BOZICH | Joe Jacoby has earned his Pro Football Hall of Fame knock
On Saturday Joe Jacoby could join Paul Hornung as the only Louisvillian and Johnny Unitas as the only former University of Louisville player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Joe Jacoby has been instructed to return to his hotel room in downtown Houston by 3 p.m. Saturday, hidden from the ticket scalpers, autograph hounds and television cameras in the middle of Super Bowl LI mania.
Between 4 and 5, Jacoby will receive a telephone call or a knock on his door.
Jacoby would prefer The Knock.
A telephone call will mean that Jacoby has not be elected to the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.
A knock will mean a representative of the Hall, accompanied by a video crew, will be there to deliver the wonderful news and record the reaction of Jacoby and his wife, Irene.
“No anxiety, is there?” said Jacoby, a former star at the University of Louisville and Western High School.
“I went through this last year. You start thinking you’re hearing things when you’re really not hearing it.”
Don’t consider this a knock against the voters but Jacoby, 57, earned his knock – and trip to Canton, Ohio, long ago.
For Jacoby, getting voted into the Hall of Fame has been as challenging as linebackers found it trying to get around his mammoth frame when Jacoby won three Super Bowls as an all-Pro tackle with the Washington Redskins from 1981-through-1993.
This is the 19th year Jacoby has been eligible for the Hall.
This is the second year Jacoby has been one of 15 finalists.
This is the first time the consensus appears to be that Jacoby will proceed to Canton – with quarterback Kurt Warner and halfbacks LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Davis. Multiple writers and former players have endorsed his candidacy, but he needs official certification from 48 Hall voters.
The finalists have been in Houston for two days, appearing at a charity banquet, answering Super Bowl questions on radio row and sharing memories with other players.
“It’s the exclamation point or probably two or three for what (the Redskins) did,” Jacoby said.
“Every one of us has a very good resume. How do you chose? You have 15 people in a job interview and you have to pick five. I’m glad I don’t have to choose.”
The Hall currently features one Louisvillian (Paul Hornung) and one former University of Louisville player (Johnny Unitas). Jacoby would be the first guy to check both boxes. Hornung attended Notre Dame. Unitas grew up in Pennsylvania.
When I told Jacoby that remarkable tidbit, he paused before answering my next question.
“Wow,” he said. “I did not know that. Now there’s something else I’ve got to think about.”
Not bad for a zero-star recruit who made the Redskins starting offensive line in 1981 as an undrafted free agent from Bob Weber’s U of L team. He accepted the offer from the Redskins on a telephone call even though a scout from the Seattle Seahawks was sitting in living room of his parents’ home in Shively, offering a competing deal.
Assistant coach Joe Bugel convinced Redskins' coach Joe Gibbs to sign Jacoby. He loved his size. Who wouldn’t – 6 feet 7 and pushing 300 pounds?
But Bugel fumbled the presentation. Gibbs thought Jacoby played on the defensive, not offensive, line.
“I was the 19th guy in a group that was only supposed to include 18 players,” Jacoby said. “I’m quiet and shy. I’m not going to correct him and interrupt him (to say he played offense).”
Typical Jacoby. Bugel had to talk the head coach into keeping Jacoby in training camp, even though the player had to return to Louisville from Carlisle, Pa., before final cuts were announced because his mother died.
Jacoby not only made the team, he made the starting lineup. By the end of the next season, the Redskins won the Super Bowl with Jacoby delivering the signature block for John Riggins’ unforgettable 43-yard touchdown run against the Dolphins at the Rose Bowl.
The Redskins did it again in 1988, beating the Broncos in San Diego. And also a third time in 1992, toppling the Bills in Minneapolis.
Nobody loved Jacoby more than TV analyst John Madden. He considered Jacoby the leader of The Hogs, the nickname somebody hung on Redskins’ powerful offensive line. The Hogs were the constant during Washington’s Super Bowl run. They won those three rings with three different quarterbacks and three lead running backs.
Four of Jacoby’s former teammates have made the Hall – Riggins, receiver Art Monk, cornerback Darrell Green and Russ Grimm, an offensive guard.
But it was Jacoby who did the difficult work on the left side, protecting the Redskins’ quarterbacks (Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien) from superb NFC pass rushers like Lawrence Taylor, Richard Dent and Charles Haley.
Let the record show Jacoby was voted into the Pro Bowl four times. You’ll find his name on the NFL All-Eighties team. After a career in television and the automobile business, Jacoby and his wife moved to Charlotte, N.C. He works in the insurance business and serves as a volunteer coach at a Christian high school.
On Saturday Jacoby said he planned to take a walk, call an Uber and take his wife away from the Super Bowl silliness to shop for Western-style clothing.
But by 3 p.m. they’ll return to the hotel room – and hope for The Knock.
Joe Jacoby has certainly earned it.
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