It is an evening of dedication, memories and anecdotes.
It is also a night of “thank you’s” and “miss you’s.”
Seven more men joined the unique fraternity of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a club that now stands at 280 members strong.
On Saturday night, the newest members of a club that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year received their busts and then received the opportunity to pay tribute to those who made it possible to receive pro football’s greatest honor at the Hall of Fame Enshrinement.
Baltimore Ravens tackle Jonathan Ogden talked about what made him…him. It was about making the most of what you had. “Yes, I was blessed with tremendous God given talent, yes, but that talent isn’t enough,” said Ogden. “A lot of people have talent, but they always don’t live up to it.”
Ogden stressed the impact family had in his life, but he was also sure to thank the fans and the city of Baltimore.
“I am so very proud to be the Baltimore Ravens first-ever draft choice, and I am so humbled to be the Baltimore Ravens first-ever Hall of Fame inductee.”
Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins linebacker Dave Robinson made sure he thanked the Seniors Committee and how it took 38 years to get here. His words were genuine and to hear him speak was like listening to a wise man reminiscing about his life with his life-long friends. One of nine children, his parents and seven of his siblings have since passed.
He recounted being asked about dreaming to be in the Hall of Fame and those who asked the question that day were surprised by his answer of no. But that made sense. “The Hall of Fame wasn’t created until my rookie year.”
Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Larry Allen, wearing sunglasses, spent his time fighting back the tears and nearly all of it praising his family, especially his two daughters and son.
He also spoke of what drove him and he needed to do to succeed. “That was one of the most valuable lessons I learned in my life, never to back down from anybody,” said Allen. I carried that lesson through my whole career. I just knew I had to win every play, and that’s the reason why I’m here today.”
It is safe to say that it paid off. “My goal was simple, to earn a seven-letter word called respect…Today, my mission is complete.”
Coach Bill Parcells did what he has always done best; teach and not preach. To try and accurately paraphrase what the communicator extraordinaire shared this evening would not do him justice. He spoke of family, his teachers, his mentors and his friends. He spoke of what he has seen and what he had learned. And at the same time, he continued to tell us all something we didn’t know but will now absolutely remember.
Defensive tackle Curley Culp did not spend a great deal of time at the podium, ironic because it had taken him so long to get there. Like Robinson, he was elected by the Seniors Committee and had played his last NFL game way back in 1981. He spoke of not only perspective in terms of his election but the responsibility that comes with it. “I am just overwhelmed by the struggles, joys and tears of those who have made it here and I am proud to join this elite group of men and pleased to pass the torch on to future Hall of Famers.”
Defensive tackle Warren Sapp was his usual jovial and entertaining self but by the end of his speech he couldn’t hold back his emotions. He, like the others, spoke of the struggles and what it took to get from here to there.
And somehow it was only fitting that wide receiver Cris Carter, the “all he does is catch touchdowns” guy, would become the “all he does is say thank you” man. He spent the evening not only being gracious but he would make sure that all who helped him along the way, both on and off the field, knew they were being inducted into the Hall of Fame as well.
It was an evening about seven men with different perspectives and paths to success. And while some of their journeys were easier than others, they all wound up in the same place.
A place they so richly deserve to be in.
All quotes courtesy of Profootballhof.com. Transcripts of all seven speeches are available via this link.
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