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After 34-Year Wait, Robert Brazile Eager to Involve Family in Hall of Fame Festivities


Story by John McClain (with permission from the Houston Chronicle)

As his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame approached, outside linebacker Robert Brazile started to experience that same gnawing in his gut he used to get before the Oilers played the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"But I'm like the Boy Scouts — I'm prepared and ready to go," Brazile said with a laugh this week.

The highlight for Brazile is having his parents, Robert Sr. and Ola Mae, in Canton, Ohio, to witness his induction Saturday night. He'll be the first to give his speech after the ceremony begins at 6 p.m.

Brazile's presenter is his biggest fan, his father, who has been battling and beating cancer in his neck.

"My parents are 86, and I'm so happy and grateful they'll be with me this weekend," Brazile said. "They've been such a big part of my life, and I'm so blessed they're able to share this honor with me.

"When my father was undergoing his treatment, he was just so sick when I told him I wanted him to present me in Canton. He raised up and gave me a look I'd never seen. He said, 'Son, you've made me so happy and proud.'"

Robert Sr. told his son that was the best day of his life.

"I started to cry," Brazile said.

Last week, Brazile's mother suffered an accident at her home outside Mobile, Ala., that could have forced her to miss the induction ceremony.

Brazile, 65, was visiting his parents when his mother left the front porch to walk across the yard to see a neighbor. She tripped on a tree root and fractured a big toe.

"The doctor told her she couldn't travel," Brazile said. "She told him, 'Just cut it off then because there's no way I'm not going to Canton to see my son go in the Hall of Fame.'"

This weekend, Ola Mae Brazile is using a wheelchair to participate in the festivities.

Her oldest son is a proud member of the Class of 2018. He played 10 years (1975-84) for the Oilers and waited 34 years to be elected. Unlike Terrell Owens, Brazile isn't bitter about the wait.

"T.O. has his reasons, and I respect that," Brazile said. "But I think he's going to miss the greatest thing that'll happen to him. This is such an incredible honor. This is bigger than me. This is for my parents, my family members, friends, teachers, coaches and teammates. I can't imagine not being here and not being able to share this experience with them.

"I just think in the long run T.O. will be sorry he missed it. He may never admit it, but as he gets older, I think he'll go, 'Wow! I can't believe I missed it.'"

Every night, Brazile has said a prayer asking God to make sure he awakened to be one day closer to his induction and Friday's Enshrinees Dinner at the Canton Civic Center.

When Brazile's name is called, he and his father will enter from one end of the Civic Center and approach a ramp that will lead them to the stage that is set up in the middle of the floor. They'll walk through a gauntlet of Hall of Fame members clapping and giving them high-fives.

On the stage, Brazile's father will take his son's suit coat and help him put on his gold jacket. Then Brazile will walk around the stage with his arms in the air while music blares, lights flash, family and friends shoot video and take pictures and a crowd of more than 5,000 gives him a thunderous ovation.

"I'm so ready for it," Brazile said. "I can't wait for my father to help me put that gold jacket on. I've been dreaming about that moment."

Brazile's wife, Brenda, has been invaluable. She has taken care of the details that go into such a monumental event. She has been coordinating his Saturday night induction party with Tennessee Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk, youngest daughter of Oilers founder Bud Adams.

After the induction ceremony, Strunk is hosting the party at Glenmoor Country Club. With so many Oilers players and coaches attending, it should be a Luv Ya Blue reunion to remember. Brazile joins running back Earl Campbell, defensive end Elvin Bethea and nose tackle Curley Culp as Luv Ya Blue teammates in the Hall of Fame.

"Amy's become like my sister," Brazile said. "She's been fantastic through this whole process, and I can't thank her enough. She's become part of our family. She and Brenda have talked on the phone so much I can tell when it's Amy because of the way Brenda giggles."

Brazile will experience a smorgasbord of emotions this weekend. There will be a lot of laughing and crying during the reminiscing.

"I'm already so emotional," he said. "I can't wait to make my speech. For months, I've done my daily walk and gone over my speech every time. I'm so prepared."

This weekend, Brazile will wear his favorite belt buckle that was given to him by Bum Phillips, who died in 2013. Phillips asked Brazile to wear the buckle when he was voted into the Hall of Fame.

"Bum told me I was going into the Hall of Fame someday," Brazile said. "It took a while, but I never gave up. Bum was like a second father to me, and I kept his words about the Hall of Fame close to my heart.

"On Saturday night, when I'm standing at that podium making my speech, I'll be wearing my lucky belt buckle. There's no way I'd go into the Hall of Fame without taking Bum with me."

Former Houston Oilers LB Robert Brazile was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 2018 class. Brazile played with the Oilers from 1975-84. (AP Photos)

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