The greatest receiver and greatest rusher in NFL history will take their place of honor in Canton this summer.
Jerry Rice, who caught more passes for more yards and scored more touchdowns than any other player in history, and Emmitt Smith, who ran for more yards than anyone else, are the headliners on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2010. They and the rest of their fellow inductees - John Randle, Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, Floyd Little and Dick LeBeau - will be enshrined Aug. 7.
"I am just honored . . . to stand up there with greatness," Rice said before breaking down in tears.
"It's just like playing in that big game; this is something you think about, and it is happening," Rice said later. He pointed to Smith and added: "I never thought I would go in with this guy here."
Rice played most of his 20 NFL seasons with the 49ers and was on the receiving end of passes from Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. He owns virtually every significant receiving record there is, including most receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895) and total touchdowns (208).
Young was one of the first to congratulate Rice and welcome him to the yellow blazer club. "They made 'yards after the catch' a stat because of Jerry Rice," Young said.
Smith, who like Rice won three Super Bowl rings, played the bulk of his 15 seasons for the Cowboys. In 1993 he was the NFL's MVP and MVP of Super Bowl XXVIII. He passed Walter Payton as the NFL's all-time leading rusher in 2002 and finished his career with 18,355 yards. His streak of 11 straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons is the most in NFL history.
"This is almost perfect," Smith said. "I don't think even Steven Spielberg could have written a script this nice."
While Smith and Rice were slam-dunks for the committee of 44 media representatives, the other new Hall of Famers were far from certainties.
Grimm, a guard who was part of the Redskins' famous "Hogs" offensive line, won three Super Bowls and played in four Pro Bowls. He was named to the NFL's Team of the Decade for the 1980s.
Jackson played 15 years for the Saints and the 49ers and had 128 sacks. He gained his Hall of Fame status the day before the Saints' first appearance in the Super Bowl. He played for New Orleans in the late 1980s when they won their first division title.
Jackson and Grimm were teammates at the University of Pittsburgh.
Randle was an undrafted defensive tackle at a time when the draft had 12 rounds, but he became a dominant pass rusher for the Vikings and the Seahawks. He finished with 1371/2 sacks, tied for sixth overall, and played in seven Pro Bowls. In 1997 he led the NFL with 151/2 sacks.
LeBeau, who now is better known as the ground-breaking defensive coordinator of the Steelers, was voted in by the senior committee for his play as a Lions cornerback from 1959-72. He had 62 career interceptions.
Little also was a senior committee inductee. He starred for the Broncos in the AFL and NFL, leading the NFL in rushing in 1971.