O.J. Simpson Enshrinement speech

Pro Football Hall of Fame
August 3, 1985


Lou Saban (presenter):
Thank you very much.  Ladies and gentlemen and the Class of Football.  You don't know how difficult it’s been for me to live in the shadow of an O.J. Simpson.  But, it is with great pleasure that I make this presentation.  I was tremendously impressed with the parade.  As I road down Cleveland Avenue, the fans showed this young man great respect and dignity.  I am very proud of that because he is one hell of a man. 

We are here today to recognize O.J. Simpson for his talents on the football field.  All-American, Heisman trophy winner, All-Pro, record 2,003 yards in a single season—and may I add in 14 games—athlete of the decade. Let it also be said that he is far more than just a great athlete.  He is a giant among his peers.  In a business that too often forgets its own, O.J. has never forgotten his friends.  He was always ready to help and give us of his time.  He never needed a reason; he just felt it was his duty.  He felt that no man was an island that we should all care.  He gave credit where credit was due and expressed himself as he felt necessary.  He is a man of feeling and compassion.  He understood himself, which is far more important than anything else I know and appreciated the talents of others. He was always respected by the media and he respected the media, his fans and his friends. 

I never saw him refuse a handshake or an autograph.  Now don't misunderstand, he was not without his failures.  The battle to overcome all obstacles.  He considered turning his back on professional football.  We asked him to reconsider because he had a most difficult start.  He did, we gave him the ball, and the rest is history.  I must tell you a true story.  After my mother, my little Croatian mother, found out that O.J. was returning, she called and said ‘Louie, don't be stupid, give O.J. the football.’  He was magic on the gridiron as you all know. 

I just regret that he was not able to play on a championship football team.  Needless to say, I took great satisfaction in his performance.  Thanks for the ride Juice, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  You’re the greatest. 

He is a man with c1ass and a man with dignity. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you O.J. Simpson.  He belongs in the Hall of Fame because he earned it.  I give you O.J. Simpson, the Juice.

O.J. Simpson:
Thank you, thank you very much. Oh boy. Thank you. Ever since January when they named the members that would be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, I had a problem. That problem was what would you say, what would you say at a time like this and over the last few months, I thought about it and thought about it and it was a few weeks ago that I started to realize just about the only thing you could do here was to give thanks to so many people because without their contributions I wouldn't be here tonight.  It was earlier in this week that I guess I was laying in bed—I was in New York with Joe and Gifford practicing for some Monday Night Football—and I started thinking of all the people who’ve made a contribution to my life and finally—I guess about one o'clock in the morning—I said, ‘Christ, Juice, you’ve thought of ‘em all.’  And I said, ‘Well, let me run through it one more time,’ and I ran through it and I was pretty sure I got everybody.  The only problem was, it took me 43 minutes to name everybody.  Don't worry, I am not going to take that long here. 

Well, let me get started by first of all thanking Pete Elliott and the Hall of Fame committee for the kindness and the consideration that they’ve shown my family and friends and myself in making us feel welcome here. I want to say to my fellow enshrinees, that Hall of Fame or not, man, I feel special just being around you guys.  I want to say to the Hall of Fame members here, ‘You don't know what this is to walk around here.’ You wonder do you belong with this group of guys. 

I see Nitschke, and Lenny Moore, and Doug Atkins, Sam Huff and my hero Gale Sayers over there, Dick “Night Train” Lane. You know, as a kid, I watched these guys and I read about them and, you know, I figured, well, I must have done something good or something right to be here and I just want you to know that I will never let you guys down man. I will live up to the honor of being in this Hall and being on your team. 

As far as my career is concerned, I want to start off by thanking the City of San Francisco. It was on those school yards and in those playgrounds that I was taught the principles of fair play and good sportsmanship.  I especially want to thank the counselors and directors at the Potrero Recreation Center and my high school, Galileo, and my teammates and coaches there, George Poppin, Larry McInerney and a guy that if I could have a co-presenter here he would be standing here with Lou Saban—a guy named Jack McBride. 

You know there are people in your life who teach you things that stay with you. And I can recall that Jack McBride was one of those guys who had that effect on me.  I recall it was my sophomore year at Galileo, and I was the star of the jayvee football team and it was the week of the championship game and a few of my buddies and I—Joe Bell, who is out here, and Al Cowlings—we had decided to ditch a class and we had gone up to the third floor lavatory and we were shooting dice down there, you know.  And while we were down there shooting amongst the nickels and dimes, all of a sudden there was this size 14 shoe, you know.  We looked up and there was big Jack McBride. 

You know, we knew that our head varsity coach was going to retire and Jack McBride was one of the candidates to be head coach and we knew what it would mean for him to win this jayvee championship, so we thought he would let us go, you know, maybe run a few laps, stay out after practice, but no he started marching down to Dean Smith's office. Dean Smith was notorious for five day suspensions, so I was trying to tell the coach, ‘Hey coach there’s a game this week.’  And I was trying to remind him that maybe the head coaching job was on the line for him.

Well, I'll never forget Jack McBride because he told me, he said, ‘O.J., in this world there are rules that we all must live by.’ He said, ‘You’ve gotta learn that if you’re ever going to be successful in this world, you are going to have to learn to accept the responsibilities for your actions.’ And, I don't know, it didn't hit me right then, but it started grew on me as years went on because I knew I was this guy's favorite and he turned me in, he would have turned me in anyway. And I guess that is when I began to realize that it really, really is secondary if you win or lose. It’s how you play the game in life and on the field that really matters. So I'll always be grateful to Jack McBride. 

I want to thank my junior college, my City College of San Francisco, my coaches there, Dutch Elston, Pop Schwartz, Mr. Lawson. I must admit it was the most fun I had ever had in football.  There was no pressure. The coaches had tenure, you know, so they didn't have to worry about their jobs. All they cared about was that we would qualify to go on to a four-year school and preferably to schools of our choice. It is no wonder that in that environment we won two championships. 

Of course, the school of my choice was the University of Southern California, and I can't imagine any school educating a guy and preparing him for the world more than USC did me.  They allowed me to play on some great teams there. We won a national championship, broke a world record in track.  I want to thank John McKay for the confidence he showed in me.  He let me carry the ball.  He taught me about running the football.  I recall one time when I had carried the ball my first year there 47 times and this was when it was unheard of for a guy to carry the ball that much.  All the press and people were concerned about it and McKay turned to me and said, ‘I don't know what you are worried about, the ball ain't that heavy.’

 I also want to thank a coach there—a guy that they called my daddy when I was at USC—a  man named Marv Goux. It was Marv that recruited me to S.C. and I guess he was the guy to help me understand that if you gonna realize any dream to realize your dream in life is going to take a lot of work and a certain amount of sacrifice. And it was Goux that got me into USC.  It was Goux that made sure I stayed at USC by coming to my apartment every day and making sure I didn't over sleep and that I was going to class. I want to thank all of my coaches in pro ball, especially the owner Ralph Wilson and Pat McGroder, and all the coaches I had and teammates I had at Buffalo. I learned a little something from all of them, but the man I have to give my biggest thanks is the man who is really directly responsible for me being here, my presenter here, Lou Saban. 

You know, Lou came into my life at a very difficult time for me.  I hadn't done anything for three years and I was really thinking about quitting and I will never forget the day when he first got there. He sat me down and told me, ‘Son, I think you have gotten a raw deal here and I want you to know I think a lot of your ability. I am going to give you the ball and if you bear with me, I'll get the guys around you so that you can go on and be the star that you should be.’ And it was just through his will, through his determination. He took a bunch of guys who were castoffs from other teams and a couple of rookies and with the help of the finest offensive line coach that I ever heard of, Jim Ringo, they took this group of misfits and young players and they turned them into the Electric Company. I want to tell you they turned on the Juice.

I don't know what I can say about those guys—Dave Foley, and Mike Montler, and Donnie Green, Paul Seymour, Joe DeLamielleure, Bobby Chandler, J.D. (Hill), “Bubba” Braxton and a guy who I think is the epitome of the spirit of a football player, Reggie McKenzie. A lot of people don't know that it was Reggie's dream that we would go for 2,000 yards. It wasn't my dream and it was through the love of Reggie and the love of these group of guys. Believe me, they weren't the most talented group of guys in the world, but I don't think any team had a feeling for one another more than this group of men had, and I really feel I represent all of them standing here today. 

You know, away from the football field there are guys that are very important that we all had to work with through our careers, a group of men called PR men. Their job is to take the star and polish him up and make him shine, and I’d had the best in my career. I had a guy named Don Anderson at USC and the late Jack Horrigan when I first got to Buffalo and a man who I just think is the best, and I think Roger Staubach will agree with me. He was Roger's PR man at the Naval Academy, and I just think he is the best man there is. His name is L. Budd Thalman and I know “L” is here today and I know, L. Budd, you are around here somewhere.

 I also, and I will try to wrap this up, there is a support group off the field, you know, a group of people who are your friends and your family who care less if you win or loose, if you had a good game, if you didn't have a good game. I have had the best support group that any guy could hope for.  A lot of them are here now.  I know I wouldn’t be here if it wasn't for Marilyn O’Brien and Skip Taft and Cathy Randa, my friends who are here. I see Wayne Hughes back there. Joe, and Marvin, and Mark, and my old buddy Joe Bell back there and Frank Olsen over here, all these people who have contributed to my life and my career. My best friend Al Cowlings, who my teammate in the third grade, and thanks to what is the class of Eddie DeBartolo and Bill Walsh and the San Francisco 49ers. They allowed us to play together in my final year in our hometown of San Francisco.

I want to thank my family. I see my sister, Shirley, Carmelita, my brother Truman because I know that no matter what I was, if I was a window washer or a bus driver, they all would make me feel just as loved. My kids, no father could ask for better kids, more loving kids. They keep me on my toes like any teenager kids would. I love ‘em.  My wife, Nicole who, came into my 1ife at what is probably the most difficult time for an athlete, at the end of my career. And she turned those years into some of the best years I’ve had in my 1ife, babes.

My dad, Jimmy. What do you say about your dad, you know? There are people who are raised in broken homes. Even though my dad didn't live under the same roof as us during most of my youth, he was always there, dad. He was always there. I always had a father. I love you for it.  And, I don't know, what do you say about the most important person in your 1ife? I'm just glad she’s here today. My mother. I mean you just don't know what it is to be 8 years old and have all your friends think that you have the best mother in the neighborhood. 

I remember when I was about 9 years old, my mother worked all her life and she took the whole family on vacation to visit her sister in Las Vegas and she had two weeks off—she worked the graveyard shift in San Francisco General Hospital for 30 something years. And while we were down there, about five days into the vacation, I had to play in my first Little League baseball game and I was moping around and she noticed how sad I was and, I don’t know, she drove me 700 miles in the middle of this vacation, she took me 700 miles back to San Francisco so I wouldn't miss my first Little League game. I know I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn't for my mother's prayers.

I want to thank God for when I think about history and all the great people for allowing me to live at a time when such basic talents of body functions as running and jumping would be worthy of applause. I want to thank all the fans, especially those in Buffalo. They were out there when I couldn't see the other goal line, when I couldn't see the sidelines and there were 80,000 of ‘em in the stands and I just want all the fans in the NFL to know how much I appreciate it. No matter what stadium I would play in, you cheered me and made me feel appreciated and welcome. And I want to tell you that I know now already in my heart and in my memories the things that I will miss the most about this game is the sound of your applause and your cheers. 

Thank you very much.
 



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