The long-waiting wide receiver had been hoping for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame since he first became eligible in 1974, so he chest-bumped his fellow enshrinees when he finally arrived.
Enshrinee Tommy McDonald wasn’t just part of the Hall of Fame Festival in 1998. He was the star of the show.
McDonald clowned for the parade crowd. He carried his Hall of Fame Festival Queen’s Court escort — Billie Boyajian — onto the stage at the Enshrinees Civic Dinner. The long-waiting wide receiver had been hoping for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame since he first became eligible in 1974, so he chest-bumped his fellow enshrinees when he finally arrived.
“I’ve got 64 years of proving people wrong,” McDonald had said to sports writer Mark Craig, who wrote his story in The Repository’s special festival section. “They always said, ‘Too small to play high school football.’ ‘You’ll never leave the bench at Oklahoma.’ ‘ Too small to play in the NFL.’”
Too thrilled to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame?
Few who saw McDonald’s happiness at the 1998 Hall of Fame festival events could be critical of it. Enthusiasm was in his nature.
“McDonald is always smiling,” wrote Craig in a story carrying a headline “energy and friendly, he has few enemies.”
“He’s sort of kooky now, real kooky when he played.”
McDonald was the last player in the NFL to never wear a face mask. That should say something. “I played better without one,” he explained.
He played well enough to reach football’s highest level of recognition, and when he got there he reveled in the achievement.
“McDonald literally leaped into the air,” when he was introduced at the Civic Dinner, reported Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk. “The diners ate it up.”
At the induction ceremony the next day, McDonald included his fellow enshrinees in his celebration. As much as any Hall of Fame class, these stars entered the Hall of Fame together, and McDonald was the class captain.
“He leaped at Dwight Stephenson and applied a flying chest bump,” wrote Doerschuk. “He did the same thing with Mike Singletary, Anthony Muñoz and Paul Krause.
“He held a boom box to the microphone and disco danced to ‘Stayin’ Alive.’ He flitted to his bronze bust, lifted it from its platform ... and played catch with it!
“It had to be the darnedest expression of unbridled, shared joy any Hall of Fame has ever seen.”
“Oh, boy! God Almighty! I feel so good! So good! God Almighty! Do I look excited or like I won the lottery or the jackpot? Yes, yes, I’m going in the Hall of Fame!” — Tommy McDonald at the 1998 Enshrinees Civic Dinner