POINT CLEAR, Ala. — Being an incredible athlete is a prerequisite to becoming a member of the Reese’s Senior Bowl Hall of Fame. Being able to tell a good story apparently does not hurt either.
The select group increased to 105 on Thursday night as DeMarcus Ware, Torry Holt and Bill Kollar were inducted. The event took place before a packed house at the Grant Hotel Marriott Resort. Included in the audience were fellow HOF members Tom Banks and Lee Roy Jordan.
Phil Savage, executive director of the all-star game, said he was honored to recognize the newest members. He added it was players like them that has made Mobile a launching point for all-pro performers.
Kollar was the first to step up to the lectern. As a player coming out of Montana State, he credits the Senior Bowl for the career he has had in football.
“It was a great opportunity in 1974,” said Kollar, who is currently serving as the assistant head coach/defensive line coach of the Houston Texans. “All the top players were here back then, because you did not have juniors leaving early like they do today. I was named MVP of the game, and the prize was a new car. It was the first car I ever had.”
Kollar went on to be a first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals. He played eight years in the NFL before he began his extensive coaching career.
He kept the crowd entertained with his stories, including how he once wrestled a bear for $50 to help make ends meet before the days of multi-million dollar contracts. Among the celebrities sprinkled into his tales were John Madden, MC Hammer, James Brown and Mr. T.
“In my 35 years in the NFL, what kicked my career off was playing in the Senior Bowl,” he said. “Mobile was great in 1974, and it is great now.”
Up next was Ware, easily the most popular person of the night. A Troy University graduate, he said was honored to be chosen for the Hall of Fame and to be back home with his family.
Ware grew up in Auburn, where he was a 6-foot-2, 190-pound wide receiver. He said several high school teammates helped to convince Troy head coach Larry Blakeney to give Ware a shot at the team. It would be his only major college offer.
He went on to become a two-time member of the All-Sun Belt Conference team and the league’s defensive player of the year. The 11th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, he is the second fastest player in league history to reach 100 sacks and as a Dallas Cowboy was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection. He signed with Denver in the off-season.
“Football was not my first love,” Ware said. “I wanted to study information systems, but I needed football to pay for my school.
“Then at the Senior Bowl, I was told I was really too small and some questioned whether a guy from Troy could compete with these guys on the next level. I had to prove those naysayers were wrong.”
Ware said the Senior Bowl was the perfect platform for him, and he will always be thankful for his time in Mobile.
TV personality Pat Greenwood, who served as the emcee for the event, then told a story about the final speaker. During one NFL game, Holt dislocated his finger but snapped it back into place before making a catch.
Holt proudly showed off his crooked finger, and said it was not the only injury he endured during his career.
“I suffered a lot of pain, but all I ever wanted to do was play sports,” he said. “I did not want to be a doctor or a lawyer. I am thankful to God for the opportunity to play professional football.”
After a stellar career at North Carolina State, Holt was selected to play in the Senior Bowl. However, an injury during practice kept him from appearing in the game.
“I wanted to come here and put my talents up against the best competition from across the county,” Holt said. “The Senior Bowl did help me to achieve my dream.”
As a rookie with St. Louis, Holt exploded on the scene as the Rams captured Super Bowl XXXIV. During his 11 years in the NFL, he set the mark for consecutive seasons with at least 90 receptions (6) and at least 1,300 yards (6).
“I owe a lot to a lot of people,” Holt said. “I would not be standing here tonight without their help.”
Greenwood wrapped up the night by thanking all those for coming to the Grand Hotel and for supporting the all-star game. “And don’t forget, we are just 290 days to kick off,” he said.