TOLEDO, Aug. 7, 2015 — Immortality is forever. Time comes and goes. Even people come and go, but the bronze busts will last as long as the Earth exists. Six months after a thrilling 49th Super Bowl and six months before Super Bowl 50, eight men entered the home of the very best to ever play or contribute to professional football, Canton, Ohio.
From Jim Thorpe and Pudge Heffelfinger to Vince Lombardi and George Halas to the men who play football today, the Hall of Fame is the pinnacle of football excellence. The sport of football requires no hyperbole as the game speaks for itself.
Here are the very best moments from the eight men who now wear the gold jackets of football glory.
Both Tim Brown and Jerome Bettis singled out former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz for their development.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown also brought up Jon “Chucky” Gruden and Marcus Allen for praise.
“Now, I don’t know if there’s ever been a wide receiver to make it into the Hall of Fame who’s had 20 quarterbacks in their time.”
A poignant moment occurred when Brown brought up the late Raiders defensive tackle Chester McGlockton, who introduced Brown to the woman who would become his wife.
Kansas City Chiefs guard Will Shields spoke lovingly about his family, pointing out that football was just the backdrop to what really mattered in life.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley took his five Super Bowl rings to the promised land and spoke lovingly about two organizations that were bitter rivals, but both loved him. Eddie DeBartolo and Jerry Jones both brought Haley in and turned him loose. Bill Walsh called Haley two days before he died just to see how Haley was doing.
Often seen as ornery, Haley told players needing mental help to seek it. People did not give up on him, and he would make sure others were not be seen as lost causes.
San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau left us tragically in June of 2012. His daughter Sydney gave him a stirring video tribute. The cause of his death was not mentioned on this day, but the celebration of his life was. He played 20 seasons, reached 12 Pro Bowls and willed the 1994 San Diego Chargers to their only Super Bowl appearance. Dean Spanos noted that he was all about community, and his charitable endeavors are as legendary as his career.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was nicknamed “The Bus,” but before that, he had a brief stint with the Rams. He was known as, “The Battering Ram.” He pointed out that his mother came to every single game and that his father was his hero. He singled out current Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie for inspiring a 16-year-old Bettis at his football camp.
“Son, I’m sending you off to school. I don’t have much to give you, but I have a good name. So don’t mess it up.”
“We’re in Canton, Ohio, but this is Steeler Country!” With that, he lauded Bill Cowher and Art Rooney.
Green Bay Packers executive Ron Wolf began by quoting country music singer Kenny Chesney. He joked that he once “graduated 101st in a class of 83.”
He began by offering a tribute to the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. His Packers won the Super Bowl after he hired Mike Holmgren, traded for Brett Favre and brought in Reggie White. He also thanked Bill Parcells and quoted basketball great Michael Jordan about the importance of respecting the game.
He concluded with a wry quotation from his father: “I love a good speaker. I really do. Not one who is polished. One who is through.”
Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian paraphrased Winston Churchill: “Never has one person owed so much to so many.” He properly called the NFL “the ultimate meritocracy” and also called Tony Dungy “America’s coach.” He even said that the deeply religious Dungy got Polian to clean up his vocabulary.
Of Peyton Manning, Polian said, “If you keep playing, I may not be around for your introduction.”
Polian credited former coach Marv Levy, who just turned 90 a few days earlier, for his career path.
Minnesota Vikings center and senior nominee Mick Tingelhoff spent 16 seasons with the Purple People Eaters during their glory years. He started all 240 games of his career, not missing one game. A quiet man, Tingelhoff did not even speak at his own induction ceremony. His quarterback and presenter Fran Tarkenton did the talking. Tarkenton thanked Bud Grant and in a surprising move even thanked “all of you Steelers fans who beat us in that Super Bowl.”
The Steelers and Vikings fans would get one more honor in addition to their new enshrinees. Sunday brings the 2015 Hall of Fame Game, where the next moment in NFL history gets written.