February 7, 2023

Canton, Ohio – The Professional Football Hall of Fame welcomed eight new members to World Football Immortality on Saturday afternoon. The ceremony, which took place inside the Tom Benson Hall of Fame, included unforgettable speeches, honors, highlights and a few tears from the men who received bronze busts and their gold jackets.

This year’s class featured offensive tackles Tony Boselli, receiver Cliff Branch, safety Leroy Butler, linebacker Sam Mills, linebackers Richard Seymour and Bryant Young, coach Dick Vermeil and official Art McNally. Boselli is the first Jaguars to earn a Hall of Fame jacket. Like Boselli, the Mills represented a team—the Carolina Panthers—that broke into the league in 1995. Branch, Butler, Seymour, Young, and Vermeil came to Canton with a total of nine Super Bowl episodes. McNally is recruited after a decorated career that includes credit for creating the instant reboot.

Here are the highlights of today’s party, starting with one of the most famous packers in franchise history.

Leroy jump to Canton

A notable safety for the Packer, Butler is credited with making the first-ever “Lambeau Leap” in 1993. His versatility helped the Packer defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, Green Bay’s first title in 29 years. Butler began his speech in a unique way. Musician DJ Khaled, who was well received by the audience, was quoted as saying.

Later in his speech, Butler referred to his former Packers coach, Mike Holmgren, who is a finalist to enter next year’s class.

Mills keep pounding

After his death, Mills pinned the Saints’ Dom Patrol defense before helping lead the Panthers to an NFC Championship game appearance in 1996. That season, the 37-year-old linebacker became the oldest player to be named in a Pro Bowl. Mills’ motto was “Keep on beating,” a battle cry used by the Panthers to this day.

Former Saints coach Jim Mora served as one of the Mills announcers. Mora shared his memory of watching the 5-foot-9 treadmills break into mobs during the junior season. Mora admitted that he was afraid for Mills before watching him do a tackle moments later while shedding a blocker that weighed at least 100 pounds.

“I’ve trained the Saints for nine years, and he’s never looked so short of me again,” said Maura.

His wife Melanie gave Mills’ acceptance speech, which offered insight into the man who was Mills off the field.

“Sam treats everyone with the respect and dignity they deserve,” she said. He was asking about your day so he listens because he cares.

“Keep hitting, everyone, because that’s what Sam wants from you.”

Seymour praises Bill Belichick, pushes HOF for Robert Kraft

An integral member of the early Patriots dynasty of the 2000s, Seymour is the first billed player Bill Belichick to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“You are the best coach in the game,” Seymour said of Belichick. “Thank you for everything you taught me.”

Seymour also paid tribute to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who reached the 2023 Hall of Fame class final. Seymour said Kraft fostered a selfless culture centered on the team’s success.

“You, too, are going to decorate this stage,” Seymour told Kraft, who was seated in the audience.

Seymour follows his former New England teammates Ty Lou, Randy Moss and Junior Seo in Canton. More Patriots, including New England QB Tom Brady, are sure to follow.

“We had a young quarterback,” Seymour said of Brady during his address during a discussion of the early 2000s. “But we made it work.”

McNally makes history

Known as the founder of management in the modern era, McNally spent 48 years in the NFL as an administrator, including a successful career as a league administrators supervisor. He is the first former official to be honored in Canton.

McNally, who watched the ceremony from home, recorded an acceptance letter that included his appreciation for the NFL officials. He also joked about how officials usually don’t want any attention, but today was clearly an exception.

“That’s the greatest thing, I think, for the administrator: do the job – hope no one even knows you exist – make the calls the right way they should be with a big dose of common sense.”

“QB” Tony Boselli

One of the best tackles in league history, Boselli shared that he had other aspirations in football during his childhood.

“I wanted to be the NFL quarterback,” said Boselli, who specifically wanted to play QB with the Broncos. This dream ended quickly, as Boselli was taken to the court end of the junior college and the water boy of the university.

“But I was a good water boy,” Bocelli said with a smile.

Instead of serving water, Boselli served opposing defenders with their lunch during high school, at USC and during his Hall of Fame run with the Jaguars.

While not recruited as quarterback, Boselli QB in Jacksonville, Mark Brunel, Serve as a presenter.

“He wanted absolute control of the opponent,” Brunel said of Boselli. “He was a fierce competitor, and he wouldn’t let anyone get to the quarterback. He made us all better.”

Boselli is proud to be the first Jaguars player to be honored in Canton. He pushed his former teammates Fred Taylor, Jimmy Smith and Tom Coughlin to join him in Canton.

Young honors his late son

During his speech, Bryant Young spoke about his son Colby who passed away in 2016 after a brave battle with cancer. Young resisted the emotion when he spoke to his son.

“Colby, you live in our hearts,” Young said. “We will always speak your name.”

Young’s path to the Hall of Fame reached a major crossroads in 1998. Then, in his fifth season with 49 players, Young suffered a serious leg injury. Despite the importance of the injury, Young persevered and played another nine seasons. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1999, a year after he suffered an injury. A member of the All-Decade team in the 1990s, Young helped the 49ers win their fifth Super Bowl franchise during the junior season.

“I’ve worn gold with pride throughout my career,” said Young, who 49 years ago played collectively for Notre Dame. “I will cherish this jacket for the rest of my life.”

The branch brings speed to Canton

The branch became the seventh member of the 1974 Raiders offense to be consecrated in Canton, an NFL record for a single unit. Branch, who passed away in 2019, was a valued member of all three Super Bowl teams. His unparalleled speed helped him win All-Decade Team accolades in the 1970s.

Branch’s sister, Elaine Anderson, gave his introductory speech. Raiders owner Mark Davis also served as a presenter for the branch program, calling him “my best friend.”

“When it’s not God’s time, you can’t force it,” Anderson said in her talk. “When God’s time comes, you can’t stop him.

“Clifford is late, but not denied.”

Branch colleague, Hall of Fame wide colleague Fred Pletnikov, was in attendance to celebrate Branch’s founding.

“The Lord has finally been able to speed up there,” Beletnikov said before Branch’s induction.

Dick Vermeil praises others for induction

Few coaches have been good at turning losing teams into winners. Vermeil ended a 12-year drought in Philadelphia before leading the franchise to its first Super Bowl. After a long break from training, Vermeil led the Rams – who had lost more games in the 1990s than any other team – to an unforgettable Super Bowl run in 1999. He then ended the Chiefs’ seven-year drought by leading Kansas City To the 13-3 season in 2003.

Instead of celebrating himself, Vermeil thanked everyone who helped him get his gold jacket. He specifically mentioned the player whose tackle at the end of this biggest victory contributed to the creation of the Hall of Fame.

“If Mike Jones didn’t meddle at the end of Super Bowl XXXIV, I’m not standing here,” Vermeil said. “I will forever be indebted to you all.”

Vermeil, a former high school coach, indicated to the members of his high school team present that he coached over 60 years ago.

“I still call them kids, they’re in their 70s today,” he said.

Vermeil also referred to Tori Holt, who was part of the Rams’ “greatest show on lawn”. Vermeil announced that Holt would one day join him and former Rams teammates Kurt Warner, Marshall Falk, Orlando Pace and Isaac Bruce in Canton.

From his years in the Eagles’ game, Vermeil has paid tribute to Wilbert Montgomery and John Banting, two former players who served as Vermeil coaches. Vermeil also thanked the Eagles fans who supported him near and far. He thanked current coach Andy Reed for traveling to Canton to congratulate Vermeil despite being in the middle of training camp.

Known screams, Vermeil didn’t cry until he talked about his wife Carol. He deliberately waited until the end of his speech to praise his wife of 66 years, knowing that he would shed tears.

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