By Kate Arhar // ClvlndK8
Each year, I look to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Festivities as the start of football season and a warning that summer is coming to an end.
It’s something I love to attend every year, whether as a fan of this amazing game or, as I was this year, a member of the media. As I drive down State Route 77 and finally see Tom Benson Stadium in the distance, I get chills. Every single time.
Every class brings me something to look forward to; a player I loved or a team I hated, it doesn’t matter. And this year’s class is no different.
The 2019 class of enshrinees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame included four defensive players, two offensive players, and two front office gentlemen. And, as always, each one gave a speech that left a solid imprint in my mind.
(Each name below contains a hyperlink to the YouTube video of their entire speech.)
Gil Brandt: Jerry Jones presented Mr. Brandt and his speech was insightful. To hear the history of the NFL told by someone who’s memory and ability to recall specific details from 20 or 30 years ago is amazing! He’s clearly still a pistol and I would dearly love to spend a couple hours asking this man questions or just listening to him talk about the “old days” of football.
The Black College Football Hall of Fame honors the greatest football players, coaches and contributors from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Gil Brandt is a proud member of their selection committee.
On September 1st, the first annual Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic will be played in Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. The game features Alabama A&M University vs. Morehouse College and will be the culmination of a weekend packed with all the experiences that a “classic” has to offer: Marching bands live performances, tailgating, a concert featuring Morris Day & the Time, Drumline and dance Competition, golf tournament, and other local events.
— DNASportsTalk (@DNASportsTalk) August 3, 2019
Johnny Robinson: Presented by his step-son Bob Thompson, Mr. Robinson pre-recorded his speech. He recently suffered a stroke. While he seems to be recovering well, there are times when it’s difficult for him to get this thoughts to come out through his speech.
National Champion at #LSU
Super Bowl Champion
57 Interceptions in 12 Seasons
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) August 4, 2019
Kevin Mawae: Faith, Family, Football. We’ve all heard the saying before, but Kevin Mawae has lived it. From being born in Germany as an “army brat,” to Mississippi’s Leesville High School Wampus Cats, to the LSU Tigers and finally into the NFL, decisions based on Faith and focused on his Family have defined his football career.
“When people ask who’s not in the HOF & that I think should be here, it’s an easy one for me: #54 for the Miami Dolphins.”
— Greg Likens (@GregLikens) August 4, 2019
Pat Bowlen: Mr Bowlen passed away in June. Six of his children were on hand at the Gold Jacket Dinner as well as the Enshrinement Ceremony and presentation of his bust. The video tribute to their father, and their belief that it was his competitive nature that led to both success in football and his ability to fight Altzheimer’s for as long as he did, left me truly touched.
His bust unveiled and his legacy lives on forever.@Broncos late owner Pat Bowlen is officially enshrined in Canton.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) August 4, 2019
Ty Law: I’ve heard players talk about their struggles growing up, but the emotion is Ty Law’s voice as he talked about his grand parents really got to me. While they may have passed away, he said he could feel them with him every step of the way and he could see them sitting in the two empty seats next to his mother. Wasn’t a dry eye in the place.
Ty Law had one of the greatest Pro Football Hall of Fame speeches I’ve ever heard last night. It was very emotional, passionate, honest and authentic. I’ll admit to tearing up during @OfficialTyLaw’s speech. #PFHOF19 #ClassOf2019 #Patriots #GoPats
— Kenneth Jørgensen (@PatsFanKenneth) August 4, 2019
Ed Reed: For me, the laughter of the evening was provided by Mr. Reed. He’s always been a character, but taking shots at the Cincinnati Bengals, then calling out “O-H” to get the crowd behind him, only to go on to insult the Cleveland Browns, well that takes guts! And even I found it really entertaining! And don’t even get me started on him thanking Bill Belichick instead of Brian Billick… HA!
Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony 2019: Ed Reed’s bust steals show
— tackleo.com (@tackleo) August 4, 2019
Champ Bailey: Social issue impact us all. Mr. Bailey’s comments on what it’s like to be a black man first and not a professional athlete or a hall of famer were really on point. The simplicity of his message: Just Listen. So many issue could be solved in this country if we took his advice, stopped defending or excusing certain behavior and Just Listened to each other for a change.
— jharewood1 (@justinharewood1) August 4, 2019
Tony Gonzalez: Part of his speech included the reading of a letter he wrote to his four children. He gave each of them a copy before at the beginning of the weekend but his wife thought he should read it out loud to them on stage. It was touching and incredibly emotional to see this side of a man who I only thought about in terms of the fantasy football points he would bring me.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) August 4, 2019
And finally, for my stats geeks, here are the five longest speech times:
Tony Gonzalez 39:16
Ed Reed 36:04
Champ Bailey 30:54
Ty Law 28:28
Kevin Mawae 26:52
Talk football with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8