The big night has finally arrived for the 2020 class of Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees. Below is a recap of an evening of celebration in Canton.
“I remember Coach [Dick] Vermeil saying, ‘Surround yourself with good people. Do your job better than anyone else could do it.”
“How does a kid from a small DII school in Arkadelphia, Arkansas make it to five Super Bowls and the Hall of Fame? I may be the only one who knows how truly slim that chance was. But if I can make it, anyone can achieve their goals. The key is to never quit, never give up, keep trying, keep learning and keep growing.”
“I will always cherish my years with the Colts. I was born and raised in South Florida so coming to the Midwest was a whole different experience for me. To the city of Indianapolis, thank you for embracing me.”
“Throughout my career, I took pride in representing my culture, my people and keeping it real. And I did it all while doing my job.”
“My closing message: Proudly represent the real you. Follow your dreams. Aim high and create the life you want to live. And to all of those who have been judged prematurely, because of their appearance, the way they speak or where they come from, and in the minds of many should be locked up in prison, I represent us. I’m forever immortalized, locked up in the Canton Correctional Institiution. Inmate No. 3-3-6 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. My career started with gold teeth and ended with this gold jacket. Good night and God bless.”
Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, who coached James from 2002-05, shared this previously unheard story with NFL Network’s Steve Wyche prior to tonight’s ceremony.
“My second year in Indy, Edgerrin told me that there was a crack house that came into his neighborhood in Immokalee, Florida. He was so upset; he didn’t know what to do,” Dungy said. “He ended up buying the house kicking the people out, turning it into a play center, they call it “The Fun House” in Immokalee now where kids could hang out, get the dope out of the neighborhood, let the kids have some fun. No one ever heard that story but that’s Edgerrin James.”
“It was truly an honor to play with each and every one of you. You all have touched my life in one way of another, both on and off the field. And I appreciate you all.” — Atwater to all of his former teammates.
“I’m proud and grateful to have played a small part in shaping the evolution of the National Football League in the last four decades. To everyone here in person or sharing this evening from afar, thank you all for honoring us and for helping us celebrate the past, the present and the future of pro football. It’s as great as it’s ever been. Thank you very much.”
“If you would’ve told me prior to my graduation from the University of Michigan that I would be excited about standing in the middle of Ohio in August, I would’ve said you were crazy. But that is exactly the case. My college coach Lloyd Carr used to ask us, ‘Where would you rather be?’ Well Coach, my answer is nowhere because as far as I’m concerned, there’s not a better place on Earth than Canton, Ohio today.”
“It’s been a long journey but a good one. I arrived in Pittsburgh in 1974 as an undrafted free agent and now I’m in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Only God can do that.”
“To the nameless voice that called me two weeks before the draft in 1994 to let me know the NFL wasn’t checking for me, that they didn’t like me. … my message to you is, rap legend Kool Moe Dee wanted me to ask you, ‘How you like me now?'”
“When I first got to the Bears in 1983, we weren’t a very good football team. One of my first meetings, Mike Ditka said, ‘I got good news and bad news. Good news is we’re going to the Super Bowl, bad news is half you guys won’t be there when we do. He pushed us hard but I also believe he re-established the pride back into the Bears organization, that playing in the NFL is a privilege and not a right and that when you pull that Bears jersey over your pads and put on that helmet with that C on the side, it means something special. So, thank you, Mike, I appreciate it.”
“I love football. It was my entire life just as long as I could remember. I fostered an obssession with the game early on that I modeled after meticulous regiments of some of the greatest artists of the past. Dickens, Beethoven, Demostenes, these great men were known to have a beast-like work ethic coupled with an unwavering ability to create until perfection beyond what most believe the human body will allow. To me, that’s what it takes from being ordinary to extraordinary. It is the willingness to push beyond what the brain says to the body is possible and create a new order of boundaries for one’s self. It is the ability to learn from greatness around you and curate for yourself a unique version of their efforts.”
“To be a Steeler is to consider others before you consider yourself, to protect your brother even from himself, to give support at your own expense. And when wearing the back and gold suit of armor, make sure nobody desecrates it, disrespects it, most importantly, we ourselves don’t dishonor it. The only approval any Steeler should seek is to earn the approval from previous legends who have donned the Black and Gold. And if you’ve really earned their respect, they’ll say, ‘You could’ve played with us.”
“I guess you’re wanting to know what I’m gonna say about Jerry Jones. Well, Jerry, you told me we’re gonna make sports history before [you] ever bought the Cowboys and you know what? We did make sports history, not only for the Dallas Cowboys but for the NFL. To go from the worst team in the league two years in a row to winning back-to-back Super Bowls and building a heck of a football team, we did it and let me tell you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you Jerry. Thank you for giving me that opportunity.”
“First thing, I’d like to do is say congrats to my fellow enshrinees and all of the gold jackets on this stage tonight. It’s an honor to go in with each and every one of you, your individual careers and journeys are remarkable and inspiring. But what a weekend for the Pittsburgh Steelers.”