Closing the Hall of Fame Notebook …
I have said it numerous times in the 24 years that Canton has been my destination for the Hall of Fame weekend: There is no better place to be at this time, at this place each year, especially being able to be at events with the enshrinees and doing a show for SiriusXM Radio in which we spend the day Friday taping interviews with multiple Hall of Famers.
We did 25 interviews this year, and it is always a great experience.
Friday night, during the emotional gold-jacket dinner, ESPN’s Trey Wingo, the dinner emcee, felt the same way.
The highlight of the evening is when the new enshrinees receive their gold jackets for the first time. They each come on stage with their presenter, take off the jacket they are wearing, and their presenter puts the gold jacket on them.
After that, the numerous Hall of Famers in attendance are introduced one-by-one, and they come on stage to greet the newcomers with handshakes, fist bumps and hugs. When that was over, Wingo said, “I’ve been here 13 times, and that never gets old.”
How right he is.
A Great Group
This year’s class wasn’t filed with high-profile players. It was a grind-it-out bunch that always brought their lunch pail to work.
Said running back Curtis Martin, “The common thread with us is this is just a good group of guys. We’re solid guys.” Martin had to be talked into having a post-enshrinement party.
“The thing about this class, none of us will walk up and tell you, ‘I’m a Hall of Famer.’ But we’re all deserving,” said defensive end Chris Doleman. “We are humble and appreciate the acknowledgement, but I’ll be the first to tell you, ‘Dude, I can’t believe I’m here.’”
Said defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, “You know something, there’s no prima donnas in this group. You’ve got great guys. Curtis Martin, he’s quiet. He could be a lineman. He doesn’t say that much.
“The Hall of Fame speeches might be the shortest of all time. You have guys who don’t like to hear themselves talk. They just want to go do their jobs like they played, say their speech and sit down.”
Kennedy’s prediction was prescient: The six speeches totaled only 1.24:34, and before Martin’s 27-minutes, 34-second speech ended the evening, the previous five speeches totaled an even 57 minutes.
Jack Butler, who spoke for just 3:46 got a laugh when fans in throwback uniforms were chanting, “Here we go Steelers, her we go,” and he said simply, “That’s enough.”
Father and Son
Martin has talked often of how former coach Bill Parcells (his presenter) was a father figure for him. Prior to the ceremony, Martin said, “I’d rather have Bill up there than my own mother, and I love my mother dearly. I grew up with a father who was severely strung out on drugs. I’m just not used to listening to another male, and Bill was the first male
who I respected enough to do what he said. So without him, there is no way I’m here.”
During his interview on SiriusXM, Parcells was asked about Martin’s father-figure comments.
Said Parcells, “The dramatic effect on me is when Father’s Day comes and you get calls from five or six or seven different players, Curtis being one of them, and it lets you know something you really weren’t aware of. It’s something I cherish. Now I look forward to Father’s Day not only because I’m lucky to have three daughters but because I always wonder who is going to call. And this year, six or seven did.”
Martin was eloquent in his speech, and especially compelling when talking about the impact of Parcells.
Martin said, “Let me just tell you some Parcells-isms, I like to call them. Because I tell you this, this guy has taught me, and another thing, even though I didn’t initially like playing football or anything, as I played, I began to understand that football was shaping me as a man. It was like I was learning about life through football. It was the first time in my life that I ever committed to something and stuck to it. It was the first time that I worked hard to really give my all toward something because I didn’t want to squander the opportunity that I had.
“I’ll never forget. I was injured one day, and it was really bad. Coach Parcells was like my consigliore; isn’t that what they call it in the mob? So I would always call him when I was making big decisions. So I call him, I said, ‘Coach, my knee is really killing me. I don’t know that I can play with it.’
“He said, ‘Curtis, well, listen, I’m a big fan of you taking care of your body first.’ But he said, ‘I’ve always believed one thing, Curtis.’ I said, ‘What’s that, coach?’ You know that voice Parcells has: ‘You should never come out of the huddle because you never know who is going in the huddle.’ And that was something that stuck with me.
“Again, that’s one of the lessons that the NFL taught me. You’re always replaceable. There is someone always right on your heels. And every year, I tell you, there was someone. I’m not being modest, there was someone on that team had that had more ability, was quicker, stronger, faster and I just outworked everyone.
“Another Parcells story because you’ve got to understand this guy was the first male that I had as a positive role model. I looked up to him and hung on to every word he said. One day we’re in practice and he calls me off the field. So I go over to the sideline and said, ‘Hey, what’s up, coach?’ He’s like; he called me ‘Boy Wonder.’ He said, ‘Boy Wonder, have you been working hard?’ I said, ‘Yeah, of course, coach. I mean, you know, that’s just what I do. I want to outwork everybody in the building, not just the players, I mean, the janitors, front-office people, everybody.’ I said, ‘But why would you ask me that?’ He said, ‘I just want to make sure you’re not fooling yourself.’ I said, ‘What does that one mean?’
“He said, ‘Boy Wonder, as long as you live, never forget this: There is a big difference between routine and commitment.’ He said some people just do the same routine over and over again in life. He said some people even get better at that same routine over and over in life. But there are few people who commit to the next level. And I tell you, that left an impression on me that even though I knew I had worked hard, it made me work harder. And I applied that principle to every facet of my life. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially, however it may have been, I’m always trying to commit to the next level. Thank you, coach Parcells.”
During the highlight packages shown Friday night at the dinner, a couple comments stood out from opponents of the enshrines during games.
New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who will be eligible for the first time in 2013, said to a teammate, “Doleman’s been playing since we were in kindergarten.”
In another clip, Hall-of-fame quarterback Warren Moon said simply, “Cortez Kennedy is a load.”