Ilkin thinks Dawson should be in Hall of Fame Class of 2007


By Teresa Varley

For the second-straight year Dermontti Dawson is one of the 25 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Dawson didn't make it to the final group last year, but there is one person who is strongly in his corner for induction as a part of the Class of 2007.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Dermontti should be in the Hall of Fame," said Tunch Ilkin, a former Steelers offensive tackle and member of the Steelers radio broadcast team. "Will he get in this time? It's hard for centers. I don't think the people that pick the Hall of Fame have the same appreciation that I do for great centers. If it was up to me, he would have been in on the first ballot."

Ilkin, who played with Dawson for five seasons, is speaking from experience when it comes to his knowledge of great centers. He played with one of the best in the game in Mike Webster and also saw Dwight Stephenson, another Hall of Famer, play for the Dolphins in the 1980s.

"To me, the best was Webbie," said Ilkin of Webster. "Part of that is my own kind of hero worship of Webbie. I was a rookie and he was the guy I looked up to. He was a mentor. He was one of my heroes.

"The argument used to be back then in the early 80s who was better, Mike Webster of Dwight Stephenson. Dwight was a great center because he was so athletic. Webbie was a great center because he was so strong and tough and smart.

"You put those two guys together and you have Dermontti Dawson."

Dawson was drafted by the Steelers in the second round in 1988 from Kentucky. He played his entire 13-year career with the Steelers, taking over for Webster at center in his second season and remaining a steady force at the position throughout his career.

"Dermontti didn't have quite the strength Webbie had, but close," said Ilkin. "He had the athleticism of Dwight Stephenson. He could do things athletically that no one other than Dwight could do, but he was bigger and stronger than Dwight."

Dawson had a streak of 170 consecutive games played between 1988-99, ranking second all-time in Steelers history. He was an All-Pro selection eight times and was voted to the Pro Bowl an impressive seven times.

One of his strengths that allowed him to be so durable was definitely that athleticism.

"Dermontti could just crank you," said Ilkin. "He had the ability, the explosive strength and the athleticism to do it, to just knock guys out. He also had that stability to just take on guys. He was strong enough to just absorb a 320-pound nose tackle and not give ground.

"He had the athleticism that he could do everything wrong. He could duck his head, he could step wrong, he could almost fall over. He had the athleticism that if he got troubled, he always recovered."

There are two others with Steelers connections who are among the 25 finalists for the Class of 2007. Russ Grimm, the Steelers offensive line coach, is nominated after playing for the Washington Redskins famed "Hogs" from 1981-91. Linebacker Kevin Greene, who was with the Steelers in 1996, 1998-1999, is also nominated. Greene also played for the Los Angeles Rams, Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers.

The 25 modern-era semifinalists for the NFL Hall of Fame are:

Terrell Davis, RB -- 1995-2001 Denver Broncos
Dermontti Dawson, C -- 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers
Fred Dean, DE -- 1975-1981 San Diego Chargers, 1981-1985 San Francisco 49ers
Richard Dent, DE -- 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles
Randy Gradishar, LB -- 1974-1983 Denver Broncos
Kevin Greene, LB/DE -- 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-1995 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, 1998-1999 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers
Russ Grimm, G -- 1981-1991 Washington Redskins
Ray Guy, P -- 1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
Charles Haley, DE/LB -- 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-1996 Dallas Cowboys
Lester Hayes, CB -- 1977-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
Michael Irvin, WR -- 1988-1999 Dallas Cowboys
Bob Kuechenberg, G -- 1970-1984 Miami Dolphins
Bruce Matthews, G/T/C -- 1983-2001 Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/Tennessee Titans
Randall McDaniel, G -- 1988-1999 Minnesota Vikings, 2000-2001 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Art Modell, Owner -- 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2003 Baltimore Ravens
Art Monk, WR -- 1980-1993 Washington Redskins, 1994 New York Jets, 1995 Philadelphia Eagles
Andre Reed, WR -- 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins
Ken Stabler, QB -- 1970-1979 Oakland Raiders, 1980-1981 Houston Oilers, 1982-1984 New Orleans Saints
Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner -- 1989-2006 National Football League
Derrick Thomas, LB -- 1989-1999 Kansas City Chiefs
Thurman Thomas, RB -- 1988-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Miami Dolphins
Andre Tippett, LB -- 1982-1993 New England Patriots
Roger Wehrli, CB -- 1969-1982 St. Louis Cardinals
George Young, GM/Administrator -- 1968-1974 Baltimore Colts, 1975-1978 Miami Dolphins, 1979-1997 New York Giants, 1998-2001 National Football League
Gary Zimmerman, T -- 1986-1992 Minnesota Vikings, 1993-1997 Denver Broncos

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