Johnny Robinson gets in Hall of Fame after decades-long delay
The knock Johnny Robinson had been waiting on for decades finally came Saturday afternoon.
Sitting in his room at Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency hotel surrounded by his family, nearly 50 years removed from his 12-year professional football career, Robinson all but convinced himself the knock would never come.
And then, it did.
Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker rapped on the door, fulfilling a long-awaited dream: Robinson was finally in the Hall of Fame, joining defensive Chiefs teammates Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier, Buck Buchanan, Emmitt Thomas and Curley Culp.
“I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t feel like I was going to get in before … I’m 80 years old,” he said. “I figure a guy that’s 80 years old, what chance has he got to go in the Hall of Fame?”
Turns out, odds were pretty good this year. Robinson was the only senior finalist, and he earned 80 percent of the necessary vote among the 48 selectors to gain admittance to the elite club.
He wasn’t the only Chief to go into the Hall of Fame this year. Tight end Tony Gonzalez and cornerback Ty Law, who spent a season in Kansas City, were also selected for the prestigious honor.
“Tony G, if there’s ever somebody deserving of being a first-ballot Hall of Famer, it’s Tony,” team CEO and owner Clark Hunt told the Star. “And then Johnny Robinson has been deserving for almost 50 years. So we’re so glad that he has an opportunity.”
And while the trio were talking about their looming enshrinement, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was a floor below them accepting the NFL’s MVP award.
Gonzalez and Robinson are the 12th and 13th former Chiefs to be admitted to Canton.
“The KC Chiefs, the fans out there, I hope they’re proud because we’re proud,” Gonzalez said. “We’re proud to be Chiefs. And I hope Clark Hunt is ready to write some checks for our parties out there (in Canton). I’m just playing, Clark. Looking forward to it.
“This is going to be a special year. It’s all of us. It’s not just me. They’ve been there supporting me since the beginning. We’re going to have a party. It’s going to be fun.”
Others elected Saturday included defensive back Champ Bailey, center Kevin Mawae, safety Ed Reed, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.
Matt Nagy, an Andy Reid protege who left the Chiefs after the 2017 season to become head coach of the Chicago Bears, was named this year’s NFL coach of the year.
While Robinson’s selection was long overdue, Gonzalez was elected the first year he was eligible, becoming the first tight end to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Even so, the moment was surreal.
“You’re looking at (David Baker) like is this really happening right now? This is crazy,” Gonzalez said. “And then I turn around and I look at my family and I see my wife and I see my cousin crying that’s been there since the beginning.
“That’s what it’s about. It’s about sharing that moment with the ones you love that have been there since the beginning that have shared that emotion with you, that have shared those ups and downs that we all go through.”
Gonzalez, who was also put in the Chiefs Ring of Honor this season, spent all but five seasons of his 17-year NFL career in Kansas City. By the time he retired in 2013, Gonzalez played in 270 career games and amassed 111 touchdowns on 1,325 receptions — good for second all-time in receptions among all players — for 15,127 yards. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl 14 times, a mark that leads all tight ends. His more than 15,000 receiving yards also leads all tight ends.
Gonzalez revolutionized the tight end position after arriving in KC in 1997, transforming the spot from a big-bodied blocker to an offensive weapon. In 2004, he led the league with 102 receptions.
While Gonzalez didn’t have to wait long to get the knock on his hotel room door, Robinson’s knock was long overdue. A member of the Texans’ 1962 AFL championship team and the Chiefs’ 1970 Super Bowl-championship team, he was snubbed six times for a Hall of Fame spot in the 1980s.
After beginning his pro career as a running back, Robinson spent 10 years as a safety for the Dallas Texans-turned-Chiefs franchise. Robinson had 57 interceptions over his decade at safety and led the AFL with 10 picks in 1966 and the NFL with another 10 in 1970.
“I was so elated to go in the Hall of Fame,” Robinson said. “David Baker, he knocks on the door and that was it. After all these years.”