Thank you, guys. All right, family. All right, Pittsburgh family. First, I want to give a shout out to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, because I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for Him. I'm almost lost for words being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This is an incredible honor, and I feel very privileged and humble. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be standing here before you on this stage in Canton, Ohio among all these great players.
I would like to thank the Hall of Fame Voting Committee. With so many great candidates to choose from it must have been an unbelievably difficult job. Thank you Pro Football Hall of Fame staff for all your hard work and dedication and making this entire week a true celebration.
Very few things in life are entirely the work of just one person, and this is no exception. So I must pay tribute to the enormous contributions made by my parents, family, coaches, teachers, fans, and Steeler organization, without which, none of this would have been possible. I certainly wouldn't be standing here before you today. This honor is as much for them as it is for me.
To my parents, I would like to thank you for giving me life. I've been so blessed to have you as parents, and I've been so blessed to have two sets of parents, Robert and Bonnie Dawson, Bee and Veleria Shavers. I want to thank you guys for all your love and support throughout my life. You've always been there for me in good and bad times. You knew when to come down hard on me or when I just needed a kind and encouraging word. You taught me how to be self sufficient and to take charge of any situation, no matter the circumstances. You taught me how to overcome obstacles, adversity, and to continue to press forward and make a better tomorrow.
Because of these lessons you taught me, I am standing here before you today on stage, and I want to thank you guys from the bottom of my heart. I love you guys.
To my brothers, Demarcus, DeShawn, Dearron, and Gene. I want to thank you guys for your unconditional support and love throughout my whole growing up being my brothers, unconditional friends my entire life. Even though when I was in charge, because I was the oldest and I bullied you guys and made you guys clean up early in the morning. I know you guys didn't like that and we had some talks about that. But I just want to thank you for being unconditional friends to me my entire life and I love you guys as well.
To Regina, Brandon, and Briana Dawson. Regina Dawson, I thank you for always being there for me. I want to thank you for all the sacrifices you've made to allow me to focus on my football career. I never had to worry about anything at all because I knew you were going to take care of it. You allowed me to mature as a man and father, and that's why I'm standing here today.
To my son, Brandon, and to my daughter, Briana, I want to tell you that I'm proud of both of you. The happiest days of my life were when the two of you guys were born, and to see you both grow up to mature into mature and beautiful, kind hearted adults. You continue to make me proud, and I am blessed that God chose me as your dad.
I want to send out an early birthday wish to my daughter who is going to be turning 19 tomorrow. We'll be celebrating that tomorrow as well.
As I've shared with my own kids, I hope today to share one lesson from my life with young people on the field or off. The essence of it is this, do everything with a purpose. Live, act, play, work with a purpose, with a passion, and most importantly with honor. I am thankful to those who ignited that fire for me in my youth and stoked it year after year.
Throughout life we have people that come across our paths for a season and some for a lifetime. I've had some great influences in my life. My presenter, Coach Steve Parker was one of those influences that saw some hidden potential that I didn't see in myself. If it were not for coach Parker coming up to me in the hallways of Bryan Station Senior High and asking me, “Son, where have you been all my life?” I never would have played football, and I definitely won be here today. So I want to thank Coach Parker for having that confidence. I don't know what he saw in me. I don't know if it was size or what. But I want to thank Coach Parker.
Also, I don't know what he saw in a 6 foot, 200 something pound skinny teenager, I guess I'll never know. But I also want to thank two of my high school teammates, Mr. Mark Logan, and Cornell Burbage. Those guys were instrumental in allowing me or getting me to go out for football. If it hadn't been for those guys, even though Coach Parker was a driving force, those guys were on the track team with me, and those guys kept saying you need to go out. You need to go out. So sooner or later I listened, and went out and here I am today.
I want to thank the University of Kentucky and its administration for allowing me the honor of attending a great educational institution. Thank you to my coaches, Jerry Claiborne, Pat Etcheberry, Jake Hallum, John Devlin, and the many more assistant coaches who challenged me each and every day. My strength Coach Etcheberry who challenged me in the weight room each and every day, and called me a mullet because he knew it would motivate me the next time. And for most people that don't know what a mullet is, it's a fish they catch, chop it up and make it bait or chum, so he used to call me that each and every day.
To my offensive line coach I'm sorry. I'm going to back up here. To John Devlin who placed a freshman on the scout team to challenge the first defense each practice and told me to kick their butts each and every time. To my offensive line coach, Jake Hallum for getting on my butt each and every practice about being tough and relent less on the field.
Also to my head coach, Jerry Claiborne, for repeating his motto, be the best. I heard that for five years when I attended UK, then one day a light went off in my head and said, okay, why am I out here if I am not going to be the best player on the field? And that's what my goal was no matter what the task, and that became my purpose.
Thank you to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and the Rooney family. For all you have done for me throughout my career and the contributions to the Pittsburgh community and the NFL itself.
I had the pleasure of being coached by Hall of Famer coach Chuck Noll, and soon to be Hall of Famer, Coach Bill Cowher. I believe I would not be here today and have achieved the level of success I did if it hadn't been for the trusted two men, and that was Coach Bill Cowher and offensive coordinator Ron Earhardt. These two men had the trust and confidence in me to make adjustments to defenses and pull in from the offensive center position. At that time this was not something that was done on a regular basis or at all in the NFL. Thank you Coach Cowher and Ron Earhardt for your support and confidence in me.
To my offensive line coaches, Ron Blackledge and Ken Stephenson, I know that I drove you crazy every once in a while by forgetting the snap count or snapping the ball early or even going the wrong way on a play. You guys trusted me to take control of the offensive line and never lost confidence in me.
I would like to say thank you to my teammates and my O-Line fraternity, because we all contributed to this honor, and it would not have been possible without you.
I would like to point out one teammate in particular, and that is the great iron Mike Webster. Mike taught me how to be a true professional, whether he knew it or not. I observed Mike each day and saw how he approached every aspect of the game. Mike used to be the first ones in the weight room in the mornings, first ones in the meetings, and I would write every single word down that the coach said, and he was in his 15th year, and he probably knew the offense better than the coaches.
Mike was a leader, whether he wanted to be or not, because he led by example. I tried to emulate everything Mike did. Mike had a profound impact on my life and even today I still try to lead by example and be like Mike. Thank you, my friend, for playing and living with honor. We miss you.
I took great pride representing the Steelers and the great tradition and the high standards. Being a Steeler meant being a blue collar worker with an unwavering commitment to excellence, and that's what being a Steeler meant to me. I hope I made the Steeler Nation proud.
Thank you to the fans because you guys are what this game is all about. Thank you for your years of support and dedication you have shown to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL. Without you, there is no NFL. I want to thank you. God bless you, and good night.