Class of 2008 Press Conference

General Published on : 8/1/2008

Fred Dean | Gary Zimmerman | Darrell Green | Emmitt Thomas | Andre Tippett | Art Monk


ADAM SCHEFTER: Welcome back to Hall of Fame Weekend in Canton, Ohio. Our first enshrinee is the former Chargers and 49ers defensive end, Fred Dean. A four time Pro Bowl selection, a two time Super Bowl winner, and our first Hall of Fame inductee from this year to speak today. Fred?

FRED DEAN: Well, all I can say is I'm glad to be here. It's really a privilege, and the next thing I can say is are there any questions?

Have you given much thought to what tomorrow will be like, that moment when you get up on stage and they introduce you as a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2008?
FRED DEAN: No, I really hadn't given it any thought because I want it all to be a surprise, even to me. I know it's going to be an emotional thing, and I don't want to be the first one to break down.

You came awfully close so many years to getting in, and I'm sure it had to be disappointing to you. When it finally happened, did it make it that much more gratifying?
FRED DEAN: I would say it is gratifying. To be honest with you, I didn't really look at me going in. I didn't it's not something that you would actually set your feelings on. So, therefore, I was relaxed all along because I didn't look at it from that standpoint.

Could you have imagined at this stage of your life people paying $100 to come to a dinner to see you get your honor tonight and tomorrow and the people lining up for your autograph outside, waiting for you at the hotel, just the whole experience?
FRED DEAN: To be honest with you, I never dreamed it. I never thunk it. My thing is I never even imagined it. I could see me going to get my box of chicken or something with some friends and that's about as high as I looked at it. But I never really thought about it.

When was the first time you ever thought about actually the possibility of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Do you remember that?
FRED DEAN: I thought about it once I got that call. That's when I really that's when everything really struck home. My father always told me wait until it's all signed, wait until everything is signed on the dotted line, then you'll believe, then it can be real, only if it's in black and white. And basically that's what it was for me.

So you now consider this signed, sealed and delivered?
FRED DEAN: Yes, I consider this signed, sealed and delivered after some of the older vets made it specifically clear to us freshmen that we're not to say anything or do anything until that time.

Who was the toughest offensive lineman that you went against during your career?
FRED DEAN: Oh, that's a good question, because, you know, being small in the league and as small as I was, I would say that every offensive lineman that weighed over 300 pounds was pretty tough for me. But the thing was I thank God he gave me the ability and the skills to deal with each and every one.

I can name a whole host of names. Anthony Muñoz and Art Shell and the list can go on and on, but for me that was not any one particular person. They were all good to me.

ADAM SCHEFTER: Thank you, Fred.


Welcome back to Hall of Fame Weekend in Canton, Ohio. Our next speaker was a selection on two All Decade teams, the All 1980s team, the All 1990s team. He was a seven time Pro Bowl selection. He never spoke to the media, and this is going to be particularly painful for Gary Zimmerman to come up and answer your questions. Gary Zimmerman.

GARY ZIMMERMAN: I want to say what a true honor it is to be here today. And I never really understood what it meant to be in the Hall of Fame, and today at lunch we kind of were clued in a little bit what it means to all the players and all that kind of stuff.

But I'm sure the folks out there will never know what it really means. But it means a lot. And when I was announced into the Hall, I told people that it felt like I was in Twilight Zone, it wasn't real. It still feels that way. I still hope I don't wake up until after 9:00 tomorrow and find out it was a dream. So hopefully 9:00 we'll have it in stone. So that's my opening remarks. Any questions?

Gary, you are easy to talk to. And you seem like you like to talk once you get going a little bit. Why didn't you like talking to the media?
GARY ZIMMERMAN: Well, it started in Minnesota, because the story was that we lost. I don't know who we were playing. And the reporter asked me, ‘What happened today?’ And I said, ‘The offense didn't play well enough to win today. The defense didn't play well enough to win today.’

The next day on the front page of the sports section it said, ‘Zimmerman says defense didn't play well enough to win.’ So right then half my teammates are mad at me. That wasn't really what I said well, it was what I said, but he left a crucial part of that out. So I got burned once so I figured it would just be better not to say anything.

I wondered if you're still mad at him [Darrell Green] for stealing the championship game from you guys in '87?
GARY ZIMMERMAN: We didn't I didn't realize that until we were over in Hawaii, and I guess my wife realized that. I didn't realize that it was Darrell. And I guess maybe it was a blessing he gave us, because if I had made the Super Bowl early, it wouldn't have meant as much. I played my whole career and I found out how special it was to make it to the Super Bowl, because towards the end of my career there I realized that I may not get another chance at it.

So when we got there, we just made the best of it so it means so much more having to wait until the end of my career to get it rather than the beginning of my career. So I guess I do owe him a little thanks and maybe we could have had two, but it worked out good.

You retired after the 1997 Super Bowl. There's been so much talk of players vacillating, not sure whether or not to retire. Did you have any second thoughts once you decided to walk away from the game before the 1998 season?
GARY ZIMMERMAN: I wish I could have played five more years, but my body just told me it was not time. I wish I could have played longer. But, I mean, I just I was getting to the point where I ran out of spare parts.
So when Mr. Bowlen called me, I told him if I came back, all I would be doing is stealing a paycheck. So I decided to take the high road and just leave it with a great memory of winning the Super Bowl.

How much pain did you have to play with throughout the course of your career?
GARY ZIMMERMAN: It was pretty tough. You get used to it. That's the strange thing. When you're young, at the Vikings, Ron Yary brought Tim Irwin up, he kind of taught him the ropes. When I got to Minnesota, Tim was there from Ron and he kind of instilled the same values in all the line there. He was kind of the keeper of the gate there. And it was kind of a badge of honor to play hurt.

So I always felt that once you fight through the pain, if you ever give into it, the first time you give in it will come easier. So I just fought as long as I could and I was blessed to make it 12 years.

What words of advice would you give to like a young man in high school or junior high that has to play offensive line in this day of glorified skilled positions?
GARY ZIMMERMAN: I think the blue collar mentality is the best, that's what I think. You've got to put your boots on and go to work. A lot of days things don't go right. But you have to push through it. And adversity will make you stronger. And that's my big point is I wanted to play linebacker, and I ended up on the line. So you just gotta make the best of what you get and put your boots on and punch in and go home and do it again.


Welcome back. Our next speaker was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, a three time Super Bowl winner, maybe the fastest man in the National Football League and he was certainly fast to find his way into Canton. He didn't wait long. Darrell Green got in his first ballot. Next speaker, former Redskins cornerback, Darrell Green.

DARRELL GREEN: Hello, folks. They told me to keep it short. Old Coach Thomas over there eyeballing me like he used to, so I will.

It's great to be here. Like the chicken man said, I'm going to try and enjoy this thing and not rush myself, not put myself at the podium tomorrow, because I'll be there when I get there. But it's been a great time, as I've said on many, many occasions. You guys in the media and you men and women in the media have a part of this and a part of our success. I appreciate everything you guys do.


What's the build up been like over this weekend?
DARRELL GREEN: It's been great, but it's been pretty hectic, because you have certain administrative things to do as they relate to getting your family here. And we're a family from Texas and DC, going to school in Texas.
So my world is sort of multi state based and my goal, because both my parents are deceased, is to really make this a celebration for my parents. And we celebrate by being together, loving one another and enjoying this time. And that's what I want this honor for them. So I'm really grateful for all my family here, as well as my wife's side and my side, and tons of friends, just everybody.

It's been pretty hectic, but I would do it again and again and again and again. I love it.

I don't know how much you knew about Canton before you got here. But what are your impressions of the Hall and the luncheon today, and do you feel, and all the guys that proceeded were there, did you feel "it really hit me"?
DARRELL GREEN: My impression of Canton, the town, was one I didn't have a right impression of it. I thought it was this small five by five square box town. It's a big town. A lot bigger than I knew. And it's a very impressive town.

The people are awesome. And I think the facilities and the ability to host it is definitely satisfactory. In terms of the Hall of Famers, these guys, we're with them today, and I'm just glad to be a part of this. These guys are real. And it's a special feeling. It's a real special feeling for us, we experienced today with these guys.

And, you know, we were in one meeting where we were not supposed to communicate or talk during a certain period of time. And took everything in me not to say something. But Art, he didn't want to say anything anyway.
But it was pretty special. I think it's the first step to really getting that feeling where you sort of are entering in, even though I'm not one to enter in ahead of time. But that was very special.

I noticed before the luncheon today you had a moment with Michael Irvin who you had battles with for years. What was that like to finally go against Michael Irvin and now have him as a teammate in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
DARRELL GREEN: I think there's probably no wide receiver more happier that we're both out of football in the Hall of Fame.

I used to say years ago that Roy Green and Mike Quick, and I still say that, and Drew Pearson and Tony Hill and Irving Fryar and Buford Clayton, all those guys that I had great battles with. And in the era of Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice and those guys, but I think the most special was the battles with Mike.

I certainly didn't win all battles with anybody, but I certainly had a great competition with him. On top of that, he became a real personal friend. As well as, my son, for the last, I don't know, 12, 13 years, has had his picture and jersey in his bedroom. And my son is still my best friend. So I'm a great loving father.

But Mike Irvin and I have had great battles over the years. I've been a big Michael Irvin fan for many years and we laughed and talked about it on many occasions but today we did the same we laughed and we said, man, we're both here and just so proud to be here.

It was mentioned today that you were with Coach Gibbs during his first tenure in Washington and then yet there again during his second tenure. Did you have any idea you could stick around as long as you did, play for Coach Gibbs twice?
DARRELL GREEN: Actually, on the contrary, I didn't play for him on the second stint. I got out I think after Spurrier and he came that year. So I did not play that last year.

But, first of all, I was surprised that Coach Gibbs came back. And after Saturday, when I'm officially inducted, I'm going to actually contemplate the same, because if a coach can go and come back and play as a Hall of Famer, coach, besides the money they paid him, then maybe it may be something that I can do. So I'll get back home next week and work on some stuff and see if we can get back out there.

But I think it was great. I was with Coach Gibbs I think for the first 11 years. And then after he left, the last nine years next question. (Laughing). It was quite for the next nine years. I would have loved to been with him for the second stint.

How many Greens are here?
DARRELL GREEN: Greens. You mean real Greens. There are a lot of different Greens, different Greens all over the country. The real Greens, there's actually eight siblings. And all but one who actually got I think I think he got ill. My youngest brother, actually Elwin, he got ill. He's not coming. I don't think he's going to make it. We're still looking for that. But there are eight of us. And we all have wives and kids and grandkids and as well as on my mom's side, my aunts, my uncles. It's a bunch of folks. It's a bunch of folks here.

And so if you see the people that are just short of five nine, that's us. We're that short group. Oops, I forgot except my one son. My son, I don't know what happened to him. I don't know, six foot two. Something happened. But anyway, most of the short guys, that's us.

What does it mean to you to be going in with your former teammate Art Monk?
DARRELL GREEN: Art Monk, they treated me real bad as everyone knows the first eight weeks, including as well as you added the mini camp, the training camp time. These guys have just come off the Super Bowl championship; winning I guess Super Bowl XVII or something like that it was and they beat Miami.

And so coming to the team with that great group, "The Smurfs" and Art and talking to Joe Theismann, it was very tough. When I got out there, I would spend a couple of days trying to learn to cover this route. And then they wouldn't run that route anymore. They would run another route. It was tough.

I told him earlier about eight weeks into the season they had really put my career in place. And so then on top of that it's my personal friendship with Art, same church. Our families are close. Great friends. So it's super, super special. But he has a real part in me being here. Because in practice, I thought, is where it all really happened.

(Question about Jared.)
DARRELL GREEN: About a month or so before he was born, I changed his name from Darrell, Jr. to Jared. Felt like God told me to do that. I'm so grateful because he's his own man. He's not little Darrell Green. I was definitely right in doing that. And he's my best buddy. And just the Hall of Fame is great. But I'm more proud of my son being my son than I am being in the Hall of Fame. So you get the point. I'm just grateful about this.

He can't mess up, trust me. If he goes, falls, stumbles, and blbbbub, he's done awesome, why, because he's my boy. I love him. I'm grateful for him being here. Thanks folks.


ADAM SCHEFTER: Our next speaker is a five time Pro Bowl selection for the Kansas City Chiefs. He's now the assistant head coach with the Atlanta Falcons. I'm sure some of his players don't even realize what an unbelievable player he once was. We now call to the podium Emmitt Thomas.

EMMITT THOMAS: Good afternoon to everyone. I feel blessed and truly humbled to be here. As you know, I'm the oldest of the group. I had to wait the longest, but I feel just as good about the nomination.
And the other thing that happened is I'm able to go in with four AFC guys and two of the guys I had the opportunity to work with at the Washington Redskins. So it's been organized and put into plan for me and I feel very special and honored. And I'd like to open it up for questions.

Out of 58 interceptions in the regular season and five more in the post season, which ones stand out as the most memorable?
EMMITT THOMAS: The most memorable one to me, I know I had the last one before the merger, but that was just history. The one is when we went to the fourth Super Bowl, we went into the Jets playpen. We were fortunate enough to beat them. The following week we had to go into the Raiders den and play them and they were driving to go ahead and I picked off a ball and ran it back to around the 15 and we kicked a field goal to extend the game and to win it. And I think that was the most satisfying kick I've ever had.

You, like Darrell Green, picked your son to present you. Your son, I believe, was the former Western Illinois head men's basketball coach. How come the decision to go with your son Derrick?
EMMITT THOMAS: Like Darrell said, he's my best friend. He's 41 years old. We've been together for a long time. The guy I thought about it was coach Tom Bettis who coached me at Kansas City. He and I talked about it, and he also suggested I should use my son. And I'm proud to have him present me tomorrow.

After all the trials and tribulations of the Falcons season last year, you were sort of left to pick up some pieces and pull it together at the end as interim coach at a very trying time. Just reflect on that and what maybe that left you with in terms of any sort of lessons you carried forward and you're still there coaching, but that was a monumental thing that might not have been appreciated as much as it should have.
EMMITT THOMAS: I think a lot of people that wasn't close to the situation called it a trying situation. But I called it an opportunity. I had been there six years with the guys. I knew them. They knew me. And it was something I wanted to do my entire career.

And to be fortunate enough, even though it wasn't under the right circumstances, to get that opportunity, and the guys are running around, trying to put the Falcons back for the last three games to be a productive football team, was an honor for me. So it wasn't hard at all. Everything was done in place. So all I had to be was a figurehead and the guys played hard.

That's looking back. What about looking ahead? What do you expect out of your Falcons team this year being that you're the assistant head coach there?
EMMITT THOMAS: We have a young quarterback. We're not very good right now. Just left training camp, been in training camp the last week and a half. The guys are working hard. But we're excited about our quarterback and some of the pieces we have in place. The fans in Atlanta are going to have to be patient, let us put some pieces around this young man. But we'll put a product out there next year that's going to be competitive. Some teams will come in there and play us a little cheap and they're going to get a surprise. So I'm looking forward to the season.

Having had that taste as a head coach, years ago you did interview for some jobs?

Any thoughts for the future?
EMMITT THOMAS: When I was with the Philadelphia Eagles we had a couple of good years there. I had five interviews. I wasn't fortunate enough to get one. I lost my mother when I was eight years old. My grandparents raised me. And the one thing my grandfather always said:: Set a goal. If you can't attain it, have one that, when you drop it, you can still be happy with yourself. My time has passed as being a head coach in the National Football League. But to still being in it and working with young men and getting the highs and lows of Sundays and Mondays is very rewarding. There's not a chance for me to be a head coach, but it can still be a productive decision.

Have you thought about Coach Stram this week at all?
EMMITT THOMAS: Yes, I have. I played for him for about 10 years in Kansas City. Went to two Super Bowls. His wife and son is going to be here this week. And Coach Stram, before his death, we talked probably three or four times a year. My wife talked to him maybe 10 times a year. But we miss him. He instilled a lot of coaching into me and character and I'll be and I love him for that.


ADAM SCHEFTER: Welcome back to Hall of Fame Weekend in Canton, Ohio.
Our next speaker played for the New England Patriots from 1982 to 1993. He was selected a member of the 1980s All Decade Team and he still set the Patriots three best single season sack records with 18-and-a-half in '84, 16-and-a-half in '85, and 12-and-a-half in 1987.

Our next inductee, former Patriots linebacker, Andre Tippett.

ANDRE TIPPETT: Thank you. Just like my classmates that are going in this year, I am truly honored. I understand what it's like to be part of the Hall of Fame. It is something that is truly, truly special, something that you can't buy your way into. You can't be cut. And you can't quit. It is a tremendous, tremendous honor. And I am going to try to do everything I can to maintain my composure just to get through my speech.

And I will be there tomorrow to really thank everyone that helped me along the way and the people that taught me a lot about this great game.

You played on a Super Bowl team. You played on some teams that didn't win many games. What does it mean now that you're here to share this moment with some of those guys that maybe played on the teams that weren't the Super Bowl caliber?
ANDRE TIPPETT: Well, I was real fortunate to play with some really, really good football players. I don't think we had the success continuously as we thought we would have. I don't think, after going to the Super Bowl, Super Bowl XX, I don't think any of us envisioned us not being able to get back again. We thought we would have a few more years of competing at that level.

But as all of my classmates will attest to this, we don't get here unless we have great people that are around us, great teammates. I've had some great teammates over the years, specifically some of the linebackers that I've played with. And played with some great guys in Steve Nelson, Don Blackmon. Without Don Blackmon I really wouldn't be here today, because he was as good as some of the greatest linebackers that played the game. But we had some great, great defenses for about a six year period.

And as I go in and people celebrate me, you celebrate those guys that were there. And it's just a special, special time.

Andre, you selected Patriots owner Robert Kraft to present you; yet you didn't play under him as your owner. Why go with Mr. Kraft?
ANDRE TIPPETT: To me it was a pretty simple decision. I could have easily went with high school coach, college coach, Raymond Berry as my professional coach, but a lot of my speech is going to be toward those gentlemen. So I want those guys to be seated in the audience and listening to me thanking them for all the great work that they did with me.

The owner, he and I have shared a lot personally and professionally. He took a shot on me after my playing days were over where if I had been anywhere else I probably wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to come into the front office. I was the first player to come off the playing field and come into the front office and work.

The investment that he made in the New England Patriots franchise and how he put himself on the line, the level of success that he's brought to the New England area, the Super Bowl championships, I've shared in all of that. And I think that all the success that he's gained and the things he's contributed to the New England area, he's never had an opportunity to come to Canton yet to enshrine some of the players playing for him. I think the contribution that he made to the National Football League and to the area, I don't think it's too far in the distant future that he'll have an opportunity to come and be considered as a contributor some day.

So I figured he'd get a good opportunity to come here and present me and also getting a little bit of work for himself so he can get ready when his time comes.

What similarities do you see between playing and in the front office that makes a person successful or an organization successful?
ANDRE TIPPETT: Just like anything else. You look at a football team, football team, I think, can go and be as successful as the head coach. If you've got a good head coach that runs a good program, he has good assistants around him, and you get you some players, some quality players, some leadership. You can make a lot of things happen. But it all starts at the top. You have to have a good head coach, a guy that knows what he's doing and is going to allow his assistant coaches to go out and get it done. The same thing in the front office. You've got to have an owner that's invested in the organization, that's willing to be there for the good times as well as the bad times.

There are so many similarities between playing a game and being in the front office. You look at someone like Emmitt Thomas, look at how successful he was as a football player and you have to do the research and see how successful he's been as a coach. He's done a pretty good job of being a coach. Look at some of the people he's coached over the years.

So all of that, if you have the work ethic and you have all of those things that you need to be successful, you can make anything successful. That's the thing about us as former players. Not only do we leave the football field, we can go into other things because of the qualities and the work ethic and the leadership and the perseverance and all those things that have taken to be successful as a ball player, you take that in the corporate world and people will fawn all over us because those are things that make industries successful. Those are the things that make professional sports successful.

ADAM SCHEFTER: Thank you very much.


Welcome back to Hall of Fame Weekend 2008 in Canton, Ohio. Our next inductee, when he retired from the Washington Redskins, New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles, was second in NFL history in receptions with 940. Even now, with the proliferation of passing in the National Football League, he's still seventh in receptions. He waited a long time to get in for a well deserved honor. Our next inductee, Art Monk.

ART MONK: Good afternoon. Good to be here with you today. And I don't particularly like having to go last. But it's been a long time since February to get here. I'm excited about this moment. And the reality of being inducted into the Hall of Fame really didn't hit me until a couple of days ago, and even more so as we met with the current Hall of Famers today and hearing about what the Hall of Fame meant for them and their experiences. And so I'm excited and looking forward to the induction tomorrow.

Any questions?

I know you weren't a big sports fan growing up, so you didn't get into all this in Canton and all that. But you talked about the luncheon today and seeing those guys, are you really starting to feel like "I'm part of history" now?
ART MONK: You get that sense. It's almost like kind of walking on holy ground. The guy who has I mean they're the guys who, contemporary guys like myself, Dorsetts and Michael Irvins, guys I played with, the guys I grew up watching, emulating and wanting to be like them. And then there are guys I've never even known or seen play.

So seeing them all together in that room together and how they all just kind of bond. It's like they've all known each other for so long. And it's just a great feeling to be part of a great group like that.

940 catches. Is there any one that stands above the others as the most memorable?
ART MONK: I guess I would say when I actually broke the all time reception record in RFK against Denver. Monday night game. And only because, when I caught the ball, ran out of bounds, it was a sudden cheer of the crowd. But when I turned around all my teammates came running off the bench and picked me up and had a big celebration on the field. So I guess that would be the most memorable for me.

Does waiting all the time you did make this weekend that much sweeter?
ART MONK: Yes, it does. I mean I think when something comes easy, you don't really appreciate it as much. But when you have to wait for something and you have to work for something, you work hard for something, I think you really appreciate it more than just getting it right away. So I appreciate this honor. I appreciate the induction. It's taken eight years. But regardless of how long it's taken, it's good to be here.

Does it help the wait maybe allowed you to have your son present you; the eight years? Obviously he's a young man now and you're able to have him as a presenter; if you had gone in right away, maybe that wouldn't have been the case. How important is it to have your son be there and be a big part of it?
ART MONK: My son doesn't do a lot of public speaking, but he handles himself fairly well. He's pretty confident in himself. I don't think the e