The Professional Football Hall of Fame welcomed eight new members on Saturday.
Extrapolating the Hall of Fame is the greatest honor a player can be awarded once his career is over, and former Green Bay Packers defender LeRoy Butler—the four-time All-Pro who helped the Packers win Super Bowl XXXI—explained why.
“When you play with the Green Bay Packers, you open a lot of doors,” Butler said. “When you win the Super Bowl, all the doors open. But when you make the Hall of Fame, you open up football heaven.”
Melanie Mills, widow of Sam Mills, gave a Hall of Fame speech in honor of the former Carolina Panthers linebacker, sharing a slogan her husband used as motivation, as he went from being a non-drafted free agent to a five-time professional.
He used the same slogan during his battle against cancer before his death in 2005.
“Thank you for that honor,” Melanie Mills said. “To believe in Sam and to help keep his story alive. Keep bombing everyone – that’s what Sam wants you to do.”
During his speech, Richard Seymour, who helped the New England Patriots win their first three Super Bowls, relived his early memories as a soccer player while thanking his mother.
“It’s been 31 years until this month when she dropped me off to my first football experience and I didn’t get out of the car,” Seymour said. “Mom, if I told you three decades later that I would wear a golden jacket, you would have no reason to believe me. But you believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.”
Art McNally made history on Saturday, becoming the first Game Official to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Considered the “father of the modern officer,” McNally served as a game official from 1960 to 67 before serving as a supervisor of NFL officials from 1968 to 1987 and then director of officers from 1988 to 1990. McNally, who turned 97 in July, gave a speech previously registered.
“That’s the greatest thing I think of an official,” McNally said. “Do the work, hope no one knows you exist, make the calls the right way they should be with a big dose of common sense.”
Tony Boselli also made history on Saturday, as a five-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle became the first Jacksonville Jaguars player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Boselli shared how his high school coach killed his dreams of becoming a quarterback, which ended up being the best thing for him in the long run.
“I was destined to be an offensive planner, but not so long ago as a tight end for the sophomore team and a water boy for the college team,” Bocelli said. “You’ve been a good water boy. …not the most awesome track, but all credit to your coach. It was the right track.”
Former defensive tackle Bryant Young helped the San Francisco 49ers win Super Bowl XXIX in 1994. The 89.5 sacks he scored during his 14-year career were the most in 49-player history.
Young said it was fitting that he was part of the 2022 class because number 22 was his late son Colby, the favorite number. Young paid tribute to Colby, who died of cancer at the age of 15.
“We assured Colby that we would keep his spirit alive and continue to speak on his behalf,” Young said. On October 11, 2016, God called Colby to his home.
“Colby, you live in our hearts. We will always speak your name.”
Cliff Branch was the only wide receiver inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday. He helped the Raiders win three Super Bowls in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and led the league in pickup in 1974. He was also a three-time professional player.
Branch passed away at the age of 71 in 2019. His sister, Elaine Anderson, said her brother is still enjoying the day, likely with a pair of other Raiders legends who have passed away.
“I can tell you there’s a kind soul in this place today,” Anderson said. “Clifford, ranked 21, wouldn’t miss his honor for nothing. He longed for the day and sat 21 front and center with Al Davis and John Madden.”
Former coach Dick Vermeil concluded Saturday’s party.
Vermeil, who also coached the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, won the Super Bowl only as the Rams’ head coach, leading the “Biggest Show on the Lawn” in 1999. He gave a special shout-out to one of the Super Bowl players. Winning the Rams squad.
“Kurt Warner, his story is true,” Vermeil said. “Where would I be without Kurt Warner? I wouldn’t stand here. My goodness, thank you for the contributions you guys all made.”
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