In 1997, Mike Haynes entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame with Don Shula, Wellington Mara and Mike Webster.
“I still believe it’s the greatest class in NFL history,” Haynes told Moose & Maggie, who were filling in as hosts of CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I just remember the excitement of being around a lot of family and friends that watched my career and having an opportunity to see some of the greatest players that ever played the game here in Canton. Many of these guys, you would think, ‘Oh, I haven’t heard his name in 15, 20 years, and wow, he’s still alive. There he is.’ Some of the guys I idolized when I was a kid that really inspired me to be a great player, to be a good person, and a lot of other things – it’s just a good time. You feel like you really achieved something special.”
Haynes, 63, played cornerback for the New England Patriots from 1976-82 and the Los Angeles Raiders from 1983-89. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and helped the Raiders win Super Bowl XVIII.
Haynes will be on hand to welcome the 2016 Hall of Fame class this weekend, as Edward DeBartolo Jr., Tony Dungy, Brett Favre, Kevin Greene, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel will be enshrined in Canton.
Many of those players played in an era far different from the era in which Haynes played, but Haynes insists that the game, not the rules, have changed the most.
“The rules are not really night and day,” he said. “Everybody says that, but they really are not. What’s night and day is the game. In the old days, they’d give the ball to the running back 30 times, 25 times, and they’d throw the ball maybe 20 times a game. Not a lot of passes back in those days. Receivers, if they had 60 catches for a season, that was a pretty good season. Now it’s 100 catches a season. So it’s a little different game. When I came in the league in 1976, you’re right: As long as the ball wasn’t in the air, a defensive back could touch the guy, push the guy, manhandle the guy – he could do a lot of stuff. But when they put that 5-yard rule in, I don’t remember when that was – like ’78, ’79, right around there. So most of my career, I had to play with that. The difference is the game. To get one yard today, they’ll pass the ball. That would never happen in my era.”
Switching gears a bit, Haynes, who grew up in Los Angeles, is ecstatic that the Rams are back in L.A. – and not just because of the entertainment they’ll provide on Sundays.
“I think it was really important for our city to have these great athletes in our community, encouraging kids to go to school, set their goals high, treat their families right – things like that,” Haynes said. “I think it’s really, really important, and it adds a lot to a community. So I’m sure football fans are glad just to have football there, but I’m really glad for a different reason. I’d just like to see the city to continue to grow and come together as a city. I think a sports club like a football team can actually do that.”