Remembering the People You Meet on the Road to the Hall of Fame

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Aug 8, 2014

The NFL’s annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place last weekend, and seven players were given a bronze bust and the coveted golden jacket during an extra-long ceremony in Canton, Ohio.

The ceremony ended around midnight thanks mostly to the inductees’ speeches, prompting Class of 2014 member Michael Strahan to quip that he and his fellow players should be considered for the 2015 class.

The Magnificent Seven

But the speeches weren’t all levity. Each year only seven players enter the Hall in Canton, after being voted on by a 46-person Board of Selectors largely comprised of sports writers, and that’s only after the five-year post-retirement grace period for the players.

But it’s never a sure thing. Some players, like this year’s Ray Guy, the first punter to ever be inducted, have been waiting decades for their just desserts.

Needless to say, the Hall of Fame ceremony evokes all kinds of emotions from the inductees, the most common one being humility and recognition of those who inspired them to be the best:

  • Former Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks didn’t talk about his 11 Pro Bowl selections — he talked about how teammates Warren Sapp and Martin Grammatica made him the best.
  • Claude Humphrey, the Atlanta Falcons All-Pro defensive end, claimed he “didn’t remember any of that stuff” they showed during his highlight reel, and instead beamed admiration over his grandson and big sister.
  • Ray Guy, the best pure punter in the game, who had every reason to say “finally!” took his speech time to thank Oakland Raiders owner and former boss Al Davis, and asking his family and friends to “stand and be recognized”.
  • Buffalo Bills receiver Andre Reed, who had nine straight seasons with over 50 receptions, said “Tonight, you’re in the Hall of Fame too” to his mother, and gave heartfelt praise to his former teammate and quarterback Jim Kelly for “leadership beyond a reasonable doubt.”
  • Offensive lineman Walter Jones, who played tackle for the Seattle Seahawks and started in a team-record 10 consecutive playoff games, gushed over fellow Hall-of-Fame Seahawks Steve Largent and Cortez Kennedy, and insisted on his “attitude of gratitude” when thanking his family and coaches.
  • Aeneas Williams, who earned Pro Bowl nods in two positions with the Arizona Cardinals, made a point to thank every teammate and coach he worked with in Arizona, as well as after his trade to St. Louis.
  • And last but not least, former New York Giant defensive lineman Michael Strahan, the most dominant pass-rusher in the modern game, profusely thanked his coaches and teammates before giving a shout out to Kelly Ripa, who was attending the event—are those two ever apart?

Greatness is no mistake

It all shows that greatness doesn’t happen by accident. It happens when you have good mentors, coaches, and a support system of people who believe in what you’re doing.

When we talk about inspired relationships bringing out the best in people, the NFL Hall of Fame is a prime example.

They say if you don’t know if you’re a leader, look behind you. If no one is following you, it means you just went for a walk by yourself.

Every one of these players brought more than themselves up to the podium — they brought everyone who stood behind them along the way.

[View highlights from all of the 2014 Hall of Fame speeches here.}

This was originally published on the Michael C. Fina blog.

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