By Jim Gehman
During his 10-year career, 1975-84, with the Houston Oilers, Robert Brazile followed a game plan every time he took the field. It will be the same on August 4 when the two-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker is enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
He and his wife, Brenda, traveled there in February to meet with the staff, learn about what’s in store, and, yes, start to make a game plan.
“When we stepped out of the car, they’ve got this humongous picture of you and your other classmates outside the hall, and you just say, ‘Wow. You could be 7,000 feet in the air in a plane and look down and see those pictures,’” said Brazile, who was joined at the orientation by fellow 2018 classmates Ray Lewis and Randy Moss. “And then you walk in and every (employee) of the Hall of Fame greets you. I mean, it just feels so good.
“They walked us through the whole ceremony, where we’d be standing. They tried to talk us into keeping the speeches to a time length. We talked about the different venues around the Hall of Fame. We talked about the Gold Jacket Dinner, the parade, and they asked you who was going to be your presenter. I’m so glad I had my wife with me and that she keeps up with everything and writes everything down.
“I always tell people this and I’m going to stick to it. I am very coachable. You tell me something to do; I’m going to do it. They gave me my playbook; I’m going to stick to my playbook. We’re trying to get our guests lined up, the party lined up, traveling. It’s a big party coming.”
A key to the Oilers “Luv Ya Blue” of the late 1970s, Brazile’s invitation to the party, if you will, arrived when he was named as a seniors nominee along with former Green Bay Packers guard Jerry Kramer. They will be enshrined with Lewis, Moss, Brian Urlacher, Brian Dawkins, Terrell Owens and Bobby Beathard.
“It’s made an impact on my life. It’s something I’ve been waiting for for a long, long time,” said Brazile, a first-time finalist who was nicknamed ‘Dr. Doom’ during his playing days. “I’ve talked to a lot of Hall of Famers, Earl (Campbell), Elvin (Bethea), Curley (Culp), Lawrence (Taylor), Rickey Jackson, all of them told me it would make a difference and it does.”
Particularly where he makes his home – Satsuma, Alabama.
“It’s a small, little town. I mean, it’s golf cart size. I can drive all over town in my golf cart and I do,” Brazile said with a laugh. “There’s nowhere I can go that everybody’s not congratulating me and giving me high-fives and telling me how proud they are of me.
“I have this group of guys and I’m the youngest in the group, all are retired and great fishermen. We meet down by the creek in the mornings or in the evenings. And they’ve all just stopped talking about fishing and want to talk football. So, that’s the kind of impact this has changed my life from talking about normal stuff. Now everybody wants to ask about this person and talk about nothing but the Hall of Fame.”
By putting conversations about rods, reels and bait on hold, Brazile’s fishing buddies would have the opportunity to ask about what occurred during Super Bowl LII weekend when he and the others learned they’d become Hall of Famers.
“It started off on that Thursday. They invited 18 (finalists) to a reception and (Hall of Fame President) Dave (Baker) broke down these numbers: people that played football, people that got a chance to play college ball, and the people that got to play in the NFL. And out of all those numbers, it’s only 18 guys sitting on that podium. And out of 18, they’re only going to pick eight,” Brazile said.
“The next day you go to this lunch and they introduce you again. And somewhere in that crowd is the people who’ve got to vote for you. I was more intense. They said they’re going to take two or three or five of us, but I still had to get that 80 percent of the vote.”
On the Saturday before the Super Bowl, the Hall of Fame selection committee meets to discuss which finalists will make it. Once that’s decided, they will either be visited by Baker with the good news or receive a telephone call with the less than good news. Either way, it makes for a long day.
“You have to be in your room at three o’clock. There wasn’t no part of that morning that was enjoyable to me,” said Brazile. “I think me and my wife talked about everything you could think about. You couldn’t go anywhere; you were tied to this room. My wife had her own idea what she had planned to do. She had her eye in the peephole and I said, ‘It’s only three o’clock,’ but she stayed in that peephole for over an hour and a half.
“I’m looking at my telephone hoping that it don’t ring. And then all of a sudden, here comes that knock on the door. What a relief. This is the ultimate. All of us cried in our own way. It was such a wonderful feeling.
“People ask you, ‘How does it feel?’ All I can say is you have to be in my shoes. We all got different feelings. There’s no one word that expresses or tells you how we feel. I felt good, but I do hope that everybody that played the game or had a chance to put a football helmet on, at least gets this feeling at least once in their life about football. Football is actually saying I love you back and you’re in the Hall of Fame now.”