The Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed eight new members this weekend. We got to hear from seven of them in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday evening.
It’s an event that never disappoints. And why would it, when you’re talking about the ultimate individual honor for a professional football player?
Every year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony offers a variety of life stories. In terms of the Class of 2018, there would be no exception. Of course, there would be an absentee in the form of wide receiver Terrell Owens. The gifted performer opted to skip the celebration in Canton and speak with his own family and friends elsewhere. It was Owens’ decision to make and one can only respect that.
As for the other seven enshrines, each offered their own perspective and thoughts, as well as their personal feeling. Former Houston Oilers outside linebacker Robert Brazile last played in 1984 and 34 years later, he and his father enjoyed his moment in the sun. General manager Bobby Beathard was the architect of Super Bowl teams with the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins and the then-San Diego Chargers. He spoke on video but showed his appreciation who all helped him get to Canton.
Former Green Bay Packers’ Jerry Kramer spoke of his journey and his wonderful teammates in “Titletown,” as well as legendary head coach Vince Lombardi. He waited so many decades and the joy on his face (with his daughter by his side) was evident.
Former Chicago Bears’ middle linebacker Brian Urlacher spoke with so much raw emotion but stressed that after a magnificent career on the football field, he was a father, a husband, a friend and a role model for so many young people. “Football did not define me, but it clearly has helped me be a better man.”
For so many years, versatile safety Brian Dawkins brought immense passion to the defenses of the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos. It was no different on Saturday evening. The nine-time Pro Bowler spoke openly of his successes and failures — the latter focusing on his battle with depression. He acknowledged so many people in his life, including his “Hall of Fame wife” Connie.
“Faith, family and football. That’s what makes Randy Moss. In that order…Football is not who I am. Football is what I do,” were the early words spoken by one of the most prolific wide receivers in NFL history. His amazing career spanned 14 seasons with numerous teams — including the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots. But this evening his mother, his family and his community would be the primary target of his admiration.
Last but certainly not least there was Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis. He chose to spoke away from the podium like a minister addressing a congregation. His focus was on life and God’s impact and influence. He reminisced about his final moment on the field, walking away with a Lombardi Trophy (Super Bowl XLVII). So much appreciation would be shown by the 17-year defender and 12-time Pro Bowler when it came to his “Mama” and his children.
He spoke of the hard times and the lessons learned. Lewis spoke and introduced many of his coaches and talked about his University of Miami teammates. “Baltimore…Baltimore…Baltimore…” And there would be a look at life and the big picture. He basically left no stone unturned.
On a personal note, I’ve attended nearly every Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony since 1989. A lot has changed when it comes to the event. That year, it was held on the steps of the Hall on a Saturday morning. Now it’s a prime time event at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. There were more than 22,000 people attendance this evening. But what never changes are the honest feelings of these men who have worked so very hard to achieve such a personal accolade. And they constantly remind us that they have never done it alone.