The Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed eight new members on Saturday.
Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is the greatest personal honor a player can earn after a career, and former Green Bay Packers defensive back Leroy Butler — a four-time All-Star who helped the Packers win the 31st Super Bowl Bowl – explains why.
“When you play for the Green Bay Packers, a lot of doors open up,” Butler said. “When you win the Super Bowl, all the doors open. But when you get into the Hall of Fame, football heaven opens.”
Sam Mills’ widow, Melanie Mills, speaks at the Hall of Fame honoring the former New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers linebacker, shares a motto her husband uses as inspiration as he moves from An undrafted free agent turned into a 5-time pro bowler.
He used the same motto while battling cancer before his death in 2005.
“Thank you for the honor,” Melanie Mills said. “Because of believing in Sam and helping to keep his story alive. Everyone keeps going – that’s what Sam wants you to do.”
In his speech, Richard Seymour, who helped the New England Patriots win the first three Super Bowls, recalled his first memories as a football player while thanking his mom.
“From 31 years ago to this month, when you drove me to my first football tryout, I didn’t even get out of the car,” Seymour said. “Mom, if I told you in three years’ time that I would wear a gold jacket, you would have no reason to believe me. But even if I didn’t believe in myself, you believed in me.”
Art McNally made history Saturday by becoming the first game official to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Considered the “father of modern refereeing,” McNally served as game official from 1960-67, then as the NFL’s director of officials from 1968-1987, and later as director of refereeing from 1988-90. McNally, who turned 97 in July, gave a pre-recorded speech.
“It’s the best thing I can think of as an officer,” McNally said. “Doing the job and hoping that no one knows you’re even around, to make a call the right way, they should have a ton of common sense.”
Tony Boselli also made history Saturday when the five-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle became the first Jacksonville Jaguars to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Boseli shares how his high school coach killed his dream of becoming a quarterback, which was the best option for him in the long run.
“I was destined to be an offensive lineman, but not before my brief stint as a sophomore tight end and varsity water boy,” Boseli said. “I’m a damn good water boy. …not the most glamorous path, but all the credit goes to your coach. It’s the right path.”
Former defensive tackle Bryant Young helped the San Francisco 49ers win Super Bowl XXIX in 1994. His 89.5 sacks in his 14-year career are also the most in 49ers history.
Young said it was fitting that he was part of the class of 2022 because 22 was his late son Colby’s favorite number. Young paid tribute to Colby, who died of cancer at the age of 15.
“We assure Colby that we will keep his spirit and keep saying his name,” Young said. “On October 11, 2016, God called Colby home.
“Colby, you live in our hearts. We will always say your name.”
Cliff Branch was the only wide receiver inducted into the Hall of Fame Saturday. He helped the Raiders win three Super Bowls in the late 1970s and early 1980s and led the league in 1974. He is also a three-time All-Pro.
Blanche died in 2019 at the age of 71. His sister Elaine Anderson said her brother is still enjoying the day, likely with other Raiders legends who have passed away.
“I can tell you there’s a sweet spirit about this place today,” Anderson said. “Our No. 21 Clifford will not miss his offering in vain. He longs for the day, with Al Davis and John Madden in the front row and center.”
Former head coach Dick Vermeer ended Saturday’s ceremony.
Vermeil’s NFL head coaching career began with the Philadelphia Eagles and ended with the Kansas City Chiefs, winning his only Super Bowl as head coach of the Rams, leading “The Greatest Turf Show” in 1999. He especially spoke out to players from his championship Rams.
“Kurt Warner, his story is true,” Vermeer said. “Where would I be without Kurt Warner? I wouldn’t be standing here. Omg, thank you all for your contributions.”
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