Almost immediately after receiving the good news of their election, each of the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame turn their attention to who they will ask to serve as their presenter at the annual enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio. The presenters chosen by this year’s enshrinees – Gene Hickerson, Michael Irvin, Bruce Matthews, Charlie Sanders, Thurman Thomas and Roger Wehrli – each played a significant role in their lives and careers. Their choices include NFL club owners, teammates, and a coach.
Hickerson, a standout guard who played his entire 15-year career with the Cleveland Browns, asked his longtime friend and former teammate Bobby Franklin to serve as his presenter. Franklin and Hickerson were not only teammates for seven seasons with the Browns; they were teammates for two seasons at the University of Mississippi. Gene was selected by Cleveland as a seventh round future draft pick in 1957, and joined the Browns in 1958. Franklin, a defensive back, reunited with Hickerson in 1960 after the Browns drafted him in the 11th round.
Irvin – like Hickerson, Matthews, Sanders and Wehrli – played his entire career for just one team, the Dallas Cowboys. The standout wide receiver has asked Cowboys team Owner, President, and General Manager Jerry Jones to present him. The two have maintained a close relationship that began when Jones purchased the Cowboys franchise in 1989, one year after Michael joined the team.
Jones’ team stewardship during Irvin’s remaining 11 seasons resulted in unprecedented success. In the Irvin-Jones era, the Cowboys improved from a 1-15 record in 1989 to Super Bowl victories following the 1992, 1993, and 1995 seasons.
"There was not one time I ever thought about playing for any man other than Jerry Jones or any other organization other than the Dallas Cowboys," Irvin told the media at his retirement press conference in 2000.
When Bruce Matthews announced that he had selected a Hall of Famer, a friend, a coach, and a teammate to be his presenter, it sounded as though he had invited four different people to be his Hall of Fame presenter. Actually, it’s just one. Hall of Fame guard Mike Munchak is not only Matthews’ longtime friend, he was for 10 seasons his teammate and for five seasons his position coach. You can add to the special relationship the fact that Matthews served as Munchak’s Hall of Fame presenter in 2001.
“I saw him first-hand as a player and the high level he played at for so many years,” Munchak remarked admiringly when he learned his friend would join him in Canton. “As a teammate he was great to watch. We pushed and motivated each other on a daily basis. I tried to have the same level of play and work ethic that Bruce brought to the table.”
Charlie Sanders has also selected an NFL club owner – Detroit Lions Owner and Chairman William Clay Ford – to be his presenter. "I called him up and asked him if he had one more left in him,'' Sanders said. Ford was the presenter when middle linebacker Joe Schmidt was inducted in 1973.
Sanders, who played 10 seasons with the Lions, picked Ford because of the special bond the two have developed over the years. Since retiring as a player in 1977, Sanders has served in a variety of positions in the Lions organization, including as an assistant coach and scout. He is currently the team’s assistant director of pro personnel. "Some people don't work 40 years in their entire life and I've worked 40 years for the same guy,'' Sanders proudly stated.
Thurman Thomas has chosen his former coach, Marv Levy, to speak on his behalf. Levy was responsible for drafting Thomas out of Oklahoma State 19 years ago despite lingering concerns about a knee injury he suffered during his junior year. As it turned out, the concerns were unwarranted and Thomas became the versatile workhorse of the Buffalo Bills offense for years to come.
"Without him, none of this happens for me and the other guys, like Jim (Kelly) and Andre (Reed) and Bruce (Smith),'' Thomas said. “I love that man, and it's going to be an honor for me to have him introduce me in Canton.''
Levy, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001, is the winningest coach in Bills' history with a a 112-70 regular season record and was 11-8 in the playoffs during his 11½ seasons with Buffalo. He currently serves as the team’s general manager.
Roger Wehrli has tapped former teammate and Hall of Fame safety Larry Wilson as his presenter. Wilson and Wehrli played in the same St. Louis Cardinals backfield for four seasons (1969-1972) and have maintained a strong friendship since. It’s that special relationship that motivated Wehrli to share his career achievement honor with his friend and teammate.
"That's what you relish and enjoy," he said, "sharing that with the teammates and friends you've built through competition and camaraderie is something that's hard to find outside of athletics.”
As a part of the special enhancements being created for this year’s enshrinement ceremony, the Hall of Fame presenters’ speech format will be a combination of live and filmed remarks. Also, as was done last year for the first time, immediately prior to stepping to the podium to make their acceptance speech, each new enshrinee will join his presenter at center stage for the dramatic unveiling of his bronzed bust.
In addition to their Enshrinement Ceremony responsibilities, presenters also play a key role during the gala Enshrinees Dinner conducted on the eve of the Enshrinement. It is there that they present their Enshrinee with his gold Hall of Fame blazer.
The Saturday, August 4, 2007 Enshrinement Ceremony will, for the first time, be conducted in primetime evening hours. Scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., the ceremony will include several new enhancements and will be televised nationally by both ESPN and the NFL Network.
Tickets for the ceremony are still available. Sideline tickets are $26 and floor seats are $52. Purchase enshrinement tickets now>>>
Class of 2007
All-time list of presenters