Hickerson elected to NFL Hall

Former Rebel star enshrined in National Football League's Hall of Fame. Ole Miss Team of the Century honoree now gets just reward after successful professional career.

MIAMI, Fla. – Former Ole Miss tackle Gene Hickerson, who played 15 seasons for the Cleveland Browns as the lead blocker for three Hall of Famers -- Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly and Bobby Mitchell -- was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Eligible for 29 years, Hickerson joins tackle Frank M. "Bruiser" Kinard as the only players from Ole Miss to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kinard was inducted in 1970.

Also voted in were wide receiver Michael Irvin, running back Thurman Thomas, offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, defensive back Roger Wehrli and tight end Charlie Sanders. Hickerson and Sanders were the two nominees of the veterans' committee.

The six-man class was elected by the Hall of Fame's 40-member Selection Committee who met Saturday in Miami. The newest members of the Hall were selected from a list of 17 finalists that had been determined earlier by the committee.

The 2007 class will increase to 241 the number of all-time greats permanently honored in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Formal enshrinement ceremonies will be held in Canton, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, on Saturday August 4 at 6:00 PM ET. The ceremony will be televised live on NFL Network and ESPN. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the New Orleans Saints will play in the annual Hall of Fame game.

"I am honored to be joining such an elite group of individuals and to be remembered as one of the best linemen of all time," Hickerson said.

While earning three letters at Ole Miss, Hickerson served as co-captain in 1957 when he was a consensus All-Southeastern Conference and All-South choice. He helped lead Coach John Vaught's Rebels to the 1955 SEC title and a 1956 Cotton Bowl win over TCU, plus a 39-7 victory over Texas in the 1958 Sugar Bowl. During his three varsity seasons, Ole Miss finished 10-1, 7-3 and 9-1-1.

Hickerson, who was voted to the All-Time Sugar Bowl Team and played in the Senior Bowl and the Chicago All-Star game, was voted by the Ole Miss fans to the Team of the Century (1893 - 1992) in 1993. He was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1979 and the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

Following his career at Ole Miss, Hickerson was drafted in the seventh round by the Cleveland Browns and went on to play in the NFL from 1958 to 1973. A fullback in high school who became a tackle at the University of Mississippi, Hickerson was shifted to guard in 1958 and went from delivering plays to the huddle to establishing himself as a lead blocker for Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, and Leroy Kelly.

After just three NFL seasons, Hickerson's career was slowed when he suffered a broken leg in the 1961 pre-season opener. He sat out two games in 1962, but never missed another game for the remainder of his career. When he retired after the 1973 season, Hickerson had played in 202 NFL games.

He earned first-team All-NFL acclaim five straight seasons (1966-1970) and was voted to six consecutive Pro Bowls from 1966 to 1971. The Browns featured a 1,000-yard rusher in every season but one during Hickerson's first 10 pro seasons. He received the NFL Outstanding Blocker Award in 1968. When the NFL, in conjunction with its 50th anniversary, named its All-Sixties team, Hickerson was one of the decade's all-star guards.

According to Total Football II, The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League, "Hickerson had a great combination of speed, power, durability and athletic ability. Few offensive linemen performed at the level and quality he did for so long a period of time."

Born February 15, 1935, in Trenton, Tenn., Hickerson played at Trezevant High in Memphis before joining Vaught's Rebels at Ole Miss.

Irvin, the Dallas Cowboys' first round pick in 1988, caught 750 passes for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns during his 12-season career. He was named to five Pro Bowls and is a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1990s.

Matthews starred at every position along the offensive line for the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers-Titans franchise. He was named All-Pro nine seasons and selected to the Pro Bowl a record-tying 14 straight times.

Sanders caught 336 passes for 4,817 yards in 10 seasons with the Detroit Lions during an era when tight ends were mostly used as blockers. He was voted to seven Pro Bowls and named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1970s.

Thomas, a multi-dimensional running back, helped fuel the Buffalo Bills' "No-Huddle" offense of the 1990s. The NFL's MVP in 1991, he rushed for more than 12,000 yards and added another 4,458 yards on 472 receptions during his career.

Wehrli recorded 40 interceptions during his 14-season career with the St. Louis Cardinals. Named to the NFL's All-Decade team of the 1970s, he was named All-Pro five times and voted to seven Pro Bowls.

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