PHOENIX - Andre Tippett was in the lobby of the Patriots' team hotel yesterday afternoon, watching the NFL Network in suspense, hoping he would be named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Then, in one of the most poignant moments of his life, there was an uproar as Tippett's name was announced, the emotions overtaking him as he shared an embrace with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his son Jonathan, the team president.
Tippett's hope is that it's an omen for tonight, when the Patriots face the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
"Everybody, from Day One that we got here, said we're looking to do something special - you on Saturday and us on Sunday," said Tippett, whose cellphone began receiving text messages from quarterback Tom Brady, linebacker Mike Vrabel, and other current Patriots immediately after the announcement. "It couldn't have happened at a better time. I'm in a special place."
Tippett, who played 11 seasons for the Patriots (1982-88, 1990-93) and is the second player to earn induction after spending his entire career with the Patriots, joining guard John Hannah. Cornerback Mike Haynes and linebacker Nick Buoniconti are other Hall of Famers to have worn a Patriots uniform.
The rest of the 2008 Hall of Fame class includes defensive end Fred Dean, cornerback Darrell Green, wide receiver Art Monk, tackle Gary Zimmerman, and cornerback Emmitt Thomas (senior committee nominee).
Tippett called his induction the proudest moment of his professional career, saying he was sharing it with his family, the Patriots organization, his teammates, and New England fans.
A five-time Pro Bowl selection, Tippett played 151 career games (139 starts) and holds the franchise record with 100 career sacks. His candidacy was boosted by the thinking that if the Giants' Lawrence Taylor was the premier pass rusher of the 1980s, Tippett was next in line.
Voters also took into consideration that Tippett spent most of his time on the strong side of the defensive formation, where it is more difficult to generate sacks. This marked the second year that Tippett was among the finalists for induction, which he indicated has been a lifelong dream.
"I don't know a little boy right now that doesn't think about some day having that opportunity," he said. "Just like every kid that wants to be Tom Brady, there are also those little boys that are watching Canton every August and watch those guys put on their gold jackets and they thank their mother and their high school coaches and their teammates. That's what football has been for me."
The induction ceremony will be held Aug. 2.
Tippett called it sweet that he was inducted on the same weekend the Patriots were playing in the Super Bowl. He thanked his presenter, Ron Borges, as well as his family, the Kraft family, and the Patriots' media relations staff under director Stacey James.
"There is nowhere else for me to go in professional football," Tippett said. "This has been my Super Bowl from an individual standpoint. I've reached the motherland."
Tippett, who currently serves as the Patriots' executive director of community affairs, was initially considered an underdog as a Hall of Fame candidate because he played on teams that did not have much success. But his profile picked up momentum in recent years.
"Ron Borges did a hell of a job presenting Tippett to the committee for the second year in a row," said John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. "Tippett has been deserving for years, but it took an extraordinary job by Borges to get Tippett to where he belongs, in Canton."
Green and Monk both played for the Redskins, which led Green to declare it "Redskins Day."
Dean played defensive end for the Chargers (1975-81) and for the 49ers (1981-85) and was one of the most feared pass rushers during his 141-game career. Sacks did not become an NFL statistic until 1982, but if numbers tallied by teams were included with his official sack count, Dean's career total would have been close to 100.
Green spent his entire 20-year career with the Redskins, who selected him in the first round of the 1983 draft. Green totaled a franchise-record 54 interceptions and was also a dynamic kick returner. At only 5 feet 8 inches, he spoke emotionally yesterday about overcoming the odds, starting at Jesse H. Jones High School in Houston, where he was a walk-on.
Monk played 16 NFL seasons, spending the first 14 with the Redskins before finishing with the Jets and Eagles. Playing in an era that did not include the current rules that promote more offensive play, the 6-3, 210-pound Monk totaled 940 receptions for 12,721 yards and 68 touchdowns.
Zimmerman suited up for the Vikings (1986-92) and Broncos (1993-97), playing 184 games over 12 seasons. He entered the league as a first-round supplemental draft choice in 1984 and was selected to seven Pro Bowls.
Thomas entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and played for the Chiefs for 13 seasons before retiring in 1978 as the team's all-time leading interceptor (58). He was selected to five Pro Bowls.