Only 267 bronze busts reside in the Hall of Fame Gallery inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. They "immortalize" the greatest players, coaches, and contributors that this game has produced. Each week during the 2011 NFL Season we will sit down for a Q&A with one of these legends.
My main hobby at this point is to try and improve my golf score since I have a little bit more time to devote to it. I have played the game of golf now for at least 50 years. I was first introduced to it as a student at Ohio State University.
LAST BOOK YOU READ:
"The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama.
I enjoy listening to classical music particularly when I am reading or just relaxing. I was exposed to it years ago when I was in college and did not have an appreciation for it. But, I've really found it has a soothing effect.
I guess I would single out that my all-time favorite from an entertainment source was "Shane" which was a Western, a classical Western. They just don't make those kinds of movies anymore.
I eat poultry more than anything else, particularly turkey.
FAVORITE NFL TEAM AS A CHILD:
That's pretty much an easy one. I grew up in northeast Ohio and the very first team I was exposed to happened to be one of the great teams in pro football and that was the Cleveland Browns.
FAVORITE NFL STADIUM OTHER THAN CLEVELAND STADIUM OR THE ORANGE BOWL?
Well, it's no longer standing but old Yankee Stadium. I had the privilege of playing there and it was truly exciting for me because I heard so much about it when I was a youngster growing up. I was a huge baseball fan and I know the history of baseball and I played a lot of baseball as youngster. I know about the New York Yankee history and tradition … the great Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and many other greats who played with those Yankee dynasty teams. So when I had an opportunity to play there it was significant because I was playing in a historical venue.
WHY DID YOU PICK NO. 42?
I had no choice in picking number 42 as a matter of fact. The number was given to me in my first year of eligibility at Ohio State University. And, the story behind that is I approached the equipment manager and asked him very nicely if I could possibly exchange No. 42 for my high school number which was No. 45. And, he looked at me and pushed the shirt back across the counter to me and said, 'you'll take No. 42 and like it.'
DID YOU HAVE ANY PRE-GAME SUPERSTITIONS?
Not really. I ate very little because I didn't want to have a sense internally that I was weighted down. I ate very little or next to nothing before playing ball games. It probably wasn't a good thing to do but nevertheless it worked out for me.
WHAT'S BETTER ABOUT THE NFL TODAY THAN WHEN YOU PLAYED?
I would say certainly overall that athletes are bigger, stronger, faster. The game as a whole is very entertaining and exciting for the fan base. Even more so than other periods, I think.
WHAT WAS BETTER ABOUT THE NFL DURING YOUR CAREER THAN THE GAME TODAY?
I played in Kezar Stadium upon arriving in the league in 1964. I had knowledge of those San Francisco teams that featured such great players like Y.A. Tittle, John Henry Johnson, Joe Perry, and Hugh McElhenny. They were nicknamed the "Million Dollar Backfield," and many players today are individually paid a million dollars. But that backfield was deemed that fabulous that they named them "Million Dollar Backfield!"
It was another period of pro football which is the building blocks and foundation of where this game is today. I'm kind of an old school type individual so I liked Kezar Stadium, I liked Yankee Stadium, I liked Detroit's old Briggs Stadium. These stadiums had so many great performers who played there … I like to reflect back on the past because they were the real giants and the foundation of the game today.
ONE PERSON WHO INFLUENCED YOU MOST IN LIFE:
I'd be hard pressed to identify one, I admire a lot of people, those closest to you. And, there were a number of people who were close to me. My father and my mother initially who certainly gave me a value system. Then, when I went outside the home, it started in grammar school. The man who may have launched it all for me was my sixth grade gym teacher, Clemons Seimdelia, who also happened to be the football coach at my first alma mater, First Street Elementary School in Warren, Ohio. He obviously saw something in me that I didn't see in myself because I was terrified to go out for football. And, he gave me the nudge to push me out there into that arena, and it was touch football, it wasn't tackle football in those days. But, once I got out there I found out I could compete against the other kids. Ironically, that team was a championship team that won the city championship in Warren. More importantly, and little did I now at that time, it was an undefeated team. I would again play on an undefeated team later in life on the professional level that was of historic importance in the National Football League. Listen to Warfield describe the influence of Martin Luther King>>>
WHAT MAKES YOU MOST PROUD ABOUT YOUR HALL OF FAME CAREER?
I guess what makes me most proud is when I look back on it, it embodies what we want to believe in this society that through hard work, sacrifice, and dedication and perseverance, that if one is willing to invest in those that you can reach the very top of a given profession. My objective was not to be a Hall of Fame player, I just didn't associate that being with me. There were legends, many of which with the Cleveland Browns organization, Marion Motley who I admired when I was kid growing up, Otto Graham, Dante Lavelli, Len Ford, Bill Willis. Those players were the individuals who were on the "Mount Rushmore" of football. Never did I view that I would be there.
Yet, I had goals and objectives. And my goal every ball game was to play to the best of my ability, to work as hard as I possibly could. In team sports, one learns there are roles for him to play and that he is part of a team. If I do my part then I'll help the team be successful. And out of all of that everybody will share and everyone will receive recognition for their contributions.
And at the end of the day I think that I was very fortunate that others looked at my contribution and felt like I deserved to be a part of something that is even bigger and larger which is the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
WHEN IF EVER DID YOU REALIZE YOU MAY SOMEDAY MAKE THE HALL OF FAME?
Not until they called me (laugh). It's just something I didn't associate with me. It was a privilege to be selected to play in the National Football League … I was in a golf tournament one time and became more than acquainted with Brooks Robinson, who of course is one of baseball's great third basemen and in the Baseball Hall of Fame. We were talking and we came to the consensus that Halls of Fame were something that were so distant we never even thought about it. We just tried to go out and play at the best of our ability, he did it every day and I did it every Sunday. In the final analysis those who make that decision felt that what we did and our contribution on the field of play warranted us being inducted in such a very, very, very special place.
WAS GENE SLAUGHTER YOUR ONLY CHOICE AS A PRESENTER?
Yes he was … I did not play tackle football my first two years of junior high school. I played basketball and ran track and played baseball during the summers but did not play football because I was not big enough.
I had made the determination that I was not going to participate in football. But one particular spring day of my freshman year, all the kids that were on the football team were asked to meet outside the gymnasium because the new head football coach had just been hired and wanted to talk to us about going out for the high school football team. I already made up my mind I wasn’t going to go out for football but nevertheless was one of those kids that were out there for that presentation.
That was the first time I met Gene Slaughter. He spoke to us and I had never heard anything like that presentation. It impacted me in such a way, that after I heard him talk, it was a grabber. It really grabbed me. But, even though I feared the unknown I just decided that I had to go up to the high school and find out what the program was all about and what role I would play. So, that’s what got me to high school football.
And once there, I found myself always trying to prove that I could live up the standards that Gene Slaughter set for all of us, not just me individually. And, it all worked out!
WHAT’S YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OFF THE FOOTBALL FIELD?
I hope that I have been for my immediate family, my wife and our two children, not just supportive and a strong family person for them but I’ve certainly encouraged our children to do things that make them successful citizens and individuals.