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Saturday, August 4, 2007
Charlie Sanders: 2007 Hall of Fame enshrinement speech

ESPN.com

Following is the transcript of former Detroit Lions tight end Charlie Sanders' enshrinement speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio Saturday night:

PRESENTER WILLIAM CLAY FORD

My most vivid memories of Charlie are really the way he caught the ball. He was totally selfless in giving up his body and he would make these phenomenal catches. He caught your eye.

Charlie is what you look for today in a tight end. He was a pioneer at that position. You knew he was Hall of Fame material. He looked that way right off the bat. He stood out. He had the speed, he had the hands for it, and he gave up his body. He was a devastating blocker. As far as setting a prototype example, Charlie was it.

Hall of Fame Speeches

There were tears and laughter. There were moments of sheer joy and sheer emotion. They were the Class of 2007 Hall of Fame speeches and they were unforgettable. Read what the Hall of Famers and their presenters said on Saturday.

Gene Hickerson
Michael Irvin
Bruce Matthews
Charlie Sanders
Thurman Thomas
Roger Wehrli

Charlie had a presence about him the opposition was aware of. He never bothered with the team meal. He had a habit of making these awful looking milkshakes. I'm calling it a milkshake. I think I'm being kind. I'm not sure what it was. But whatever it was, he was able to give his top performance every time.

He was always so sure handed that he caught things in stride. You couldn't stop him. He was a freight train. You couldn't have a better example of the mental attitude and the physical attitude that he brought to the game.

He's a perfectionist in what he does. He carried those same attributes to everything he's undertaken. His mere presence of being so dedicated to football rubs off on everything. I wish today we had a roster that was filled with Charlie Sanders type people.

It was as great an honor for me to be asked by Charlie to be his presenter as it was for him to be elected to the Hall of Fame. We really chatted about it quite casually, but we kind of hemmed and hawed around a little bit. Finally it dawned on me that, gee, he'd like me to be his presenter, and I can't think of anything nicer.

Charlie Sanders
Charlie Sanders used the occasion of the Hall of Fame induction to finally publicly say "Hi mom." His mother died when he was two.
It can't get much better than being elected to the Hall of Fame. It represents the pinnacle of a career, and nobody can take that away from you. It's great.

It is an honor for me to be here, and it's also an honor and reflection on the Detroit Lions organization past and present. Charlie brings that position to all of us. He brings that honor.

I'd also like to congratulate the other inductees that are getting here today. As I say, the Hall of Fame is the pinnacle.

I'll tell you briefly a true story about Charlie. It happened a couple weeks ago. Charlie is coming down the hall and he's limping badly, really noticeable limp. I figure, well, he's trying to recapture his youth. He's gone out and scrimmaged with some of the boys.

Finally Charlie arrived. I said, Charlie, what did you do to yourself? And he said, I was playing golf (laughter). Charlie, I play golf, and golf is not a contact sport. Now, I never saw the rest of his foursome, but if they were in any kind of shape he was, he plays a totally different game.

Charlie richly deserves to be in this Hall of Fame. I don't think I'm being immodest by saying that the Hall of Fame is better off for having Charlie.

Charlie, help me with the bust, will you? Thank you.

CHARLIE SANDERS

Thank you. First of all, let me give thanks to my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and his graciousness that I humbly stand before you here today.

I've always believed that God had a plan for me, and that my life was written long before I would ever realize the outcome. To the Hall of Fame selection committee, I thank you. To the city of Canton, Ohio, all the volunteers that have dedicated their time and effort, I thank you.

And I thank you for giving me the opportunity to share and take a look at my simple but memorable life. Richlands, North Carolina, is my birthplace. At a young age, I learned to challenge myself even if it was work or chores as the opponent. The opponent was work. Whatever I was told to do I did, and I did quickly and quietly.

The country, as I refer to it, is a place where a kid could be judged, his character could be judged, by how fast he was able to work alongside the adults. It was a place where your family pet may have been the runt from the pig litter. It was a place where your pet could have been a chick kicked to the side by mother hen.

Life in the country was simple. I learned a lot there. The main thing I learned, you've heard it, it takes a village to raise a child. Well, in that village, there were a lot of adults. There were a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins. And it was everybody's responsibility for your upbringing. Sometimes you were disciplined by people you didn't know. And the worst spankings you got were not from your parents. It was all for one, one for all.

But of all the aunts, Aunt Flora, Aunt Arlene, Aunt Jean, Aunt Juanita, the Fishers, the Thompsons, the biggest and baddest of them all was my Aunt Flora. She had no regard for five yards hands off. What I learned from her was invaluable. She taught me to work hard, to stand proud, and to give in to nothing, and for that I am very appreciative. She gave up a lot for me and I will always love her.

While all these things were happening to me in my life, my father was serving his country in the United States Army. This after becoming or beginning a life as a hog farmer. After service, he worked hard to get his degree in engineering. At the age of eight, he moved his family to Greensboro, North Carolina, where he would attain that engineering degree. He quickly became known as a no nonsense professor with emphasis on work and education. He taught us everything from washing dishes to cooking clothes washing clothes to cooking dinner, sorry (laughter).

He wasn't a man that talked a lot. If he said it once, he said it too many times. He didn't attend a lot of my sports activities, and for that I understood. He had many responsibilities. Two of them sitting out there, my brothers, and me. But you knew there was care. You knew there was love. Every now and then you'd see a smile on his face after reading an article in the sports page, so you knew there was a concern.

For that I am proud to say I'm glad he was my dad. And for that I would say a job well done.

My brothers, Nate and Adrian, that are here today, we were a competitive group. We were in a mold after our dad. We'd pull for each other unless we competed against each other. We stole things from each other not monetarily, but from an athletic standpoint. They've always been my biggest supporters, and for that I thank them for their brotherly love.

Coach McKee was my first junior high school coach. He inspired me the most. It wasn't so much what he did but what he said. I was preparing to attend Dudley High School, our senior high school, and Coach McKee calmly walked up to me and asked me, Are you going to try out for the football team? Without hesitation, I responded, Yes. He looked at me with a gleam in his eye, smile on his face, and he said, I don't think you're tough enough. As I look back, I don't think he doubted me; I think he wanted to see if I doubted myself.

I have since learned that growth is a mental obstacle you overcome and not just a physical accomplishment you attain. Coach William Furcron, my senior high school coach, was very instrumental in my athletic career. I thank him for all that I learned from him. He was a true mentor, a man that only wanted the best for a young black athlete growing up at such a difficult time. To coach boys, a gentle giant, who with a paddle in his hand could improve your twitch and your quick get off. I still feel some of the things he was trying to tell me (smiling).

I've been around a lot of great athletes. Time will not allow me to single you out, but you know who you are. And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity I've had to be around and associate with you.

Many thanks to my high school teachers. They helped me pave life's way. The Dudley High School Panthers are represented here today. I thank my teammates for their continuous love and support. To the University of Minnesota, a place that provided me with the opportunity to understand that race was not on the forefront of everyone's mind, where the color of your skin would not determine where you started nor how you finished.

To Murray Warmath, more of a father than a coach. 94 years young and my first head college coach. He believed in me and my potential. Coach, you have all my love and support. Some greatest assistant coaches, Coach Bossons and Coach McGhee are here today. I thank you for everything you contributed.

To a tremendous class, memories of the 1967 Big 10 championship team, some 20 plus strong here today, celebrating the 40th anniversary of that championship. I really thank you guys for coming down and making this part of that celebration. My love forever.

Minnesota, a place where I met Georgianna, the mother of my children. The greatest, hardest working mother I've ever seen. I cannot stand here and say that as a professional athlete I did not take time away from my family. I want to thank you, Georgi, for your heartfelt support. All of this was made possible because of you, and I thank you for that.

All of my children, and I mean all of my children, please enjoy this moment knowing that I love you very much. To Lee, Angela, we love you both. To Mya, Shareese, Mary Jo, baby Georgi, Charlie, Natalie, Talissa, Wayne and Jordan. Please know that your mother and I are very proud of you and we love you.

To Mr. William Clay Ford, the man who I've known for almost 40 years, a man I came to respect one on one, man to man, for what he's done for the city and what he's contributed to the automotive industry. A hard working owner that deserves to bring a championship to the fans of the city of Detroit. For those dreams he's had haven't happened yet, it by no means takes away from him as an owner, as a human being, as a man.

It is for reasons like that that I asked him to present me and enshrine me into the Hall of Fame. I respect him, his wife, and his family. And this includes the Detroit Lions organization, the greatest organization in the league. I am proud to have almost 40 years of commitment to the Ford family and the Detroit Lions organization. It has truly been a blessing to remain in this one place all this time and have the love and support I've been shown.

I want to give very special thanks to my pro coaches Joe Smith, Rick Fasano, countless others, Wayne Fontes, my very good friend. I believe Detroit has the greatest fans in the NFL, and I long for a championship just like you. I will continue to support the Detroit Lions forever. Thank you for accepting me and my family into your city, your sports town, your community, and hopefully into your hearts.

I am not that self proclaimed Hall of Famer who desired to be in sports. I am a guy that liked a challenge, and challenged myself with the understanding that winning is finishing. To my fellow brothers in the NFL, pre, during and some post players, that I have put the nails in the house that I had the opportunity to play in, I thank you for your sacrifice. I wrote a poem in 1976 that I think is fitting for my brothers.

I realize that I was mentally preparing for a season that my body did not want to cooperate with. The poem is called, The NFL: Just Passing Through.

Here today, gone tomorrow. If you don't accept it, it's a life of sorrow. Trying to use our God given talent, being brave like a knight, bold and gallant. Those who can make it feel lucky indeed. It's God's own way of letting you succeed. Our efforts we extend in hopes to win. Some play their hearts, others just pretend. So give your all and nothing less. Today we win, tomorrow we rest. You're not just my teammate, but my very best friend. Let's play together until the end. Today we hang together, just you and me. For tomorrow is a day we may never see.

Earlier I said that my life was written by the one I hold the highest. Like most, I question the bad and I take in the good. There have been times that I have looked back at my life and asked, What if? What if I could change one, two, maybe three things without disturbing the whole picture? What would that be?

You haven't heard me mention anything about the one person who was very important in my life: my mom. My daughter Shareese came up to me in Cleveland as we prepared to go to a fight by my daughter Mary Jo. She said, Dad, thanks for being my dad because if you were not, we wouldn't be able to go to places we go and do the things we do.

Without hesitation I looked at her and I said, Don't thank me, thank your grandmother. She said, But, dad, I don't know my grandmother, I never have. My response, That's just my point.

You see, my brothers and I lost my mother when I was only two. Of all the things I've done in football, and there have been a lot, there's one thing that I really, really regretted. Many times I've seen athletes, college, professional, often look into a television and say, Hi, mom. I always thought that was special and always something I'd want to do but couldn't.

So I take this time right here, right now in Canton, Ohio, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame to say, Hi, mom. Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice. This day belongs to you, for it was written. I want to thank you all enjoying the best day of my life and may God bless you.

Transcript provided by the Pro Football Hall of Fame