December 25, 2005 -- RICHARD Dent isn't happy that he's been passed over for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame the last few years and he thinks he knows why.
"Guys from black schools seem to have a hard time when it comes down to Hall of Fame situations," Dent told The Post from his Chicago office. "I'm a guy that crawled up from under a rock and bloomed to be something special."
Dent, who led the ferocious '85 Bears defense when he posted 17 sacks and capped the year by garnering MVP honors in Super Bowl XX, was an eighth-round pick in 1983 out of Tennessee State.
When asked if he believed he'd already be in Canton if he were white, Dent replied, "If I was a white ballplayer, I would probably be known world-wide, especially coming from Chicago, one of the major markets."
One of this year's 25 semifinalists, Dent pointed to last year's induction of Fritz Pollard as another reason the Hall seems to favor white players.
"It's disappointing to see the first African-American ballplayer to ever play the game and play quarterback back in 1920 to just now be getting into the Hall of Fame," Dent said of Pollard, considered one of the first two African-American pro football players. "That's not a good feeling, that's not a nice feeling. This was the first man to ever play the game. What is it, did it just happen to be Black History Month and oh, we forgot, let's get this guy in?"
Dent compared Pollard's pioneering to that of the immortalized Jackie Robinson.
"The guy just passed not long ago ," Dent said. "That's like Jackie Robinson. There's really no difference there - and that was before Jackie Robinson. I can't worry about that issue; if that's what it is, that's what it is."
Hall spokesman Joe Horrigan believes the selection of Pollard way after the fact should clearly be viewed as a positive.
"If anything, our selectors showed a great deal of character by righting a wrong from long ago," Horrigan told The Post.
Dent fully believes his on-field body of work should be more than enough to warrant inclusion in the NFL's most select circle.
In his 203-game career, which spanned from 1983-97, Dent posted 141 sacks, intercepted eight passes, recovered 13 fumbles and scored two defensive touchdowns.
"I've already proven myself to this National Football League," the 45-year-old Dent said. "I've done it better than anybody else that's ever played. In the last 80 years, I've done it better than anybody else that's ever played. I'm comfortable with that; I'm happy with that."
However, in 2002, it was Dent's linemate, Dan Hampton, who is white, who was inducted.
"That's ridiculous, there's no racism involved," said one selector, who spoke to The Post under anonymity because it's Hall policy to never publicly reveal one's votes. "Was [Dent] really good? Sure. But a Hall of Famer? I certainly don't think so. He wasn't even the best guy on that line."
However, Dent, a four-time Pro Bowler, obviously thinks he belongs.
"My work is done," he said. "The way I played the game and the records and numbers I put up and the pressure I put on guys, the league is looking for that. It's not there; it hasn't been there in quite some time.
"There were two people you had to control when you played the Chicago Bears - that was Walter Payton and Richard Dent, that's the way I look at that."
But Dent made it clear that he's a Hall of Famer whether the voters deem him worthy or not.
"The people who watched me and enjoyed me feel like I'm a Hall of Famer," he said. "I don't need the Hall of Fame to make me whole."