George Allen Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of FameField at Fawcett Stadium
August 3, 2002
Deacon Jones (presenter):
How sweet it is! Yeah, we knew it was going to happen sooner or later. Members of the Board of Directors of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, new inductees, and my partners in the back - fellow enshrinees. The honorable senator from the great state of Virginia, Mr. Mayor, Ladies, and Gentleman - the future is now!
Teamwork, hard work, pride, determination, and competitive spirit permeated the life and times of the man I am honored to present for induction to the greatest sports Hall of Fame of them all - Coach George Allen.
I stand here representing all of the players - both college, professional - who were fortunate enough to play for Coach George Allen. He was the consummate player coach, and he let the world know it. I want to personally thank the Allen family for giving me the opportunity to execute this task. I’ve been waiting a long time for this one.
My experience with George Allen began in 1966 when he was hired to lead the Los Angeles Rams out of the depths of despair. I remember walking into the locker room that first morning and seeing little signs plastered all over the place. Little sayings that you might find pasted on a grammar school wall. One-liners that seemed ridiculous. The Rams had not had a winning season since 1958, and we needed a miracle worker not a schoolteacher. We all looked at each other and shrugged. But, then we met Coach Allen. And that was exactly what we got - a miracle worker of the utmost degree.
He drove us to make the most of ourselves and he made us winners. Finishing the season with an 8-6 record. And we learned to love those little sayings of George Allen. How did he do it? Teamwork, hard work, pride, determination, and competitive spirit. Every stop he made, every level of football he coached he had a winning season using these five points that I believe makes a champion. Eight and six was a good beginning but we wanted more, and more we got. Through George Allen’s leadership, forty men made a total commitment to our coach, and to winning.
Nineteen-sixty-seven, his second year with the veteran team, Coach Allen led us 11-1-2 season, winning the Coastal Division championship. We won again in ‘68 and in ’69. We won 11 straight games. In fact, George Allen is the only coach in the history of the NFL to have coached 12 years or better and never had a losing season. He taught us that the harder we work, the luckier we got. And, boy did we get lucky and stayed that way through his tenure. I recently reread a quote from George and I remember it like it was heard yesterday, ‘I have told my team,’ said coach, ‘that God, family, and football are the three most important things in their lives. During the season, football comes first.’
‘And we all,’ George said, ‘should have some leisure. Leisure time is the five or six hours you sleep each night.’ Yes, that exemplified George Allen and the ethics he required when you worked for him.
The future was now for George Allen. “Trader George” as he became known. He needed veteran players to understand his complex system so he traded every rookie who came his way. Much to the dismay to those in the league who were avidly touting the draft. And, when he left the Rams and went to the Washington Redskins, he took his “Over-the-Hill Gang” with him, and won again. But, he had to win, and he had to win now. And, he needed veterans to do it. George Allen’s commitment to defense is well known in the world of football. But let it be known that special teams was one of the important parts of his football machine. Coach Allen was the first to hire a special teams coach and insist on open end practices. And, we practiced until we covered every plan and every eventuality, until we did it in our sleep during our leisure time.
Often times, it’s best to describe someone in their own words. And, I can find none better that exemplified Coach George Allen than those words he said, ‘In sports, the only measure of success is victory. We must sacrifice everything to this end. The man who can accept defeat and take his salary without feeling guilty is a thief.’
I cannot think of a thing that this money can buy that a loser can enjoy - fancy cars, clothes, parties, and pretty women are only window dressing. Winning is the true goal. Only the winner’s alive, the loser’s dead whether he knows it not.
Coach George Allen may have passed on but he’s not dead. He’s a man who never had a losing season. A man who was always true to his dream. Members of the Board of Directors of the Pro Football Hall of Fame - I, David “Deacon” Jones, a 22-year-old member of this hallowed body - present for induction, my friend and the best damn coach my teammates and I ever had.
Thank you very much.
Senator George Allen (representing his late father, George Allen):
Deacon. Deacon. Thank you for that powerful tribute. It means so much to us because you are an inspiration and the best darn defensive end who ever played the game! Bruce (Smith) is all right, he went to Virginia Tech but Deacon’s better (reference to Buffalo fans response in crowd). And, I want to also thank my father’s trusted friends - Ed and Steve Sabol - for the insightful documentary which really allowed us to better understand you Deacon, and my father.
To Mayor Watkins, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, fans all, I know if my father were here today he would tell you all - ‘Gosh...This sure is a great day to be alive!’ But, I feel that George Allen is with us all - in the living spirit of all those who have gathered to celebrate this pinnacle of football honors, joining with this great class of inductees and their presenters.
My father would have celebrated with a typical glass of milk - maybe even allowed one blackberry brandy. But he would also say that this honor is a "team victory!" He would give thanks to God and say ‘this is a victory for all of the players, coaches, and staff who were on our teams.’
First and foremost, I know he would be looking at my mother in appreciation for her loving support, all her good advice and encouragement, and that lucky game day rice pudding. Mom, through all the joy, uncertainty, superstitions, raising your four children, you were always his Steady Etty and his MVP. Even more, you were the love of his life.
He'd be proud to see all his grandchildren here, and his children. Jennifer, the successful author; Greg, the thoughtful counselor; and Bruce, who followed our father's footsteps into football with his creative success with the Raider nation, working with Al Davis - the great Al Davis who has always been a thoughtful friend for all our family.
George Allen, as a coach and father, believed that discipline, consistency and a fighting spirit were keys to success. Adherence to these principles are why my father was a winner in life and why all of his players and coaches still are.
It wasn't easy being Coach George Allen, though, because the establishment did not always welcome his innovative ideas or methods of producing and assembling winning teams. Most importantly, though, he was a man who had the courage of his convictions. And, because of that courage, he was stronger, his teams were stronger, and the game is stronger. And, thanks to the sportswriters, like Len Shapiro. We today honor his lifetime of achievement.
He first started off as a head coach in America's heartland at Morningside College in Sioux City with his 2-man “Shorty’ Shortenhaus. Then on to the fiercely named "Poets" of Whittier with another 2-man, “Bronco” Bill Harris whose friendship with him over the decades never wavered.
After working a season under Sid Gillman, my father was so grateful for the opportunity and experience to lead in Chicago with the “Master,” the “Creator” of the NFL - George "Papa Bear" Halas. I remember well that 1963 NFL Championship Game on frozen Wrigley Field when the defense, the "Monsters of the Midway - with Atkins, Fortunato, Morris, George, Richie Petitbon, Rosey Taylor, Jones, McRae and O'Bradovich - all of those guys in a very tough game led them to a tenacious victory. And they gave my father the game ball and sang that infamous, ribald song.
After eight years with the Bears, Dan Reeves hired my father on as Head Coach of the Rams, where a great turnaround was led by the Fearsome Foursome - Deacon, and Olsen, and Lundy, and Rosie Grier, and later Roger Brown - as well as Jack Pardee, Baughan, Pottios, Cross, Meador, and solid offense with Dick Bass, Jack Snow, Tom Mack, and Roman Gabriel.
The magnificent lion of a man, Jack Kent Cooke, brought him to Virginia as Coach and General Manager of the Redskins, where many of the family members came along, like Diron Talbert and John Wilbur from the Ramskins, to form the “Over-the-Hill Gang”.
Now, when challenged for his decisions and asked by, I recall, Warner Wolf, about the future prospects of a more senior lineup, my father replied, "The future? This team hasn't been to the playoffs in over two decades and you're worried about the future? The Future is Now!" And, indeed, it was, and they consistently won and made the playoffs.
Those 7 years with the Redskins were like Camelot and a winning tradition was born. The team - our extended family - really was forged during that time, with great leaders like Brig Owens, Hanburger, Bragg, Tillman, Charley Taylor, Fischer, Malinchak, Len Hauss, Jurgensen, and Larry Brown; and great new "Skins" newcomers like Billy Kilmer, McDole, Ken Houston, Eddie Brown, Jefferson, Moseley, Theismann, Butz, and the always polite John Riggins.
In the 1980s, George Allen chaired the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports for his long-time friend Ronald Reagan, and he also led the Blitz and the Wranglers to playoff successes, and drafted and recruited fellow honoree Jim Kelly into the USFL.
At all times and at all hours, my father benefited from dedicated, assistants such as the eloquent Marv Levy, Torgeson, Marchibroda, Waller, Vermeil, Lanham, Sullivan, Hickman and Casserly, and Bobby Mitchell. And keeping it all together were fantastic staff members like security by "00" Boynton, Shirley Krystek, John Jenkins, the cunning Tommy McVean, and relying on professionals like trainer Bubba Tyer and Drs. Rasinski, Palumbo and Knowlan to keep the players playing.
In 1990, my father remarkably turned Long Beach State into a winner and in what turned out to be the last weeks of his life, he penned an article for Sports Illustrated about, what turned out to be, enduring values.
’At a time when concepts like working together and being positive seem old-fashioned to some people’ he wrote, ‘it's reassuring that those ideas still have value. I learned that players need the same things they needed in 1948 - discipline, organization, conditioning, motivation, togetherness, love. No matter what a player did, I usually gave him another chance. It wouldn't have helped to kick players off the team, because then I wouldn't have had a chance to work with them."
George Allen loved his players, he loved his coaches, he loved the game.
To my father, I hope you are enjoying this reunion, because many of the gang's all here to celebrate your contributions that you made during your inspiring life. Thank you for the blood and spirit that you gave to your family, and to the joy of life that you gave to all your winning teams and their fans. Coach Allen, you are with us all in our hearts, in our memories.
Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of my father - my family thanks you from the depths of our heart for this ultimate honor. You have made this a great day to be alive! Thank you all.