SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Former Ohio State coach John Cooper remembers when he was a young assistant going to coaching conventions hoping to catch a glimpse of Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, Bo Schembechler and Bear Bryant.

On Saturday, he joined those coaching greats in the College Football Hall of Fame as he and 20 other former coaches and players were enshrined. Cooper, who also coached at Arizona State and Tulsa and finished with a career record of 193-83-6, said it’s a great feeling to be associated with the coaches he once just wanted to see, calling it one of the best days of his life.

“It’s a humbling experience to be in that group,” he said.

Others being enshrined Saturday included former UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman, former Oklahoma State tailback Thurman Thomas, former Florida linebacker Wilber Marshall and Lou Holtz, who coached at Notre Dame, South Carolina, Minnesota, Arkansas, North Carolina State and William & Mary.

The festivities began Saturday with a parade and a pep rally, where those being honored were given their Hall of Fame blazers. The biggest applause was for Holtz, who guided the Irish to their last national championship in 1988. Shouts of “Looouuu” rang out when he was introduced and again when he was given his jacket.

Former Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson, the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1987, said being enshrined was a surreal experience.

“Because I don’t see myself in the same class as some of the guys that are in the Hall of Fame, like this guy right here,” McPherson said as former Arizona State offensive guard Randall McDaniel walked past. “It’s fun just to be associated with these guys. I’m just a fan of college football. So for me, it’s just fun to be around.”

McPherson led Syracuse to an 11-0-1 record and a No. 4 national ranking his senior season. He won the Davey O’Brien Award and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the nation’s top quarterback, and captured the Maxwell Award as the nation’s outstanding player.

“It was just one of those magical seasons,” McPherson said. “We just had a lot of good people come together and we all understood what we needed to do. I was lucky to be one of those guys.”

Former LSU tailback Billy Cannon was enshrined into the Hall 26 years after he originally was supposed to go in. He was selected in 1983, but that honor was rescinded after he was arrested on federal counterfeiting charges. Cannon pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison in 1983. He served 2½ years.

Cannon, who won the Heisman in 1959 and played on the national championship team in 1958, said he holds no grudges about being the only person to ever have his selection rescinded.

“I thank the people who voted for me initially, and I really thank the people who voted for me the second time,” said Cannon, now the dental director at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

Cannon said he is just happy to finally be in the Hall.

“To be in this Hall and to be associated with the great players who have played this game in the past and to be associated with the great players who will play this game in the future, it’s just an unbelievable thrill,” he said.


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