MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. –** When former Houston Oilers linebacker Robert Brazile found out in August he was one of two senior nominees to be considered for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it made an unforgettable impact on his life, and those around him.
Here on Saturday, his life changed forever.
Brazile has been elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Brazile, who played from 1975-84 with the Oilers, was a finalist for the first time and one of two senior nominees.
"This whole experience, since the first phone call, it has been an incredible feeling for me," Brazile said. "And it's a sign of the game recognizing what I did in the past. It's a big 'Thank you.'"
"It's funny. I've talked to so many guys I played with or against during this process, and they tell me, 'We never saw you mad. You always kept that big smile on your face, like you enjoyed it.' Guys told me they couldn't understand how I hit so hard, but I never stopped smiling, and how I would help guys up. It was like I was enjoying it. Well, I did enjoy it. I loved every minute of it."
A first-round pick by the Houston Oilers in 1975, Brazile played 10 seasons and never missed a game. He was voted to seven consecutive Pro Bowls, and was named to three All-Pro teams.
His career statistics include 13 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries. He once recorded 185 tackles in one season (1978).
"Before Lawrence Taylor, he was Lawrence Taylor," said Ken Houston, Brazile's teammate with the Oilers who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. Houston played safety for the Oilers and later the Redskins. "L.T. and Robert, they had the same type of attitude. Robert was just a big, fast linebacker. He was a nice guy. He didn't play violent. Or I should say his intent wasn't violent. He was just a player, and it came out violent. I don't know why it took so long (for him to get in). He was right there with the best linebackers who've ever played.
"If you ask any player who played with him or against him, and ask them about the best linebackers and they'll tell you Robert Brazile. He's definitely deserving."
Hall of Fame offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure, who played for the Bills and Browns and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003, also raved about Brazile.
"He's one of the greatest players I played against, and I know a lot of guys will say the same thing," DeLamielleure said. "He should've been in by now. I feel fortunate to be in, but I can't believe I got in before him. He was one of the great players. He could run, he could hit, and he was smart. He was the whole package.
"And Robert, he's a good man. He's a good character guy. He wasn't a hot dog. He was just a guy who could play. He let his play do his talking."
Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk issued a statement on Saturday night congratulating Brazile.
"Our entire family and our organization is so pleased and so proud of Robert Brazile's selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame — not just because he is a worthy player, but also because he is such a great individual," Strunk said. "Robert will finally get the recognition he has so long deserved and will take his place among the greatest defenders and tacklers in the history of professional football. We offer our warmest congratulations for the honor of his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and our appreciation for the contributions he made to Houston Oilers and to professional football."
Brazile said he loved playing the game.
He said the experience has meant a lot to his family, including his 85-year-old father, Robert, who was diagnosed with cancer recently, and is now in remission after rounds of chemotherapy.
"He's doing good," Brazile said of his dad. "This was one of the biggest things to push him through. …He just fought to get well.
Brazile said he's heard from many of his former teammates, from Earl Campbell to Dan Pastorini to Curley Culp to Elvin Bethea.
Brazile, who played for legendary coach Bum Phillips with the Oilers, will join Campbell, Bethea, Culp, Houston, George Blanda, Bruce Matthews, Warren Moon and Mike Munchak as Oilers/Titans when he's enshrined in Canton, Ohio. Brazile said he was touched recently when Strunk reached out to him. Bud Adams, father of Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, was the owner when Brazile played for the team. Brazile helped the Oilers to three consecutive 10-win seasons, and he started at outside linebacker in back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances.
"Through this process a lot of people have been calling, but it felt so good to hear from Amy,'' Brazile said. "It made me feel so good that she remembered me from my time. I remembered her as a little girl. She wished me well, and good luck. I thought that was very nice, and it made me feel so good.
"Her dad was always a first–class guy. He always treated the players the way I thought an owner should, and his checks never bounced either," Brazile, laughing, continued.
"This whole experience has been so great. I am really thankful. I loved played the game, and this just tops it all off."
At a ceremony after being elected, Brazile was wearing a belt buckle given to him by Phillips, who gave it to him three weeks before he died in 2013. On the outside were the words: Houston Oilers, Bum Phillips. Inside the shiny belt buckle, Phillips wrote the words: I love you Robert. Good luck in the Hall of Fame.
On Saturday night, some dreams came true.
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)