Largent, Killebrew, Smith inducted into humanitarian hall of fame

Thursday, November 30th 2006, 8:30 pm
By: News On 6

BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ Harmon Killebrew is best known for hitting home runs, Steve Largent for his pass-catching prowess on the football field and Steve Smith for his ability to score baskets in bunches.

But the former professional athletes were celebrated for accomplishments in another arena Thursday, when they were inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame. The non-profit, with offices on the Boise State University campus, marked their efforts in community involvement and raising money for charitable causes.

``I really didn't come because I was getting an award,'' said Largent, 52, who played 14 years with the Seattle Seahawks and played college football at Tulsa. ``I came to send a message to athletes of every stripe that it's important to give back. When I look back on my career now, that's the aspect of my career that I'm probably most proud of.''

The 70-year-old Killebrew, a native of Payette, Idaho, hit 573 home runs in his Major League Baseball career. He played for the Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals between 1954 and 1975.

``It's a good feeling to be able to help other people,'' Killebrew said. ``I think more and more you'll see players doing that. I think the players today who are making so much money are able to do those things more readily than the older players, like when I played.''

A member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Killebrew was honored for his help raising money for leukemia research and for founding the Harmon Killebrew Foundation, which raises money for research into pain relief and care management for the terminally ill.

``It's a great thing to give,'' he said. ``A lot of people have helped me help others.''

Each of the inductees has received numerous awards but all said Thursday's honor was among the most meaningful.

``This ranks No. 1 because it recognizes you as a person,'' said Smith, who won an Olympic gold medal in 2000 and helped the San Antonio Spurs win the 2003 NBA title. ``This one is basically what you've done off the court, and for a lot of us what you've done after you've left the game.''

Largent, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, played with the Seahawks from 1976 to 1989 and earned seven trips to the Pro Bowl. He led the NFL in pass-receiving yardage in 1979 and 1985, and caught passes in 177 straight games.

He was selected for the humanitarian award for his more than three decades of charity work, which includes raising money for the Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle, Wheelchairs for the World Foundation and Habitat for Humanity. Largent also served three terms as a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, stepping down in 2001 to mount an unsuccessful campaign for governor.

``It really doesn't take that much effort for an athlete to express that kind of gratitude to the community that supports him in his athletic endeavors,'' Largent said. ``I do it because that's who I am and that's what I believe.''

Smith, 37, was an NBA All-Star in 1998 and is Michigan State University's all-time leading scorer with 2,263 points.

He was recognized for his $2.5 million contribution to Michigan State, which was used to build a student-athlete academic center. The Detroit native also gave $600,000 to endow an MSU scholarship for top students at Detroit's Pershing High School, which Smith attended.

``For me to get a chance to go in with Harmon Killebrew and Steve Largent, to see these guys further what they're doing, even go to another level after they left the game, inspires me,'' Smith said.

Since 1994, the hall has honored three people annually for their humanitarianism. Previous inductees include pro baseball players Jackie Robinson and Kirby Puckett, tennis players Arthur Ashe and Andrea Jaeger, Olympian gymnast Mary Lou Retton, Olympic speedskater Bonnie Blair, and NBA players Julius Erving and David Robinson.