July 29, 2000 in Canton, Ohio
Dave's presenter, Mike Giddings (ex-49ers linebackers coach):
The video says it all. This man was a human highlight film in his own right. You long-time fans, doesn’t it seem like yesterday that the 49ers number 64 was standing cross-legged at the line of scrimmage? His hands on his hips. Looking and glaring down the other team’s offense. Ladies and gentleman, you are about to hear from the greatest, intimidating outside linebacker of all-time. This is a bold statement by his position coach, so lets listen to what a couple others said. First of all, from 1970, '71, '72 we won the NFC West only to be knocked out of the big one by Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys. Before one of those games, Coach Landry was asked “How do you attack that tough 49er defense?” He simply replied “The first thing you do it to figure out what to do away from their left outside linebacker.”
I had the pleasure of coaching a couple of Pro Bowls with Dick Butkus at middle linebacker. A few years back I asked Dick “What do you think of the qualifications for this year’s senior inductee for Canton?” He said simply “Name me a better one.” Those two roamed for a decade NFL fields simply throwing foes aside when they got in the way. Our great quarterback, the cerebral John Brodie, probably summed it up best, “All the man did was take the outside linebacker position and make it more important than the tight end.” Our tough strong safety Mel Phillips, the DB coach for Miami under coaches Shula, Johnson, and now Wannstedt added, “This man added five years to my career, because the tight ends simply never got off the line of scrimmage.”
There have been great outside linebackers following this man: Hendricks, Ham, Taylor, et al. He changed the position. He was an absolutely strong, naturally strong, Vale, Oregon farm boy. I used to say that his triceps went from his earlobe to his wrists. He simply manhandled blockers, but he had one concern, “Mike, don’t ever let me get beat deep on a pass.” Well this was tough because we always ask our outside backer to neutralize the tight end first, then cover the running back man-to-man. Very, very difficult when facing the Unitas Colts, because they had the great John Mackey at tight end and then the league’s fastest fullback Norm Bulaich. Sure enough, we’re back in Baltimore. Early on, Mackey blocks down, here comes Bulaich around the corner, your inductee in hot pursuit. Forty yards downfield, knocks down a pass with one of the great open field plays these eyes have ever seen. That closed the scouting reports. You can’t run at him. You can’t pass on him. So just stay away from him.
We had a special linebacker corps with the 49ers. Two middle linebackers, Ed Beard and Frank Nunley, our right outside backers Skip Vanderbundt and our key backup, Jim Snaidecki. I think a key tribute to any player, they’re all here today to pay tribute to this man as a great player and a great person.
Anyone who’s coached this game on any level knows there is a key saying when you’re surrounded by great players. Life has few moments such as this. For six years I had that feeling. Canton, Ohio, the feeling is back. Life has few moments such as this. I am indeed honored to present the pride of Vale, Oregon. The pride of the University of Oregon. The heart and soul of the first NFC West 49er champions. The proud husband of Merle. The proud father of footballing sons Josh and Justin and a long-time member of the Junction City School Board, Mr. Dave Wilcox.
This is great, isn’t it? Well I got my eight minutes, Mike, you used about four of them, so I’m going to hurry. First of all, I want to thank all of the people from Canton, Ohio. What a great experience this has been, they’re the greatest. Then I want to thank all the Hall of Fame people behind me for welcoming me into this special place. Thank all of you players before us that made the game what it is today. I want to thank all of the people that have had a part in making this day. I want to thank all the Wilcox's that are here. We’d be here for an hour and a half if we named them all. My brother and sisters and nieces and nephews, thanks for coming, guys.
I want to thank all of my friends that made the journey here, thank you, I know there were hardships and special things, thanks for coming. I need to say “Happy Birthday” to Gladys, my mother-in-law. She was 90 years old yesterday and couldn’t make it, she’s in Florida.
I need to thank my coaches in Vale, Oregon, my high school. Special memory for Arnie Lewis and his family. Boise Junior College, my old coach Lyle Smith and his wife and Coach Ray Lewis. Thanks, guys. From Oregon, Len Casanova and his staff. And I want to thank Lou Spadia, the general manager of the 49ers and the Morabito family, and Franklin Mieuli for giving me the opportunity to play football. I want to thank all my 49er teammates, Tommy Hart, Jimmy Johnson, Mel Phillips, Ed Beard, Nunley, Cedric Hardman. Krueger, Matt Hazeltine, John Brodie, Skip, Cass, Snaidecki, and I’m missing some of you. Thank guys for allowing me to be a part of their team.
I want to thank Chico, our equipment man for making sure all the rookies made sure what their places were when they came in. Chico also made sure a few of us were well-stocked with refreshments on those long five-hour plane trips home. Thanks Chico.
I thank Dr. Milburn, the great doctor, and a genuine fine person. And I want to thank the fans over the many years that I played, from Vale, Boise, Eugene and San Francisco. And thanks to all the people that joined us here today on this very special occasion.
Now we come to what I’ll call the Billy Shaw Rule, and for God sakes, introduce your wife, Billy. My wife Merle, the announcement came on our 28th anniversary on January the 29th. I want to introduce our son Josh, a WWF wannabe and Justin, a WWF not-wannabe.
I want to thank all the Hall of Fame staff for their help for the last few months. Thank the selection committee, and a special thanks to Paul Zimmerman, Ira Miller, and Bob Angelo. Thanks guys for helping me get here.
Congratulations Ronnie, Howie, Mr. Rooney, and Joe Montana. What a year to be selection to join these past greats. It is indeed an honor to stand up here in front of the greatest football players of all-time and being included in that group. If you think about it, of all the people that have played this game, from Little League to junior high, college, pro, and you select a few for enshrinement, this is truly amazing.
Football has given me a chance to meet people from all parts of the world. Traveled to all parts and had lots of memories. I did not have championship rings, but I have memories, and I’ll share some of those with you today.
Growing up in eastern Oregon, I actually wanted to play baseball. Harmon Killebrew a Hall of Famer from Paet, Idaho was my idol. But we never had a chance to play baseball much in Vale, so I played football. Vale High School in 50 years has won 11 state championships. We won two state championships and finished second and third once.
Boise Junior College was a great experience. In Oregon we played Ohio State and Penn State, Texas. We played the Sun Bowl, the Hula Bowl, the Coaches All-Star Game, the College All-Star Game in Chicago. I played at Oregon with great Mel Renfro, what a wonderful player. I played in all-star games with Charley Taylor and Paul Warfield, Paul Krause, Carl Eller, to name a few.
My first year with the 49ers, thought we were doing great. We won four games. After that year, I had started 12 of those games, went in and asked for a raise. I had been making $12,500. I asked for a $1,500 dollar raise. Lou Spadia had told me that if he’s going to pay me that much, he could not afford to keep me. So I settled for a $300 raise so the team would have money to give some of the other guys raises. Thanks a lot, Lou. When I tell people I played for the 49ers, they ask if I played with Joe Montana. I tell them I played before Joe and money.
Dan Fouts was our ball boy and was also in charge of keeping the water bucket full. That started Dan on a career in broadcasting, help him get him to where he is today. I remember bringing Lynn Swann along with Dan and his buddy Ahmad Rashad to my football camp in 19 … early '70s. And watched those guys go on and have great careers. And what a lot of fun it’s been for me.
I remember playing at Baltimore when Unitas was great, and every time they scored a touchdown, this horse would circle the stadium. When the 49ers came to play, they would bring a trailer load of horses. I actually felt sorry for those horses, as many times as they had to run around that damn stadium.
I played in a game at Kezar, when Jim Marshall picked up the ball and ran the wrong way. To give you an idea of how good we weren’t, two of our guys were chasing him, were going to try to tackle him, but thank God Jim was faster and they didn’t catch him.
Another part of history was a game in Chicago. We watched Gale Sayers score six touchdowns. Had the Bears not ran out of oxygen, he might of scored six more. It was the greatest performance in football history. And I remember going to the Pro Bowl that year and being so excited because Gale was going to be on the same team I was on. And I was going to see him up close for the first time.
I remember being selected to play in the Pro Bowl the first year the AFL and NFL all-star game played together. And I remember standing on the field by Deacon Jones or Butkus or some of those guys and just being in awe of all of the talent on the field. And I said “Dave, how did you ever get here from Vale, Oregon?” What a great feeling that was.
Now 30 years later I’m standing here with the greatest of all time. I don’t have words that would do justice to this moment, but I want to leave you with this thought. There are now 204 people in the Hall of Fame. The maximum seven people are elected each year for the next hundred years, there will be 904 people. Think of how many guys have been associated with this game and the past, and how many will be involved in the next hundred years. There are only so few that make it to this select group. Amazing, isn’t it? Again, thanks, this is just so very special.