Election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a foregone conclusion for a fortunate few, such as former Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green.
For others - even those as qualified as record-setting ex-Redskins receiver Art Monk - the road to Canton, Ohio, can be a long slog.
But at least Monk was in the discussion as a finalist each of the seven years he was rejected.
For those players whose 20 years of eligibility have expired and who have become senior candidates, their odds of enshrinement each February are long.
Not that those remote chances have stopped some ardent supporters of certain players from campaigning for their favorites. Here are their stories …
Honor thy father
Bob Dilweg, a 74-year-old Bethesda resident, is the son and father of former Green Bay Packers. Neither Dilweg, who played at Marquette and William & Mary, nor his son Anthony, a Packers quarterback in the inglorious era between Bart Starr and Brett Favre, ever will be more than visitors to Canton. However, Bob Dilweg believes his father, Lavvie, a star end for Green Bay from 1926 to 1934, should have been enshrined long ago.
“I remember Dad’s excitement in ‘67 when he heard that he had been enshrined in the Hall,” Bob Dilweg said. “It turned out it was the Wisconsin Hall of Fame, not the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he was so disappointed. He passed away the next year. Every year after that, I expected that he would be elected based on his credentials, but nothing happened.”
In 2006, Dilweg’s brother Jack wrote a letter to the Hall on their’s father behalf. Jack Dilweg died two months later. Bob Dilweg picked up the torch and has more than carried it since. He has gone though reams of yellowed newspaper stories, written to each of the nine senior selectors (who choose the two senior nominees each year) and generally advocated firmly for Lavvie, one of only two players from the NFL’s All-1920s team who are not enshrined.
Lavvie Dilweg was a consensus All-Pro in six of his nine seasons and a second-team selection in two of the other three years. His son quotes the immortal Red Grange calling Lavvie Dilweg “the greatest end who ever brought me down” and follows with testimonials from the legendary Bronko Nagurski and Packers coach Curly Lambeau.
In the first year of his retirement, Lavvie Dilweg, already an attorney, helped incorporate the Packers, still the NFL’s only community-owned franchise. He was later elected to Congress. But a bust in Canton has proved much more difficult to attain, especially because there are few people left who saw him play.
“It’s been very frustrating,” Bob Dilweg said. “The biggest problem I have is education. I’m trying to convince people to select Dad instead of people they saw play. He should have been elected in the ‘60s or the ‘70s, but he wasn’t. [Senior selector] Rick Gosselin said my proposal was very impressive but that Dad had to wait in line because there were a lot of people ahead of him. If I don’t get one of the nine selectors to be Dad’s advocate, I don’t think he’ll ever get in.”
What friends are for
While Bob Dilweg has been a virtual one-man band on behalf of his late father, Pat Fischer has seemingly half the state of Nebraska fighting for him.
Fischer played in 213 games - second all time among cornerbacks - with the St. Louis Cardinals (1961-67) and Washington Redskins (1968-77) and recorded 56 interceptions (which would make him fourth among cornerbacks in the Hall of Fame). A two-time All-Pro, the 68-year-old Fischer has lived in Northern Virginia since his NFL career ended, but his friends back in the Cornhusker State have not forgotten him.