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NFL 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame: The glory returns

Written By | Aug 3, 2014

LOS ANGELES, August 2, 2014 — The glory has returned. After six agonizing months of reading about lesser events  given the title of “sports,” America’s Game has returned.

Professional football is the kingdom, and Canton, Ohio is where the crowns of the very best leaders reside. On this day, the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrined seven more football greats.

Much has been written about the newest men to wear the sacred golden jacket, in addition to those who came close but did not make the final cut.

The first Saturday in August is about hearing from these gridiron heroes in their own words.The greatest conclusion to a Hall of Fame speech came from Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin in 2007.

In an interview three hours before the 2014 ceremony began, Irvin offered another quote for the ages. His comments should be taped on every child’s wall and applied to every aspect of life.

“You can’t buy your way in, nobody can politic their way in no matter how eloquent you are of speech, the only way you get here is to earn your way in. Is that not the message that we want to send to every kid that we love. Earn your way in.”

The most emotional Hall of Fame speech belongs to Denver Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe for his passionate 2011 story of rising out of poverty to buy his grandmother a house.

Deion Sanders also gave an amazing speech that year.

Oakland Raiders coach John Madden had perhaps the greatest opening line in his 2006 speech when he said, “I don’t plan on making a whole heck of a lot of sense and I don’t care.”

2014 began with poignancy as Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly received a lengthy standing ovation and a hug from emcee and ESPN uber-announcer Chris Berman. The 2002 Hall of Fame inductee is battling jaw cancer.

The 2014 enshrinees added meaningful words of their own.
Derrick Brooks — The Tampa Bay linebacker and leader of the 2002 “Petwer Power” Buccaneers Super Bowl champions was introduced by his son Decalon Brooks.

A jubilant brooks was so excited that he accidentally referred to his late grandmother as the family “patriarch.” He even thanked the man who whipped him in front of his “entire third grade class” for straightening him out.

He ellicited laughs when he thanked his baseball coach for benching him even though the coach knew “he was a really good player.”

Brooks paid tribute to the past by praising the very first Buccaneers draft pick and first team Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon. He thanked the “right foot of Martin Grammatica” for his field goals in defensive slugfests that made the difference.

His very lengthy speech drew more laughs by saying, “When you go first you get to take your time.”

He quoted Tony Dungy’s four words, “no excuses, no explanations.”

Brooks ended the way he began, waxing lovingly about his mother and her demand that her son conduct himself with humility.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

“Most people will forget what you say, some will forget what you do, but no one will ever forget how you made them feel.”

Claude Humphrey — The senior nominee who spent nearly a decade on the Atlanta Falcons defensive line was presented by his daughter Cheyenne Humphrey-Robinson.

Humphrey also began with humor and humility.

“Thank you Cheyenne, I didn’t think you remembered that stuff. Did I do all that?”

He said that his three daughters were the best kids in the world. “I had to say that. They told me to say that.” He said that his youngest daughter “came by accident. We knew where babies came from. It was such an enjoyable experience.” The crowd roared in approval.

He would go with his grandson to “early church services so we could get some chicken wings and then go back to sleep.”

“The only thing in Grambling is Grambling.”

He ended how he began, with homespun charm and quiet dignity.

He thanked everyone under the sun including the sportswriters who lobbied for his induction.

“I know you had a hard time, most of you weren’t even alive when I played.”

Aeneas Williams — The Arizona Cardinals cornerback was preceded by his presenter and Father Lawrence Williams.

He thanked all 32 owners, Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith because “tough decisions have to be made that are unpopular.” We may not like it, but those decisions benefit the game in the long run.

His philosophy came down to two truisms that were very personal for him.

“Begin with the end in mind.”

“Die empty.”

He quoted General Norman Schwazkopf by saying, “I am afraid of a man who won’t cry.”

“I never had to look outside my home for role models.”

He even thanked Giants fans who gave him the middle finger by joking that he appreciated their saying he was number one.

He noted that he and Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, his Rams teammate in 2001 when they went to the Super Bowl, were the only two players to sell peanuts and popcorn in the Louisiana Superdome.

Without mentioning him by name, he expressed love for the current president but respectfully took issue with his comments about not letting a son play football. Williams pointed out that every industry has its pitfalls but emphatically defended the positive aspects of football.

He said the cemetery was where the wealth was. “Most people go to the grave full instead of empty.”

He revered his brother Achilles who said “got me a job in student government and I didn’t even like politics.” He also graduated with a degree in accounting in three years even though “I don’t even like numbers.”

He accepted advice from his father that “If you ever have to choose between me and the police, choose the police.”

Although he spoke without looking at notes, he told the audience to “write down what’s in your heart.”

He turned to defense when as a youthful running back he got blasted. God gave him a message as he lay on the ground.

“It’s got to be better hitting people than getting hit.”

He thanked Gil and Marilyn Bird for teaching him not just how to be a great cornerback, but a great husband and family man.

He wants us all to die empty so we can leave it all on the field during our lives.

Walter Jones — The Seattle Seahawks left tackle was praised by his son Walterius Jones.

He praised all the men and women who serve our country as the true heroes.

The crowd laughed when he told of unlocking the door to let his sister in after she broke curfew. He said “sorry mom.” He told the crowd, “Go follow my daughter on Instagram.”

He even joked about one contract holdout, saying that “missing training camp wasn’t bad either.”
He told former Seahawks quarterback and current television personality Trent Dilfer, “thanks for mentioning my name on TV.”

He thanked Art Shell, Tony Boselli, Jonathan Ogden and all the great left tackles who inspired him to be a left tackle, with special praise for Anthony Munoz.

After thanking the Seattle fans who make up the famous “Twelfth man,” he ended by saying, “I love Seattle.”

Ray Guy — The three time Super Bowl champion Oakland Raiders punter was presented by his coach, the 2006 inductee John Madden.

He thanked the late Raiders owner Al Davis for taking a chance on a punter in the first round, a move only Al Davis would make.

He gave a heartfelt tribute to his late father.

“Always be respectful and never shame the family name.”

“The true benefit of a gift is to share it with others.”

“I am who I am and that’s all you’re ever going to get.”

He spoke calmly but earnestly about how important punters are to the game of football.

Upon being the first punter enshrined, Guy said that, “Now the Hall of Fame has a complete team.”

Andre Reed – The Buffalo Bills wide receiver who was a main cog in four straight AFC Title Game victories was presented by his coach and 2001 enshrinee Marv Levy.

The day was a big one for Bills fans. Sunday August 3rd has the Bills kicking off the 2014 NFL season against the New York Giants in the Hall of Fame Game. In addition, that day is also Marv Levy’s 89th birthday.

Even beyond that, the Bills fans were inspired by Jim Kelly’s appearance. Reed now joins Levy, Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith as members of the 1990s Bills to make it to the Hall of Fame. Their late owner Ralph Wilson is also in the Hall with them.

Chris Berman offered his catchphrase, “No one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills.”

Andre Reed began with his catchphrase, “Where would you rather be than right here, right now?”

The speedy wide receiver compared himself to a deer, saying “Deer spelled backward is Reed.” He also pointed out that like any Deer, sometimes you get caught in the headlights. Yet if you get up, it will be all right.

He joked that the K-Gun Offense allowed jim Kelly to go back to his USFL days where he “threw for about nine million yards.” Reed praised Kelly as the toughest man he knew as Kelly fought back tears.

He thanked Marv Levy and said, “those big words you used, yeah we needed dictionaries. We actually needed a thesaurus too.”

He called Ralph Wilson “{the greatest owner in sports history.”

With rumors swirling that the team may move to Toronto, Reed brought the crowd into a frenzy by saying,“Oh yeah, and the Bills will stay in Buffalo too.”

After the speech, the crowd went wild when Kelly got up from his seat and threw a pass to Reed. Naturally, it was caught.

Michael Strahan — The New York Giants defensive end and 2007 Super Bowl champion was introduced into football immortality by his close friend, NFL reporter Jay Glazer.

As expected, Strahan immediately began mugging for the cameras, posing next to the bust of him with the appropriately spaced gap between his teeth.

Strahan admitted to working out to Jane Fonda tapes.

The crowd celebrated Strahan’s father, a retired Army veteran of the 82nd Airborne.

As for Strahan’s mother, he said, “I am not ashamed to say it, I am a momma’s boy.”

Strahan explained the philosophy he learned that defined his game.

“In football, you can be finesse all you want, but eventually, you’re going to have to hit somebody.”

Strahan looked at Lawrence Taylor and admitted to him, “I’m still scared of you.”

He said to Taylor, “I also learned it’s ok to sleep in meetings sometimes, even though you did it all the time.” Even Giants coach and noted disciplinarian Tom Coughlin laughed at that remark.

Strahan admitted that he still does not understand Coughlin’s rule about being five minutes early to meetings. Coughlin laughed again.

For his Super Bowl win, Strahan thanked “David Tyree and his helmet. Yes, his helmet.”

He thanked Eli Manning, who smiled. Strahan said to laughs, “He don’t crack a smile. That is the most I’ve seen in ten years.”

“You don’t have to be outwardly excitable to be internally combustible.”

He also said to him that, “You have the perfect temperament for New York City.”

He reserved special praise for Hall of Famer Howie Long and “sack master” Deacon Jones.

He praised John Randall, Chris Doleman and Bruce Smith, admitting to doing pass rush moves on shopping carts. He learned that from Randall.

He praised fellow rivals Erik Williams and Jon Runyan, calling Congressman Runyan “six foot steel and non-sex appeal.” Those were the toughest offensive lineament Strahan ever faced.

Strahan acknowledge his newfound celebrity as a television star, admitting that many young people today do not know he played football.

“I am eternally grateful for this game,” Strahan repeatedly admitted that his entire football career was “improbable.”

He told his children that “improbability is nothing, because anything is impossible.” He said his greatest title was being their father.

The NFL 2014 Hall of Fame induction ceremony is now immortalized in history along with its seven newest inductees.

One day later comes the 2014 NFL Hall of Fame Game, which begins the season to the game of football we all love so much.


Eric Golub

Brooklyn born, Long Island raised and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”