Tom Thayer lauds Richard Dent on his all-around greatness

As the Bears' starting right guard for eight years, Tom Thayer spent a lot of time practicing across the line of scrimmage from defensive end Richard Dent.

And Thayer had a front-row seat to witness Dent's body of work that culminated in Saturday's induction in the Hall of Fame.

Dent was best known for the 137½ sacks he piled up, including 124½ as a Bear, but Thayer says it was Dent's all-around game that made him one of the all-time greats.

“The biggest compliment about Richard Dent as a defensive end is that (he was) a three-down player,” Thayer said. “Whether it was a run, a pass, whatever the play was, Richard was capable of handling that duty.

“With all due respect to (Hall of Fame linebacker) Derrick Thomas, throughout his career, he was known as a great pass rusher. But if you game-planned against the Kansas City Chiefs, you could run at Derrick Thomas. Nobody out there game-planned to run against Richard Dent. I think that's a huge compliment to a guy who had 137½ sacks, a lot of quarterback pressures, and stayed on the field every down. I think that's a compliment to greatness.”

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, a potential Hall of Famer himself, has been watching the promotional TV spots for the induction on NFL Network, and he's been impressed by the MVP of the Bears' Super Bowl XX victory.

“He was awesome,” Urlacher said. “His whole career he played well. It's the ultimate honor as a football player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I've been watching a lot of highlights this week, and he was good.”

Dent led the NFC with 17½ sacks in 1984 and added an NFL-best 17 the following year.

But Dent wouldn't have played such an integral part in the success of coordinator Buddy Ryan's defense unless he excelled as an all-around player, according to Thayer.

“Buddy Ryan challenged Richard Dent,” Thayer said. “Buddy said, ‘Make sure that you can stop the run, or else you're not going to play in my defense,' and then Richard Dent lived up to everything that was required of him on then field.

“If you were only good on one or two out of three downs, you were going to really limit your chances for success, or to even have a chance to play for Buddy Ryan or (head coach) Mike Ditka in those days. But when Richard was challenged, he lived up to it, and he became dominant on all three downs.”

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Richard Dent waves to the crowd after receiving his gold jacket from Joe Gilliam at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival inductees dinner Friday. Associated Press