CANTON, Ohio — What would your dad think of you getting into the Hall of Fame? What would he say to you? A reporter asked Terrell Davis these questions during his press availability, just a few hours before he received his gold jacket. Davis paused and took a deep breath. He shook his head, struggling to find words. His father, Joe, died of Lupus when Terrell was just 14 years old. “Y’all are trying to take me there,” Terrell said, fighting back tears. “I hope my dad would say he is proud. That’s it. I grew up with my dad and I just want to play for him, you know?”
Terrell’s bloodshot eyes marked the start of an emotional weekend for the former Broncos running back, and for the rest of the Hall of Fame Class of 2017. The enshrinees spoke to the media on Friday afternoon and reflected on how far they’d come over their careers and how many editions of their speech they’ve written. Here are some highlights of what the newest crop of Hall of Famers had to say.
KURT WARNER: The awe moment with all of this, is to realize these guys that you tried to emulate, that you grew up watching, that were your heroes growing up, they actually know your story. You come into this and you feel like, I don’t really think that I belong, I don’t belong in this room. But then these guys come up to you and tell you what your career meant to them—guys that you tried to be like. It’s hard to put that into words and I think that is the awe part of it. When you don’t understand how you fit in, and people start to tell you how you impacted them, it starts to sink in. Oh, I guess that’s why I am here. It’s not only fans and people watching, but guys that did it as well as anybody has ever done it, and maybe even before you that were inspired.
KENNY EASLEY: It’s been a big hug fest. That’s the thing about these Hall of Famers, when you make it to this level, whether you deserved it or not, to these guys it doesn’t matter. You’re here. And they hug you hard, because they are so happy you are here. That’s the thing that has been most interesting to me, guys who have been in the Hall of Fame for 30 years will walk up to me and say, Are you Kenny Easley? And I say, Yeah, and they will give me a bear hug, like, I’m glad to see you. And I really didn’t expect it! I really didn’t expect from the guys who have been here for a long time, I expected them to be standoffish, but it’s not like that. It’s like, We’ve been waiting for you.
JASON TAYLOR: Walking that gauntlet yesterday at the Hall of Fame game seemed like a mile and a half, walking across that football field. I remember I stood on that field for the Hall of Fame games I played in, and I watched those guys walk, never did I think that I would one day make that walk. It’s pretty crazy.
TAYLOR: In 1992, when I first got to Akron, as a homeschooled kid, the NCAA pulled my scholarship and declared me ineligible. I had to leave school, so that was probably the low point. I thought I wouldn’t have a chance to play college football and I certainly couldn’t pay to go to school. That was certainly the low point.
LADAINIAN TOMLINSON: I was always a pretty good athlete, and one of those fast kids, faster than most of the kids my age. But when I was in the sixth grade, I broke my foot, and I lost of a lot of my skills. I really was depressed at that point. I couldn’t play football that season, and when I came back the next season, I was no longer a starter. I was basically a guy sitting on the bench, just cheering for my teammates. So, certainly at that point, you are like, Man, I used to be this good athlete and was out there playing and now I don’t get a chance to play much anymore. You doubt yourself, even if you are going to be good enough to play in high school.
DAVIS: There were a few points, but the first one was when I lost my dad. When I lost my dad, I quit playing football. There was no way I saw myself here when that happened. That’s one. I mean, that would be it.
MORTEN ANDERSEN: I never thought I would be here, honestly. That was never on my radar screen. My most important thing was, How can I get better? Because next year there are going to be guys younger than me, cheaper than me and maybe close to being as good as I am, and they want my job. There are 32 jobs of what I did in the world. There are no backups; it’s not like a linemen where you have backups. This was it. You have 32 jobs, so job security was paramount for me. And the only way I knew how to do that was to be as good as I could be every single year so that it was undeniable. They had to keep me, no matter what the salary situation was. This is our best option at this position. They can slide that nameplate in and out of those lockers really, really fast.