NFL 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

From Canton, Ohio, the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted 8 new men into football immortality.

Sadness preceded the ceremony that weekend. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch died at age 71. Longtime football sportswriter Don Banks died at age 56.

There was happiness as well. The Pro Football Hall of Fame saw the Denver Broncos defeat the Atlanta Falcons 14-10 with the winning touchdown with 17 seconds left in the game.

Then came Chris Berman and the induction ceremony.

Pro Football Hall of Fame 2019 Induction Ceremony

Gil Brandt — The former Dallas Cowboys scout was the contributor enshrinee. In an odd irony, he was presented by 2018 enshrinee Jerry Jones, who fired him 30 years earlier. Brandt joked that he was not a scout for the Canton Bulldogs. While NFL fans everywhere laud Tex Schramm, Tom Landry, and even Jerry Jones, Brandt took time to praise the original Cowboys owner Clint Murchison. Brandt was one of the leaders in recruiting players from historically black colleges. Brandt scouted more than players, including coaches Bill Parcells and Mike Shanahan. He even scouted outside of football, discovering basketball coaching talent Bobby Knight. 

Johnny Robinson — The Kansas City Chiefs safety star was the senior nominee. He had an interception in Super Bowl IV and played in the NFL’s longest game, the 1971 playoff loss against the Dolphins. He now runs a boys home that aims to keep youths on the straight and narrow. 

Kevin Mawae — The center for the Seahawks, Jets and Titans played 16 seasons, making 8 Pro Bowls. 6 of those Pro Bowls came during 8 seasons with the Jets. He is the first Hawaiian enshrinee. He learned from three of the greatest centers in Dwight Stephenson, Mike Webster and Jim Otto and one of game’s greatest left tackles in Anthony Munoz. His mom played tackle football with her kids in the backyard, and she hit hard. He cried as he expressed his love for his mother and his four children. Mawae let the tears flow, as did his mother, father, and two brothers. Another brother’s untimely death was one of three seminal moments, the others being the birth of his two children. He thanked Tom Flores, who he expects to be in the Hall of Fame soon. He also thanked Bill Parcells, Herm Edwards, Jeff Fisher and Mike Munchak. He noted that the most important person in a football player’s life is the equipment manager. A deeply devout Christian, he thanked the team chaplains. He even praised opponents for challenging him to be better. That included, Bill Belichick, who he lost 13 of 17 games against, and Zach Thomas, who Mawae insists should get inducted. 

Pat Bowlen — Alzheimer’s robbed the late Broncos owner of the chance to give his induction speech. He passed away in June of 2019, only two months before he was inducted. Rather than have John Elway, Mike Shanahan, or some famous alum present him, the honor was given to longtime team trainer Steve Antonoupolos. “This one’s for Pat” after the team’s third Super Bowl win remains one of the most beautiful moments in all of sports.

Ty Law — Tony Dorsett’s nephew joined his Uncle in Canton. He had an interception for a touchdown in the Super Bowl, three interceptions in an AFC Title Game against Peyton Manning, and interceptions for touchdowns against Manning and former teammate Tom Brady. He came out strutting, dancing and laughing, but quickly began crying as he kissed his Hall of Fame bust. His mother talked trash with the best of them. He will always be his mom’s little boy. Two empty chairs with roses on them were there for his late grandmother and grandfather. He found out after the fact that his grandfather took out a mortgage on the house so his grandson could have a car. Bill Parcells threatened to make him the very first pick in the first round to get cut before training camp if he didn’t get better. Bill Belichick let Law play the way Law wanted, but that if he messed up, that freedom would be quickly taken away. As for the Patriot Way that has won six Super Bowls, Law reminded his teammates and the football world that the 2001 team started this winning culture. He thanked the Bowlen family for taking a chance on him late in his career. He had very warm words for Patriots owner Robert Kraft. In praising his five kids, he said that the most important title in his life is that of father. He implored people everywhere to believe in themselves.   

Ed Reed — He is the only player in NFL history to score a touchdown on an interception return, a punt return, a blocked punt, and a fumble recovery. He made 9 Pro Bowls in his 12 seasons. He came onstage with a scraggly graying beard, a cigar in his mouth, and a bright yellow hat to match the HOF jacket. He started with tears and a prayer. He thanked the Houston Texans for letting him stay for a couple months. He pointed out that there is no “GOAT” in this game because it takes an entire team to win. He may or may not have been joking when he said that he wrote his speech while sitting on the stage on front of everyone. 

Without getting political, he very briefly mentioned recent mass shootings and said we must address mental illness. He then pivoted to life. The company you keep matters. Accountability matters. Parents, raise your kids to leave the house, not to stay. 30 & 40 year olds should not stay at home. If you can’t feed the baby, don’t have the baby. In praising his son, he had both of them crying. He said that there are good and bad police officers. A police officer took him home, and he asked the officer to take him to jail so he wouldn’t have to face his mom. The officer kept him on the right path. Don’t push an officer to do something they don’t want to do. Reed refused to hang around kids who sold drugs or cut school. 

He joked about being booed in Baltimore for showing up as a rookie with a Jim Brown jersey. He turned very serious again when mentioning OJ Brigante, who has ALS. Brigante was in the audience. 

He kept alternating between serious and lighthearted. He thanked his barbers, mentioning that despite his appearance, he does get haircuts. Stay encouraged and help others. 

Champ Bailey — He made 12 Pro Bowls. He joked that he removed his sunglasses so everyone could see his joy, and because his wife said so. He thanked the Hall of Fame voters for getting it right the very first time. Whether spades, Taboo or checkers, his mother gave Champ his competitive streak. He referenced friends with nicknames from Cheese to Peanut to Taterhead. He thanked coordinator Terry Robiskie for letting the defensive star score his first touchdown on offense. He thinks Robiskie should be a head coach. He had the privilege of learning from Darrell Green and Deion Sanders. Deion Sanders asked him if he ever saw a cheetah stretch before chasing his prey. For better or worse, Bailey did not stretch before games. Bailey had very warm words for the departed Pat Bowlen. Bailey then got political. He said that when people see him, the first thing they see is not a Hall of Famer or a husband or father, but a black man. He asked his white friends to please listen when black men express fears. Do not get caught up in how the message is delivered. He also told his black friends that if they have nothing positive to say about social challenges, keep your mouths shut. 

Tony Gonzalez — He missed only 2 games in 17 seasons, making 14 Pro Bowls. He began in classy fashion by thanking the 4,200 volunteers needed to make the Hall of Fame Weekend come together. He learned from Shannon Sharpe and was grateful to Marcus Allen for encouragement during a tough rookie year. He thanked the little bald guy Jay Glazer for stories that cannot be told publicly. He thanked his agent Tom Condon for getting him a lot of money. He remembered Berkeley, where people ran around naked. His college coach Steve Mariucci said he was not ready for the NFL. A nervous Gonzalez thanked the late Marty Schottenheimer before quickly correcting himself and telling the audience that Schottenheimer is very much alive. Chiefs fans cheered him even when he was on the opposing team. He spoke about quitting Pop Warner football. He hid from a bully in junior high school for 5 months. He finally overcame his fears and vowed that it is better to lose a fight than hide. In his second season, he led the NFL with 16 dropped passes. He was benched twice in one game. He overcame that by reading a Vince Lombardi book, the first book he read since a 7th grade book about Bo Jackson. 

The 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony is now in the books. The 2019 NFL preseason is just beginning. The Oakland Raiders play the Los Angeles Rams in a rematch of the 2018 preseason and regular season openers for both teams.

eric @ Tygrrrr Express

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