Saturday, February 02, 2008

Andre Tippett Is A Hall Of Famer

When I was sixteen, I read somewhere that former New England Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett held a black belt in some form of karate (maybe multiple forms. I was sixteen a long time ago). This information was all it took to send me scampering off to the local dojo, where the sensei asked what had brought me to his door.

"Um...I read that Andre Tippett is a black belt at karate and I think it could help me as a football player," said oh-so-naive me.

"So you're interested in improving athletic performance?"

"Yes," I said, penciling it in on the "getting to know you" form with great confidence.

And the rest, as they say, is history. I went on to become a black belt, make All-State three times, and break numerous school records before moving on to play college football topped out as an orange belt, learned nothing about leverage, and spent most of my high school career on the bench.

Tippett's karate expertise didn't bring me gridiron glory, but it sure seems to have helped his career. The greatest pass rusher in Patriots history and the AFC's answer to Lawrence Taylor in the 1980s* was given the highest individual honor in football today, earning election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was the tenth time he had been considered.

*I'm pretty sure I read this somewhere, so it must be true. And yes, I stole this "put the italicized note in the middle of the page" idea from Joe Posnanski. Because let's face it: it's a good idea that makes reading easier.

An outside linebacker out of Iowa, Tippett recorded an even 100 sacks and recovered nineteen fumbles in eleven seasons with the Patriots. He appeared in five straight Pro Bowls from 1984 to 1988, recording a combined 35 sacks in 1984-85, before rupturing a muscle in his shoulder and missing the entire 1989 season. He returned in 1990 and recorded 27.5 sacks in his final four seasons.

Five other players were honored with enshrinement this afternoon: Redskins cornerback Darrell Green (54 interceptions, long considered the fastest man in football) and wide receiver Art Monk (940 career receptions, including a then-record 106 in 1984), Chargers and 49ers defensive end Fred Dean (28 sacks and 13 fumble recoveries in an era where neither was consistently recorded as an official statistic), Vikings and Broncos offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman (nine All-Pro selections), and Emmitt Thomas.