TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- In his 14th year of eligibility to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Ron Yary finally made it -- and the old tackle said it wouldn't have been possible without a little help from his friends.
"It was the result of Bud Grant," Yary said. "Jerry Burns, all sorts of other people who made calls, wrote letters. I can tell you right now, if not for them, I would be sitting here today, disappointed."
Grant, the coach who led Yary and the famed Purple People eaters to four Super Bowls in the 1970s, disagrees.
"Ron made it on his own," Grant said. "I don't think you make it by lobbying, you make it on your record. ... He was a dominant player on a dominant team. He belongs."
Yary, who spent 14 of his 15 seasons playing right tackle for the Vikings, was named to the Hall of Fame on Saturday, along with coach Marv Levy, offensive linemen Jackie Slater and Mike Munchak, defensive end Jack Youngblood, wide receiver Lynn Swann and old-timers nominee Nick Buoniconti.
Yary will be introduced at the Aug. 4 induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, by John Michels, his offensive line coach. Of the three offensive linemen elected Saturday, Yary had the most impressive credentials.
He was the first player taken in the 1968 draft -- the Vikings had the pick thanks to Jim Finks' trade of Fran Tarkenton to the Giants. Yary, who is 6-5 1/2, entered the league at 255 pounds and left it at 288.
He played in 207 games, earning All-Pro six times and all-NFC eight consecutive times starting in 1970. Yary also played in seven straight Pro Bowls and helped the Vikings win 11 conference titles and earn the four Super Bowl berths.
Along the way, Yary brought a competitiveness and athleticism to the position few could match. He was a devastating drive blocker on running plays, an athletic protector on passing downs.
"He was among the three best I ever played against," said Youngblood, the former Los Angeles Rams defensive end. Both agreed Youngblood never beat Yary for a sack. "He had great feet, and his athletic ability is a big part of that," Youngblood said. "He could move, stay in front of you."
Yary said his teammates helped him succeed.
"I was so lucky, because everywhere I would go, I was with the right group of people," he said. "And we won. I was with guys who wanted to win, who had great skills."
Former teammates agreed that Yary belongs in the Hall of Fame and was one of the most intense, hardworking people they saw play.
"Just a dominant player, both as a collegian (at the University of Southern California) and into his pro career," said former Vikings linebacker Jeff Siemon. "He was no-nonsense, fairly quiet, very intelligent, and very durable."
Former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema remembered that Yary was very intense.
"I mean, every play. I'm talking about practice as well. If I ever beat him in practice, he went ballistic. Nobody was going to beat him in practice, no player was going to beat him on Sunday."
Yary said it was important to be intense.
"It may sound corny, but it was my teammates I didn't want to let down that gave me my intensity. If I was intense, it was my teammates that gave me that. I wanted their respect."
Yary credited his selection to the lobbying of Grant and Burns, the offensive coordinator when Yary played for Minnesota, and current Vikings owner Red McCombs, among others.
Paul Zimmerman, a Sports Illustrated writer and a member of the 38-person selection committee, said it probably helped.
"I was never in his corner," Zimmerman said. "I always thought he was a functional player who came up not at his best when the stakes were highest. But this year, there was a groundswell of support for him."
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