NEW YORK • It’s well established that there’s no crying in baseball. But apparently that doesn’t apply in the NFL when it comes to Hall of Fame selection day.
So it was when Rams defensive back Aeneas Williams got the call late Saturday afternoon that he had been elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
“When we got the call it was pretty amazing,” Williams said.
He and his wife both started crying. Then they called the children back home in St. Louis, and they started breaking down.
“That was something. I guess that’s what happens when you have these girls, right?” Williams joked. “They get all emotional.”
Williams is the father of three girls and a boy. Their father is now a very proud member of the Class of 2014 that will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, this summer.
Four other “modern era” players were voted in Saturday:
• Linebacker Derrick Brooks, an anchor of those great Tampa Bay defenses in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
• Offensive tackle Walter Jones, a nine-time Pro Bowler and a superb left tackle for the Seattle Seahawks from 1997-2008.
• Wide receiver Andre Reed, one of the key weapons in the Buffalo “K-Gun’ offenses that went to four consecutive Super Bowls in the early ‘90s.
• Defensive end Michael Strahan of the New York Giants, who set the NFL single-season sack record with 22½ in 2001.
Two “senior” candidates were voted in as well:
• Defensive end Claude Humphrey, who played 14 seasons with Atlanta and Philadelphia, and played in six Pro Bowls from 1968-1981.
• Punter Ray Guy, who dominated his position in a 14-year career with the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders (1973-1986). Guy is the first punter elected into the Hall of Fame.
It took the 46-member selection committee, which includes Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, nearly 9 hours Saturday to elect this class — making it the longest selection meeting ever.
“He was the complete package,” Miklasz said of Williams. “A competitive live-wire who made interceptions, pounced on fumbles, scored defensive touchdowns, and took on blockers to stop the run. When he had the chance to play in postseason games, he produced amazing results — with big play after big play.
“I just tried to do my best to point all of this out to fellow voters who may have overlooked Aeneas because he was stuck on so many bad teams in Arizona. In the end, his true greatness was recognized. Aeneas’s credentials were impossible to ignore.”
Williams spent his first 10 seasons with the Arizona, and team president Michael Bidwill — a St. Louis native — was there to share the moment with Williams at the nationally-televised NFL Honors show at Radio City Music Hall.
Williams finished his career with a flourish in St. Louis after being acquired in a draft day trade with Arizona in 2001. He played his last four seasons with the Rams where he made two of his eight Pro Bowls and played in Super Bowl XXXVI, a 20-17 loss to New England in a game played in Williams’ hometown of New Orleans.
“There’s no question he’s deserving,” said Mike Martz, who was head coach during Williams’ time with the Rams. “Just go back and look at the numbers, the picks, and the impact that he had.
“The leadership that he brought to that team, you just can’t measure it. But all the players on that defense and (defensive coordinator) Lovie Smith, they’ll attest to the impact he had as a leader.”
When Williams arrived in St. Louis after the trade, Martz and Smith met him at the airport.
“A lot of times, winning teams don’t necessarily take older players from losing teams,” Williams recalled Martz telling him as soon as he got off the plane. “But one thing Coach Martz said was that, ‘When we put on the film, we never could tell whether you were losing or winning.’ ’’
Because the effort, and the production, were the same.
The Rams gave up second– and fourth-round picks to acquire Williams, and that quickly became a running joke between Williams and his new teammate in St. Louis, fellow New Orleans native Marshall Faulk.
Two years earlier, the Rams had given up only a second– and fifth-round pick to Indianapolis to acquire Faulk. Williams enjoyed teasing Faulk that he cost more in terms of draft picks than Faulk.
“Marshall came back and said, ‘But they gave me more money,’” Williams said, laughing.
Martz and Smith said another thing to Williams that really caught his attention at the airport that day: “You’re going to be for our defense what Marshall Faulk is for our offense.”
That certainly was the case in Williams’ epic playoff performances after the 2001 season. In the divisional round, he returned two interceptions off Brett Favre for touchdowns, and also forced and recovered a fumble in a 45-17 victory over Green Bay.
The following week in the NFC championship game against Philadelphia, Williams registered a personal postseason-best 12 tackles and sealed a 29-24 Rams victory with a late interception of Donovan McNabb.
“Aeneas’ four seasons in a Rams uniform capped off his Hall of Fame career, playing a key role in helping the club reach the franchise’s third Super Bowl,” Rams executive vice president Kevin Demoff said in a statement. “While his play alone earned him this honor, Aeneas is also a Hall of Fame person. He remains extremely active in the St. Louis community and the Rams are grateful for the way he continues to contribute to our city and our organization.”
After his retirement following the 2004 season, Williams and his family settled in St. Louis.
“I like St. Louis a lot,” Williams said. “Great place to raise a family. My wife and I we started a church there — the Spirit Church — with a great group of people which allows the things that the Lord has taught me to influence others.
“The people, the fans in St. Louis — it’s one of the most philanthropic cities that I’ve ever been in.”