For Tom Flores, it took 45 years for the phone to ring. When it finally did, “The Iceman’’ melted.
“When I got the call there was a lump in my throat,’’ the normally taciturn 81-year-old Flores told the Talk of Fame Network while recalling his long-overdue selection last week as one of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “There were tears in my eyes. I was taken aback. I didn’t think it was (ever) going to happen. I never gave up hope, but I wasn’t too excited about the possibilities.’’
Despite having been the first Hispanic to start at quarterback in professional football history, the first to become an NFL head coach and the first minority head coach of any type to win the Super Bowl, Flores had somehow become lost in the pages of history.
He was a pioneer. A trail blazer. The man who opened the door for guys like Joe Kapp and Jim Plunkett on the field and Ron Rivera on the sidelines. But Tom Flores was more than that.
He is one of only two men to have won Super Bowl rings as a player, assistant coach and head coach. He is one of only five head coaches to have won two Super Bowls and not be enshrined in Canton. And he ranks second all-time in post-season winning percentage behind only Vince Lombardi among head coaches with 10 or more playoff appearances.
So why has it taken him 45 years to become a Hall-of-Fame finalist?
“Good question,’’ Flores said. “I don’t know. I won two Super Bowls in two different cities (Oakland and Los Angeles). I won one living in a hotel for 14 months. And I did it working for Al Davis. That alone should have got me in.’’
Regardless of the length of his wait, Flores’ moment has finally come. He will join his old coaching rival, Don Coryell, and 13 former players who will have their credentials debated by 48 selectors (which includes all three of your Talk of Fame Network Hall of Fame hosts: Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge) the day before Super Bowl LIII.
Whether he gains enshrinement remains to be seen because, as Flores admits, “there are so many guys worthy.’’ But at least he is finally getting his chance to be considered, a fact that for a moment even melted ‘The Iceman.’’
The Talk of Fame Network also visited with someone who doesn’t have to go through another debate to reach a Hall of Fame, and that’s former Arizona State, Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer.
Plummer isn’t entering Canton and probably never will … but he is among the 2019 class announced this month for the College Football Hall of Fame.
“I had a dream and it happened, man, somehow, some way, with a lot of help along the way,’’ said Plummer, who finished third in the Heisman race in 1996 and led the Sun Devils to an undefeated season.
As a pro Plummer was known for his elusive running style, scrambling passing and for going 40-18 as the Broncos’ quarterback before retiring unexpectedly after the 2006 season.
“It was a surprise to even be nominated,’’ Plummer said of reaching the Hall. “I knew I had a great career at ASU and that the last year was really remarkable. There were so many moments.’’
To hear Plummer recall them tune in to Talk of Fame Network on your local SB Nation Radio Network station or listen to our free podcast at iTunes or on the TuneIn app. You can also listen to this show and all our Talk of Fame shows and interviews on our website, talkoffamenetwork.com.
This week Rick, our resident Dr. Data, delves into the reasons why the 12-4 Chargers will be fighting history, as well as the Patriots, in Sunday’s AFC Divisional playoffs despite having tied the Chiefs for the best record in the AFC.
Clark states the Hall-of-Fame case this week for a great receiver of the 1950s and 1960s, former New York Giants’ Pro Bowler Kyle Rote, while Ron is the one firing questions at Rick and Clark in our weekly two-minute drill.
To hear it all just go to talkoffamenetwork.com, download our free podcast at iTunes or find us on SB Nation Radio.