CANTON, Ohio. Somewhere in the world, events unfolded that were unrelated to the Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 induction ceremony. For NFL loving leatherheads, on the other hand, Canton, Ohio once again became Jerusalem, Mecca and every other holy city all wrapped up into one.
Football is back, and on the first Saturday in August, Chris Berman helped us celebrate football excellence. Seven grateful nominees and one absent, selfish malcontent were the newest enshrinees. Here are the eight newest National Football League players to enter The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. (Click the links for videos of each inductee.)
The Houston Oilers linebacker from 1975-1984 spoke of the many important phone calls and door knocks that impacted his life. The low was being told his football career was over. The high was being called “home” to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers General Manager took all three of those teams to a combined six Super Bowls. He won two each with the Dolphins and Redskins, including the only perfect season in NFL history with the 1972 Dolphins. Beathard is battling Alzheimer’s, and he spoke very briefly and quietly. He thanked Don Shula, his presenter Joe Gibbs, the Spanos family, and his wife.
The guard who played for all five of Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers champions finally got his due. Over 50 years after making the most significant block in NFL history to win the Ice Bowl, the man in green and gold donned the gold jacket. He admitted that after being drafted, he asked, “Where the hell is Green Bay?” He joked about going 1-10-1 in his first and only season not playing for Lombardi, including a 56-0 loss. His first season contract paid him $8,000. His closing quote from Lombardi had even rival Bears fans cheering out of respect for the great and oldest rivalry in professional football.
The Chicago Bears middle linebacker led the defense for 13 years. Urlacher began by saying, “I love everything about football.” He teared up when speaking about how football helped provide for his family, and praised his late mother for instilling in him unconditional love and unconditional discipline. He praised his predecessors Bill George, Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary. He was honored to play the position they made famous. To his teammates and opponents, “Just know how much I respected the game.” Football values are life values.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos standout safety poignantly told his teammates and loved ones “I had a healthy dose of fear of letting you down.” He spoke about how his greatest triumphs came after his worst pain. He told the world that he suffered from depression and had suicidal thoughts.He thanked his 100-year-old grandmother for showing him how to live a true Christian life. His fighting spirit came from his mother, who has survived a couple of strokes and breast cancer. Dawkins was determined to see his kids carry on his good name and live life the right way and praised his wife for convincing him to see a psychologist and handle his depression. He shocked his wife and brought the crowd to wild cheers by presenting her with a gold shawl for being a Hall of Fame wife.
The Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots wide receiver played on the two greatest teams to not win the Super Bowl. The 1998 Vikings went 15-1 and the 2007 Patriots are the only 16-0 regular season team in NFL history. “Faith, family and football. That’s what makes Randy Moss. In that order.” He also made it clear that “Football is not who I am. It’s what I do.” The bulk of his speech was a passionate love letter to his family and his small unincorporated community in West Virginia. In a very classy gesture, he thanked people who are no longer with us, from Dennis Green to Al Davis to Myra Kraft. He got it completely right by reminding the world that “football is a team sport.” He called on every teammate and coach he ever had to stand up. “There is not one, there is eleven.”
The Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker belted defenders for 17 years. He came out in full preacher mode. Rather than stand behind the podium, he walked back and forth all over the stage. “Telling me it can’t be done is light pouring a gallon of lighter fluid on an open flame.” He was fiery, jubilant, and occasionally incomprehensible. Lewis joked about how the lights went out during his final game, his second Super Bowl victory. He implored kids growing up without a father like he did not to ever give up, and to avoid drugs and gangs. The former linebacker even insisted that his famous electric slide dance was a tribute to the holy trinity.
Praising his mom he turned to his own children, he thundered “There’s nothing in life that I will not sacrifice for my babies.” He hugged and kissed his own kids because his father was not around to give that to him. He singled out a pair of mothers who lost their sons. The the moms of his college roommate and his former Ravens teammate Steve McNair. In a very surprising moment, he alluded to the dark time in his life. A court of law ultimately found him not guilty, ending any vindication for those wishing to sully his induction.
Lewis asked a question of the entire audience. “How do we turn this legend into a legacy?” Like Martin Luther King Jr., we become leaders. He demanded that people step up, put prayer back in schools, and protect our daughters from sex traffickers. In his lengthy speech, he even found a few brief moments to mention football.
As for that 8th Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL inductee…
In addition to these fine football heroes, a narcissistic locker room cancer became the first living inductee to boycott the ceremony. Instead, he held a separate ceremony in Tennessee. He shares a first name with Terrell Davis and a last name with Burgess Owens. Sure, this ungrateful indicutee caught a lot of passes, dropped a lot of passes. But burned a lot of bridges en route. Oh, he played wide receiver. Other than this, he deserves no further mention.
The ceremony was better without his presence, and the game itself is fine with his absence. In his speech, he said to a fan,” I love you too, but I love me more.” He meant it jokingly. But recall his famous phrase during his playing: “I love me some me!” There is no place in football or life for selfish individuals in this, the ultimate of team games.
Football is back, and the 2018 NFL regular season kickoff is only one month away. Soon enough, new history will be made. Until then, let us all celebrate those who made football history from the 1950s through 2013 to earn enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Headline image: Old Entrance to the NFL Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Via Wikipedia entry on the Hall of Fame. Reprint via GNU 1.2 license.