Dan Fouts Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of Fame
July 31, 1993
Don Coryell (presenter):
Thank you, inductees and ladies and gentlemen. It’s been very rewarding and very exciting for me to be one of Dan's coaches and to be able to present him to the Hall of Fame makes me extremely proud.
Now, to many people Dan is a legend and the fans remember him I know as an inspirational leader and of course as a fearless competitor. He was a tall, feisty, bearded quarterback who had fire in his eye and fans remember, of course, the way he walked to the line of scrimmage, the way he looked over the defense and the way he called the signals. His opponents remember him because of his quick drop and the way he set and threw the ball without hesitation. He could see the whole field and find the receiver quickly. Dan would stay in the pocket to the last second and take a hit without flinching. To win, opponents had to defense Dan very well or less, like many of them did, score a lot of points.
His receivers knew that if they got open they would get the ball. His passes were perfectly timed and if the receiver read the defense right and made the right move the ball would be in his face before he turned his head. He made it easy for the receivers.
Dan had a special love for his offensive linemen. They were his buddies. He had a way of exciting these big guys and they all loved him. They were a close knit group and they were good, they were a very good team and Dan was one of them. By the way, three of them are here today. Now, we coaches knew that Dan was extremely bright and very skilled and if we let him do the things that he did best, that we’d have a good chance to win. Now, our defense knew that if they were tired, they better sit down and get a drink of water fast because Dan could score in a hurry and get back on the field.
Dan was in charge. He instilled confidence. In the huddle he did all the talking except once. At the start of a series Dan said, give me 10 good plays and we’ll score. His good friend, big Ed White, groaned and said, ‘hey, Dan I'm hurting let's make it eight.’ And old Dan you know he is ready to accommodate, he said, ‘well okay, for you Ed we will score in eight.’
When Dan was too beat up to play, we had to force him to the sidelines. He never pampered himself. He never saved himself for the next game. Winning the game he was playing was the only important thing. I remember the sinking feeling I used to get inside of me when I’d see him during the week with ice packs on both elbows, both shoulders and both ankles usually. He’d walk like a robot. He wasn't able to practice because he was injured so badly at times.
Pregame warm ups he would have an angry look on his face, I knew he didn't want me to ask him if he was okay. But I watched him and as he got more excited, he became more feisty and even more nasty and very, very short tempered. That was a very, very good sign and I was relieved. I knew he was able to play. He started 171 out of 178 games and many of these games, he was injured but he still played that ball game. He didn't have to play. He was so courageous and he was so tough and he was so loyal to his teammates and his team and he would make any personal sacrifice to win.
No, Dan does not fit into any mold. He will never be duplicated. He was special, very, very special and my personal feeling when you add together all his personal abilities and his virtues, his accomplishments, he is the greatest quarterback in my mind that’s ever played the ball game. In my mind I know there are a lot of them, but that’s how I feel. It is my honor to present Dan Fouts into the Football Hall of Fame.
Thank you, coach. Thank you very much really from the bottom of my heart. Of all the thank yous that I’d had to dole out in the last six months from my election into the Hall of Fame and the thank you I give to you is the most significant because if it wasn't for you, Don Coryell and an offense named “Air Coryell,” I most assuredly would not be here accepting this induction to the Hall of Fame.
You know since retiring from the NFL five years ago and going into broadcasting I want to do something now that I haven’t been able to do that you see all players doing all the time on the sidelines and I just want to say, ‘hi mom, hi dad, hi Nick and Susie and hi Geri.’
This is obviously a great day in my life and in the lives of my family and friends and I want to thank all of you who have flown here all the way from the west coast for being here. I know how difficult and expensive it is to break up your summer vacation and I certainly and sincerely appreciate you all being here. Where this is a great honor and a thrill to be here, this is also a very difficult speech to give. It’s hard because there are no rules, there are no guidelines, the only thing they tell you is that you have eight minutes and then they turn a little red light on and then you are supposed to get off. Well, there’s the red light. And, I think I am going to give it to the coach and when there’s two minutes to go, he will turn it on.
Like many of you, I’ve watched these ceremonies on TV and some of these speeches have been very good, some of them have been bad, some of them have been moving and inspirational and some of them have just laid there. Some of have been funny and witty, some of them political and others rather inane and didn't you love it when Terry Bradshaw stood up here and pretended to get under center, he wanted one more chance. What about the time Earl Campbell stood here and said quoting Willie Nelson ‘Who’ll buy my memories.’ Well, like you Earl and like you Terry, my memories are not for sale. But I wouldn't mind having a shot at some of the money the owners are throwing around.
In a career that spanned 15 years, I have had thousands of teammates and hundreds of coaches and I appreciate all of them. All of their help and tolerance, all of their support and guidance. And I have always prided myself as being an honest person, perhaps sometimes too honest, but honest nonetheless. My teammates and my opponents will tell you they know and they knew exactly where I stood on every matter. Whether it was a crucial 3rd and long and 4th down or discussing a referee's mark or sitting around debating the Players Association or who was going to buy the next round of beers, my teammates always knew exactly where I stood. I always made my honest feelings known so it is with that in mind that I stand before you today on the steps of the Hall of Fame to tell you that without a doubt that I am the luckiest man in the world.
And lucky for many reasons. Lucky to have had a family who supported me through the good times and the bad. A mother and father who when I went to them when I was 11 years old and asked for permission to play football they both told me I had to play quarterback or I couldn't play at all. Now coach that should tell you the shape of my body when I was eleven. I was lucky to have brothers Bob and John to play catch with, sisters Patty and Nancy to talk to. Their love and caring saw me through. Their and their families’ 100% attendance today illustrates just how special the Fouts family is.
You know I have been lucky to play my entire career in one city, San Diego, 15 years, same team. And, I played with the greatest quarterback that ever played the game, Johnny Unitas. And I know Johnny U is watching this somewhere today and I just want to say hi John quit shaking your head I am really here. Because I know John Unitas and Dan Fouts is no John Unitas.
I am lucky to have played for a coach who could cut through all that coach speak and lay it out in the simplest of terms. You’d come over the sidelines in the crucial time out late in the game and the other assistant coaches would be saying, ‘well, you have to read the defense, throw it to x to z try to get it into the seam if not then you dump it off to the halfback and da’ da’ da’ da da.’ And, he’d grab me and he would shake me and say, ‘dammit, just throw it J.J. (John Jefferson).’ I would, he'd catch it first down and then we’d score.
It is my sincere hope that my inclusion into the Hall of Fame helps open the doors for so many others deserving athletes and coaches who have not participated in a Super Bowl game or worse yet, did not come out on top in that game. To me the Hall of Fame is about influence on and contribution to the game of pro football. I was lucky enough to play for and with such worthy individuals. There’s no coach that has had as big an influence on how offensive football is played today as has Don Coryell. The offense that became known as “Air Coryell” led the NFL in passing seven of eight years in a row. That statistical fact is unparalleled in the history of the game. You can look it up. And, all you have to do is tune into CBS any Sunday and you will see multiple formations, substitutions, shifting, flexing, men in motion and a bombs away attitude that Don Coryell made a routine part of the greatest passing offense in the history of football.
At the time of his retirement, no offensive lineman played in more games than Ed White. Over 17 seasons “Big Ed” played in 241 games, 24 playoff games and four Super Bowls, represented the Minnesota Vikings and the Chargers in the Pro Bowls and no offensive lineman was more feared or more respected than my buddy the biggest of Eds.
And could someone please tell me how the voters could continue to overlook the exploits of Charlie Joiner. All Charlie did was catch more passes for more yards and played more games than any other wide receiver in football. Two of those marks have been surpassed but he still has played in more games, 239, as a wide receiver.
Can anybody show me a better tight end than Kellen Winslow or a better wide receiver than Wes Chandler or John Jefferson? Am I bias? Okay, Swann and Stallworth that's okay. I am bias, these are my coaches, these are my teammates, they’re my friends but they are more than anything most deserving.
I am so proud to join these men over here and with these men behind me in this the Hall of Fame. Can you imagine a better class to go in with – Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll, Larry Little and Walter Payton? I told you I was lucky.
I’m also the happiest man in the world right now. Because it’s been said that a pro football career is similar to a roller coaster ride. I’ve gone from a pro prospect, to a third-round selection, to a rookie quarterback to a fledgling quarterback, to a struggling quarterback to a promising signal caller, to All-Pro almost, to All-Pro, Player of the Year, to potential Hall of Famer, to aging superstar, to ex-quarterback, to certain Hall of Famer, to elected in first year of eligibility, this gold jacket, these steps, this Hall of Fame and as a roller coaster ride it too has been thrilling. Thank you very much.