NFL Nation: 2014 Hall of Fame

Video: Hall of Fame wrapup

August, 3, 2014
Aug 3
video NFL Nation reporters Dan Graziano and Mike Rodak bring closure to the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, which included memorable speeches from Andre Reed and Michael Strahan.
CANTON, Ohio -- The Buffalo Bills finally had their night.

[+] EnlargeJim Kelly
AP Photo/David RichardHall of Famers Jim Kelly and Andre Reed connected on one last reception at Reed's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Following an arduous offseason that saw franchise icon Jim Kelly diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer and the death of owner Ralph Wilson days later, the induction Saturday of Andre Reed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was a long-awaited and much-needed celebration of the franchise's golden era.

In front of thousands of Bills fans who made the three-hour trip from Western New York and filled the stands at Fawcett Stadium, Reed captivated the crowd with a tribute to the ailing Kelly, who sat nearby on stage.

"I was known for my toughness, going across the middle, making that catch, breaking tackles," Reed said. "But the toughest individual I've ever met in my life was Jim Kelly, No. 12."

Following his acceptance speech, Reed turned to Kelly on the middle of the stage and caught one more pass from his former quarterback. The two then hugged on the front of the stage in front of Reed's newly unveiled bust -- nearly 20 years after their final game together.

It was a fitting, emotional moment.

"Jim, you have endured a lot in your life. The loss of a son and, most recently, your battle with cancer. You're an inspiration to all of those you touch," Reed said during his speech. "I'm honored to call you my teammate, my friend, and my family member and, now, my fellow Hall of Famer. I love you, man."

Saturday night brought a sense of completion to the Bills squad that went to four consecutive Super Bowls in the early 1990s. Reed was joined on stage by four of his teammates already with gold jackets -- Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, defensive end Bruce Smith and receiver James Lofton -- and was presented by Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy.

The flood of Bills greats in Canton, Ohio, was joined by a crowd that made it clear where they stood on the franchise's uncertain future.

Reed thanked Wilson for being "the greatest owner in sports history" and then added a line that drew some of the loudest cheers of the night from the crowd, including some who held a "Thank you, Mr. Wilson" banner from the upper reaches of the bleachers.

"And, oh yeah, the Bills will stay in Buffalo, too," Reed said.

At a time when the franchise's future is uncertain and Kelly's is fighting cancer, Saturday night gave Bills fans not only a chance to honor Reed, but also to take center stage in the NFL's annual celebration of its history.

This was the Bills' night.

Video: Andre Reed's Hall of Fame speech

August, 3, 2014
Aug 3
Former Buffalo Bills WR Andre Reed speaks after being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
CANTON, Ohio -- In a sprawling, 34-minute induction speech Saturday night at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan invoked Jane Fonda workout tapes, said he still doesn't understand "Coughlin Time" and told longtime rival Jon Runyan that he knew his tells. It was all over the map, but it was kind of fitting for a guy whose life could be described the same way.

The final speaker of the seven new Hall of Famers on Saturday, Strahan began his speech with his memory of being a husky 13-year-old living in Mannheim, Germany, and ended it by singling out his "TV wife," Kelly Ripa, who was in the audience to watch his enshrinement ceremony. He opened by calling himself "an improbable Hall of Famer, an improbable football player" and closed it with these words:

[+] EnlargeMichael Strahan
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsMichael Strahan's Hall of Fame speech was like his New York Giants career: a whirlwind of success and entertainment.
"Improbability means nothing, because absolutely anything is possible."

Strahan is a testament to that, an amalgamation of circumstance, influence and wildly varied success. He's a huge international TV superstar who seemed truly touched by the weekend's celebration of his football career. As he and his bronze Hall of Fame bust showed his famous gap-toothed smile, he told the following tales, among others:

  • The one about how his brothers made fun of him for being fat when he was 13 and living in Germany because their military father was stationed there. They called him "B.O.B.", which stood for "Booty on Back," and the ribbing inspired him to go out and purchase those Jane Fonda workout tapes. He eventually moved on to Herschel Walker ones, but he says it all worked.
  • The one about getting drafted out of Texas Southern by the Giants and "going to the scariest city I could ever imagine -- New York City."
  • The one about how he hurt his foot on a sack dance as a rookie and the late Giants co-owner, Bob Tisch, gave him rides to practices after he saw him walking there on crutches.
  • Meeting Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms and O.J. Anderson in the Giants locker room and thinking, "I watched these guys when I was 6 years old. They're still here?"
  • "When I was a rookie, I was scared of you," he said to Taylor, who was among the returning Hall of Famers on stage. "And now, I'm retired and up here with you wearing this yellow jacket, and I'm still scared of you."
  • He spoke warmly of current Giants coach Tom Coughlin, with whom he feuded early but bonded late in his career. He said, "I still don't get" why a coach insists that someone arrive at 7:55 for an 8:00 meeting, but he also said, "You made me a better man, Coach Coughlin," and Coughlin's grin was as wide as the end zone.
  • He also spoke warmly of Eli Manning, who hammed it up by keeping a straight face as Strahan kidded him for never showing emotion. Strahan said he used to walk around the locker room before games trying to pump everyone up but couldn't figure out how to do it for Eli. "I used to say, 'How am I going to reach this boy?' And then I realized I didn't have to. He was already reached. What I learned from Eli was that you don't have to be outwardly excitable to be inwardly combustible."
  • He singled out former opponents Erik Williams and Runyan, telling Runyan (who was in the crowd) that his right foot gave away everything.
  • He told fellow Hall of Famers John Randle, Chris Doleman, Bruce Smith and Howie Long that he "stole" techniques from all of them, including Randle's practicing pass-rush moves on shopping carts and Smith's obsession with the StairMaster. "I am a mixture of all of you," he said.

And that might have been the Strahan line of the night. This is a guy who lived through three very different Giants eras until the final game of his career was the most improbable of all -- the Super Bowl XLII victory over the unbeaten Patriots. This is a guy who once said on the air, as a guest on Ripa and Regis Philbin's show, that he hoped someday to replace Regis … and did.

Strahan said Friday that "I don't really get excited about many things, because every day is a continuous cycle of interesting stuff, but this is unlike anything else."

He will leave Canton, Ohio, and return to his fabulous and fascinating life. But to hear Strahan speak is to listen to a man who truly appreciates how wild and crazy it's all been. And it's fun to listen to someone like that.
Walterius Jones, the 14-year-old son of Walter Jones, said it all about his dad in seven words Seattle Seahawks fans have heard before:

"They said he could block the sun."

Jones, arguably the best offensive tackle in the history of the NFL, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday in Canton, Ohio.

"It’s the incredible journey," Walterius said. "He came from nothing. Football gave him a sense of hope that there is a way out of that environment."

Jones became the third Seahawk to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining wide receiver Steve Largent and defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy.

"I have an attitude of gratitude for so many people who helped me become who I am," Jones said. "I'd be lying if I said I hadn’t been thinking about this day ever since Cortez said during his enshrinement two years ago, 'Walter Jones, you’re next.'"

The first-ballot Hall of Famer made a point to praise his mother, Earline, who was sitting in the audience.

"I grew up in Aliceville, Alabama, the seventh of eight kids and the biggest son to a wonderful woman," Jones said. "Occasionally, the power would go out, and we might not have enough food in the morning, but we were never in the dark and never went to bed hungry.

"Thank you for all your hard work and perseverance. Momma, I remember many nights hearing you cry and pray. Now, as I stand here, I can say prayer does have the power of change. You always supported me. You are the real Hall of Famer."

Jones remembered how in ninth grade the Aliceville High School football coach, Pierce McIntosh, put him through his first football drills. Jones asked him what he thought.

"He said, 'I think you're a million dollars walking around broke,'" Jones said. "He saw something in me I didn’t see in myself. I hope I made you proud."

The nine-time Pro Bowler thanked all the quarterbacks who he blocked for with the Seahawks, but he had a special message for Matt Hasselbeck, who was in the audience.

"I'm sorry I slapped you at training camp," Jones said. "But because I protect the quarterback, I have the right to slap the quarterbacks."

Jones protected the quarterbacks like no other tackle in NFL history. He started all 180 games he played for the Seahawks and allowed only 23 sacks during his entire career on 5,703 pass plays, which is only one in every 248 pass plays. He was whistled for holding only nine times, once every 634 plays.

"Football has been a blessing and has changed my life and those around me," Jones said. "And to the 12s [12th man], what a wonderful group of fans. I truly loved playing for you all and cheered with you last season. I will cherish this journey the rest of my life. Thank you, go Seahawks and I love Seattle."
Ray Guy took his place among the game’s immortals Saturday night when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He made a little extra history along the way.

The Oakland Raiders' first-round draft pick in 1973 is the first pure punter to be enshrined. He is the 22nd Hall of Famer the Raiders recognize.

"Punters," former Raiders coach and fellow Hall of Famer John Madden said in his introduction of Guy, "are football players, too."

In a speech that lasted nearly 15 minutes, Guy spoke of his long and winding road to Canton from the fields of Georgia.

"There are no more games to play," he said, "no more records to set or championships to win. This is beyond my wildest dreams. I didn’t do it alone."

Guy, a seven-time Pro Bowl and three-time All-Pro selection, thanked members of his family first, saying the greatest influences in his life were his late mother and father. He also mentioned his late college coach at Southern Mississippi, P.W. Underwood, as well as late Raiders owner Al Davis, who was represented in Canton by his wife Carole and son Mark, the current Raiders managing general partner. Two-time Super Bowl-winning Raiders coach Tom Flores was also in the audience.

"Playing in the NFL with the Raiders was my destiny," said Guy, one of just six players to have been on all three of their Super Bowl title teams.

Also a safety in college, Guy was an athlete. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. He also said he could have played in the NBA.

Just three of Guy’s 1,049 career punts were blocked.

"Ray Guy made people in the 'hood say, 'I’m Ray Guy,'" Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin said on the NFL Network.

"There was nothing too technical or complicated" about how Guy kicked, he said. "I was taught to keep my ego in its place. I’d rather be in the background, just one of the people.

"I am who I am, and that’s all you're ever going to get."

Guy said he was told recently that the biblical meaning of his uniform number, 8, was a new beginning. As such, he hoped his inclusion at Canton was a new beginning for punters, as well as continuing to serve as an inspiration.

"Punters," Guy said, "keep the faith. You are an important part of every game.

"This is long, long overdue. But now, the Hall of Fame has a complete team."
Pastor Aeneas Williams stood in front of a congregation unlike any other he has spoken to before, inside a sanctuary that has defined his life, and he expounded about a religion whose followers are as devout as any other.

It wasn’t a Sunday morning in his St. Louis church. It was a Saturday night in Canton, Ohio.

In front of thousands of football fans -- his congregants -- who gathered in a small, Northeast Ohio town to pay tribute to a sport’s cathedral, Williams preached about football, faith and family during his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech.

For 25 minutes, the devout Christian pontificated about the Church of Football.

It was everything you'd expect from Williams, who spent 10 of his 14 seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and the last four with the St. Louis Rams. He was thankful and humbled. He addressed hot-button issues, and he showed that the fire hasn't disappeared 10 years after he last played. And it was all done with a flair only those accustomed to speaking in front of the masses can provide. He promised he'd cry, but only sweat dripped down his cheeks. His impassioned speech had two themes, both of which he has tried to live in his life: "Begin with the end in mind and die empty." He tried to stay away from the morbid, but he pointed out that he was inductee No. 287 and his last name put him on the bottom of every list of this year’s inductees -- a symbol for his road to the Hall.

He started at the beginning of his football life, which began in a park in New Orleans, and went through his journey to the Hall of Fame, which didn't truly begin until a week before the season began at Southern University. It was then that Williams decided to walk on. Although, as he explained, nothing came easy to him -- speed, winning in Arizona, his acceptance into the Hall of Fame -- Williams was a natural talent whose dedication helped him become great. He thanked Gill Byrd, the former San Diego cornerback, whose help Williams solicited. But after spending time with Byrd and his wife, Williams didn’t become just a better cornerback. He credited Byrd for teaching him how to be a good husband and father while playing in the NFL.

As to be expected from a Williams speech, faith played a large part.

He talked about taking signs from God as early as his childhood, when Williams, as a running back in the 95-pound league, was crushed by a 110-pound player. It was then that Williams switched to defense. He also said his faith helped lead him to walk on at Southern.

Williams' competitive edge shined bright throughout his speech. It was obvious he still basks in having shut down Michael Irvin in the 1999 playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, the same one the Cardinals won in an upset. Williams joked that he was covering Irvin so closely that if Irvin went to the bathroom, "I had to go flush it."

His speech began by supporting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for having to make tough decisions so the game could continue. He joked about getting a middle finger salute from an entire section of New York Giants fans when he'd come out for warm-ups at old Giants Stadium. He noted that his former defensive backs coach, Rob Ryan, put him on Aeneas Island long before Revis Island was discovered. Williams said his work ethic was established in the aisles of the Superdome, where he sold popcorn, peanuts and soda as a kid.

By the time Williams finished, he still hadn't cried, but he was leading the stadium of fans in chants and cheers. Williams looked comfortable on a pulpit, behind a lectern, talking with his hands, preaching the gospel of football.

He looked at home in the Hall of Fame.
You knew Claude Humphrey’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech was going to be one for the ages simply based on the former Atlanta Falcons defensive end’s opening line.

[+] EnlargeClaude Humphrey
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsFormer Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Claude Humphrey made his Hall of Fame induction count with an epic speech.
"They told me that I only had 10 minutes up here," he started, "but let me start off by telling you, I’ve waited almost 30 years to get to this podium. So, don’t rush me, guys. I'm going to be here for a minute."

Every second of Humphrey’s address was enjoyable, as he recollected about personal tragedy, made mention of overcoming racial barriers and reflected on his storied football career. The Memphis, Tennessee, native even thanked the sports writers for finally voting him into the Hall of Fame after so many unsuccessful attempts.

"I want to pay special recognition to the sports writers, the people who voted for me," Humphrey said. "I know you had a hard time because most of you guys weren’t even alive when I played. So I know you worked hard to get me in, and I do appreciate it."

Humphrey, 70, was presented by his oldest daughter, Cheyenne Humphrey-Robinson. He drew the biggest reaction, however, when he called out the youngest of his three daughters.

"She came purely by accident," Humphrey said with a laugh. "… She’s been the love of our lives. My wife adored my baby daughter."

The tone changed when Humphrey talked about his late wife, Sandra.

"I’ve had Sandra in my life until a year ago, when she subsided to ovarian cancer," Humphrey said. "She worked with me, man. I’ll tell you: All those years that I was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- and I think it was four times -- every year, my wife worked diligently. She called everybody and talked to people and do everything she could to get [me] in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And it never worked. And after every campaign, she and I would sit down and cry about it and hug each other. … My wife was a special person."

Humphrey, who recognized a few doctors, noted how he avoided ending his career after tearing ligaments and cartilage in his knee, moving on from Atlanta to Philadelphia and getting to the Super Bowl and finishing his career. He retired briefly before being traded to the Eagles.

As for the Falcons, he managed to interconnect the past and present by acknowledging former Falcons coaches Marion Campbell and Jerry Glanville, then acknowledging team owner Arthur Blank and current general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

Humphrey made it to the Hall of Fame by recording 122 career sacks before sacks officially became a statistic. On Saturday, he was able to corral the moment.
In his 24-minute Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech, Derrick Brooks thanked dozens of people from every stage of his career.

There were plenty of emotional moments, but one stood out to me: when Brooks thanked the late Lee Roy Selmon, the first draft pick and the first Hall of Famer in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“Lee Roy set the standard, and we’re just trying to walk the path he set for us," Brooks said.

Selmon was much more than a football player. He was elegant, classy and heavily involved in the Tampa Bay community long after his playing days were over. Selmon left this world too soon, and he left a void in Tampa Bay.

But now that void is being filled. Brooks is as close to Selmon as you can get. Of course, Brooks was a tremendous football player. But, like Selmon, Brooks is so much more. Brooks now is the biggest icon in the Tampa Bay region, but he wouldn’t like hearing that. That’s because Brooks is especially humble.

That was best demonstrated when Brooks asked all his Buccaneers teammates who made the trip to Canton, Ohio, to stand and be recognized.

“Please stand up and let me bow and salute you guys," Brooks said.

Brooks had plenty of help. But, perhaps more than anyone, Brooks was responsible for turning around a dismal franchise.

“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers [were] the team that invented losing," said ESPN’s Chris Berman, who served as the master of ceremonies.

Brooks was drafted in 1995 by a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 1982. Joining forces with coach Tony Dungy and teammates such as Warren Sapp, Hardy Nickerson, John Lynch and Ronde Barber, Brooks ushered in the most successful era in franchise history. The Bucs became regular playoff contenders and, eventually, Super Bowl champions.

Brooks last played in 2008, but he’s more visible than ever. Brooks founded a high school in Tampa, does all sorts of charity work and works as the president of the Tampa Bay Storm.

“As a servant leader, I just want to do the best I can to make something better when I come into touch with it," Brooks said.

Brooks always has made the things he comes into contact with better. Selmon started that path, but now it’s Brooks’ turn to follow in the footsteps.
CANTON, Ohio -- A large New York Giants contingent is on hand Saturday for the enshrinement of former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The leader of that contingent is Giants owner John Mara, who remembers Strahan as a Hall of Fame practice performer.

"That's a once-in-a-lifetime guy, a guy that makes other people better," Mara said on his way into the ceremony at Fawcett Stadium. "And you'd just watch him practice, going up and talking to different players. He was always encouraging guys, but he'd also get on guys if he felt they were slacking off and not doing their jobs. And that's one thing I always appreciated."

Strahan said Friday that he doesn't get to East Rutherford, New Jersey, as often as he likes to, but he will show up periodically throughout the season to talk to Giants players. There are only three remaining Giants who played with Strahan, but it's not hard for him to get everyone's attention.

"He has a huge impact when he comes in, because he's got the credibility because they know he was such a great player," Mara said. "And what was great about him, I've said this a million times, is that he practiced just as hard as he played, and he set such a great example. So that type of influence is what you want.

"We're very proud to be here to support him."
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Talk to anyone now about Aeneas Williams and the stories pile up.

Reporters, teammates, coaches -- they all have humorous anecdotes that have defined Williams’ career. But when Kwamie Lassiter joined the Arizona Cardinals in 1995, all he saw was a Hall of Famer in the making, a cornerback who treated practice receivers as if they were Jerry Rice or Michael Irvin. Williams was as serious about his football, watching endless tape hours after the film session as over, as he was his faith and his family.

Lassiter had no clue how funny Williams was.

“He’d tell more jokes than anyone,” Lassiter said.

Williams, a pastor in St. Louis, would always tell clean jokes, but they were always funny, Lassiter remembered. Even when his teammates told the same jokes, but the inappropriate version, Williams’ jokes still provided comic relief. And the jokes seemed to get even better when the mood was most tense, such as before a big play on the field.

“We’re in the midst of the game and he’d lighten up the mood and say something crazy,” Lassiter recalled. “He seems always serious that you think he’s not paying attention and this guy tells me a joke.”

Lassiter said Williams’ humor is most comparable to that of Peyton Manning -- subtle and dry and, at least when Manning first hit the comic scene, unexpected. Lassiter expects Williams’ Hall of Fame speech, which he’ll present this evening in Canton, Ohio, to display his humor.

“If there’s anybody deserving of the Hall of Fame, it’s that guy,” Lassiter said. “I can’t wait for the jokes.”
OXNARD, Calif. – No former Dallas Cowboys will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend, but the coaching staff has a couple of close connections to men who are being honored in Canton, Ohio.

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli spent a decade on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff during linebacker Derrick Brooks’ career. Head coach Jason Garrett was Brooks’ teammate for parts of the 2004 season and spent the previous four years playing with defensive end Michael Strahan with the New York Giants.

“When you walk into a meeting and you walk out on a practice field and certainly come game day, those guys separate themselves,” Garrett said. “They’re different, and they’re different physically, but they’re also different in their production, their leadership, their impact on their team, their influence on their team. When I went to New York, ‘Stra’ was fantastic. He embraced me. We spent a lot of time together, obviously at the facility, but then away from the facility, and he’s got this amazing way about him, he’s got an infectious personality. He’s very welcoming. When he walks into a room, he lights it up. I really, really appreciate our friendship and the time we spent together. He made my time in New York significantly better.

“With Derrick Brooks, a little bit of a different personality, but wow, what a player. I can remember my first rep in Tampa was in some kind of an OTA and I was throwing a slant in the flat and my eyes went over here and for some reason he was playing over here and somehow he got to a ball that was way over here and I literally turned around and said, ‘What the hell was that coverage?’ And it was him. It was him reading my eyes just being all over the field and just being who he is. If you watch that team play, he stands out, and there are a lot of great, great football players on those Tampa Bay Buccaneer defenses, and he just, he was the bell cow. He and [Warren] Sapp were the leaders, and they were just fantastic and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”

Marinelli, the defensive line coach during his Tampa Bay tenure, looks at Brooks as the prototype for the Will linebacker position.

“Speed, right off the bat,” Marinelli said. “Explosiveness. Great awareness. Great team player. He was a great captain. I mean, he was a great captain. And in big games, he got big. That was the best compliment I could give those guys. Big games, he got big and he played big. He’s special. Talk about a relentless motor. He was constantly sprinting to the football. Relentless and a positive influence on everybody in the building. He’s a world champion, that’s what he is.”

Hall of Fame Live

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
Welcome to's coverage of the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony! Seven NFL greats -- Derrick Brooks, Ray Guy, Claude Humphrey, Walter Jones, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams -- will be honored Saturday night and reporters Mike Rodak, Dan Graziano, Pat Yasinskas and Vaughn McClure will bring you live updates.

It only seems natural that Ray Guy chose his first NFL coach to present him Saturday when the longtime Oakland Raiders punter is introduced for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

John Madden, who is already an enshrinee in Canton, Ohio, will do the honors. But Guy also said there was a certain pecking order to who he wanted introducing him.

The late Al Davis, who presented eight previous Raiders Hall of Famers, would have been Guy’s first choice, followed by Madden and, if Madden would have been unavailable, Guy’s only other head coach with the Raiders, Tom Flores.

“I wanted Al to do it, of course,” Guy said earlier this week. “We’re only here for a little while, basically, but I wanted him to do it and then, of course, he’s not going to be able to be there. He is there but he’s not there verbally introducing me.

“I wanted to keep it within the family, and when I say family, I’m talking about the Raiders, so the next obvious choice would be John.”

Madden was the Raiders' coach when Oakland used an unheard of first-round draft pick on Guy in 1973, and under whom the Raiders won their first championship, Super Bowl XI in the 1976 season.


With Ray Guy's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who is the next most Hall of Fame-worthy Raider?


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“John is going to be a great inspiration to me when he’s standing up there,” Guy added. “I don’t know what he’s going to say, because nobody knows what he’s going to say, but you know, I wanted to keep it through the chain of command. And then, if John was not available, it would have stepped right down to Tom because Tom was there as the (receivers coach) all of my years until John retired and then Tom took over, so there was no change there, there wasn’t a change in anything it just kept the same thing.”

Under Flores, the Raiders won Super Bowl XV and then, with the franchise relocated to Los Angeles, the Raiders won Super Bowl XVIII. Guy retired following the 1986 season with back issues.

Guy is one of just six Raiders players to be on all three Raiders title teams, along with Hall of Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks, receiver Cliff Branch, center Dave Dalby, offensive tackle Henry Lawrence and offensive lineman Steve Sylvester. Guy will also be the first pure punter enshrined.

“So, I just wanted to keep it in the Raider family,” Guy said. “I could not have asked for a better presenter than John Madden, because he’s part of my family."
Like any proud father, Lawrence Williams liked talking about his son.

When the conversations turned to what Lawrence's son Aeneas did for a living, Lawrence would tell them Aeneas played cornerback in the NFL. It wouldn't take long for the natural follow-up question: "How good was he?"

Before this past February, Lawrence had plenty to boast about. Aeneas played for 14 years for the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro who had 55 interceptions and started in a Super Bowl.

Lawrence's answer changed the day before the Super Bowl in New York when Aeneas was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"That kind of ends the discussion as it relates to a whole lot of debate as to how good your son is," Aeneas remembers his dad saying.

On Saturday, Aeneas will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. Presenting him isn't just a man who shouldn't have to answer any more questions about his son but a man who built the foundation from which Aeneas grew. Lawrence was the first and only of nine siblings to attend and graduate from college. When Aeneas graduated from high school, his family applauded. Going to college was a given. Graduating from school was expected.

His upbringing kept Aeneas humble, and it carried him throughout his career. He'll first listen to his father, which befits Aeneas. He's never let his words do the talking. But after Lawrence boasts and brags as only a proud father can, it'll be Aeneas' turn.

Aeneas Williams' speech has been written for some time, but he's cried while rehearsing it. Although speaking in front of a crowd is old hat for the pastor of The Spirit Church in St. Louis, this is different. This is the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Still, this may be the easiest speech of Williams' life.

"It won't be hard because I won't be telling someone else's story," Williams said. "The great credible speech ... comes from the credibility of the one speaking, so it won't be hard. It won't be hard for me to share the truth as to how fearful I was."

Williams will tell stories. He will tell the one about how he proved his college coach wrong when going from a 4.6-second 40-yard dash to running a 4.28. And about how then-Cardinals defensive backs coach Rob Ryan hugged Williams and promised him he would lead the league in interceptions. And, of course, how he continued to work throughout his career to prove himself.

"It's pretty easy to tell those stories because I want people to not stand up there and think I was just like this guy that was predicted to do it," Williams said. "I wasn't, and I want to tell people why and what [and] how significant the mentors were, how significant it was."

The stories that might not be told are how Williams became a mentor himself.

Unlike Williams, Kwamie Lassiter wasn't drafted into the NFL, but the two shared a goal of being a professional defensive back. Williams worked with Lassiter during his early years with the Cardinals. He taught Lassiter how to watch film, how to study it, how to implement what he learned. He showed Lassiter how to play with a calm mind, which Lassiter credits as one of the Williams' most important lessons. Another was teaching Lassiter that the game is bigger than any individual.

"It was somewhat shocking," said Lassiter, who played with Williams in St. Louis. "But when I found out who he was as a man, and not a cornerback or athlete, I can understand why he went about this business the ways he did, why he says the thing he did.

"It was shocking."



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