Many tears were shed on Saturday night as the class of 2017 was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Rightfully so, these players put so much work into their craft, and they countless others along the way. The road to get to Canton is not an easy one, and to have an opportunity to be alone on that stage and summarize your career from the first person perspective is a dream to any NFL player. The players (and owner) poured their heart into their speeches, and their time in the limelight was well spent. Take a look at some of the highlights from their enshrinement speeches.
First up was the man who waited longer than anyone to get here: Kenny Easley. Playing only seven seasons, he's been waiting 30 long years to get the gold jacket. A five-time pro-bowler and a member of the 1980's all-decade team, Easley's career was cut short by kidney issues. It may not have been a long career, but he was definitely dominant in his time.
Easley reflected on his faith, and said even though many told him he should have been in the Hall of Fame earlier, he never gave up hope. He knew his time would come one day, and he urged possible future hall of fame members who haven't heard their name called yet to keep faith that it will come when the time is right. Easley is one of two members this year to be inducted while only playing seven seasons, perhaps giving hope to players, present and past, whose careers were cut short.
Easley also addressed fellow Hall-of-Famer Ronnie Lott, who many associate with Easley due to their dominance in the defensive backfield. Easley settled the debate by telling everyone that Lott was the better player simply "because I said so."
He ended his speech by using his platform to urge the end of violence against African-American men and women. As Easley put it, "Black lives matter. All lives matter."
The real ending was probably the best of the night, saying "Blah blah blah, my teleprompter just went off. So I guess that means I have to cut it short."
One of the most feared pass-rushers of all time, Taylor is ranked seventh on the all time sacks list. He's scored more touchdowns than any other defensive linemen in NFL history with nine. His Hall of Fame status was never in question, just simply how soon it took him to get here. Taylor encapsulated the magnitude of the Hall of Fame by saying it's a "team you can never be cut from." It truly is where the legends are enshrined forever.
Taylor played his college ball at the University of Akron, which is just up the road from Canton. He never expected to be in the Hall of Fame when he was in college, especially because it's not a school in a power conference. Taylor said of his journey from Akron to Canton, "It took me 20 years to travel 20 miles." He said it wasn't easy, but it was worth it.
Taylor took some time to reflect on his relationship with his agent, Gary Wichard. Taylor grew up without a father, and Wichard served as the father figure in his life. He said he talked to Wichard everyday for the 14 years he knew him, until he tragically passed away from cancer in 2011.
Taylor took most of his speech to thank his teammates and coaches he played with throughout his 15 seasons, both collectively and individually. Most amusingly, he thanked Dan Snyder for signing him to the Redskins as a veteran. He said he basically stole a bunch of money from Dan, as he only delivered two and a half sacks in his Redskins career. He even took time to thank his opponents for making him better, like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Nothing but class from the great Jason Taylor.
Andersen is just the second pure placekicker to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In his remarkable 25 year career, he obtained the records for most games played and most points scored in NFL history. Not bad for a kid from Denmark.
Andersen's parents encouraged him and his twin brother to travel the world from an early age. This prompted Andersen to move to the United States as a foreign exchange student. He only intended to stay there for his ten months time and after return to Denmark to continue his studies. Soon after his arrival though, he was introduced to American Football. The high school team was in need of a kicker, and the coach thought Morten was the guy for the job. Morten went on to tell a humorous story of how he was introduced to the game he had no idea about, but would eventually define his legacy.
Andersen talked about his goal to be the all time leading scorer in the NFL. Even though he was 23 seasons into his NFL career and without a job, Andersen continued to show up to the public park in Atlanta four times a week to practice and train. He expected the phone to ring in 2005, but it didn't ring for 20 months. He reflected on how he was watching a Falcons regular season game in 2006. Their kicker didn't have a very good day, and sure enough, shortly after the game, the phone finally rang. Andersen went in for a tryout, and soon inked a one year deal with the Falcons. He got the 76 points he needed that year to break the record, and his goal had finally been fulfilled.
Every class needs some comic relief, and Morten Andersen surely provided that. I encourage you to find the entire speech for a good laugh.
TD went from sixth round to sixth on the depth chart in his rookie year with the Broncos. He showcased his innate talent in his first preseason, and in just a short few weeks, he became the Broncos starting running back; he never looked back. Only one of seven men to have a 2,000 yard rushing season, he also had two Super Bowl wins, and a Super Bowl MVP. His impact on the Broncos and the community of Denver tell the tale of how he made it to Canton.
Davis reflected on his early life and how he had to compete from an early age. Being the youngest of six boys, he always felt like he had to prove himself to his father. His determination surely showed in his play throughout his career.
After he lost his father at age 12, TD said his life became a "tailspin." He started doing poorly in school, stopped playing football, and hung around the wrong people. At age 14, he had a near death experience which led him back to the path of football, and once again, he never looked back.
During his senior year at the University of Georgia, Davis suffered a hamstring injury. As he watched from the stands instead of the sidelines, he wasn't sure if he'd ever play football again. He decided he had let himself down, not given it his all, and he was ultimately unsatisfied. He returned with four games left in the season, and he worked harder than ever, not taking his position for granted. And once again, he never looked back.
Oh and the award for cutest kids of the night definitely goes to Terrell Davis' children. His three children stole the show during their time on the big screen.
Throughout his career, LaDainian Tomlinson cemented himself in the conversation of greatest running backs of all time. The do-it-all running back is one of the best players in Chargers history, and his historic 2006 season in which he scored 31 touchdowns is an NFL record that may not be broken anytime soon, if ever. Tomlinson is the only first-ballot Hall of Famer in the 2017 class.
Tomlinson grew up idolizing the likes of Jim Brown, Walter Payton, and Emmitt Smith. At age six, Tomlinson told his mom he wanted to be in the NFL. At age seven, he asked his mom for a weight set for Christmas so he could get "bigger" so he could be in the NFL. What kind of seven year old thinks about things like that? LT did; just one of the many things that make him so special.
At age 12, Tomlinson attended a football camp hosted by some Dallas Cowboys, at which he was able to meet his idol, Emmitt Smith. After a couple encounters with Smith during the first day, Tomlinson knew he could fulfill his dream of becoming an NFL player.
After going through a one-win season in his first year at TCU, Tomlinson thought about transferring. After some consultation from his mother, he stuck it out and the team reached three straight bowl games.
Tomlinson made it through the speech mostly unscathed, though many thought he would lead the way in water-works. He spoke much on faith, family, and belief. Tomlinson also told the story of his Great-Great-Great Grandfather, who was a slave. He took the slave owner's name of Tomlinson, worked hard, gained his freedom, and eventually it was passed down to the great LT. The name that once belonged to a slave owner now means something completely different. It represents greatness, and will always be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
One of the most bold owners the game has ever seen got here by taking risks and putting it all on the line. With three titles in his first seven years, Jones' success on the field is only part of the story. Jones has played a large part in the success of the business of the NFL as well.
Jones reflected on his first owner's meeting as an NFL owner: he was scared to death. There was so much history in that room, and he was just a "freshman walk-on" as he described it. Jerry got his legs under him as an NFL owner, and it didn't take too long, of course.
As a player, Jerry played at the University of Arkansas. At one point, he was 13th on the depth chart. In his senior year, he worked his way up to be a starter, and they went on to win the National Championship. It was at Arkansas where Jones fell in love with football, and he knew he wanted a career in football. He thought about coaching, but he didn't think there was enough money in it. When he heard the Dallas Cowboys were for sale many years later, he immediately got on the phone and put the sale in motion. When Jones bought the Cowboys, they were losing $1 million per month. Their finances were in shambles, but Jerry, being the business man he was, restored the Dallas Cowboys to greatness.
Jones did make the mistake of bringing up the name of the controversial commissioner, Roger Goodell, and while it didn't get much response, you could clearly hear the boos. They were the only boos of the night. I guess Jerry still knows how to keep it controversial, even on the biggest stage in the NFL.
Jerry acknowledged just about every major Cowboys player during his time as the owner. It was a great history lesson in Cowboys lore.
Perhaps the best story of any Hall-of-Famer in all of Canton. From undrafted, to grocery boy, to Arena League, to NFL Europe, to backup, to starter. The "Greatest Show on Turf" and the resurrection of two NFL franchises which were formally wastelands put Kurt Warner here alone.
Warner grew up idolizing the quarterbacks of old: Staubach, Unitas, Fouts, and others. He would go out in his front yard and reenact the moments which these great men did on the gridiron, and he hoped to be there one day alongside them. Warner acknowledged his two brothers, and claimed how they, along with him, were the original "triplets" ahead of Aikman, Smith, and Irvin.
As he got older, Warner wanted to be a wide receiver. His high school team didn't have a quarterback, so the coach lined up some players and had a throwing competition; whoever threw it the farthest would win the quarterback position. Warner didn't want to win, but as fate would have it, Warner threw it the farthest. His hopes and dreams were crushed, but, ya know, he would go on to be a pretty good quarterback.
Warner spent four long years on the bench as the backup quarterback for the Northern Iowa Panthers in college. In a showcase of just how long his odds were, Warner asked the rest of his fellow Hall-of-Famers on stage to raise their hands if they were on the bench for four years ever in the careers. To no surprise, no one raised their hand.
Warner covered all of the classic milestones in his career, including the highs and lows. When Warner finally got his tryout with the St. Louis Rams, he was so excited. He showed up to the Rams facility early, and as he put it, proceeded to have "the worst workout of my life." Despite that, the Rams liked what they saw, and signed Warner to a contract. And as we know, the rest was history.
What was your favorite moment from the hall of fame enshrinement ceremony? Let us know in the comments below!
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