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updated: 8/2/2011 5:50 PM

Dent finally gets his Hall of Fame moment

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  • Richard Dent will finally become the third member of the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears defense to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011, when he joins fellow ́Monsters of the Midwayî Dan Hampton and Mike Singletary, an honor that his teammates and coaches say is long overdue. (AP Photo/David Boe, File)

      Richard Dent will finally become the third member of the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears defense to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011, when he joins fellow ́Monsters of the Midwayî Dan Hampton and Mike Singletary, an honor that his teammates and coaches say is long overdue. (AP Photo/David Boe, File)
    associated press

 
Associated Press

Richard Dent had just joined the Bears, and Dan Hampton was a little less than impressed.

He saw a player who was scrawny -- even a bit lazy -- and when defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan asked about two weeks into practices what Hampton thought of the rookie, well, the "Danimal" couldn't be restrained, using a few choice words to describe him.

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"I said, 'Why, you like him?'" Hampton recalled. "And Buddy said, 'Watch him. He never makes a bad decision, and that's the essence of being a defensive lineman.'"

What a defensive end he turned out to be. And now, after some near misses, Dent's long wait for a spot in the Hall of Fame is just about over.

Dent finally will become the third member of that legendary 1985 Bears defense to be inducted into the Hall on Saturday, when he joins fellow "Monsters of the Midway" Hampton and Mike Singletary. It's an honor his teammates and coaches say is long overdue.

Who can forget the mangled mess of opponents that group left behind while shuffling all the way to a championship? Whether it was the crunching hits or Dent bursting past the tackle and stripping the ball as he sacked the quarterback, few teams made offenses wilt like that one.

He will go in as part of a class that includes Shannon Sharpe, Marshall Faulk, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, Ed Sabol and Deion Sanders. Dent will be presented by his old coach at Tennessee State who, like Hampton, was far from impressed -- at first.

"I'm very appreciative of those people who appreciate my career and having an opportunity to come in their homes to entertain them on Sundays," Dent said. "They can turn you off, but they turn you on."

A four-time Pro Bowl pick and MVP of the Super Bowl in 1986, Dent played 15 seasons and is tied for sixth with John Randle on the NFL's all-time sacks list with 137½.

He set a team record with 17½ in 1984, led the NFL with 17 sacks a year later, and finished with 10 or more eight times in his career.

Now, after missing out as a finalist six of the previous seven years, he's finally going into the Hall.

Not bad for a guy who barely made his college team, who then watched as 202 players got drafted before him in 1983 and who showed up to the Bears undersized and needing extensive dental work.

"The thing about Richard was he really made himself what he became," said Mike Ditka, the 1985 Bears coach.

He's the first Hall of Famer from Tennessee State, a historically black school that produced Pro Bowl picks such as Ed "Too Tall" Jones and Claude Humphrey. And yet, Joe Gilliam Sr. wanted nothing to do with Dent.

He just couldn't avoid him, though. And on Saturday, he will be the one making the presentation.

As tough and as quick as he was, Dent was easy to overlook because he didn't really stand out as a physical specimen.

Even though he put on weight in college, he still only tipped the scales in the 220s when he started with the Bears. He also had to undergo extensive dental work. But soon the eighth-round pick began to pack on the pounds, eventually playing at about 265.

Ryan, the coordinator of that 46 defense, said he simply "had all the natural ability in the world," and he stood out on a unit packed with stars.

Now, finally, he's set to take his place among the game's greats.

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