2006 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony
August 5, 2006
Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium
VIDEO: Watch Harry Carson's enshrinement speech
DONALD CARSON: First of all, I'd like to thank God for allowing me to be here today. I would also like to thank my father who selected me for this opportunity. He could have chosen anyone else, but instead he chose little old me. Thanks, dad. I appreciate it.
When my father first asked me to present him, I said, ‘Sure,’ without hesitating. But as the day got closer, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to say. I had so much I wanted to say to you, but they only gave me two minutes to speak, so I kind of wound it down.
I thought to myself, I can talk about the fishing trips we went on, me and my brother, many, many fish that we caught, but that would be a lie. We didn't catch anything. We never caught anything. We mainly sat on the boat and caught sunburn (smiling).
But the time we spent was always great. The one thing I can talk about my dad is my dad as a father and as a person. Just thinking back, just about a month ago, we went to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland for my six month checkup with my illness. The doctor there, you know excuse me. The doctors there it was supposed to be a one day trip. The doctors didn't exactly like the progress I was making and decided undergoing another treatment is something I would need to do as soon as possible.
While sitting there, while the doctors were making their decisions on different things, my dad asked me, Is there anything from home that you want? I was like, ‘No,’ not even thinking about it. Then I thought, man, my roommate is out of town. I thought to myself, saying it out loud without thinking, ‘Man, my fish are going to die.’ I didn't think nothing of it.
But later on that afternoon, it was late, around 6 or something, my dad jumped in the car, drove from Maryland to Savannah, Georgia, just to feed my fish, which didn't really mean that much because they were like $2 fish from Wal Mart. But I don't know too many people who would do such a thing like that. But my father did. Being the person that he is, that's the type of thing that he does. He goes out of his way to do things for others when necessarily he doesn't have to.
My father always talks to his kids about their needs and wants. So he always says, ‘Is it a need or is it a want?’ He has this thing with hand movements. If it's a want, you really don't need it. Then he'll go into some useless speech we usually don't listen to, it goes in one ear and out the other. But as I grow older, I realize, you know, I'm appreciative to my father for his life lessons that he's taught me.
If I ask my father today whether the Hall of Fame is a need or a want, he will probably say it's not a need, because going to nine Pro Bowls, he was voted by his opposition and the players he played against. That was enough to validate his career. He would say it's a want. He wouldn't say it's a want for him, he would say it's a want for his family, friends and fans, because the people want it so dearly for him.
Thinking about it, I would say he's right. The Hall of Fame isn't a need or a want for you, dad, it's something that you so deserve.
So with that, I'm going to say I love you and I'm proud to be your son. Ladies and gentlemen, it brings me great honor to present to you my father, my friend, my hero, Harry Carson.
HARRY CARSON: I want to apologize ahead of time because I know I'm going to forget something. I always do. I didn't write a speech. I didn't feel like I needed to write a speech.
I'm so thankful that my son presented me this afternoon. He is definitely a man. He's been through so much in the last seven months, more than I probably could have gone through. I never knew that needles were so long. But I've been his wing man and we've been hanging in there together. The family has come together. With your prayers, he will be okay.
I had the opportunity to play a fantastic game with fantastic people. When I was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, some people asked me, ‘Why aren't you happy about being elected?’
Well, I can't be happy about it until I get one or two things off of my chest, and please indulge me.
As a Hall of Famer, I want to implore the NFL and its union to look at the product that you have up on this stage. These are great individuals. The honor of making it into the Hall of Fame is great, but it was even greater to have the opportunity to play in a league with 18,000 individuals. There are some of the best individuals I've ever encountered. We'd get on the field and we'd fight tooth and nail, we'd try to knock each other out, then we'd walk off the field, pat each other on the rear end, and say, Congratulations, hang in there, whatever.
Those individuals I am extremely proud of participating in a game, and it is just a game, I'm extremely proud to have participated in that game with those 18,000 individuals.
I would hope that the leaders of the NFL, the future commissioner, and the player association do a much better job of looking out for those individuals. You got to look out for 'em. If we made the league what it is, you have to take better care of your own.
The other thing I'd like to say is I congratulate Bill Willis on this, the 60th anniversary, of the integration of the NFL. It should have never happened. When you have a player like Fritz Pollard, having played in the '20s, being shut out, it should have never happened. I applaud Commissioner Tagliabue, the chairman of the diversity committee, Dan Rooney, for their efforts in bringing about a greater sense of diversity in the National Football League.
I hope that the owners and those in the positions of power will open it up to a greater sense of diversity and understand that even those players who have played the game who are looking to get into coaching give them a shot.
I am the one individual who probably should not be standing before you this afternoon. I am so much unlike a football player. Physically I look like a football player, but inside I have my mother's heart. My mother's heart is being gentle, being caring, looking out for people.
So to be a football player, and when I first went out for the football team, it was not good for me, it was not good. That first day of grass drills, cut aways, all that stuff, it was a shock to my system, shock to my system. So I quit. I did not like the taste of being a quitter.
The next day I went to the Florence Boys' Club and I joined the team. I had an opportunity to play and ease back into what football is all about.
From that point on, I went back to my old high school, Wilson High School, and I went out for the football team. I have some Wilson people here from Florence, South Carolina. I went back, and I did whatever I had to do to stick it out. At that point I realized to play this game, you have to be something special, you have to be dedicated, you have to have a hunger, you have to be committed to playing the game.
I committed myself to playing the game. I went through high school, earned a scholarship to South Carolina State. South Carolina State, I know you're in the house. I continue to say, it's the best four years of my life. South Carolina State turned me from being a boy into a man. I was fortunate enough to be drafted by Marty Schottenheimer to play with the New York Giants.
When I was in college, also in high school, I never played, never played linebacker. But Marty had the foresight to see me as an athlete, to give me an opportunity to play middle linebacker.
As a middle linebacker, coming out of a small black school in the south, being asked to play the quarterback be the quarterback of the defense, and never having played the game, that was a tremendous responsibility. It was a tremendous charge that I was handed.
Having gone to South Carolina State, having remembered what all of those black teachers, Holmes Elementary School, Mrs. Washington, Mrs. McGee, the pride they tried to instill in me and other young students in elementary school, it was about being a man and having pride in yourself.
So I took it upon myself to be the best player I can be and to represent. And I realized that by having that opportunity to play in the National Football League, it wasn't just about dollars, it wasn't about cars or anything like that, it was much greater. For me, it was about having the opportunity. Let me just tell you, when I played on any level, there had been players much better than me, much better. When I used to play sand lot ball, I wasn't the first one picked. When I played high school ball, I wasn't the best. When I played college ball, I wasn't the best my first two years (smiling). My last two years, I was pretty damn good.
But there were individuals who were much better than me much better than me. But for whatever reason, I think God chose me. I'm not a religious person, but I am a spiritual person. God chose me to do something that was very special. I think that was to represent. You hear Donald talk about it. When I stand here before you today, this ain't about me, this is not about me, this is about my family, this is about Gladys Carson, who took my name and put it on the altar every Sunday. It wasn't about me being a football player, it was about me being a man and staying out of trouble. It was about Florence, South Carolina. It was about my friends who I played with. It was about South Carolina State.
Eventually it became about the New York Giants, and all Giant fans. So it's never really been about me. It's never been about me. My college coach is here. Willie Jeffries, I want to acknowledge Coach Jeffries. Coach Oree Banks who gave me an opportunity to play at South Carolina State. I was given a charge. It wasn't anything that was spoken to represent. Wherever I went, I had to represent where I came from. That was on the field and off the field. I was given that charge.
Well, I've done the best that I could. I'm here maybe a little late, but I'm here. I don't care how long it's taken. All of you who have been my supporters, you Giant fans, you know what it's all about, you know what it's all about. You've been there for me. You remember those years when the Giants sucked, the Giants were awful. You know about it. Even the Redskin fans know about it. Even the Cowboy fans know about it. Even the Eagles fans know about it.
It's been a tremendous ride. It's been my honor to represent all of you, the National Football League, the Giant organization, my family, and I think the New York Giant fans.
Just for a moment, let me just say, this is the one thing that I've said for the last five or six years: if I ever made the Hall of Fame, I want to acknowledge Giant fans, but I also want to acknowledge all of those fans who perished on September 11th, 2001.
That was the one thing I wanted to do, just in thinking about being a Hall of Famer, being able to acknowledge those who perished on that day.
I didn't write a speech. I didn't feel a need to where I a speech. I just wanted to speak from my heart.
I'm happy about being here. Gary Myers, who wrote a stare on me for New York daily news, and Vinny DiTrani, who was my advocate for the Hall of Fame, he wanted me to say one thing, and that was I feel great about being here. Vinny and Gary, I feel great about being here. I'm very happy that my mother I'm sure is looking down on me. My mother has probably already met Wellington Mara. My father, Eddie Carson, they've met Wellington Mara. They've also met my roommate Troy Archer. They've also met by old teammate Doug Coder. They've also met a Giant Hall of Famer, two Giant Hall of Famers, Rosie Brown and Emlen Tunnell. I'm pretty sure they've met my No. 1 fan, Betty Morgan.
I'm pretty sure they're here somewhere. I am excited, and that's the first time I've said anything about being excited about the Hall of Fame, I'm excited about being that person to be able to represent any football player who snapped on that chin strap, any football player who has had a sprained ankle, any football player who knows what it's like to not want to have to run an extra lap, an extra sprint, but he does it.
I think the most important thing about being here today, seeing this bust, I come from a very proud race of people. When I think about those who proceeded me who never had this opportunity. We didn't come through Ellis Island. When I think about all of those, my ancestors who never could even dream about a moment like this.
As I said before, I'm not a religious person, but I'm a spiritual person, I feel very strongly that my maker put me in this position for a reason, and that is to represent all of those who preceded me and to represent those who will come after me.
I'm told that this bust will be around for a good 40,000 years. That's a long time. I'm looking at my granddaughter here, my nieces, my granddaughter's children and grandchildren to be able to come to Canton, Ohio, to see what their ancestor did and to know there's absolutely nothing beyond their reach.
As I enter the Hall of Fame, I take so many people with me: my teammates, my family, my close friends, my coaches. I take my ancestors, I take my children. Most importantly I take the fans who have encouraged me game after game after game and over the last 18 years after I left the game of football.
I want to thank you. You've made me feel loved. With the situation I've gone through, I've gotten so much support from people, not just in New York, but around the world. I give thanks to all of you. This is for all of you. It's not just about me, but this is for all of you. Thank you.
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