The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017 addressed the media on "Selection Saturday." The seven-man class attend a press conference at the NFL Honors Awards Show at the Wortham Theater in Houston, Texas.
Here is the original transcript from the press conference on Saturday, February 4, 2017 with Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
Morten Andersen | Terrell Davis | Kenny Easley | Jerry Jones | Jason Taylor | LaDainian Tomlinson | Kurt Warner
(on what it was like getting the knock at the door, and the fact that it’s been a long time since a kicker was inducted into the Hall of Fame) “Twenty-five years, I believe. I asked my wife, while we we’re in the room with some friends, ‘That’s an awful loud knock for room service. Is this a club sandwich?’ Dave (Baker), you didn’t have a club sandwich, but it was sure a nice alternative. It was very emotional – crying L.T. (LaDainian Tomlinson), I agree. We shed a few tears, and I’m tremendously humbled and excited to be in this class. Congratulations to everyone, it’s pretty mind blowing right now, I’m kind of floating, if you don’t mind.”
(on what he knew about football coming from Denmark, and what it means for the country) “It’s going to be huge, there’s no question. I think the Crown Prince texted me (joking). I don’t know, maybe not. That would be kind of cool. I didn’t know anything about football when I came in 1977 and barely spoke the language. It happened very fast, watched the jamboree games in the metal bleachers, watched the quarterback-center exchange and said I don’t want to be that guy, or that guy. You have a big guy in tight pants bending over and then you have a small guy in equally tight pants going up behind him and I said, ‘No. No.’ They said you just have to kick and run off the field, and that’s what I did for 25 or 30 years. It just happened very quickly. Foot-to-ball and pick up the check, I guess. It was a good time. Twenty-five years flew by, and its kind of surreal, like Jason (Taylor) is saying. It’s surreal to sit here and know that that bust is going to last for 40,000 years. I’ll be there for part of that. Football has been an unbelievable tool and platform for myself and my family, as I think we all are. You’ll never give football as much in the NFL, as much as the NFL has given you. Bum Phillips was the guy that always preached that, and I’ve always taken that with me. Thank you.”
(on if he thinks special teams is well represented in the Hall of Fame) “No, I don’t, but life’s not fair sometimes. This is an important step for us as a group I think. I’d like to try to move the conversation – and I know I’m considered a specialist – but move the conversation to saying that the game of football is very specialized now at every position and that it has changed over time. We’re still playing a 100-yard field and so forth, but the positions – you have pass rushers that come in on third down, different players that are situational players – and I was a situational player. I was in maybe 10, 15 snaps a game and my job was to put points on the board. I’m hopeful we can move the conversation to the inclusion of some more guys, the Steve Taskers – and if you look at kickers, obviously Adam Vinatieri would be one guy that you would have to look at, Gary Anderson, there’s a lot of guys out there deserving, but I’m just going to echo what a lot of guys said: It’s a very tight squeeze in there. This is my fifth go-around, and I’m grateful and I’ll do whatever I can to spearhead and try to move the conversation toward more inclusion for specialists, whether it’s at the punting, place kicking, long snapping or kick return position. We need more, because it’s a great game at all positions, and it has to be properly represented. I don’t have a vote, but it’s a step in the right direction for sure. I don’t think the door to Canton is wide open as a group for us, but this is a good step in the right direction for sure."
(on if he is surprised to be elected to the Hall of Fame the same year as LaDainian Tomlinson) “I'm shocked. Yeah, I followed the process the last couple of years because being in the media, you have to because we talk about it quite often. The last three years, for myself, I started to notice a little bit more momentum in terms of people talking about it on air. I felt that it was getting close, but the one caveat was L.T. being in the same class, and I knew he was going in. So I really thought that there's no way they're going to put two backs in the same class, especially a guy who was a first-ballot Hall of Famer versus a special circumstance guy like me, as I sort of created that—I thought that's what they saw me as. When I got the knock, obviously, I was shocked. We talked about it. I said that the best chance that I would ever have would probably be 2018. Of course, I was ecstatic that they didn't look at it as two backs in the same class like I thought they viewed it.”
(on being a San Diego native and representing the city now that the Chargers have relocated) “For me, it's huge. Obviously, being born and raised in San Diego and watching the Chargers now move to LA is - I don't like it. It's hard for me to even say Los Angeles Chargers. I grew up with the Don Coryell, Kellen Winslow, John Jefferson, the Dan Fouts era, so to me, the Chargers were always San Diego. But then, obviously, coming from San Diego and having some of the athletes who have come out of San Diego like Marcus Allen – same high school as myself – and I watched him grow up, and I sort of tried to follow his career a lot, so I'm happy that Lincoln High School now has two Hall of Famers represented in the Hall. That's powerful. The bottom line is, if there's still kids in San Diego who, obviously, want an NFL team, they certainly don't have that team now, but hopefully they're inspired by what's happening here with myself and, obviously, LT. They watched him for a number of years. Hopefully, the dream continues and lives on in San Diego for guys who want to watch pro football.”
(on if he is hopeful his induction into the Hall of Fame will spur the induction of more Broncos players) “Yeah, I was looking at something today where it talked about the Broncos being underrepresented, and I'm hopeful that Steve Atwater, Karl Mecklenburg, John Lynch, some of the guys who, obviously, I believe are deserving to be out here with us, I'm hoping that this sort of opens up the gate for those guys. It's a difficult process, as we've seen. I don't know what it is about Denver. Maybe it's the media market, but it certainly doesn't have the attention that it probably deserves to have when it comes to Hall of Fame members. I think, hopefully, if I can influence any of that, if I have any control of that, then I would certainly try to aid and bring some attention to that to make sure we have more players represented in the Hall of Fame.”
(on how he can sum all of this up and what the induction means to him) “Well, I might have a different story, because it’s been 20 years for me. I had given up on the process, what had happened, to be truthful with you. But I have to thank, really the people in Seattle, the fans in Seattle who sort of launched the campaign for Kenny Easley in the Hall of Fame. To have my work reexamined after 20 years is really significant, very different, but I’m very excited about the opportunity, particularly for my family and friends and folks from the ‘80s who saw me play. It’s a unique experience. I’m very excited.”
(on if it is a revitalizing feeling for him in any way) “Well, I don’t know if revitalized. I’m enormously grateful for this opportunity. Like I said, to be reconsidered after 20 years … I’m glad it happened though, because I feel that if it had happened in 1997, I wouldn’t be as grateful as I am now at age 58 for this to happen. So, that means a great deal, to happen to me now. Because, I would never get this feeling, this excitement out of my heart."
(on his reaction to getting the knock on the door) “First of all, I was with my family. I have tremendous family involvement in everything that I've done in sport. I was married when I was a sophomore in college, my first son was born, who's probably the key guy with the Dallas Cowboys today. So I've had family around me in my love for football and my love for the people that are in sports. This room is full of where I wanted to spend my life. I had a choice when I bought the Dallas Cowboys, and I had seen a lot. For the time that I'd been involved, I'd seen a lot of things. I wanted to be over the thrill of winning, I wanted to be over the thrill of honoring guys like this and I wanted to be involved with you, the people of sport. We didn't always agree, obviously, but I wanted to be involved with us. To get to sit here, to get to sit in that room with my family today and wait and understand what is so elite and so important, really, for our game, the recognition for the Hall of Fame, and then to get to be a part of it was really wonderful. Every step of the way, with every decision, it has been about honoring and respecting these players and understanding what they've gone through to be there, because I got to be a player. On the other hand, when we sit down, I know how lucky they are to get to be there. So my admiration for them goes … let's all recognize just how lucky we are to be sitting in here talking about what we're talking about. It's been fabulous in the 28 years to think that I'd be sitting here with you and the recognition with you. I mean, you have also spent your lives wanting to be in sport and telling the stories of all of these guys in the games that we play is such an honor. So when they hit that door, I don't mind telling you that my eyes were red. We went crazy. We knew what the door was all about, and I just knew how special it was to be with the great people that have been recognized by the Hall of Fame.”
(on the times he was asked about the potential of the Hall of Fame over the last year) “Well, our year was a fantasy year to have had some of the obstacles or the challenges we had early with losing (QB Tony) Romo early, losing our second-team quarterback early and then having the team with Dak Prescott have the year that it had. It was magical. To get to be a part of seeing Tony Romo basically recognized when he was healthy as he could possibly me – in my mind, one of the premier quarterbacks – and see him say, 'Hey, this thing's going too good. We've got it going. Let's leave it alone.' Seeing him buy into that, it was a wonderful, wonderful experience. You couple that with anything that we're about here today, and it was a wonderful, wonderful year. On the other hand, what we've gotten to experience, all of us, so much is this game will bring you down so strong so fast, and there's only about five percent of it that's positive, and then the rest of it is work hard (and) go get it. Everybody understands that. You guys understand that, too. To have gotten the home field bye, and then to have dropped the ball and not win was a downer. In the face of having more than we should have expected out of young guys, but yet have a downer, was actually a downer at the end of the day. The reason that we all are here is to try to win. Win. So, that was the kind of year that we had. To get to be a part of sitting here with these guys, and more importantly, to be recognized by you, really seriously, the media, and to have been evaluated by the media is just different, but more than I could have expected. It is very, very rewarding. I will say this, and I'm not going to tell you whether I'd rather be sitting here or have that team out here on the field tomorrow. I can't really tell you which is the best. I hope you know which is the best.”
(on the knock at the door and being a first ballot Hall of Famer) “I am still trying to figure out what I am doing here. Since somebody almost kicked my hotel door down a few hours ago. First, the knock on the door I was … rumor has it that it is not really a knock, that you will know it is a definitive somebody else. We can all see how big Dave (Baker) is. So when the knock came it was like … I have my two sons here, my sister as well, it’s fun for everybody. I kind of thought what the knock was for, I understood what time of day it was and that we had a certain schedule to adhere to. I couldn’t open the door. I was shaking as I walked to the door. As soon as I opened it and as I saw Dave with the big smile on his face, you know as LT (LaDainian Tomlinson) said, since you already broke the ice, the tears started coming in a little bit. That is the best hug I have had in a long time. I mean I hugged him, he was telling us to do some stuff, ‘Congratulations, you need to be downstairs’, and then I don’t know what he said, but he gave me a great hug, he smelled good (laughter). It was a great moment. I just turned around. My two sons are standing there, and my sister is crying, my two sons are just in awe. I have kind of been speechless ever since. TD (Terrell Davis) mentioned it in the hallway a little bit ago. He was like, ‘You seem so cool with this.’ I am like, ‘I am not cool with it, I am still in shock. It was like I have seen a ghost and I am sitting here with all these great guys. I mean Kurt (Warner) has left us here for a minute. I mean Jerry Jones, TD, and Mort (Morten Andersen).’ It is crazy. LT is a guy that I played with in 2010. I knew he would be here. I think I expected it. I just can’t thank everybody enough.”
(on what it was like when you got the call and what went through your mind) “Yeah, first I cried. Let’s just get that out of the way now. It was a long day thinking about it. I had a lot of family in town of course. Born and raised here in the great state of Texas and coming back here to be a Hall of Famer now is incredible. You’re with tons of family and waiting for the knock at the door, or the call, but the knock at the door came, and I’ll tell you it’s like nothing else that I’ve ever experienced. I got emotional right away, because I just thought about the journey. I thought about being a small-town kid from up the road, and to now, going to Canton, Ohio.”
(on what the most he ever thought he was going to do when he was growing up in Waco, Texas) “Texas high-school football is everything. As a kid, high school felt like the NFL to us as kids. We couldn’t wait to get to high school. That’s how big Texas high school football is, and so that was my goal: to make it on the varsity team and maybe have some success on varsity. Certainly, I wanted to go to college but never imagined being in Canton, Ohio. High school was what I thought about as a kid growing up.”
(on representing the San Diego Chargers in the Hall of Fame) “When I got to San Diego, I was a young man. I was 21 years old, fresh out of college. That city raised me into the man that I am today. Those fans inspired me to run harder and dig deeper in times when I was tired in the fourth quarter and didn’t think I had anything left, and the chants of ‘L.T., L.T.’ really inspired me, and I really appreciate the support that they showed me and my family in that community. I served that community for a number of years and still do today, and I will always be grateful for what they did for me and my family. San Diego is like a second home to me, and I just can’t thank the people there in that community enough.”
(on what Junior Seau would say about the rookie he helped mentor) “I think Junior is smiling down right now. I think about my initiation to the San Diego Chargers. That first practice in just shells and just helmets, and Junior is running all over the field and that particular play it was my job to block him, and I had no idea where this man was coming from. And then there was a ‘hut,’ and Junior came running through the A-gap, and I’m thinking he’s going to slow down, and he didn’t slow down. He knocked me right on my butt, and he helped me up and we did it again, but afterwards he told me what I needed to do to last in the National Football League in order to be great. I learned a lot from him, and I just believe that he’s smiling down right now and saying, ‘My young protégé, he’s done a tremendous job.’”
(on this defining him and his emotions finding out) “It might not define me, but it adds to the definition. I kind of like it. You know, I will tell you what, it is as special as it is for all of us, but there a lot of people that know this man up here that is the President of the Hall of Fame now was actually the commissioner of the Arena Football League when I played in the Arena Football League, and so now to have him come knock on the door and tell me where our journey has come from way back then to now. It just kind of makes you reflect on everything. Our journey is unlike anybody else’s. It is such an honor to end up in Canton, and for the Super Bowls, usually my boys come, but my family doesn’t come, and yesterday my wife surprised me with my entire family. So, everybody in my family had a chance to be in that room, and that to me is really what is all about. These things are great, but they mean very little if you don’t have someone to share it with. Those 11 people that were in that room have shared this entire journey with me. So it was incredible to have them all here, and to be able to just share this moment together, because we will have a bust, but we all know in that bust there are a lot of different pieces of a lot of different people that helped us get there. For me, those 11 people in that room nobody has a bigger piece of that than them.”
(on if he thought he did enough to reach this point) “I don’t know. I mean the way my journey and whether it was starting my first game at 28 or the bumps in the road along the way in two different organizations. I don’t know if I ever really felt I did enough. I think what we all feel is when I was between the lines, I felt like I played this game as well as anybody. Is that enough to get in, I have no idea because you don’t really know what defines this. But, I will say even more than that because all these guys have great stats, and there a lot of guys with great stats. I was most proud of the fact that I was able to impact two different organizations. There are a lot people along this journey that said, ‘I don’t know’ because he was with two organizations and there was a lull in between, but I will tell you what the thing I want to define my career more than anything else was the fact that I got a chance, and was able to help two organizations kind of change their stripes, and if that was going to be the defining thing that kept me out. I was going to be more than proud to say that is what I want my career to be defined on. So, I never really knew if I had done enough, so to speak, but I was very proud of what I had done, and that is why when Kent (Somers) said that I always believed that it would never define me. How great would it be, of course, the icing on the cake. But I like to be defined more by, and I think all these guys are. When you think of a Hall of Famer, we can all talk about stats, but I texted a couple of my buddies today, and I said that when you know a Hall of Famer it is when you see them, and you understand that there is something different about them. And not just the stats, not just what they did, but it is the impact and how they played the game, and that is how I wanted to be remembered. And what an incredible honor to be remembered that way in the Hall of Fame with this great class and the other greats that are there.”
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