Jerry Rice was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame today, and he announced that former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo will introduce him at the induction ceremony this summer in Canton, Ohio.
DeBartolo just took part in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. He addressed his thoughts about entering the Hall of Fame himself. He also said he plans to travel to the Bay Area in May to help the 49ers, and his nephew, team president Jed York, with the Santa Clara stadium campaign.
Q: How proud would Bill Walsh be?
DeBartolo: “He would’ve been very proud. We talked about it on my visits out there to Stanford (when Walsh was sick). We relived that jump ahead of New England to grab (Rice) at No. 16. Obviously, Bill loved him and he was a great judge of talent. It all came to fruition. (Rice) is where he belongs.”
Q: Are you surprised only five players from five Super Bowl teams are in the Hall of Fame?
DeBartolo: “I truly believe two guys among the 15, Roger (Craig) and Charles (Haley), they both really changed the game in their own ways. Roger being the first 1,000-1,000 guy. And Charles Haley was a hybrid linebacker/pass rusher. Obviously, he had a few little quirks, but he was a great, great football player. I think those two guys have a chance. And I always thought Randy Cross had an outside chance. He was a very steady player. There might be a couple more.”
Q: How about you, Eddie? Does it weigh on you that there are a lot of people who believe you should be in the Hall of Fame but it hasn’t happened yet?
DeBartolo: “Oh, I don’t dwell on it. It was an honor just to be a part of the time I had with the 49ers and be able to participate with these guys have them as my friends, and to win five Super Bowls with them. Anything other than that that might happen with the Hall of Fame would just be icing on the cake.”
Q: Jerry said you would be his presenter. What kind of honor is that?
DeBartolo: “Oh, great. I’ve had the honor of presenting Joe (Montana) and Fred Dean and Bill Walsh and now Jerry. That’s quite a foursome. Jerry and I have gotten to be very, very close friends over the last five or six years. We talk a couple times a week not even about football. When he asked me, I was quite honored. It’ll be a big day for me, too.”
Q: How well did you get to know Rickey Jackson during the two seasons he was with the 49ers?
DeBartolo: “Very well. He was only there two years. Ask Joe and everybody. Seriously, Rickey created plenty of havoc for us. He and I got to know each other very well. We became friends, and I’m thrilled for him. He was a phenomenal football player.”
Q: How closely do you follow the 49ers now?
DeBartolo: “I follow them. I watch them every week. I talk to Jed, and I’m keeping tabs on the referendum. Actually I just told Jed no more than 45 minutes ago that I’d be happy to come out and help them any way I can. I guess I’ll do that in May sometime.”
Q: Are you torn at all as far as helping the 49ers get a stadium built in Santa Clara and not San Francisco?
DeBartolo: “Well, really don’t have a horse in that race. All I’d like to see is a stadium built. And wherever it can be built at the right place for the right amount of money. The fans of the 49ers deserve it. I don’t want to back and revisit the Candlestick fiasco. But somewhere, some place, the Bay Area fans deserve a first-rate stadium. Wherever it can be done and where it can be done best, I’m for it.”
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