NFL Nation: 2010 HOF speeches

Emmitt Smith Hall of Fame speech

August, 7, 2010
Thank you to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for blessing me to play the sport I so dearly love for almost three decades.

It is an honor to have achieved this level of success. Now I need to take a moment to reflect upon the people who have helped shape the foundation of who I am as a man and also a football player.

Whatever achievements I've earned over the course of my life clearly have not been due to (indiscernible), but also due to the belief and dedication of so many, the values and skills taught by my family, friends, teachers, coaches and mentors were fundamental to shaping me into the man I am today.

At the age of 21, I already knew what I needed to do in order to make my mark. I wanted to become the all-time leading rusher. I knew Walter Payton was one of the best to have ever played the game, and I wanted to achieve that level of greatness.

He established an insurmountable record to shoot for. He was the prototype for me as a champion athlete and runningback. He had my size, he was my build. He had a heart that said, I can achieve, I will achieve, I will be successful.

Now here I am standing at the same podium he did, being inducted into the 2010 Hall of Fame. And you know what, I am, I am, I am now the all-time leading rusher (smiling). Wow, what an honor.

A profound thank you to Mr. Jerry Jones and the Jones family for believing in a kid from Pensacola, Florida, who was 5'9" and a half, who people said was not big enough or fast enough action and for giving me opportunities to play for the team that I always wanted to play for, America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys.

This team means more to me than just another professional football team. That's why I always did everything in my power to help make this organization and team the very best it could possibly be. So, Jerry, thank you for believing in me as a football player and knowing that I can get the job done.

But, Jerry, because I am a man of faith, I know our relationship did not happen by accident. I know it was ordained by God. And because of this, He has predestined me to do great things in life. The Dallas Cowboys have given me that platform. That's one of the reasons why I love this organization and the Jones family so much. Because what you have been able to do for my family and me throughout my football career and to this day, thank you so much.

Thank you to my high school coach Dwight Thomas for teaching me how to set goals, become a team player, and to shine the spotlight upon others such as my offensive linemen. Thank you to Jimmy Nichols, my offensive coordinator out of high school. You pushed me and helped make me into the runningback I became. You set the foundation by teaching me I could never carry the football for you or anyone else if I fumbled. You made it very clear to me that the football was the most important thing on the football field. Both Dwight Thomas and Jimmy Nichols pushed me to a level of greatness at an early age. I began to realize what it would take for me to become successful. I also understood that my job and my role as a teammate had to be fulfilled by all the work that we all put in to what we was trying to get accomplished. So thank you, guys. From Escambia High School to this point for being there and helping me get to this point.

Thank you to Norv Turner for bringing a system that allowed Michael, Troy, me and our offense to flourish. Thank you to Jimmy Johnson for bringing discipline, focus, commitment and your expectation to our team. You propelled us to do great things in life. You set the bar very high and not only demanded that we leaped over it, but, Jimmy, you showed us how. You knew your players were capable of achieving the standard you set for us. You knew we could claim our greatness. It's what drove us to become the team we became.

Thank you to all of the fans, especially the Dallas Cowboys fans in Dallas, throughout the United States and around the world. You have always been there supporting us. When things got rough and we needed your energy, you provided it. When we became victorious, it was your energy that lifted us as you celebrated with us. Without a doubt, you are as much a part of America's Team as the players are.

To Michael and Troy, would you both please stand. It has truly, truly, truly been an honor to go into battle with two of the greatest champions I've ever played with. Without you there is no me. That is why we are called the triplets. You cannot have one without the other.

Troy, your leadership, dedication and focus helped me become a better football player because I did not want to let you down.

Michael, your work ethic, your passion, your love for this sport helped me learn to train and prepare myself differently.

Thank you both for the invaluable contributions you have made to my life.

[+] EnlargeEmmitt Smith
Andrew Weber/US PresswireEmmitt Smith broke down when he addressed former teammate Daryl Johnston. "You took care of me as if you were taking care of your little brother," Smith said.
Daryl Johnston, where are you? Will you please stand? You mean the world to me (tearing up) not just because we shared the same backfield, but because you sacrificed so much for me. People don't understand what it took to be a fullback in our system, the sacrifices you made not simply with your body but your whole spirit. You took care of me as though you were taking care of your little brother. Without you, without you, I know today would not have been possible. I love you from the bottom of my heart.

When I was six years old, I was watching the Dallas Cowboys on television with my father and some of our relatives. I clearly remember turning to my father and saying, One day I'm going to play professional football and I'm going to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

My father turned to me and said, sure, that would be a good goal for you to have, son. But after that night, I began to dream about it. My father's words supported me. His words gave me the permission I needed to live in the dream. I began to feed the dream with my passion and dedication. I loved the sport so much, all I wanted to do was just play it. It didn't matter to me what position I played; I just loved being out there.

From that young age, many factors were already present in contributing to the fulfillment of my dream. For example, I began to play football in the park with my older cousins, Morris, Tim and Jeffrey, Jerome and Edward, across the street from my grandmother's house.

Now, in 1990, I'm on the verge of doing something I always wanted to do as a child: Play professional football. However, the Dallas Cowboys did not have a pick in the top 10. I was projected to go in the top 10. Had I been chosen when I thought I would be, I very likely would have been drafted by Tampa Bay or Seattle: Not the team of my childhood dream.

But pick after pick went by and I fell into the bottom half of the top 20. I was down in Pensacola watching the draft with my family agonizing about why didn't I go in the top 10? Then, finally, words start blowing in the wind, the Dallas Cowboys are trying to move up and make a trade. They had moved up to pick me as the 17th pick in the first round. Here I am thinking, Wow, how awesome this would be, how great it would be to be able to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

Then I got a call from Jimmy Johnson saying, Emmitt, how would you like to wear a star on your helmet? My dreams, my passion, my emotions were running so high. Jerry, I could not believe that this was actually happening to me.

While playing for the Dallas Cowboys, balance was the key to our success. We had a winning strategy and a spiritual purpose as a team. We also had a collective goal, mental toughness and trust. When it came down to the third and fourth quarters, my offensive linemen knew what was about to go down. Right now I would like to thank them. If you're in the audience as I call out your name, would you please stand.

Andre Gurode, Derek Cannard, Flosell Adams, Larry Allen, Frank Cornish, Ron Stone, John Gesek, George Hegman, Eric Williams, Everett McIvar, Kelvin Garmon, Kevin Gogan, Mark Stepnoski, and the late Mark Tuinei who obviously cannot be here. Nate Newton, Ray Donaldson, and Solomon Page. The names I have not mentioned, you know who you are. Thank you for blessing me with the running lanes you created. You were the very best I ever ran behind.

In addition to the acknowledgments I am privileged to make today, this moment creates a unique opportunity, an opportunity to share critical life principles. The first and most important principle is to be of service. The hardest service is for everyone. The second principle is we all need a championship strategy to guide us to help make those dreams come true. The third principle is, claim your inner champion. When you claim your inner champion, you will learn to see, hear and feel differently than others. So what I most want to convey here is, never, never let others define you; you define yourself.

Now let's talk about some specific steps I took that were critical to sustaining my vision. There's a difference between merely having a dream and fulfilling a vision. Most people only dream. I only not had my childhood dream, but I did everything in my power to fulfill it.

For example, I wrote down my goals and how I was going to achieve them because Dwight Thomas used to tell us, It's only a dream until you write it down, and then it becomes a goal. By the time I was 20, I wrote, I want to play in the Super Bowl, be the MVP, become the all-time leading rusher, and finish college, because I promised my mother I would.

Over the course of my career, all of those things came to pass, and I know that writing down my goals was an essential strategy.

Another critical principle is consistency. Consistency shows value. Consistency is necessary for trust, durability and longevity. You have to show up every week no matter how difficult the game or life might be.

I not only showed consistency, but I did everything in my power to be the best that I possibly could. Over time consistency will allow you to achieve your goals.

Next is balance. As I stated earlier, balance was the key to our success. We had all the balance you could possibly have. I exhibit balance in my personal life when I put my family in its proper place, and that is number one.

Standing before you today, I know this is real. I know it's not a dream. But it almost feels surreal. When I was told on February 6th that I was being inducted into the 2010 Hall of Fame, I was struck by a vision. I actually saw the clouds parting and a door opening. I saw all of these Hall of Famers here and the ones who have passed on before us standing with their arms open wide welcoming me into the hall. Perhaps all of you have been wondering why I have not yet spoken of my family. God has blessed me with an amazing family. And as I call out your names, would you please stand.

My father Emmitt James Smith, Jr., my mother, Mary Smith.My sisters Marsha and Connie.My brothers, Eric, Emory, and my late brother Emil. My brothers in-law Victor and Rick. My sister-in-law Pam.And to Mr. Henry Southall, my loving father-in-law. I will continue to do everything in my power to keep your daughter and my wife safe and happy. Thank you all for your love and your support. You may be seated.

To my beautiful wife Pat, would you please stand. Thank you for smoothing off some of the rough edges and showing me how to become a better man. You complete me, babe. You make everything that I have worth living for. I love you so much.

To my kids, Jasmine, Rheagan, EJ, Skylar, and my soon-to-be fifth child, I love all of you very, very much. I apologize if I cannot be there for everything, but please know this: Dad is doing the very best that he can. Thank you.

Before closing, I would like to share one final story with you. Some time ago I had an older person come up to me and he said, Do you know who is the greatest runningback out of Pensacola that nobody has ever seen?

Well, I played in the National Football League and I had accomplished quite a bit. I thought perhaps he was talking about me. However, he went on to explain, your father was a heck of a runningback. This was a revelation to me. Of course, I knew my father had played ball, but I never knew he was that good.

Now fast forward in time to February the 6th, the day before Super Bowl XXXXIV there we were, my father and I sitting together. When he turned to me and said, Son, I am so proud of you, I had dreams of doing what you're doing, but my mom got sick and I never did get a chance to go to college. He said, You're living my dreams, you're living my dream. And all I could think about was, I'm living your dream, I'm fulfilling my dream, and I'm fulfilling God's purpose for my life.

Now when I go into the hall today, I'm not going in alone. You see, I'm carrying my grandfather, I'm carrying my father, and I'm carrying my son along with me because I bear all of their names.

Now I can say to my dad and my son EJ, our name will be forever enshrined in the history of football. Thank you for being here today to share this experience with me and may God truly bless all of you.

Floyd Little Hall of Fame speech

August, 7, 2010
Thank you. Thank you. I am still standing. And I give all the glory to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. I am truly blessed to be standing here on this day to celebrate my journey as a person and as an athlete.

I only wish my mom and dad were here to celebrate with me. I know my mom is looking down on me today and she's saying, Floyd, I'm proud of you, you done good. I also miss my two brothers. Fred, known as Ranger, and Charles, known as Gitty. Gitty was the real hero. He served two terms in Vietnam and was a war hero. I miss my two brothers.

[+] EnlargeFloyd Little
Andrew Weber/US Presswire"There's no words to describe the joy of experiencing this final sports chapter in my life," Little said.
But God continues to bless me with three living sisters, Betty Jackson, Rosalie Johnson and Priscilla Goodson. These three ladies have been my biggest fans since I first put on a football helmet at Troop Junior High School. You have been my rock and strength on this journey. I could not have made it without your prayer and your support. Thank you for always being there for me.

I also have three very special and talented kids. You've already met my son Marc. He was my presenter. Marc is not like a regular son. He's also my lawyer, my advisor, and my best friend. Life would be real different for me if Marc wasn't around. I love you, man.

My daughter Christy who has blessed me with four grandkids, A.J., Skye, Blaze and Hayes. Christy is a proud mommy in training and has created a career teaching other mommies to be better mommies and I'm so proud of her for that. Christy, I am so proud of all the things you do because when I look at you I see all the things you do for our family. We are a close family because of you. I have been truly blessed to have you as my daughter. I love you, Christy.

My daughter Kyra. I have watched you perform on Broadway and on stages across this country. I have not seen anyone with more talent than you. You truly are a triple threat with abilities that make me proud to stick my chest out and say, That is my daughter. I love you, Kyra.

To Joyce Davis, the mother of my two daughters. Joyce, you did a great job as a mother. Thank you for your support during those early and challenging years as a Denver Bronco. Thank you for your support.

To my beautiful wife DeBorah, my friend, my partner and everything a husband can want. You stand shoulder to shoulder with me. You never wavered in your steadfast resolve, always willing to go to battle on my behalf, always ready to help me finish the fight. Thank you for always being by my side. You are my Hall of Famer and I love you.

No one travels this road alone. I can never have imagined the impact of a phone call I got from Tom Mackie's wife Emily. She called asking if I would consider meeting Tom for his 40th birthday because I was Tom's hero. Not only did Tom and I meet, but he became the co-author of my first book, Tales from the Bronco Sideline. My biggest advocate for my Pro Football Hall of Fame consideration. Now Tom is my hero. Thank you, Tom Mackie, for all you've done. I truly appreciate it.

Lastly I want to thank my biggest friend and supporter, Jim Gray. Thank you, Jim Gray, for all you've done that contributed to my moment of being here today. I'm truly grateful, Jim, for all you've done.

The list of those that's had an impact on my life and career is long, but I must give thanks to Ernie Davis, to Jim Brown, to John Mackie, to Hal Williams, to Ernie Barnes, to Billy Thompson, and my coaches Dan Casey, Al Verdel, Jay Lou, Ben Swartzwalder, Lou Saban, John Ralston. A special thanks to the Hall of Fame committee, Jeff Legwold, Jim Saccomano, and my Syracuse family, Dr. Nancy Carter and Dr. Daryl Gross and the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden. To all my classmates, all my teammates from Hillhouse High School, Bordentown Military, Syracuse University, and the Denver Broncos. To Pat Bowlen and the entire Bronco organization, and to all the Bronco fans around the world. To all my friends and family who are here, and those who could not be here, thank you for your loyalty and your support over all these years. I am truly, truly grateful.

There's no words to describe the joy of experiencing this final sports chapter in my life. This is obviously the highest honor any football player can garner. I stand here today celebrating my athletic life journey, and I understand significant. Everything else pales in comparison. Every player wakes up wishing to have this honor. I encourage you all to continue to dream for this moment. I have been favored by God and by those who have had a say in what happens to me.

But the road was not always so easy and clear. I remember being a strong but angry young man in school. I used my strength in ways that became my weakness. After being kicked out of school, I had reached an impasse in my life. Everything was done. My hopes were shattered and done. And then I had a vision from my late father that came to me and said, Floyd, I've chosen you to take my place, to do what I could not do, and to finish what I could not finish.

I came to myself. With the help of those who saw the good in me, I was re-enrolled back in school with determination. Not only did I become the president of my class, but I started my journey as a leader in everything that I did, and I never looked back.

Because of those that encouraged me in those early years, I am here today. So I want to encourage you, every student, every athlete, every person who will hear my voice, don't listen to the naysayer. I had plenty of those. Don't listen to those that will judge you for your rough edges. Don't focus on your weakness so you won't become a victim. Find the goodness in you that says, Yes, I can be a good student. Yes, I can be a good son and daughter. Yes, I can be a positive role model. Yes, I can, because the good in you is better than the worst in most. The choice is yours. Be the best that you can be.

I truly believe that none of us is anything until the least of us is something. The great writer James Baldwin said, Naked I came into this world and naked I shall leave. We are bound to leave everything we accomplished in this lifetime behind, passing it on. So leave a legacy that you and your family can be proud.

I've given you the best that I've got. And I'm a better person for it. Thank you for being here with me and for me. I thank God for His favor today, and may God bless us all. Thank you so much.

Jerry Rice Hall of Fame speech

August, 7, 2010
I have something I have to admit to today. My uniform, the way I dress, is everything. I'm a very honest guy. I made a mistake today. I have a blue and a black sock on today (smiling).

Now, for me to do this speech, I need to borrow a black sock from someone (laughter). Just joking, guys.

Hey, look, thank you, Eddie DeBartolo, for that introduction. Thank you, thank you. I love you fans, especially the greatest fans in pro football, the 49er fans. Thank you, God, for allowing us to travel here safely. This has been such an unbelievable week. To the City of Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, thank you for your hospitality. It has been incredible. To the selection committee, thank you for bestowing this great honor to me.

I had never been on an airplane until I was drafted by the 49ers. And I left Crawford, Mississippi for a long, stomach-churning flight to San Francisco. I was scared to death, but excited at the same time. Scared about surviving the flight, excited like I am now because I knew I was joining a great team that had already won two Super Bowls. And, of course, we went on to win three more.

I was also part of the Oakland Raiders, a team I admired that also went to the Super Bowl.

But standing here today as the newest member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, feeling like a rookie all over again, I can honestly say this is the greatest team I have ever belonged to. I'm truly honored and humbled.

I also feel very fortunate to be part of the 2010 Hall of Fame class. Russ Grimm, Dick LeBeau, Floyd Little, John Randle, another 49er Rickey Jackson, and, of course, the NFL all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith. If not for you, Emmitt, and the Dallas Cowboys, there would be three more Super Bowl rings on my fingers (laughter).

[+] EnlargeJerry Rice
Andrew Weber/US Presswire"There are no more routes to run, no more touchdowns to score, no more records to set," Rice said."That young boy from Mississippi has finally stopped running. Let me stand here and catch my breath."
Rivalries are great for the NFL, and it's fitting that the 49ers and Cowboys are represented here today. We definitely made each other better. When I was a kid, I had these embarrassing huge hands that I would hide in my pockets. I was always running, even before I played sports. I ran everywhere. I didn't even know why. But I guess I was preparing myself for something, destined for something, but I didn't know what.

In the summertime, holidays, I would work with my father laying bricks for homes and businesses. We started at 5 a.m. and finished after dark. It was hot, hard work. My brothers and I would be the supply chain for bricks, and many times I would be the last link between the bricks and my father. Sometimes I would balance myself on the scaffolding two stories up and catch bricks thrown to me from the ground. There was a certain standard. Even though my job was to make sure that my dad had bricks and everything worked out smoothly, I took pride in it. There were no shortcuts. The concrete had to be laid a certain way. The bricks had to be stacked because any slowdown was money lost. It was a lot of pressure. I didn't want to let my father down. I was afraid to fail.

I'm here to tell you that the fear of failure is the engine that has driven me throughout my entire life. It flies in the faces of all these sports psychologists who say you have to let go of your fears to be successful and that negative thoughts will diminish performance. But not wanting to disappoint my parents, and later my coaches, teammates and fans, is what pushed me to be successful.

My dad was a hard man. I never saw him cry, and he didn't say, I love you. But like men of his generation, he expressed it in other ways. He taught us about responsibility at an early age. I miss him and I know he would be very proud of me today. I wish you were here, dad. I love you.

Despite the fear of knowing my mom and dad would whip me good, one day my sophomore year at B.L. Moor High School, I decided to play hooky with a friend. We got caught by the school principal, Mr. Ezell Wickes. He saw how fast I sprinted away from him and realized I could put my speed to better use. So after whacks with a leather strap, he forced me to meet with Charles Davis, our head football coach, who convinced me to come out for the team.

Coach Davis made us run hills after practice, 40 yards up, 40 yards down, a training regimen I kept doing 20 seasons in the NFL. I received a lot of letters from recruiters at big schools like USC, LSU, Mississippi State. But I chose Mississippi Valley State for two reasons: Coach Archie Cooley loved his team to throw the football, and they were the only ones who sent someone to see me play. Coach Cooley is here today. Thank you.

Before Joe Montana or Steve Young, there was Willie Totten, my quarterback at Mississippi State Valley University. We earned the nickname satellite express because the ball was seemingly in orbit. Willie is here today. Thank you.

It was a dream come true to be drafted by the 49ers, and I'm so proud to be part of such a classy organization, with the greatest owner ever, Eddie DeBartolo. The greatest coach of all time, Bill Walsh, and the greatest fans. There will never be another organization like that in the history of sports. To have two guys like that, who were all about winning. Eddie would say, I'll give you guys everything you want. You're going to have the best hotels, the best planes to travel on. You're going to go a day early to the East Coast. All I want is for you to do is win championships. Eddie was like that 12th man. He loved football, loved his players even more, and he wanted to win. And, man, did the 49ers win under Eddie DeBartolo. Five Super Bowls in 12 years.

Every player knew nothing was finer than to be a 49er, and some was willing to take pay cuts to play there. We were the envy of the NFL, the guys they said wore wing tips and carried briefcases because we were a first-class operation and meant business.

Just like he did after every game, Eddie has greeted players like Joe Montana, Steve Young, Fred Dean and me in Canton, Ohio. He deserves to be standing with us as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thank you, Eddie. I love you and your family, your wife Candy, and your daughters.

I miss Bill Walsh every day of my life. I know he's up there looking down from heaven today smiling. What can I say about the genius, the legend? He was like magic. He would cast a spell on you just being in his presence. You wanted to win for this guy. There was just something about him, and he knew how to get the best out of his football players.

Bill is the reason I played in the NFL. He was like a father to me, someone I could talk to about relationships and business or professional football. I never wanted to let my father down, and I was afraid to let Bill Walsh down. He taught us to be perfect. If you failed to be perfect, then excellence would be within your grasp. He had every gift but length of years.

I love you, Bill, your wife Geri and your family. Jerry Lynn, thank you for joining us here today. I love my teammates and coaches. There are too many of them to mention. I was blessed to play for not one but two Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Joe Montana and Steve Young. Joe was the ultimate prankster, put in Tiger balm in jocks and Steve would roll out of bed and come to work with his hair all messed up. Dwight Clark and Freddy Soloman, they were true professionals and took me under their wing. Even though they knew I was there eventually to replace them. To Roger Craig and Raymond Ferris, thank you for helping me take my training regimen to the highest level possible. I wasn't the most physical or the fastest receiver in the NFL, but they never clocked me on the way to the end zone. The reason nobody caught me from behind is because I ran scared. That old fear of failure again. It's hard to go into every game with a red X on your chest, and I could feel the hair rise on the back of my neck when people chased me.

People are always surprised how insecure I was. I love it when some commentary would refer to an upstart receiver as the next Jerry Rice. That made me work even harder. It was as if I was saying, You're going to have to work so hard to get to where I am, and if you can pay that price, you deserve it.

But I was always in search of that perfect game, and I never got it. Even if I caught 10 of 12 passes, or two of three touchdowns in the Super Bowl, I would dwell on the one pass I dropped.

I played for 20 years and I still believe in my heart I could play today. I played that long because I love this game of football. I loved everything about it, especially the fans. The stadium was my stage, and I was there every Sunday to put on a performance for the fans. I hope the players today respect the game, respect the men whose shoulders they are standing on. But most importantly, don't play for what the game can give them rather than what they can give to the game.

I felt proud every time I put on that uniform. That's why I'm still humbled to pose for pictures and to sign autographs. I'm a lot like my mom in that respect. If she just met you, she would invite you into her home and cook you dinner. She is the most caring and passionate person I know. I love you, mom.

Thank you to my brothers and my sisters for sharing this moment with me today. To my children, I am so proud of you. You are my life, and I love you with all my heart. I'm so looking forward to seeing you make your mark in this world.

To Jackie, thank you for being the anchor for our family and for supporting me for all these years. In addition, thank you to your family for their support.

To my management team, thank you for all those hats you wear and keeping me together all these years. To the York family and the 49ers organization, thank you for your continued support.

When you play as long as I have, there are a lot of people that have contributed to my journey. I regret that I cannot mention all of you today, but I hope you all know how important you are to me.

To my Dancing With the Stars family, you provided me with a whole new audience to thrill and a new challenge, another venue where I could be judged and triumph over my fear. All I had to do was wear sequins, an afro wig and heels.

Today I feel as if this honor of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was made not just to me but mostly to my work, to my sweat and sacrifice of all those who carried me to the steps of this hallowed ground.

But if I have a single regret about my career standing here today, it's that I never took the time to enjoy it. I swear to God, this is true because I was always working. Right after the season, whether we won the Super Bowl or not, I would take two weeks off and go right back to training. The doubts, the struggles is who I am, and I wonder if I would have been as successful without them.

A lot of emotion that I kept submerged bubbled to the surface last February when my name was finally called for selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You see all the faces of the people that helped you reach your goal: My mom and dad, brothers and sisters, my family, my coaches, my teammates, the fans. But you also realize that it signals the end of your career.

But I am excited about tomorrow. I'm like the guy who jumps out of a high-rise building and every floor he passes on the way down, he says, So far so good. But this is finally it. There are no more routes to run, no more touchdowns to score, no more records to set. That young boy from Mississippi has finally stopped running.

Let me stand here and catch my breath. Let me inhale it all in one more time.

Thank you. Thank you. You know what, guys, I feel like dancing!

Rickey Jackson Hall of Fame speech

August, 7, 2010
Boy, I didn't know I did all that. But I tell you what, I give honor to the spirit of Christ who is the head of my life. You know, I tell you, I'm from a small town called Pahokee, Florida. Me, I think that I love my hometown, you know me better than anybody in the world. That's what I cherish, my hometown, because I'm from a little town on a lake called Pahokee. What is unique about it, we are surrounded by water, we are surrounded by sugar cane, a lot of different vegetables. What we can do there in Pahokee you can't do in a lot of places so I really love my hometown, you can always go fish, you can go hunt, you can go get vegetables, different stuff. You can live. A lot of places you can't live. I love my hometown a whole lot.

[+] EnlargeRickey Jackson
Jason Miller/US Presswire"Football always has been my life," Jackson said. "I see that in these guys up here (onstage), how they carried themselves. They set the standard."
A whole lot of people out there from my hometown. My family, they mean a whole lot to me. I got all my kids. I got my kids there in the front row. They mean the world to me. My father out there, my sisters and brothers. They mean a whole lot to me.

I started off with my hometown. So I go like this. My elementary year coming up. My coach started me playing football when I was six years old. I mean, I was in the sixth grade, Coach Rhodes. He's out there now. I started playing. I got to be 13. I realized I knew I was going to be a great football player. I always wanted to play football. What enticed me to really try to play football was you come to Pahokee, they have on the sign, Welcome to the home of Mel Tillis. He was a country singer. We had things around my hometown that you could do wrong if you choose to do wrong. I wanted my name on that sign. I tell you what, I wasn't going to do nothing to try to mess my career up to keep my name off of that sign.

So a lot of my friends, they went the wrong way. Man, I wave my hand to them because I was trying to get my name on that sign. I tell you, I end up going to the University of Pittsburgh, what has a lot of great athletes there. You got the Russ Grimm, Dan Marino, Mark May, Compton, Williams. We have so many great players there. Like you saying, we have 19, but we have four or five that tried out but wasn't drafted. When I went there on a recruiting trip, we had Tony Dorsett showing most of us around. They had just won the national championship. They was 12-0. You know, that's what made everybody come back there. We went back there and had a great time together, bunch of great men.

A lot of us, like me and Russ Grimm, went there at freshmen, we were best friends as freshmen, believe it or not. Best friends our senior year, graduating together. One thing I can say, coach Jackie Sherrill, he put a lot of men's together from all walks of life. A lot of them you didn't know where he was coming from, but you knew they were coming there to play great football.

I don't want to leave none of my coaches out. You’re going to leave some out. Bum Phillips drafted me with the Saints. That's how I got with the Saints. He did a great job. Him and John Paul Young and that Elway fellow, they did a great job keeping me focused. Then Coach Mora came around and he brought Big Fat Zero and Stitwell and them there and they did a good job with me.

You know, I hate to go back to my high school, but my high school principal was Coach Russell. He did a great job with me. He was a head coach, too. And Coach Hyman. Those guys coached me to do the right thing.

One thing about Coach Rhodes is we had games on Friday. He would take all the good players home with him and make sure that we was able to come back to the game that night. That's the kind of hometown I had. We had a special hometown.

But I can get up here and I see these guys around me, knowing that I think I deserve to be up here. I see the things that I did on the field. Football always been my life. I see that in these guys here, man. These Hall of Famers here, I just seeing how these guys carry themselves, the love they had for football. We need to keep football going. Can't let football get away. I mean you can get where the product can be so good, you can lose sight and let it get away.

I think right now the National Football League, need to get together and make sure that we keep the game what it is today. Don't let it get away because we got a great product. When you got a great product, you need to keep it going. Hard to keep stuff going in America. When you got something good, try to do the right thick with it so you keep it going.

My owner, he went one time and then won. We go back again this year, we win. I think he should be up for the Hall of Fame. Not only that, I mean, keeping the Saints in New Orleans. The Saints went through Katrina. They come back, go through the oil spill now. None of that would have been a disaster. If they lost the Saints, it would have been ten times worse than all that so I take my hat off to them. A lot of people say why you pick Mr. Benson do this or that? Ain't nobody for New Orleans than the Saints and Mr. Benson because he the one who kept the Saints in New Orleans. I tell you what, a lot of teams left in the middle of the night taking their teams other places. He could have did the same thing that some of the other guys did. You got to take your hat off to somebody when they doing right, and I take my hat off to him. He could have tookthe Saints and moved them to California or San Antonio. If Katrina did us like that, oil spill did us like that, imagine losing the Saints.

My last couple words I want to say is me getting back home, I lost my mother, I went back home, spent a lot of time with her. Found me a good church. I got into the church. It steered me in the right direction. Man, I can say to all y'all in here, find you a church home and make sure you get Christ in your life. You hear what I'm saying? I see TD Jake's out there. I get up every morning with him on my TV station. My bishop, Robert Banks. I got two guys in my life that keep me going the right way.

A lot of this stuff these young boys doing, the trouble they're getting in, you need to point them towards Christ, point them towards Jesus, and their lives will get straight, the way mine going.

Love you.

Russ Grimm Hall of Fame speech

August, 7, 2010
Thank you. Of all the guys I probably could have picked, I knew picking Joe would start me out being a little bit emotional, but with the humidity and some of the pollen, if I start to tear up a little bit, that's the reason why (smiling).

First off I'd like to thank the Hall of Fame committee. I want to congratulate my fellow members of the Class of 2010. I want to say congratulations to the members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame that are sitting up here. I want to say thank you for setting a standard for the rest of us. Thank you for protecting the integrity of the game. Thank you for all the great memories of this sport.

It's a privilege to play in the NFL. It's been a privilege to coach in the NFL. It's an honor to be selected here in Canton. Thank you.

[+] EnlargeRuss Grimm
Jason Miller/US Presswire"Growing up," said Russ Grimm, "I dreamed of playing college football. In college, I dreamed of playing pro football. When I was in the NFL I dreamed of winning Super Bowls. But I never dreamed I would be standing here today."
I'd like to thank all the owners, especially the Cooke family, Dan Snyder, the Rooney family, and the Bidwill family. I'd like to thank the commissioner. I'd like to thank all the players, past and present, those I played with and those I played against, for making the NFL a special place.

Growing up, I dreamed of playing college football. In college, I dreamed of playing professional football. When I was in the NFL, I dreamed of winning Super Bowls. I dreamed of winning championships. But I never dreamed that I'd be standing here today. I want to make sure that I thank the people that made this possible.

First off, I want to thank my two best fans, my two best coaches, my two best friends, mom and dad. They made sure I had all the spikes that I needed. They got me to all the practices. They got me to all the games.

I'd come home from those games, and my mom would be up on that chair giving me her post-game speech on what I did right, on what I did wrong, and my dad would just sit there smoking that cigarette on telling me what I needed to do to get better. But they taught me family values, they taught me how to respect others, they taught me how to compete and how to be thankful for what I have. Thank you very much.

I want to say thanks to Karen and my kids, Chad, Cody, Devin, Dylan, for all the sacrifices they made. Proud of you.

I'd like to thank my brothers Dave and Donn, my sister Carol Sue for their interest they've showed throughout my career. I'd like to thank you Stacey for putting up with me, putting this weekend together. It's been special.

I'm proud to say that I'm from a small town in Western PA. That's right. It's a special part of the country, like here, where the knowledge and the support for the game of football is unmatched. They fill the stadiums on Friday night, Saturday afternoons and Sundays. You created an excitement that growing up as a young man I wanted to be a part of. Thank you very much.

Scottdale, PA, I will always call you home. Thank you for all your support.

Southmoreland High School, my coach John Bacha, the administration, the teachers, thank you for creating a strong, healthy, positive environment for myself and the students of Westmoreland County.

The class of '77, we graduated singing Free Bird. If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me? Not only did you remember me, you took a special interest, you stayed in touch, you supported and followed my career. For that, I will always remember you. Thank you.

University of Pittsburgh, I played quarterback and linebacker in high school, I went to the University of Pitt as a linebacker. After my sophomore year, Jackie Sherrill called me into his office and told me that we had a lot of seniors graduating on the offensive line and he thought it would be an opportunity for me to switch over and play center.

I told him I never had my hand in the dirt, that I'd just stay at linebacker.

He lifted his eyes up and looked at me and he said, son, I'm not asking.

So I moved over. I wasn't very happy about it. But I had a great offensive line coach named Joe Moore. He knew I wasn't happy. I didn't like the transition. But he called me in one day, sat me down, talked about it, told me that I was a football player and I should play whatever position that they thought I was best capable of playing. He told me that playing offensive line, there's no greater feeling than to be able to move a man from Point A to Point B against his will. I tried it; I liked it; and I was playing offensive line (smiling).

I was fortunate enough to play on a lot of great teams with a lot of great football players, built a lot of friendships. Thank you, Jackie Sherrill. Thank you, Joe Moore. Thank you to all the guys at the University of Pittsburgh.

I got drafted by the Redskins in '81. I'm a true believer that if you work hard and you have the talent necessary, good things are going to happen. But I'm also smart enough to realize you have to be a little bit lucky and get the right opportunity.

I was selected to a team that had a new head coach in Joe Gibbs, a staff that included Joe Bugel, and a lot of talented players selected by Bobby Beathard. We struggled early, started winning some games. We finished 8-8 the first year. The next year was the first of three Super Bowl wins. In my 11-year career, we won a lot of football games.

Through that time I was fortunate because I played with some great veterans, I played with some good young players, I played with some smart veterans. But I'm sitting there an offensive linemen, usually have no stats. Offensive linemen go unnoticed. I know I didn't get here by myself, all right?

Joe Gibbs, thank you very much. Joe Bugel, you're special. You always will be. Bobby Beathard, thank you.

Next I want to mention a few guys that made it possible for me to be here today, a group of guys that grew together, worked together, played together, raised families together, celebrated together, guys that I consider family, a group known as the Hogs. Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic, Mark May, Fred Dean, Donnie Warren, George Starke and Rick Walker. Your names are going to be embroidered on the inside of this jacket so I always remember the things we went through, the tough times we had and the good times we celebrated.

Mark Schlereth, Raleigh McKenzie, Jim Lachey, Jim Hanifan, all the guys I played with up front, thank you very much and thank you for the memories.

Last but not least, to burgundy and gold fans, there's many a time when I closed my eyes and I picture myself still putting on those pads at old RFK Stadium, and those stands are rocking up and down and 50 some thousand chanting, We want Dallas. I can hear the diesel horns blowing when 44 was carrying the football, and I remember standing there in the pouring rain when everyone was throwing the seat cushions down on the field in the playoff game versus Atlanta.

You provided a lot of memories for me and my teammates. You made playing for the Redskins special. You created an atmosphere on game day that was second to none. The support you showed, the enthusiasm you had, the love you displayed for those teams will always be remembered. Thank you very much.

To all football fans, no matter who you root for, no matter what level, you're the reason we play the game. Thank you very much.

John Randle Hall of Fame speech

August, 7, 2010
Wow. Well, it's too late, they can't take it back now. I'm here; I'm in.

First of all, I want to thank John Teerlinck for presenting me, motivating me, focusing me on the game that I love. I also want to say, John, thank you for saying I could excel and play in the National Football League, even though I wasn't drafted, didn't play for a major school. Also thank you for showing me what sometimes I didn't see in myself.

Also I want to thank my hometown, Mumford, Texas, population 150. I also want to thank Herron, Texas, where I went to high school. Also I'd like to thank Keith Waters, who many of you may not know. Keith coached me at Trinity Valley Community College. He also convinced me to continue with my dream of playing football when I was uncertain about college and my future. He also encouraged me to go to Texas A&I with a rich winning tradition. Thank you also for all my college teammates at Texas A&I. Thank you, guys.

[+] EnlargeJohn Randle
Jason Miller/US Presswire"I am so humbled by this incredible honor which I never thought was possible," said John Randle, left. "I'm a smalltown kid whose dream came true."
Next I'd like to thank the Minnesota Vikings, a team that believed in me, gave me a chance to play defensive line when most teams thought I was undersized and I wasn't going to make the team.

Also a lot of credit goes to my teammates at the Vikings and also the Seattle Seahawks, and especially my teammates when I first got in the league, such guys at Henry Thomas, Chris Doleman, and Randall McDaniel. Thank you, guys, for taking me under your wing and showing me the way.

I'd also like to thank Jerry Burns, Denny Green for seeing something in me and also believing that I could make the team.

I also want to thank Dennis Ryan, the head equipment guy from the Minnesota Vikings for finding a shoulder pad that would fit this small body (laughter). I'd also like to thank the fans for those days when I thought I had given my all and had nothing left to give. You may not believe this, but those days when I believed that I couldn't go on, I didn't have the strength to continue, you gave me the strength to play hard, practice hard, and to go out there and play a hundred percent on every play.

I also would like to thank my two big brothers Dennis and Ervin Randle. Thank you for letting me follow you around Mumford, Texas, when we were growing up. I'd also like to thank my mom, who is no longer here. She raised three boys by herself with very little money. Thank you, mom. I love you.

I'd also like to thank my loving family, my wife Candace, she is my strength and best friend, and my kids who are my pride and joy. I also want to thank my whole family in Texas and a new one in Minnesota for being on this journey with me and also for helping me believe in myself and continue after football.

I also am so humbled by this incredible honor which I never thought was possible. Thank you to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, everyone who played a part in electing me for making this small-town kid's dream come true.

Thank you.

Dick LeBeau Hall of Fame speech

August, 7, 2010
Man, this really is a great day to be alive (smiling). Here we are. I'd like to thank my mom and dad for creating the family environment that led an ornery young guy grow up and maybe someday allowed to have a weekend happen for him like is happening right now. Thank you, mom and dad.

I thank my brother, not only for introducing me, but for being the best big brother anybody could ever hope for all my life. I only got one problem tonight. They want me to give 52 years of NFL experience into a 10 minute talk (laughter). I don't know if I can do that, but I'll try.

I'm being inducted as a player. Believe me, that makes me most proud. I did that for 14 years. But for the last 38 years, I've been a football coach. So to ask me to talk more in two minutes and not talk about my guys over here, tell you right now, it ain't gonna happen.

The good thing for you folks is when I talk about them, you know who I'm talking about. We're not talking about the guys I played against. You would say, Who is that? Who did he say?

I'm proud to be from Detroit, proud of the guys that I played with. My teammates alone Dick Night Train Lane, Lem Barney, Charlie Sanders, Yale Lary and probably the best teammate anybody had, Joe Schmidt, they're already in the Hall of Fame. I'm so honored I'm going to be in there with them.

[+] EnlargeDick LeBeau
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireDick LeBeau spoke enthusiastically about former teammates with the Lions and the players he has coached with the Steelers. "Man, this really is a great day to be alive!" he said in his opening.
This Hall of Fame is a big deal. Can't really comprehend it. I've always been kind of known as a laid back type of guy. From the minute they told me I was in the Hall of Fame. Well, really I didn't find it out from the Hall of Fame. They said I had been nominated, I wasn't in. They said that they'd call me the minute they knew about how the voting turned out. There was a television show giving all the results. I wasn't about to be looking at that. I was sitting there chewing my fingernails, hoping they vote me in.

I knew about what time the TV show was coming on, watching the clock, keeping my mind occupied, waiting on that phone call. The phone rings. It's my buddy from Colorado, Jimmy Othrow. I said, Oh, man, he's a great friend. I have to take his call, but I have to tell him I can't talk to him, I'm expecting a call from the Hall of Fame. I answered the phone. I said, Jimmy, the Hall of Fame is supposed to call, letting me know if I'm in. He said, You big dummy, you're in, it's all over the TV. That's how I found out (laughter).

I was giddy, you know. My foot wouldn't touch the ground. I said, C'mon, Dick, get ahold of yourself. You're an experienced liver. Not old, you just got a lot of experience. I got on the plane and got down to the Super Bowl where they introduced it. I saw Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith with the numbers they just read, everybody knew they were going in, they knew they were going in. Heck, they were just giddy, happy, off the ground as I was. I made my mind up there I'm going to relax, enjoy this, and I don't care if I ever come down.

I want to thank the Hall of Fame and the committee for having the foresight for creating a vehicle to get players like Floyd and myself a second chance to get back in here. As I said, when you're an experienced liver, things do mean truly to you.

I want to thank Rick Gosselin for bringing my name in front of that committee. Rick, you had a tough job, I know that.

A couple years ago I got to meet the president of the United States. We got over to the White House. President Obama came in, he talked to us for a couple of seconds, a little while, said hello to us. Then we all went outside on the White House lawn. President Obama talked to I'd call it a throng, there was a lot of people out there. The president was about halfway through his talk and he said something like, Well, we all know Dick LeBeau. He's the defensive coordinator of the great Steeler defense. And, Dick, where are you, Dick? I'm like, Hey, Pres, I'm right over here.

When I got back home that night, I thought, you know, this might be the highest deal of my life. President Obama is singling me out, getting me some applause in his speech. I thought there certainly can't be anything greater than this. But in all due respect, Mr. President, this whole business is a little bit bigger, I can tell you that (smiling).

President Obama is the 44th president of our country, it was the 44th Super Bowl last year, and Floyd and I both wore 44 when we played. They said, It's the year of 44. I got a little different thing I do with the 4. Watch me now, this is a little sneaky. If you take 4 plus 4, that equals 8, subtract two, that gives 6, that's the number of Super Bowl championships that the Pittsburgh Steelers over here have won.

They're here tonight. I have to tell you, that's about the highest compliment I've ever had paid to me in my life. Dan Rooney is here. Boy, I'm just completely humbled by that. I know he would tell you he had a lot of other business he had to take care of over here, but I know darn good and well why he's here. I'm so proud of that, that he and the Rooney family, coach Mike Tomlin, who let this football team come out of training camp, folks, you got to think about this, let them be here tonight, it's just like them having another away game.

But I told several of them before I left, I'll tell y'all right now, I wouldn't want to be here without you, men, offense, defense, special teams, I wouldn't want to be here without you. They're my best PR. They really are. They're the reason that President Obama knew who I was.

A few years ago we played in this game. Joey Porter and James Farrior, two of our great leaders, they got this idea they would put on Dick LeBeau jerseys and wear them all over. He's still out there, he ain't in there yet. Last year Rod Woodson stood up here in his induction speech and he mentioned me. Rod, I'll never be able to thank you for that.

I thank all you guys for your PR because look where it got me, man. It worked.

I coached a lot of great players. I'm not going to get into that. Guys ask me, Coach, what's the perfect 3 4? Who would be the very ideal people at each position? I said, Well, really, truthfully, you start with Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, and Brett Keisel on the defensive line. Really, seriously. Not only the great players, they're totally unselfish. In the 3 4 your linemen have to be a little unselfish because you know everybody is going to talk about the linebackers and the safeties anyhow all day.

I told Casey, You a great player, but I had a nose tackle that actually led our team when I was in Cincinnati, Tim Krumrie, led our team several times in tackles. Casey looked at me, you can't get anything over on him, you said your nose tackle led your team in defensive stops. I said, More than once. He said, Coach, there's no way you're running the same system that you're running with me. He might be right (laughter).

But I've had some great players with the Steelers. I had Rod Woodson, who is in the Hall of Fame. Carnell Lake, I was a really smart coach then. Ken Lord, Kevin Greene on the outside linebackers. They made me pretty smart, too. And I've had some smart players behind to tell those kinds of players where to go. Darren Perry, coaching up in Green Bay now, he was on that team. I had Ray Horton, who is working with me now in Pittsburgh. I had Dick Jauron, two time NFL head coach. He graduated from Yale. You know he's pretty smart.

I've had a lot of smart guys. I'm going to tell you right now, Ryan Clark, who is with us right now, he's in there with that group. He's a smart football player, a good football player. Let me tell you now. Ryan has something to deal with that none of those guys had to deal with. Ryan is back there every Sunday with a guy by the name of Troy Polamalu.

I don't mean to tell you that Ryan tells Troy where to go 'cause in all honesty nobody tells Troy where to go (laughter). All I know is wherever he goes, something usually good happens for the Steelers.

But Ryan sits back there and watches Troy and he tries to keep our defense balanced. He does a great job of that. It's not like he can play two or three games and say, I got it, because Troy keeps changing the script on him all the time. He likes to test him out every now and then. I wouldn't trade those two guys for anything.

With the Steelers' defense, we also got B Mack (Bryant McFadden) back there at corner, and Ike Taylor. I might be off a little on this, Ike, but when I first came there, I don't think I started him on one game. Now he's started every game we've played for the last six years. Hasn't missed a game, hasn't missed a snap. That's a great record of durability and dependability. Six straight years. Ike, all you got to do is go eight more, man, and you can catch me (smiling).

People ask me if I ever talk about when I played to my players. You just saw an example of how they have to suffer through that most every day. They ask me about what coach did you borrow the most from. I had too many great ones. When I was at Ohio State, I played for Woody Hayes, the great Woody Hayes. I still learned something almost daily from the current head coach of the Ohio State University, Jim Tressel. Coach Tressel is a textbook on how to conduct yourself at a major college level with integrity.

Don Shula was one of my first defensive coordinators. I've been told a lot of times that Coach Shula takes credit for a lot of the good things that I did. In fact, almost all the good things that I did (smiling). I always tell Coach Shula when I see him, I said, Don, that's fair because me and my defensive teammates make all the credit for making you the coach you turned out to be later on.

Another head coach that I had that I'll always be grateful for is a man that first brought me to Pittsburgh, coach Bill Cowher. Thanks, Coach. All of our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family in this tough time.

Owners? The owners I've worked for, played for, read like the Hall of Fame. Right now with the Rooney family. They have two in the Hall of Fame. I spent about 20 years with the Brown family in Cincinnati. If ever the word 'legendary' ever applied, I think the great Paul Brown certainly has that coming to his name. He operated within a 20 mile radius of where we're standing for a long time.

Also I worked for Ralph Wilson. He's in the Hall of Fame, from Buffalo. My buddy Tom Donahoe and Greg Williams brought me up there, kept me from an early retirement.

I played for William Clay Ford and his wife Martha Firestone Ford. That's two of the great families of America and great in the history of the NFL. It's like a storybook deal. I couldn't make this stuff up. I'm very proud of my playing career, my roommate with Jimmy Gibbons all those years, Wayne Walker, not going to get into all my line teammates, but they were all great guys and great players. I would like to thank my trainers. Millard Kelly was early days, then Kent got me through when I got hurt a little bit more later on in my career. Those guys kept me out there on the field. I thank them for that.

As far as my playing ability, I was known as the guy who was just going to come to work every day, I was going to play hard every day. Might not always play good every play, but I was going to play the next play as hard. I learned that from London, Ohio, a small town about two hours from where we're standing. Honesty and hard work, that's about all they value down there. It sure has stood me in good stead.

I'll leave you with one thing. Life is for living, folks. Don't let a number be anything other than a number. Don't let somebody tell you that you're too old to do this or too old to do that. Stay in life. Life is a gift. It's a joy. Don't drop out of it. Don't let somebody else tell you and don't let your mind tell you.

If I would have gotten out of my life's work at 65 or 67, when they say is the age of retirement, here is what I would have missed, folks. I would have missed not one but two World Championship football teams that I got to be a part of. That's these guys over here. I got to be a part of a No. 1 defense that statistically had the lowest numbers in the last 35 or 40 years. I had my number retired from my high school. Had a building named after me in my hometown. I made the Detroit Lions all 75 year team. I was accepted into the Ohio State University Athletic Hall of Fame. Now tonight I guess when I sit down, get off this speaking, which I'm gonna do, I'll be in the NFL Hall of Fame.

My mother always said, Onward and upward, age is just a number. God love y'all. Thank you.


Roster Advisor


Thursday, 12/18
Saturday, 12/20
Sunday, 12/21
Monday, 12/22