Willie Roaf spent 13 seasons in the NFL, playing on the offensive lines of the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs and put together an incredible resume. Roaf was named to the Pro-Bowl 11 times, he was a nine-time NFL All-Pro, and made the All-Decade team in both the 1990’s and 2000’s. Now he can add the most prestigious individual honor in front of his name. Hall-Of-Famer. After missing out in 2011, the first year he was up for selection, Roaf was one of two offensive linemen selected for induction last Saturday. There’s a case to be made that one of the best offensive linemen of all-time should’ve gotten into the Hall-Of-Fame on his first try, but no one will really remember how long it took him to get in. What matters is Roaf will forever be referred to as a Hall-Of-Famer and he will always have his place amongst a select group of players in an elite football fraternity. Willie Roaf joined ESPN 101 in St. Louis with Zach and the Coach (Rick Venturi) to talk about what it was like waiting for the Hall-Of-Fame call this past weekend, what it means to be a Hall-Of-Famer, what he would say to Will Shields, Cris Carter, and some of the other players that are waiting for their call, and what he thinks of the voting process.
What it was like waiting for the Hall-Of-Fame call this past weekend:
“You know you have butterflies and you’re so anxious and nervous at the same time. It’s just something that’s unbelievable to think that you can make it to such a select group and coach you mentioned ’96, I was thinking back about that and it was a tough year but the way we kept fighting and I had the knee injury and ended up getting the unsung hero award and I was just so happy about finishing up that year. Years like that make your career special but there was just a lot of nervous energy. I tried to go to the gym to do cardio to get my mind off of it but by the time I got home I was having to run to the airport because I had a flight and I was trying to get up there by Saturday morning at one in the morning.”
How it feels to know that he is going to be enshrined into the Hall-Of-Fame:
“It really hasn’t all sunk in yet. It means I did something, whether it be football or any other thing you do in life, I did it to the highest level and I’m proud for what I did for a long time. I played football for most of my life and I got to the epitome of a group that will be immortalized. You’re in a group and they measure your bust and doing all these measurements and all this stuff on your face. Being there with those guys, these guys you played against, your peers and the group that I’m going in with, it’s so special because of them. It’s a blue collar class with two defensive linemen, two offensive linemen, and Curtis Martin who was a hardcore running back. Him just talking about his story, all of us got up and spoke a little bit and he was like he didn’t ever want to play football and he doesn’t feel like he should be there. Yeah Curtis you should be there. I don’t know what happened in your high school with you not wanting to play football but just to hear the guys talk, these guys are such good guys I’m going in with. So down to earth and so humble. It’s very good. I’m very pleased that I get a chance to go in with a great group I’m going in with.”
What advice he would give for the players that are still waiting to get inducted:
“I would say to be patient. I know the process, the years go by and you think about it like ‘are they ever going to put me in? Are they ever going to put me in?’ But I think that’s going to make, especially Cris Carter, Tim (Brown) and those guys, that’s going to make them appreciate it more. It makes it very special to me that I had to wait a year, but I really don’t understand what those guys are feeling because some of those guys have been waiting a long time. I know that’s going to be even that more special to them. Floyd Little was showing us the new coat they are making for the guys and we all have a number. Floyd has like 258 or 260 and our coats go up to, I think I’m the last number like 272 but it’s unbelievable to think there’s only 270 guys out of all the guys that have played football. When we look at our coat it will have your number in it so we will all know what number enshrinee I was. It’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to it. I will have a coat and I think my number is like 272.”
If this was like baseball and you could pick a hat to wear, would you choose the Saints or Rams?
“I’m wearing a Saints hat. You know things happen for a reason in life and I had to go through what I had to deal with and I needed a fresh start anyway, went through the knee surgery, went to Kansas City and played hard, and I think the experiences made me a better person. I think if I had to stay on that turf I wouldn’t have made it but another year or two but the fact that I went and played on that grass and played well in Kansas City with that real good group of players for those three of four years, I think that’s what solidified and helped me get in this early.”
What he thinks of the voting process:
“I’m satisfied with the voting process. I just think that looking on the outside looking in one step would be maybe a change up sometimes in the voters. If the committee switched up on the guys every five years or whatever I think some players would like to see some changes in who is doing the selection process every year because most of the time I think it’s the same voters that come in and do all the voting. Outside looking in I would like to see a little more change up on who votes and people. I know these guys are involved in every city but if you have the same guys I think that’s some of the reason of what’s happening with the receivers. They’re splitting up the vote or something is happening. One of those guys hopefully gets in next year because those are some great receivers. I know they’re trying to get more defensive guys in now because all the offensive guys are in there with all the numbers but like I said I’m just happy to be in the group because I know it’s going to get tough on Will because you have (Jonathan) Ogden who is going to be up next year too so that’s going to make it real tough to see what lineman gets in.”