Ron Yary's Induction Speech
I have three minutes to talk about Ron, which is not a long time unless you're hanging or making a speech. And, I feel like I'm hanging right now.
There are two things that held Ron back from making the Hall of Fame earlier. One of them was the media's love for our great defense, which they were right in doing that. And the second, and probably the most important thing, was having me as his line coach but not necessarily in that order.
Some of his best football was played every day at practice. He had the likes of Eller, Marshall, and Page to contend with as a rookie. They recognized his ability by taking turns lining up against Ron to test him. He withstood every challenge. He had every excuse in the world to roll over and play dead but chose to rise to every challenge and improved because of it. He was the cornerstone of our blocking patterns. He never had help, he was always isolated. We knew that he would best his opponent with his strength, ferocity, and intelligence.
Ron's stance was not a thing of beauty. In fact, I had another coach ask me why I didn't try to change it. My reply was, 'Why? He does all we ask and more with the stance that he has.' Ron was responsible for teaching me that you can't force some people into molds. This has helped me tremendously with other "not-by-the-book" players. My favorite Yary story is one that occurred during a Rams game when Ron was having some difficulty, and he's heard this story before, but I can't tell it enough because it helped me be a better coach. He was having some trouble and it may have been Jack Youngblood he was playing against. He came off the field after a bad series and I was waiting there. We sat down on the bench and I began my tirade. I think in the middle of this one-sided talk, I made reference to my playing ability and how I would have handled this situation with no trouble. I made a few more references to my skills when Ron, who was sitting down at the time, looked me right in the eye and stated very quietly, 'John, you must have been a hell of a football player.' The bench erupted on either side of him as people burst out laughing. Needless to say, my credibility at that time was shot to hell.
Ron Yary made it extremely difficult for the linemen who followed him. He had given a look at offensive line play few coaches ever see. His self-confidence was without parallel. The situation was critical and yardage essential, he wanted the play to go over him and made no bones about it. He had the strength and ability to go beyond what we wanted and he did it. The real truth of the matter is that I coached Ron Yary in name only. He was a self-starting offensive terror that few people have had the good fortune to work with. He has never until now received the accolades and honor that he has deserved. And this point that I'm going to make next will probably be refuted by most of the defensive people. He labored in a fog, a fog of misunderstanding of the position and lack of comprehension of what these people do. When he did his job, the running back or quarterback got all the glory. But, if he failed to do his job, all hell broke all over him.
I would like to thank everyone responsible for Ron Yary's induction, and him for forgiving me for all my past transgressions and allowing me this great honor. And most of all, for being my friend.
Thank you guys. Thank you. Thank you Canton. Thank you. All your hospitality has been overwhelming.
A few weeks after it had been announced that my career had been honored with this great tribute, I received an unexpected congratulatory postcard from a high school teammate of mine, Stan Cleveringa, which reads, 'If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected and common hours.'
Today, I'm here to tell my family, my coaches, my teammates, and my friends that I lived the life that I had imagined. I advanced confidently in the direction of my dreams and today, with many of you present, we've have come here to Canton, Ohio to celebrate and to share this great honor on what I consider to be football's most hallowed ground.
In retrospect, as I look at this life that I had imagined in football, it is evident to me that the guidance, the support, and the contribution that each of the following mentors has provided me has led to today's Hall of Fame induction. What I've accomplished in my life, both on and off the football field, is a result of their leadership. For Ron Yary the football player and Ron Yary the citizen is the sum accomplishment of many people, a few of whom I'd like to mention to you today.
I am grateful to my mother and father for having the common sense of knowing when to push me. Their approval when I was on the right track, and the reticent disdain when I was not. As I have matured, I've come to appreciate them more, especially today as I reflect and survey my past.
To my coaches individually. I wish to thank my high school coach, Don Ashton, for getting an incomprehensible 17-year-old boy to grasp the meaning of sportsmanship. And equally important, in getting him to understand what sportsmanship is not. Don taught his players that sportsmanship is the celebration of your team's victory. It is not the celebration of the other team's defeat or any individual's demise.
To coach McKay. Thank you for giving me a scholarship to the University of Southern California and the opportunity to compete against the very best players that college football had to offer. Coach McKay, with the help of his assistant coaches, gathered me together and made me into the football player that I became. Thirty-four years after I played for Coach McKay and in serious ill health, he again came to my aid and assisted me with getting inducted into this year's Hall of Fame class. As many of you know, coach McKay passed away June 10 of this year. He will be missed and remembered for all he has done for me. For no one makes it into the Hall of Fame on his own.
To my offensive line coach Dave Levy. Dave, with a style and wit all your own, you taught players that a mistake made with an honest effort is best understood by everyone on the team when it is expressed to them with humor. In other words, don't carry the weight of your mistakes with you. Remember they all count but none of them count too much. Thank you Dave.
To Marv Goux, one of the greatest college football coaches of all-time. And never has one coach done so much to help so many college players reach their full potential. And never has one coach meant so much to a great university. It has been said by teammates that I was an intense player. If there is any truth in that description of me, then I owe any measure of that trait to Marv Goux.
I would like to thank Mike Giddings, another of my college coaches. Mike, I know what you did last winter and I know that I would not be here today without your help. Thank you Mike. And, again, for no one makes it into the Hall of Fame on his own.
To Bud Grant. Fran Tarkenton gave the most accurate, simplest and highest accolade any head coach can receive from an active player when he stated in a conversation among teammates, 'If you can't play for Bud, you can't play for anyone.' We all shook our head in agreement. In other words, as the Army recruiting jingle goes, with Bud, you could be all that you could be.
To Jerry Burns, the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. On Sunday afternoon when the Vikings took the playing field, we were always prepared. We never lost a game because of coach Burns but we sure won many. Throughout my career, I never heard a single player ever question a play or any aspect of his game strategy. Twenty years after having played for coach Burns, he gave graciously of his time and helped me get inducted into this year's Hall of Fame class. And again, for no one makes it into the Hall of Fame on his own.
Having played for the Minnesota Vikings for 14 seasons, there was no one else that I could ask to introduce me today other than my line coach John Michels. And, no one could get a big head with my line coach. He always expected more out of players, driving them to reach the highest standard of their ability until they became the very best players that they could become. Yet, another reason why I stand before you today.
And to Donnie Hollar, my closest friend. Regardless of my football career, if it had not been for Donnie's enthusiasm and assistance, I would never have been inducted today. The luckiest two days of my post-football career life were the days that I met my lovely wife Jamie. Stand up. Stand up. And the day that I meant Donnie Hollar. So, again, at 55-years-old, I acknowledge another mentor, who at least for me has redefined the true meaning of the word friendship.
I've also had the good fortune to play alongside of some great teammates, a few of which have preceded to this podium. Out of respect for their great careers and their contribution to football, I would like to acknowledge them now.
To Jim Marshall, the greatest Viking leader of all-time. Carl Eller, Mick Tingelhoff, and Chuck Foreman. Certainly, if my career warrants or merits induction, so does theres. And I'd like to thank Red McCombs at this time for all that he has done for me, and I'd like to thank another friend of mine, John Turney.
I would like to leave everyone with my personal insight about the game of football that we honor today and what makes football the great All-American sport. Every play and every block that I ever made was to help our running back gain more yards or a quarterback and receiver complete the pass. Not for individual glory but for the benefit of the greater good - the success of the team. This is the creed of the offensive lineman that defines the spirit, the American spirit which is built into the fabric of football. All men who have played this game at any level identify with this creed. Whether it is a kid on a high school football team or the great NFL player. For no other sport in the world can offer up to its participants this internal yearning that exists within all men, this creed, this All-American spirit, this yearning inside of all men in which I speak of is called sacrifice. And it is in the sole possession and the very essence of American football.
Therefore, if I can leave anyone with one thought, I hope you will remember this. To those of you who unselfishly taught me everything you knew, I owe it all. And beyond anything else you taught me that no one makes it into the Hall of Fame on his own.
Thank you very much. Appreciate it.