Jack Ham Enshrinement speech
Jack Ham Enshrinement 1988
Presenter: Joe Paterno
Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen and all you distinguished people behind me. It is too hot, and you people are too nice for me to try to duplicate a speech made by my fellow Brooklynite, Al Davis. My wife is from Latrobe and they still think the Hall of Fame should be in Latrobe, but after spending three days with you folks, there just is no way it should be any place than where it is .... right here. I came out here not really knowing what was involved. I was just delighted that Jack gave me the honor of being with him in one of the great moments of his life and to be with his mom and family and his wife, Joanne, when he was so honored as he is being here today and I thought it would be great to be just a part of that. But until I went to the luncheon yesterday where just the people who are enshrinees and the new people coming in and the people who were going to present them where allowed to go and to get the feeling among these people of what they have accomplished and what it all means, it moved me so much and then to go through that parade today so I come here very humbled.
I was going to be a real smartaleck up here and kid Ham on how he didn't know how to play until I got a hold of him, he was a lousy athlete, couldn’t run and the whole bit. And it is kind of funny for me, who has coached so long, to be here in front of Fred Biletnikoff who I saw pictures of in high school and I was just a recruiter, I couldn't even get him to visit Penn State. Alan Page, I didn't know much about when he was in high school, but you in the Canton Catholic in those days and it was cheer, cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame so I didn't know much about Alan. Ditka, I used to think Ditka was a smart kid. He had a choice between Penn State and Pitt. I lived with it. And then to show you how really smart I was, we had one scholarship left and we didn't know who to give it to and a guy by the name of Steve Smear who was a teammate of Jack Ham's at Johnston, Bishop McCort Catholic, you know there is a kid playing down at Massanuttens? that is a good football player and a heck of a guy and we talked to the staff and said well, he is a good friend of Steve's and we want to keep Steve happy, let's give Ham a scholarship.
So, I am a brilliant coach. If you could understand, bey I've coached 38 years, next year it will be my 9th year of coaching, to be able to come to this affair and to talk to Don Hutson, Paul Brown, my old college coach, Weeb Ewbank and all these people being inducted and l1ave been inducted and the four guys that you are inducting here today, it is a very moving moment for me. Bear with me I just want to say a few things about Jack personally as well as congratulate all the other people. Jack as a professional. Even when he was in college, I don't use the word professional as far as being paid for something. To me the professional is the one who knows what he is doing all the time and, therefore, he is consistent at a higher level than anybody else. I have been asked a hundred times in the last couple of weeks, do you remember the greatest game Jack Han ever played? I can't, Jack never played a bad game for us, he had 10 or 11 tackles, be blocked a punt, he had an intercepted pass, he recovered a fumble cause he was hustling. He was always consistent. It didn't matter to Jack, and I am sure it doesn't matter to him today whether he is recognized as number one or number two because that is kind of a nonsensical listing. He always tries to do the best with what God gave him to do.
The important thing with Jack was not who was watching. He didn't care if the audience cheered or not. He didn't care whether they liked it or not and I really appreciate Mike Ditka's speech from Abe Lincoln. It wasn't important to Jack as to what people thought. Did he do the best he could under the circ1Jmstances with total concentration and dedication to the cause at the moment. Jack played on four Super Bowl teams he also played on two undefeated 11-0 college teams in 1968-69 as a sophomore and a junior and those teams were great. Not only because of Jack, because there are a lot of great players on all those teams he played on, but they would not have been great without Jack Ham. And not just because of his athletic ability but because of the tone he set. His strong, poised character, his commitment to professionalism, I mentioned about the way he did things. He really gave a lot of unsure, unknowing kids a standard, a standard to practice, how to handle yourself, ho~ to work under tremendous pressure, he was always in that huddle calm, cool no matter what the situation was. And he really was a leader in his own quite way. A leader that is hard for me to describe to you folks as how much a coach can appreciate. He just was a very unusual man. The things he did in preparing himself for practice. Mike Ditka talked about practice, absolutely. You can't have a good football team unless you get a team committed to get a little bit better every day in practice. But you got to prepare yourself to practice well and Jack Ham did. He didn't waste any time out there on the practice field. He came on that field to get better and he came off that field better and I think every day until he hit the peak physically and when he started to get some bumps and bruises late in his pro career, I think Jack Ham was a better football player because of that word Catholic and whatever he had.
As far as the Hall of Fame is, let me and the thought came to me when we were riding in the parade and I said to Jack going through the parade, ''you know you guys and we in football, don't realize what a terrible burden and responsibility we have. To see over 200,000 people come out there with the enthusiasm and loyalty that you have to this game and what it means to you. And what it does to the quality of your life is an awful responsibility to us.'' We have no more heroes anymore, we don't have Lindburgs because space technology when we put it up when we put someone up in space it’s the technology that is the hero. We can't have military heroes anymore. We don't even want to think about going to war. It is a devasting thought to think you are going to have someone to take you to war, so we don't have military heroes anymore. Our social heroes, the Martin Luther Kings, and the Kennedys and the Sadat's, the burden of trying to make the world better was so awesome they were assassinated. So, we really don't have the kind of people who have been their heroes. Our heroes come from our sports world and that is what you have today, you have legitimated heroes and Jack Ham is a legitimate hero. There are people that get installed into the Hall of fame and this Pro Hall of Fame doe s them honor and there are some unique people that when they enter the Hall, they literally give that Hall more honor than they receive and Jack Ham is one of those people and it is beyond words for me to tell you the kind of pride I have when I present Jack Ham for induction into the Hall of Fame . I give you Jack Ham.
Joe thank you very much for those very kind words and I had notes up here but as the people up close to the audience can see, I have them in my coat pockets and I am getting dehydrated up here. I have been sweating up here for the last 15 to 20 minutes and the ink has kind of run a little bit, but I will kind of make do here. It was only a year ago when I was out in the audience and watched Joe Greene. Joe Greene who was the cornerstone of our football team and I saw him accept the greatest individual honor a football player can receive to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and I watched Joe mention almost all the players on our Super Bowl years name for name and I sat in that audience and I was very proud to be among the names he mentioned. And I guess to go over my life and my football career in both college, high school and pro and whatever, there is one thing that has been consistent about me I think that I have always been associated or been around winners and you heard Joe talk a little bit about Steve Smear. If it hadn't been for Steve Smear I really would not be here right now. He went on a limb for me before I was an all-pro player or before I became an All-American at Penn State, be went to bat for me to Joe Paterno and I tell you I am associated with winners when I went to Penn State. Joe Paterno taught me a lot more than just to be confident in myself and to play better football should not be the most important thing in your life. I have grown to know Joe better now since I left Penn State and been with the pros and retired and all of you out there you respect Joe Paterno the coach, but the better I know him, the more I respect Joe Paterno the man.
A couple of points I want to make here and again keeping consistent I will be rather brief. I guess, even when I went to Pittsburgh when I was drafted in the second round and Pittsburgh didn't have a very good football team in the prior two years, they were 1-13 and 5-9, not exactly winners and they weren't going anywhere. But all of a sudden, I was surrounded by more winners, all of a sudden, the emergence of Bradshaw and Franco. You know Harley Bags, Swanie, Stahlworth, Banazak, Webster, Blount and Rockey and a whole lot more and we won a lot of Super Bowls then .... four Super Bowls in six years and we had great players. And one point I would like to make we would no way, we would have been able to win those games or win those championships if it wasn't for one man and that is pure and simple, Chuck Noll. Just going over more of my situation with Pittsburgh I guess, one highlight I will look back on and a memory I will have forever is watching Mr. Rooney in Super Bowl XIV accept the Lombardi trophy as the best football team in the world. And also watching Dan Rooney and the rest of the organization realize after 42 years we had become champions, we had become winners and that probably is the biggest highlight, the biggest memory I will ever have.
But the thing I will remember most is the players. There are a couple of individual players that I would like to mention. I go back along way with one of these guys. A guy who was the 11 round draft pick out of Western Illinois who came into Pittsburgh in 1971 and no one thought he would make the football team. He has been a great friend of mine and a friendship I cherish today, and he just set the tone for a free safety made himself a great football player and all pro and a leader of our secondary that is number 23, Mike Wagner. A couple other players and this is kind of ironic in a sense that I don't have a lot of trophies in my house or even in my office that I display, but I do have one picture in my home that I display and display it proudly. It is a photo of a linebacker core after a playoff victory against Baltimore and the numbers are number 34, number 58 & number 59. One thing about number34, Andy Russell, the person who probably influenced my game and made me the player I became was Andy Russell. He taught me more about football, more about the mental part of the game, made me just a great player only because the mental part he taught me for many years. Andy was known as the thinking man's linebacker. You know we got a lot of great players and I had an opportunity to go through the Hall of Fame the last couple of days, a lot of great linebackers here in the Hall of Fa.me, Willie Lanier, Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkus and Company.
A guy I played with for over 10 years maybe the greatest middle linebacker that ever played the game. That man revolutionized the position of middle linebacker and in two years he will be right here at this podium. I guess a few other people I would like to thank, and I will be very quick and very brief. You heard Joe mention my mother who is out in the audience right now, my father who is probably looking down on these festivities right now and wondering how I did it, but there are a couple of other people out here as well. A friend of mine, a friendship I made not through football, but a guy who would call me sometimes when I had a bad game or at a time I would get injured or our team didn't play well ... a good friend of mine and good basketball player, Mr. Doug Collins. And the last person I want to thank, is a person just pure and simple has been the best thing that happened to me in my life and that is my wife, Joanne.
In closing I would just like to say that I don't get nostalgic too often that seeing this crowd out here and a lot of old friends from Johnstown, Woodville Heights and all over the place, you know I realize that the fans and my Dova-Shooka fan club up here on the right, you people are a great part of why we were a championship team for many years. People, fans, visiting team hated to come into Pittsburgh and play. They knew that not only did we have great players, but probably the greatest fans as well and it was almost impossible for them to win. And in closing, all I would like to say is I hope all of you remember this road to Canton because all of us will be traveling this road in future years and I guarantee you it will be an annual event to help honor some of my teammates who were part of the greatest football team in the history of the NFL. Thank you.