(Jim Kelly, Kent Hull photos courtesy of the Buffalo Bills)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
CANTON – There are eight centers from the NFL’s modern era, with Minnesota’s Mick Tingelhoff elected last year. But he was chosen from the senior pool and had to wait 32 years for his induction.
Jim Kelly would like to see that corrected.
No, I’m not talking about anything to do with Tingelhoff. I’m talking about the eight pure centers. He suggests another candidate at the position is worthy of enshrinement, and, not surprisingly, his choice starred with Kelly and the Buffalo Bills when they went to four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990s.
An immediate starter as a rookie with the Bills in 1986, Hull would go to become a three-time Pro Bowler and twice be named the best center in the league. Later, after retiring, he was chosen to the Bills’ Hall of Fame and named to their 50th anniversary All-Star team.
But what Kent Hull would not go on to become was a Pro Football Hall of Famer, with Kelly promoting him at the Hall last weekend when asked to name the one guy – teammate, opponent, coach, GM or owner – he'd give a free pass into Canton.
“There are so many people who made a difference in my life,” he said before stopping and naming Hull. “The reason I say Kent Hull is because … and he played in an era when there were a lot of great centers … but I saw what Kent Hull was all about in our no-huddle offense. I saw what he did.
“I saw how he would teach Ruben Brown, who was an eight-or-nine-time Pro Bowler (it was nine, eight with the Bills) to the left, on how to play the game. I knew how he made the line calls and how smart he was and how he always told me, ‘Keep on going. Don’t slow down, don’t slow down because there are big guys on the other side.’ And I just listened to what I heard going to the Pro Bowls all the time; how Kent Hull was one of the best in the league.”
As Kelly pointed out, Hull “didn’t say much,” so he didn’t promote or draw attention to himself. All he did was anchor the Bills’ offensive line for 11 years after leaving the USFL, where he was chosen second-team center on the all-time league team. And he played so well for so long with the Bills that when I had a conversation years ago with former Buffalo GM Bill Polian, now in the Hall, he, too, mentioned Hull as a guy he’d put in Canton.
But he mentioned special-teams ace Steve Tasker, too, and while Tasker has been a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist (six times, in fact), Hull has not. That means you can’t find his name among the top 25 players up for selection each year. While Kelly would like that to change, he admitted he’d take Hull or Tasker making it to Canton for the same reason.
Because they belong.
“”The thing is about Steve Tasker,” said Kelly, “and you can say, ‘He’s a special teams guy,’ but you – as far as reporters – understand when you hear a coach talk, what does he talk about? Three phases of the game: Offense, defense and special teams.
“Well, special teams … if you have a guy that’s all he’s dedicated to (like a) Steve Tasker? I remember him getting double-teamed and then another guy peeling off, and he was triple-teamed, and he was still making tackles. Oh, wow. Yep, Steve Tasker. He’s one of the guys I would say.”