of 2016, with the deciding vote taken the day before Super Bowl L ... in San Francisco. "I don't see anybody being more deserving than him," Hall-of-Fame quarterback Joe Montana told the Talk of Fame Network, "and it's been that way for a long time."

QB Joe Montana and WR Dwight Clark vs. St. Louis Cardinals at Candlestick, 10/18/87. 49ers won 34-28. Photo by Michael Zagaris.
QB Joe Montana and WR Dwight Clark vs. St. Louis Cardinals at Candlestick, 10/18/87. 49ers won 34-28. Photo by Michael Zagaris.

(Montana photos courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers)

Talk of Fame Network

Joe Montana not only won four Super Bowls for former San Francisco 49ers’ owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.; he became close friends with him, too, with their relationship withstanding a trade to Kansas City near the end of Montana’s career. So when you ask what a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame would mean to DeBartolo, you ask Montana.

Because Joe knows.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if he dropped to his knees,” the Hall-of-Fame quarterback said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “He is so excited about the opportunity, and everybody who’s been around him and knows him is so excited for him. We think there is no better time, there’s no better place to do it for him than back here with the 50th anniversary (of the Super Bowl).

“I just think it’s time to put a lot of things behind us and, like everything, we have to move forward. He just meant so much to the game … I don’t see anyone being more deserving than him. And it’s been that way for a long time.”

DeBartolo is the contributor candidate for the Class of 2016, proposed last month when a sub-committee nominated him for the Hall. To be enshrined, DeBartolo must pass a vote of the Hall’s 46 selectors prior to Super Bowl L which, appropriately, is in San Francisco – or Santa Clara, home of the 49ers -- and talk about perfect timing.

As Montana said, there would be no better time and no better place.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who’s given more on the field and off the field than Mr. DeBartolo,” said Montana. “One of the things that he doesn’t get enough credit for is the things he does for people – players and ex-players – off the field that he just doesn’t talk about. And he doesn’t want people to talk about. That’s just his nature.

“When people have gotten injured, he's taking care of these guys long after they're out of the league. And there are no owners that do that. There is no one that does those things. He enabled an organization … when he came on … to start to change the NFL in the way things were done, how they were accomplished, how we traveled, how we practiced.

“There are so many intangibles that go along with him and he how he treats everyone. He’s as fiery a competitor as any player I’ve ever been around . Maybe that’s part of the reason for the success. They always say it starts at the top, and it definitely did with him.”

DeBartolo, who is in the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame and the 49ers' Hall of Fame, presented former player Charles Haley for induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame last month. Like Montana, Haley was traded from the 49ers. Unlike Montana, it happened in the middle of Haley’s career – with the former pass rusher going on to win three more Super Bowls in Dallas.

But that’s not the point. This is: Haley became the fifth person enshrined in Canton to ask DeBartolo to present him. Only Al Davis and Paul Brown have been asked more, and the reason, Montana said, is easily explained by anyone who’s been around DeBartolo.

“He gave everything he had to you,” he said. “He cared about you as a player, but he cared about you as a person. And if things were not going well or he heard of things that you might be struggling with, he was the first one there. And that love comes around … and goes around … and nobody gives up on that.

“When people believe in you and you know you’re struggling, you don’t forget that. And the people around here (the Bay Area) ... and the players for sure …we’ll all say the same thing: ‘He gave, not just on the field.’ He knew when he could help you, and, as I said, he jumped in with both feet.”

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