Dec. 4, 2012
NEW YORK CITY - Former Cal quarterback Steve Bartkowski was inducted into the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday during the NFF's 55th Annual Awards Dinner at the historic Waldorf Astoria Grand Ballroom. Fans can watch a taped live stream of the event on ESPN3.
"This is an incredible honor, I'm overwhelmed by it," Bartkowski said during a press conference earlier Tuesday that can be seen on demand on ESPN3. "It's an elite group of guys who played college athletics. I'm proud for my university, the University of California Berkeley ... When an award like this comes along this late in life I think you have a tendency to appreciate it a lot more than if it happened five, six, eight, 10 years out of the game. I am thrilled to be here and amongst this elite group of athletes."
With more than 75 current collegiate head coaches and 40 returning members of the College Football Hall of Fame in attendance, the fabled spectacle lived up to the historic expectations. Many well-known football luminaries were in attendance, adding to the magnitude of the much-anticipated event. ESPN's Rece Davis emceed the event, NFF Board Member and New England Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft delivered the welcome address, and NFF Board Member and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had the honor of introducing all of the great college football coaches in attendance.
The 2012 College Football Hall of Fame class, including 11 All-Americans, one unanimous first-team All-American, three multi-year first-team All-Americans, and two members of national championship teams, headlined the event.
The 2012 class, presented by NFF Honors Court Chairman Eugene Corrigan and AFCA Executive Director and Hall of Fame Coach Grant Teaff, also included Charles Alexander (LSU), Otis Armstrong (Purdue), Hal Bedsole (Southern California), Dave Casper (Notre Dame), Ty Detmer (BYU), Tommy Kramer (Rice), Art Monk (Syracuse), Greg Myers (Colorado State), Jonathan Ogden (UCLA), Gabe Rivera (Texas Tech), Mark Simoneau (Kansas State), Scott Thomas (Air Force), John Wooten (Colorado), and coaches Phillip Fulmer (Tennessee), Jimmy Johnson (Oklahoma State, Miami [Fla.]) and R.C. Slocum (Texas A&M).
The 14 players and three coaches brings the total number of players in the Hall of Fame to 914 and the number of coaches in the hall to 197. Johnson delivered the response on behalf of the class, saying it was an incredible feeling to be enshrined into the hall with a group of men that have done so much for college football.
"Everybody in this room has had contact with football at one time in their life," Johnson said. "Everybody knows it is not easy. They know about the sacrifices that the families have had to make. They know about the gut-wrenching feeling of losing a ballgame and not being able to sleep at night and putting their heart and soul into something they truly love. To be recognized for that is truly special."
After becoming the only Cal player to ever be selected as the first pick in the NFL Draft in 1975, Bartkowski played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons (1975-85) and Los Angeles Rams (1986). He was named the 1975 NFL Rookie of the Year, appeared in two Pro Bowls and compiled 24,124 career passing yards and 156 touchdown passes. He is Atlanta's all-time leader passing yards (23,740) and touchdown passes (154), and a member of the organization's Ring of Honor.
Bartkowski becomes the 16th former Cal player and 22nd person associated with the program to be inducted into the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame.
Listed chronologically by year of induction he joins fellow former Bears Harold Muller (1951), Stan Barnes (1954), Bob Herwig (1964), Babe Horrell (1969), Dan McMillan (1971), Walter Gordon (1975), Rod Franz (1977), Vic Bottari (1981), Les Richter (1982), Sam Chapman (1984), Jackie Jensen (1984), Matt Hazeltine (1989), Craig Morton (1992), Ed White (1999) and Joe Kapp (2003).
Four College Football Hall of Fame coaches who have headed the Bears' program are Andy Smith (1951), Lynn Waldorf (1966), Buck Shaw (1972) and Bill Ingram (1973). Cal assistant coaches John Ralston (1992) and Eggs Manske (1999) are also members.
Bartkowski was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990, and in addition to his football exploits was an All-American first baseman for the Cal baseball team in 1973. He also hosted the outdoors shows Backroad Adventures with Steve Bartkowski on TNN and Suzuki's Great Outdoors with Steve Bartkowski on ESPN. The Atlanta native currently serves on the board of directors for multiple organizations and is a member of the Christian Sportsmen Fellowship.
Alex Gilliland contributed to this report