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Wednesday July 23 2014
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Steelers Butler and Dawson, Panthers Martin and Doleman enter Pro Football Hall of Fame

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Jack Butler and center Dermontti Dawson joined ex Pitt Panthers Chris Doleman and Curtis Martin as members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012.

Butler, Dawson, Doleman and Martin are part of a six-member class that also includes Cortez Kennedy and Willie Roaf.

Butler played nine seasons for the Steelers in the 1950's, while Dawson played from 1988-2000.

“I would like to congratulate both Jack and Dermontti for their elections to the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Steelers’ President Art Rooney II said. “They are both deserving of this honor for all they have done throughout the years to help build and continue our rich tradition. It is a great day for the entire organization that we can celebrate two of our all-time greats getting selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012.”

Doleman was a dominating defensive end for the Panthers from 1981-84 and went on to become one of pro football’s all-time leading pass rushers in 15 NFL seasons. Martin played at Pitt from 1991-94 before embarking on a prolific rushing career that spanned 11 active NFL seasons.

“I thank my family. I'm blessed to have the family that I have, to be able to play in the National Football League, coming from great parents,” Doleman said. “There are so many things I can talk about, great coaches along the way ... guys who have helped me become the man that I am out there on the football field – and in life. I am truly blessed to be in this position and very honored.”

Martin, who graduated from Pittsburgh's Taylor-Alderdice High School in 1990 before beginning his career at Pitt, was humbled by the induction.

“The way I feel about this, it's probably the most humbling feeling that I've had in my entire career,” Martin said. “I feel tremendously grateful for all of the players that I've played with and all of the coaches that have coached me and been part of my entire career.”

Butler played in 103 games during his nine seasons as a cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1951-59) and was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1950s. With 52 career interceptions, Butler ranked as the NFL’s second all-time leader in interceptions when he retired after the 1959 season. The Pittsburgh native registered 827 return yards on interceptions, returning four for touchdowns. Butler also returned one fumble for a touchdown.
photo by Mike Fabus
Despite recording 25 interceptions in his first four seasons, Butler was not selected to his first of four career Pro Bowls until 1955. A season later the Pittsburgh native was named second-team All-NFL. In 1957, Butler tied for the league lead with a career-best 10 interceptions and earned first team All-NFL honors. He was named first team All-NFL in each of the next two seasons. Butler is still tied for the NFL record for interceptions in a single game, registering four against the Washington Redskins in 1953. He was forced to retire after suffering a severe leg injury late in the 1959 season during a game versus the Philadelphia Eagles.

Dawson was a second round draft pick by the Steelers in 1988 and played guard as a rookie before replacing Hall of Famer Mike Webster at center in 1989. Nicknamed "Dirt" by legendary Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope, Dawson started for the majority of a 13-year career that saw him play in 184 games during the regular season, including 170 consecutive, the second longest streak in franchise history. He was named to seven consecutive Pro Bowls (1993-99), was a first team All-Pro for six straight years (1993-98) and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.

During Dawson’s 13-year career, which ties for the third-most seasons played in franchise history, he helped the Steelers win five division titles, appear in three AFC Championships and one Super Bowl. In 1993, Dawson was named NFLPA AFC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year and in 1996 he was the NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year. With Dawson as the anchor of the offensive line the Steelers recorded a winning record in nine of his 13 seasons.

Boasting incredible longevity and durability, Doleman was an eight-time Pro Bowler, including six times with the Minnesota Vikings and one berth each as a member of the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers. He was a first-team All-Pro three times and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s. Doleman ranked fourth in NFL history with 150.5 career sacks when he retired in 1999.

While at Pitt, Doleman displayed the athletic and ferocious style that would characterize his pro career. He was part of some of the greatest defenses in school history before going on to be the fourth-overall pick of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Vikings. He had 10 or more sacks in eight different pro seasons. In 1989, he led the NFL with 21 sacks, the fourth-highest single-season total ever. An incredibly disruptive defender, he forced 45 fumbles while recovering 24 during his career.  

A third-round draft selection of New England in 1995, Martin spent three years with the Patriots (1995-97) before signing with the New York Jets (1998-2006). He finished his career with an astonishing 14,101 yards to rank fourth all-time among the NFL's career rushing leaders, trailing only Emmitt Smith (18,355), Walter Payton (16,726) and Barry Sanders (15,269). Martin was named to five Pro Bowls.

A Pittsburgh native who attended Taylor Allderdice High, Martin rushed for 2,643 career yards at Pitt despite playing in only two contests during his final campaign in 1994 due to an ankle injury. The highlight of his collegiate career came in the '94 opener when Martin dashed for 251 yards against the Texas Longhorns, setting a Big East single-game rushing record. Martin was a first-team All-Big East running back in 1993 after rushing for 1,075 yards.

It is the second time in three years that Pitt has had two inductees in the same class. In 2010, offensive lineman Russ Grimm and linebacker Rickey Jackson were inducted together. The Panthers will now have eight total inductees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Doleman (2012), Martin (2012), Grimm (2010), Jackson (2010), quarterback Dan Marino (2005), running back Tony Dorsett (1994), tight end Mike Ditka (1988) and linebacker Joe Schmidt (1973).

Pitt’s total of eight Pro Football Hall of Famers ranks tied for third among all colleges, trailing only Southern California (11) and Notre Dame (10). The Panthers are tied with Ohio State and Michigan.

Butler, Dawson, Doleman and Martin will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday, Aug. 4, at Fawcett Stadium.

I was in a minor league press box in Charlotte, NC, last month, taking in one of Gregory Polanco’s final triple-A games. A colleague, upon learning I was from Pittsburgh, approached me with a question.
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