Enshrinement: Hall of Fame Class of 2022 covers spectrum of pro football
Special to the Pro Football Hall of Fame
From the originator of the Lambeau Leap to the first official enshrined to the coach who usually cries but didn’t this time, Saturday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022 Enshrinement included a bit of everything.
And as LeROY BUTLER, who as a safety for the Packers made jumping into the stands in Green Bay a tradition, termed it so eloquently: (When) “You make the Hall of Fame, football heaven opens up.”
Joining Butler in the Class of 2022 were:
- ART McNALLY, a former referee who then ran the NFL’s officiating department for several decades.
- DICK VERMEIL, the Super Bowl-winning coach who peppered his speech with thank yous instead of tears.
- Tackle TONY BOSELLI, the first Jacksonville Jaguar enshrined in Canton.
- The late CLIFF BRANCH, a speed demon receiver who epitomized the attacking philosophy of the Oakland Raiders.
- The late SAM MILLS, an undersized linebacker from a small college who became a star with two NFL clubs.
- Defensive lineman BRYANT YOUNG, who noted he wore gold with the 49ers and now has been rewarded with a Hall of Fame Gold Jacket.
- RICHARD SEYMOUR, a versatile defensive lineman who won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.
Also recognized were the Forgotten Four: Bill Willis, Kenny Washington, Woody Strode and Marion Motley, who broke the color barrier in pro football in 1946.
Branch’s sister, Elaine Anderson, captured the essence of the day and its meaning.
“I want to tell you there is a sweet spirit in this place today,” she said at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. “Our Clifford, No. 21, would not miss his enshrinement for nothing. He longed for this day, and No. 21 is seated front and center with AL DAVIS and JOHN MADDEN.
“Today is bittersweet. Bitter because we miss our beloved Clifford, and sweet because it is now history.”
The ceremony, moved from Saturday evening to afternoon this year, was historic indeed. The other three major pro sports have officiating folks in their Halls of Fame. McNally, now 97, is the ground-breaker in Canton, just as he was as an innovator and organizer with the NFL.
“I have been very fortunate having a career for many years in football, consistently with the finest staff of officials throughout the country,” he said in a video presentation. “When they officiate, they officiate for those players on the field and those respective coaches on the sideline, who have tremendous pressure on them.
“For the millions of fans whose passion for the game make it great, I am extremely fortunate to be in this position. This is the greatest thing for an official: Hopefully, nobody knows you are around. Make the calls with a heavy dose of common sense.”
All of the entrants endured lengthy waits before being voted into the Hall of Fame – McNally as a Contributor, Branch as a Senior, Vermeil as a Coach and the other five as Modern-Era Players. Indeed, Mills was in his 20th and final year in that category.
“He was a father, a friend, a husband and a leader who always kept pounding, no matter what the odds were,” his wife, Melanie, said. “So thank you for this honor, for believing in Sam and for helping to keep his story alive.
“Keep pounding, everyone. That’s what Sam would want you to do.”
Mills died of cancer in 2005. One of his 2022 Hall classmates, Young, lost a son to cancer and tearfully related the story of Colby.
“Colby, you live on in our hearts,” said Young, who won the 1998 Comeback Player of the Year Award after a serious leg injury nearly led to amputation. “We will always speak your name.”
Forever, the names of the eight newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be spoken as well.
Here are more in-depth looks - including speech videos - at the Enshrinements of each member in the Class of 2022:
More on the Class of 2022 Enshrinements
- LeRoy Butler - 16-year wait for Pro Football Hall of Fame worth trip to ‘Heaven’
- Sam Mills - From undrafted to playmaker to the Pro Football Hall of Fame
- Richard Seymour - Versatile 3-time Super Bowl winner enters Pro Football Hall of Fame
- Art McNally - It’s official, former referee joins Pro Football Hall of Fame
- Tony Boselli first Jacksonville Jaguar enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame
- Bryant Young - From 49ers gold to a Pro Football Hall of Fame Gold Jacket
- Cliff Branch - Never giving up on a dream earns spot in Pro Football Hall of Fame
- Dick Vermeil — No tears, just smiles, thank-yous on way to Pro Football Hall of Fame
Pro Football Hall of Famers share Enshrinement Week experiences on social media
More than 100 Pro Football Hall of Famers came to Canton to celebrate the Class of 2022 Enshrinees over the weekend. Some shared their experiences on social media.
Class of 2022: Dick Vermeil — No tears, just smiles and thank-yous on way to Pro Football Hall of Fame
The one sure thing about Dick Vermeil’s enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday seemed to be that the Super Bowl-winning coach would shed a tear. Never happened. It was all smiles and thank-yous.