Hall of Fame Preview: Deion Sanders, Richard Dent and Joe Horrigan

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At first blush, one would think the third and final name on this special Hall of Fame Preview version of the podcast would not belong with the first two… but you’d be wrong.

Listen to the show and I think you’ll agree.

In fact, of the three principles from the upcoming Hall of Fame Weekend included on this show, I interviewed Joe Horrigan first. At first, I thought he would be just another guest in this week’s regular podcast with Al Michaels, Jason Bateman and Hank Azaria. But the chat with Joe was so enjoyable, so informative and so darn good that it kept going and going. And lasted over 40 minutes.

So, it spawned an entirely new and special podcast dedicated solely to getting the juices flowing for another Induction Weekend in Canton. To that end, once I hung up with Joe, I texted my good buddy Deion Sanders and asked him if he’d be free for a few minutes to chat in his lead-up to the big weekend. You see, Deion isn’t just packing up his own wife and kids and taking the flight from Texas to Ohio when it’s time for the enshrinees to arrive. No, sir. This is Deion Sanders we’re talking about. He’s the same man who showed up to the Canton Class of 2011 Announcement ceremony at the Super Bowl in Dallas fresh off the youth football sidelines, still wearing his coaching whistle and the Under Armour sweats of his team -– The Truth.

Deion is in the midst of a week-long multi-city barnstorming tour with his youth football team that will finish up this Thursday in Canton, Ohio, where his entire seven-busload caravan will disembark for the weekend. Indeed, Deion will have over 400 kids as part of his Hall of Fame entourage. Not that Deion won’t bring the usual Primetime flair to which we’ve all grown accustomed. Listen to who is performing at the post-Induction party that he and Marshall Faulk are throwing together. Please also keep an ear peeled to his Hall of Fame haberdashery quandary that he asked me to help solve. In between, the soulful Sanders lays out the parameters of his Induction speech (which has not been put on paper, by the way) as well as the long-held family secret he plans to reveal during that speech.

It’s brilliant stuff.

But back to the cobbling of this special podcast. Within minutes of Deion texting back that he was game for a chat, podcast producer Chris Law sprung into action and tracked down the one contemporary player of this year’s class who seems to be lost in the Deion/Marshall/Shannon Sharpe shuffle -– Super Bowl shuffler Richard Dent, who, oh by the way, just happens to be the only person walking planet Earth who can say he is a Chicago Bears Super Bowl MVP.

Another fabulous conversation ensued. What was it like playing amidst the Buddy Ryan-Mike Ditka feud? When did he know the ’85 Bears were a special team? How about all the goal-line carries that The Refrigerator received, especially the one in the Super Bowl that did not go to Walter Payton? And what about now finally being placed in the same Hall of Fame Gallery as his teammate Sweetness? Good times with Dent here.

And, then comes the star of the show from behind the scenes in Canton –- Joe Horrigan, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s vice president of communication and exhibits. This man touches virtually every aspect of the Hall of Fame weekend, from organizing the announcement ceremony at Super Bowl weekend all the way to the Enshrinement Weekend. Joe deals with the television networks and media outlets covering the events and he deals with every need the Inductees and numerous returning Hall of Famers require. It is a massive undertaking and Joe undertakes it with such calm, humor and grace. Representing the brilliant 4,000-strong cast of local volunteers who give their blood, sweat and tears to make sure the show goes off without a hitch, there’s no one better equipped to let you know all that goes on leading up to and during Hall of Fame Weekend than Joe Horrigan.

Football is back, people! And even though Canton is without its game this year, it is not without its spirit and love of the game. I hope that comes across in this special podcast that I’m glad we put together.

Please do stay tuned for the regular show that will post early Thursday morning on iTunes and NFL.com and premiere on NFL Network Thursday night at 10:30 p.m. ET and then re-air Friday night at 10 p.m. ET. On that show, we’ll talk all the free-agent moves with the voice of NBC’s Sunday Night Football in America, Al Michaels. We’ll discuss the fate of Los Angeles football and the brilliant TV show “Arrested Development” with its star, Jason Bateman, whose film “The Change-Up” opens this weekend. And bringing it all home is Hank Azaria, who returns to the podcast fresh off a big weekend for his movie “The Smurfs,” and a lot of exciting moves by his beloved Jets.

Enjoy the two-fer this week, people.

Download: Hall of Fame Preview: Deion Sanders, Richard Dent and Joe Horrigan

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