When the call Harry Carson wanted finally arrived, his phone went unanswered and his voice mailbox was full, presumably with a mix of good wishes and heartfelt congratulations.
Carson, the former Giants linebacker and a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the seventh time, had grown weary of waiting for disappointing news. So, as most other candidates made their way close to Detroit, or at least turned their attention toward the announcement, Carson was on a plane to Hawaii.
Carson, 52, will enter the Hall with the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman; the former Oakland coach John Madden; the well-traveled quarterback Warren Moon; the former Eagles and Packers defensive end Reggie White; and the longtime Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Rayfield Wright. The six will be inducted during a ceremony Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio.
Four inductees and White's widow, Sara, were ushered to a news conference after the announcement. Sara White accepted her husband's honor with a strong voice, then quietly wept as Wright spoke at the lectern.
Aikman, Moon and White were selected by the 39 voters in their first year of eligibility. Madden and Wright each had been eligible more than 20 years, and were in their second year as nominees of the Hall's Senior Committee.
Madden, perhaps better known as a television analyst and the namesake of a popular series of video football games than as the coach of the Raiders from 1969-1978, could not disguise his emotions.
He joked that the honor could not be taken back, occasionally punctuating his remarks with a belly laugh, at one point gleefully pounding his fists on the lectern.
"I'm not going to make a lot of sense," he said. "I'm not going to try to, and I don't care. But, believe me, it comes from my heart. I'm humbled and I'm grateful and I'm thankful, and, it's just ..."
He paused, then added, "I've got to sit down."
It was the type of excitement that Carson had kept bottled for more than a decade after he became eligible for the Hall of Fame.
During his 13-year career, much of it spent at middle linebacker between Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks, Carson said that being selected to the Pro Bowl was more meaningful than the Hall of Fame, because peers, not media members, selected Pro Bowlers.
Until Saturday, he had to find solace in those words, satiating his appetite for recognition with nine Pro Bowl selections.
In March 2004, after being a Hall of Fame finalist five times, Carson sent a letter to the Hall asking that his name be removed from consideration. The request was denied.
He was a finalist again last year. About a week before he was bypassed for the sixth time, he told the New York Times: "I've been through this long enough. It has to do with my own pride and what I think about myself. What was an honor is now a burden."
Carson, 6-foot-2 and 237 pounds, was a fourth-round draft pick from South Carolina State in 1976 and became a starter midway through his rookie season. At 25, he became the youngest Giants captain in history. He led the team in tackles five times, and made a key goal-line stop in the Giants' Super Bowl XXI victory over the Denver Broncos.
Aikman led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl victories in the 1990s, a decade in which he won 90 games -- the most of any quarterback in any decade.
White, nicknamed the "Minister of Defense" -- he was ordained as a Baptist minister at 17 -- was the NFL's defensive player of the year twice, 11 years apart. He was selected to 13 consecutive Pro Bowls with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers.