Two things stand out about the three-man, Reese’s Senior Bowl Hall of Fame’s 2015 class: the trio — Alabama’s Woodrow Lowe, Auburn’s Tony Richardson and LSU’s Kyle Williams — is proof that one doesn’t have to be a first-round draft pick to have a successful pro career. The linebacker (Lowe, fifth-round pick), blocking fullback (Richardson, undrafted free agent) and defensive lineman (Williams, fifth-round pick) also comprised a class of non-diva position players.
All three players were members of successful college teams. Lowe was on four SEC championship and one national championship team during his time at Alabama (1972-75), while Williams’ was a member of the 2003 LSU national championship team and Richardson played on Auburn’s unbeaten 1993 team.
“With a fullback, linebacker and defensive tackle in the 2015 Reese’s Senior Bowl Hall of Fame class, this group has a ‘throwback’ feel to it because of each individual’s passion, perseverance and commitment to the game,” Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage said. “We are so pleased to have Woodrow, Tony and Kyle go in together, because each one represents all of the great things about football, both on and off the field.”
All three men attended last week’s induction banquet at the Battle House Hotel. Their addition increases the number of players in the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame to 108. Five other members — Bob Baumhower (1995), Tom Banks (1999), Robert Brazile (1994), Sylvester Croom (2013) and Dean Kleinschmidt (2008) —were also in attendance.
“This is special to me,” Lowe, Alabama’s first three-time, first-team All-America player, said. He dedicated his induction to his older brother James, the former Bishop State Community College president, who died recently.
“He inspired me — mentally, physically and spiritually.” Lowe, who played 11 seasons for the San Diego Chargers, collecting 21 career interceptions, offered thanks to several people. Included on the list was Paul Bryant, his coach at Alabama, who he said prepared him for the NFL.
“I did not get tired for three, four or five years,” Lowe said of Chargers’ practices. “Our practices were so rigorous that the (NFL) game came easy to me.”
A member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, Lowe still holds the Alabama school record for tackles in a season (134) and is third all-time in total tackles. He played 164 games with the Chargers, missing only one game in his 11 seasons.
Richardson, who was raised in the military family, spent much of his youth in Germany and grew up playing the international form of football — soccer. His family returned to the U.S. and Richardson played American football at Daleville High School. He was a member of Auburn’s unbeaten team in 1993 and earned a spot in the 1994 Senior Bowl. Although he was not selected in the ‘94 NFL draft, he would spend 16 seasons in the NFL with three teams, scoring 24 touchdowns and rushing for more than 1,700 yards. He was best known as a devastating blocker, clearing a path for the running back.
Interestingly, Richardson was a member of the Kansas City Chiefs team when Lowe was an assistant coach for the NFL team, and he competed against Williams in the NFL, sometimes having to meet him at the line of scrimmage in an effort to clear running space. Richardson, like Lowe, is also a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
“To me, the Senior Bowl was probably the biggest opportunity in my life,” said Richardson, who explained that because Auburn was on NCAA probation during its unbeaten 1993 season and was banned from appearing on TV, the Mobile all-star game offered the chance for him to show NFL scouts and fans of other teams what he could do.
Williams, who played in the 2006 Senior Bowl and is still a member of the Buffalo Bills, has been named to the Pro Bowl four of the past five seasons and is considered one of the NFL’s top defensive linemen. He played for Nick Saban and Les Miles at LSU and is the first player from the 2006 Senior Bowl to be named to the game’s Hall of Fame. He earned All-America honors as a senior at LSU and has collected 34.5 career sacks in the NFL.
He arrived at the induction ceremony with a date he described as the best-looking woman in the building — his mother. Williams’ wife was due to give birth to the couple’s fifth child and was unable to make the trip from their Louisiana home.
“When I got the call (about his selection) I told my wife and we were excited about it,” Williams said. “Then I got ready to go to bed and I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, just like that. I said I’m being inducted into a Hall of Fame with a guy who went to Auburn and a guy who went to Alabama in a Hall of Fame that resides in Alabama. That will put you in a cold sweat.
“I take a great deal of pride in what I do and how I do it and where I come from. … With great pride, I will now represent this Hall of Fame.”