Larry Little didn’t want to cry when enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. So he devised some strategy.
Little had his sister Joy sit up close. She then went into action when her brother’s induction speech began.
“She just sat in the front row and kept wiping her eyes as if she was about to cry,” said Little, once a star guard for the Miami Dolphins. “I thought it was so funny that I didn’t cry.”
With the Hall of Fame celebrating its 50th anniversary and Little his 20th since his enshrinement, he will return this weekend to Canton, Ohio, for induction ceremonies. Little said he would be glad to give any advice about speeches to any of the seven 2013 inductees, and one item would be at the top of his list.
“Don’t cry unless it’s sincere,” said Little, who played with the Dolphins from 1969-80 after spending his first two seasons with San Diego.
Little is one of seven Miami mainstay Hall of Famers who will return this weekend. Others who will be on hand are wide receiver Paul Warfield, the first Dolphin to be inducted in 1983 and celebrating the 30th anniversary of his class, coach Don Shula, quarterbacks Bob Griese and Dan Marino, linebacker Nick Buoniconti and center Dwight Stephenson.
All will attend Sunday night’s Hall of Fame Game between the Dolphins and the Dallas Cowboys except Marino, who will have to depart before the game. The two mainstay Miami Hall of Famers who won’t be in Canton are running back Larry Csonka and center Jim Langer.
Two other players who logged just one season with the Dolphins have made it to Canton. They are running back Thurman Thomas and wide receiver Cris Carter, who finished his career with them in 2002 and will be inducted Saturday. Bill Parcells, a Miami executive from 2008-10 after a legendary coaching career, also will be enshrined.
Carter, a longtime Boca Raton, Fla., resident, is thrilled to be joining the shrine. But making it even more exciting is being part of the 50th anniversary celebration.
“It’s a special treat,” said Carter, who is second in NFL history with 1,101 catches and played 16 of his 17 seasons with Philadelphia and Minnesota. “It’s a special time for the Hall. … It might be the greatest day in the history of the NFL as far as the players and the collection of players. … I’m excited to meet 100 Hall of Famers.”
Carter and Parcells will be joined in the class of 2013 by former University of Miami and Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp, offensive linemen Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden, linebacker Dave Robinson and defensive tackle Curley Culp. That brings the total of living Hall of Famers to 163.
Of those, 112 are anticipated to be in Canton this weekend along with 12 spouses of deceased Hall of Famers. It indeed could be the greatest gathering of football legends at one time.
“This is a significant date for the Hall of Fame in general and, for me, it’s my 30th,” said Warfield, 70, who played with Miami from 1970-74. “This is very special. I’m a native Ohioan who grew up 50 miles northeast of the Hall of Fame (in Warren, Ohio).”
Warfield, who lives in Palm Springs, Fla., said he’s been back to Canton for more than half the inductions since his own. Little, a Miami resident, has missed only two since entering the Hall.
“It’s just a big reunion,” said Little, 67, whose 20th-anniversary class will get special recognition as will Warfield’s 30th-anniversary class. “It’s great to see (fellow Hall of Famers). There’s a lot of camaraderie and we’ll tell a lot of lies.”
Little will watch the induction speeches closely. It remains to be seen if Allen could be the latest former Dallas player to shed tears.
“Cowboys always cry,” Little said. “Those two, Michael Irvin (in 2007) and Emmitt Smith (in 2010), they knew they were going to get in, probably first- or second-ballot Hall of Famer. But to me it was all an act like they put onions in their eyes.”
On second thought, Little did believe “Michael was sincere” due to some of the “transgressions” he’s had, including arrests involving drugs. But Little doubted Smith, the running back whose induction speech included shedding tears when talking about the help he got from former backfield mate Daryl Johnston.
Little said his 1993 speech went with “flying colors” except he forgot to mention the names of daughter Damita, then 14, and son Learon, then 12. Making it even more embarrassing is they were seated in the front row.
“I heard about that from them for a long time,” Little said.
Little’s presenter was Shula, who also did the honors for Griese, Csonka, Langer and Stephenson. Warfield’s presenter was Gene Slaughter, who was his coach at Warren Harding High School and is now deceased.
“Be yourself, tell your own story,” Warfield said what a Hall of Fame induction speech should constitute. “I told the story about how I never would have played football had it not been for my high school coach. I didn’t think I was good enough, and he convinced me to come out for the team.”
Warfield went on to make eight Pro Bowls in 13 NFL seasons. Since he played eight of those years with Cleveland and the Hall of Fame is in Ohio, he is sometimes associated there more for being a former Brown.
Warfield isn’t hard to recognize wherever he now goes. He weighs about the same as he did as a player, when he was listed at 188 pounds.
When the Hall of Fame prepared to hand out new yellow blazers to enshrines two years ago, Warfield measured at 42 long. That’s the same size of the original jacket he had been handed in 1983.
Little says he’s about 25 pounds heavier now than as a player, when he was listed at 265. But he says his new jacket is about the same size as the one he got in 1993, when he had success in avoiding crying but not in remembering to mention his children.