The Class of 2018 was officially inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio on Saturday night. Here are highlights from the speeches of the seven men who are being honored:
Brazile, the seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker from the Houston Oilers, referenced knocks and phone calls, which is how men up for induction find out they’ve been chosen for the Hall. As a Senior Category choice, Brazile found out via phone call last year that he was a finalist, and then in February, Hall president David Baker knocked on his hotel room door in Minneapolis to tell him he’d finally been chosen for the Hall.
Known as “Dr. Doom” during his playing days, Brazile was presented by his father, Robert Brazile Sr. When the two unveiled Brazile Jr.’s bronze bust, which featured the mutton-chop sideburns he’d worn during his playing days in the late 1970s and early 80s, Brazile Jr. gave it a kiss.
Brazile remembered his father knocking on the bathroom door when he was a child, telling him to get out of the bathtub, and the phone call he got while at Jackson State in Mississippi, letting him know the Oilers had made him the sixth pick in the 1975 draft.
He joked that his children were probably wondering which phone call he would mention, but he didn’t embarrass them.
Instead, after naming each of his children and their spouses, he said, “I’m so glad you trusted me enough to call me for anything. Never stop calling me, because I love y’all so much.”
Owens, of course, wasn’t in Canton. NFL Network, which is airing the ceremony, showed a highlight film of Owens’ biggest players, with the narrator saying, “Few players in NFL history put on a show quite like Terrell Owens… On and off the field, he exuded both controversy and confidence.”
There was also a short clip of the celebration Owens held at his college, Tennessee-Chattanooga, emotional as he was helped into his gold jacket.
“I greatly appreciate those that understand and support my decision; I hope it creates a dialogue that leads to change,” Owens said, alluding to his discontent over the Hall selection process. He believes that he had to wait to be voted for non-football reasons.
(Yahoo’s Eric Adelson was at Owens’ Hall celebration; you can read more about it here.)
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you,” Kramer began. “I could say thank you for the rest of the evening and not get it done.”
Kramer, a standout offensive lineman with the Green Bay Packers of the late 1950s and 60s, has waited decades for this moment.
He recalled his sophomore season at Sandpoint High School in Idaho, and the impact it had on him.
“We had a great football team. This clumsy sophomore showed up for practice one fall, and I had grown about a foot and I couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time; I was just a mess,” Kramer said. “I wanted to be a fullback. I didn’t want to be a lineman, I wanted to be a fullback. And my coach said, ‘well, Jerry, that’s wonderful. If you want to be a fullback, you’ll sit on the bench. But if you want to be a tackle, you’ll probably start.’
Kramer paused. “Boy, I don’t want to sit on the bench. I think I’d rather start. So I started but I wasn’t all that excited about playing the line.”
It was the words of an older assistant coach, Dusty Klein, who looked at the struggling player one day, that stayed with Kramer.
“‘Son, you’ve got big hands. You’ve got big feet. And one of these days, you’re going to grow into them. You’re going to be a hell of a player one of these days’…He looked me in the eye and he said, ‘You can if you will.’ And I said, ‘Can what?’ And he said, ‘You can if you will.'”
The Chicago Bears star linebacker said he wanted to honor the men and women who had supported him throughout his life.
“I love everything about football,” Urlacher said. “The friendships, the coaches, the teammates, the teachers, the challenges, the opportunity to excel as a teammate and a leader. Football has provided me with virtually everything I have in life – it has allowed me to provide for my children and my family.
“The values, disciple and respect for others taught to me by my mother is reinforced in football. Most importantly, at every level of the game, it was flat-out fun for me. I loved going to work every day for 13 years.”
He choked up mentioning his late mother, who moved Urlacher and his siblings to New Mexico from Washington state after his parents were divorced. She worked three jobs at times, working seven days a week to make sure her children had what they needed. Despite that, Urlacher said, she was able to be at every game to support her children.
He looked up to the sky and said, “Mother, thank you. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Dawkins asked the Hall if it would be possible to have the names of everyone important in his life embroidered into the lining of his gold jacket, so every time he puts it on he can see, visibly and emotionally, those people who helped him get to this point.
Dawkins, whose staccato delivery was reminiscent of a pastor in church, brought up his struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide, which he revealed in stories this week. He encouraged others who might be suffering to keep pushing.
After thanking numerous individuals, including his presenter, former teammate Troy Vincent, coach Emmitt Thomas, his family and children, he turned to his wife, Connie.
“The other part of me being here is because of that woman, because of you,” he said, addressing Connie. “I want to present something to you, and what I want to present to you is something golden as well.”
Dawkins had a beautiful golden shawl made for his wife, and it was placed over her shoulders by a woman in Dawkins’ group.
“That’s my Hall of Fame wife right there,” he said.
Moss’ bust featured the corn rows he wore for so much of his career; he also gave it a big kiss after taking the cover off with his presenter, his son, Thaddeus.
The receiver mentioned his “small, unincorporated community” of Rand, W. Va. several times.
“We stuck together. There’s a lot of country folk out here and I’m proud to be from the state of West Virginia,” he said. “We had one well-knit community, and from the bottom of my heart I want to thank my community and the state for all the love and support; it really means a lot to me.”
Moss said he was bringing his gold jacket back to West Virginia on Sunday afternoon to share it with those from his hometown.
“Last but not least, I’m not going to forget about you. Bill Belichick, I’m not going to forget about you,” Moss said, as the crowd booed at the mention of Belichick’s name. “I want to thank you for being a friend when it wasn’t always about football. You showed me how much I loved the game, you challenged me every day to go out there and be great. You challenged me to be great coach, and I’m sorry we didn’t bring it home [in 2007]. All those individual awards don’t really mean anything to me. Football is a team sport. Football is a team sport.”
Lewis eschewed the podium, opting instead for a portable microphone, which allowed him to pace on the stage, frequently wiping his forehead with a black towel.
His speech, which rambled a bit, most often went back to his mother, who raised him and his siblings by herself, and his family and children.
Lewis made his high school football and wrestling coaches stand up to be recognized. “Those men molded me,” he said.
When he mentioned Baltimore and its fans, his former teammate and now fellow Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden came onto the stage to do Lewis’ famous dance with him.
(Bobby Beathard, chosen in the contributor category, gave a very brief speech which was pre-recorded.)
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