John Madden Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium
August 5, 2006
Al Davis (presenter):
It's always great to come back to the Hall of Fame. Today it's a very emotional and inspirational experience for me to present the great John Madden into enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
John Madden, a brilliant coach, a loyal and trusted friend, a Raider. His record is self-explanatory: 103 victories in 10 years is unparalleled in National Football League history. The Raiders always wanted to have the best organization in professional sports, wanted to have the best players, the best coaches playing in the best games, have the best plays, have the best record in professional football.
Some 40 years ago, I hired a 32-year-old coach to carry the torch for the Raiders and do all the things that I just talked about that we wanted to do.
John Madden over the 10 seasons of his coaching career led the Raiders to the playoffs eight of those years, including seven division championships, bringing the Raiders their first World Championship. John's .759 regular-season percentage ranks as the highest ever with coaches in the National Football League.
John coached in the golden era of great coaches. In his 10 years, John coached against many who are enshrined in this Hall of Fame. Don Shula of Miami. Chuck Noll of Pittsburgh. Tom Landry of Dallas. Weeb Ewbank, Sid Gillman, Hank Stram, Gil Brandt, Bud Grant, and others who are enshrined in this Hall of Fame.
John's first professional head job, he was 32 years old. John did what you would call the impossible. In his 10 years of coaching against these great legends, he won more games than he lost against every Hall of Fame coach in this great shrine here in the National Football League.
His record was the Raiders' record of 36-16-2 against those great coaches. Dominating the stage that was "Monday Night Football," Madden's teams had a record of 11-1-1. And, boy, did the Raiders dominate "Monday Night Football."
I told you we wanted to play in the greatest games, we wanted the greatest plays. You all remember the "Immaculate Reception." You all remember the "Heidi" game. You all remember "Sea of Hands," the "Holy Roller," "Ghost to the Post," the Lytle fumble, the miracles of George Blanda. The man on the sideline during all those events that have become synonymous with Raider football was John Madden.
He loved the game. He loved his team. He loved the Raiders. He loved this league. You can see it today in everything he does with his games and his TV work. He loved the AFL and the NFL and especially his players.
At a time when our country needed it, John Madden saw no color. The Raiders, more than any other organization -- politically, football, sports -- led the fight for diversity. John Madden was in the middle of that fight.
It was pretty tough in those days, in the '70s and early '80s, to lead that fight. But the Raiders had one thing in mind: We wanted to win, and to win you had to have the best players. So, as I said, you saw no color.
Nine Raider legends, nine are in this Hall. The indestructible Jim Otto, he's here today. Great clutch player George Blanda. The undefeated Willie Brown, who was only beaten by father time as a cornerback. The magical hands of Fred Biletnikoff. The famed Highway 63 and 78. Gene Upshaw, president of the Players Association. Art Shell, head coach of the Raiders. Ted Hendricks is here today, the great linebacker. And, of course, the ghost to the post, Dave Casper, along with myself, have waited patiently for some 25 years for John to join us as enshrined in this Hall of Fame.
We recognize you, Virginia Madden. That's John's wife. His sons, Mike and Joey. They were a football family. So that John could pursue his dreams. When you worked for Al Davis, you worked for the Raiders. There was no time for golf; there was no time for the kids. There was one thing: Raider football, silver and black football.
Virginia, you were there when it was important; we'll be there for you. Today is a day when our heroes of the past become the legends of the future. I've said this before: Time never really stops for the great ones. We wrap them in a cloak of immortality and remember what great people they were.
It's a great inspiration for me to come to this Field of Dreams every year. I've had the honor to present nine other people, eight who played for the Raiders, one who played for the San Diego Chargers, the great Lance Alworth. But I love to come here because I wanted to pay tribute to this great class. I wanted to say hello once again to the great players behind me in whose glory we all shared those legends.
It has always, as Harry Carson said, brought a realization to the Raiders that we owe a debt to these great people behind us. And, as I've said before, the Raiders will never forget that day.
But let's go back to Oakland for a moment. Let's go back to the 1970s. Let's fill that stadium one more time with the staff and the administrative people who poured their heart and soul into the Raiders. Let's go back to the great Raider warriors who are here today, and to those who are no longer with us, but whose memories we cherish, and those great warriors who are watching up there today who will lead us in the future.
I say let's line you up under the goalposts one more time, one more time, and have you introduced all individually once again to the roar of that Oakland crowd. We can never forget those great moments. The roar would be deafening to see you trot out in those black jerseys, silver helmets.
John Madden, the chill goes through my body as I hear that roar and think of all those special people, but seeing you, John, down on the sidelines prowling those sidelines, yelling at officials, that flaming red hair, those arms moving left and right, screaming at Raider players, and most of all, winning football games.
But that is fantasy. Fantasy isn't the answer here today. But what is not fantasy is you coming up to this podium to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ladies and gentlemen, the great John Madden.
Wow, wow, wow. You know, you always think of what it would be like if you are ever enshrined into the Hall of Fame. People say, "What are you going to say when you get up to the podium?" I tell them, I don't know. I'll tell you when I get up there. And right now, I don't have -- I got like numb, you know, a tingle from the bottom of my toes to the top of my head.
I mean, this is so special. All the guys talk about who is going to break up. I started to break up when Al Davis was talking. If they have a contest or any bet, I knew I was going to lose that one anyway.
I just wanted to take this first moment just to make a memory and say how special this feeling is. To be in here, you know, in Canton with these great people of Canton, Ohio. You can't believe the job that they do. It's not only today. I mean, the game, the parade. They have 100,000 people at the parade at 8 in the morning. This is a special place.
This is a celebration of football. When you celebrate pro football, it has to be here in Canton, Ohio, because this is where the NFL started. I want to thank you people, all the pro football fans, the pro football writers that voted me into the Hall of Fame, led by Frank Cooney and Ira Miller, a special thanks to them.
But everyone that made that possible, it was a long wait, but it was a wait, you know, when you finally get in, it's made it all worthwhile, because the feeling is so special and you appreciate it so much more.
The class that I go in with -- Harry Carson, Rayfield Wright, Warren Moon, Reggie White, Sara, Troy Aikman -- is such a great thing. I'm proud to be in this class, because we're always going to be connected with each other. We'll always be the Class of 2006. That will be forever. I'll tell you, these are all good people, good guys. I am proud as hell to go into this 2006 Hall of Fame class with these guys.
Then the Hall of Famers behind me, that's what it's all about. I was reading the NFL stats and history book. That's what you do when you ride a bus. When you don't fly, you read big, old, thick books like that. But they had a chapter on history. The first page in the chapter of history was a list of the Hall of Famers. I said, "That's right. They got it." That is our history.
The players that played before us, the players that played when they didn't have face masks, when they had leather helmets, when we got this thing started, the players that played in smaller stadiums, didn't have the medical thing, didn't have anything. They laid the foundation for this great game, and we should never forget it.
I say to the NFL teams: You ought to honor your history more. Sometimes we tend to get caught up in the players, the games now. Honor your history. Bring back the Hall of Famers. Bring back their teammates. Let the fans show their appreciation to the history.
I know going in with these guys is so special. We always talk about immortality. Some of us think maybe we will be immortal, that we'll live forever. When you really think about it, we're not going to be.
But I say this, and this is overwhelming, mind blowing, that through this bust, with these guys, in that Hall, we will be forever. You know, when you think of that, it just blows your mind. It's forever and ever and ever.
You have to stay with me a moment on this one. This is a little goofy here. You're going to say, "There is old Madden being goofy again." But I started thinking about this after I got voted into the Hall of Fame. The more I think about it, the more I think it's true. Now I know it's true, and I believe it.
Here is the deal: I think over in the Hall of Fame, that during the day, the people go through, they look at everything. At night, there's a time when they all leave. All the fans and all the visitors leave the Hall of Fame. Then there's just the workers. Then the workers start to leave. It gets down to there's just one person. That person turns out the light, locks the door.
I believe that the busts talk to each other. I can't wait for that conversation, I really can't. Vince Lombardi, Knute Rockne, Reggie, Walter Payton, all my ex-players, we'll be there forever and ever and ever talking about whatever. That's what I believe. That's what I think is going to happen, and no one's ever going to talk me out of that.
These guys are going, "Oh, no. Hope I don't have to put up with his BS for an eternity!"
This is a celebration. It has to be fun. To have Al Davis here is something special. I mean, if it weren't for Al, I wouldn't be here. He was a guy that gave me an opportunity. He was a guy that hired me 40 years ago, brought me into pro football. He was a guy that made me a head coach when I was 32 years old. I had two years of pro coaching experience.
Who the heck names a guy 32 years old as a head coach? Al Davis did. But he not only named me head coach, he stood behind me and he helped me and he provided me with players, with great players. As he was saying, nine of the players are in the Hall of Fame. I mean, those are the types of players that he provided me with.
He stood behind me not only the 10 years I was the head coach, but he stood behind me for the last 40 years. Al Davis is a friend, always has been a friend. I remember I had the opportunity to induct him into the Hall of Fame. At the time, I said, you know, talking about loyalty, what a guy Al Davis was. I said that he's the guy, you know, if you had anything happen, you had one phone call, who would you make that phone call to? I said it would be Al Davis.
All these years later, I got an opportunity. I got voted into the Hall of Fame. I had a phone call to make for a presenter, and I called Al Davis.
I just talked to my mom. She's watching. Hi, mom, I love you. I was talking about how excited I am, how I haven't slept in three days, my mind is mush. She just said, "Me, too." She has the same feelings. She's not right here, but she's here in spirit. She's a special person that's been with me for the 70 years of my life. I know that my dad, who died in 1960, is up there looking down and laughing.
My mom's probably laughing right now, too, because when I was like a sophomore in high school, I was playing in summer baseball. I was playing on three or four different teams. I told my dad, I'm going to drop a couple of these because I want to get a job to make some money. My dad said, I'll give you a couple bucks, go caddie, make a few loops, you'll be OK. He said, "Don't work. Once you start work, you're going to have to work the rest of your life."
My dad worked hard. He was a mechanic. He worked hard. The reason I say that he's up there laughing right now is because I listened to him and I continued to play, and I have never worked a day in my life. I went from player to coach to a broadcaster, and I am the luckiest guy in the world.
My sisters, Dolores and Judy, they were there with me. They supported everything that I did, because life with me as a kid was just a locker room. Every day was recess. They knew that. They went along with it, supported everything. I love them and I appreciate that.
If there was a Hall of Fame for families, my family would be in the Hall of Fame. My wife, Virginia. My two sons, Joe and Mike.
They talk about how hard coaches work. They work 18, 20 hours a day. They sleep on a couch. They don't come home. You know, that's not the hard job. The hard job is a coach's wife, believe me. The job of the coach's wife, she has to be mother, father, driver, doctor, nurse, coach, everything, because the coach is out there working.
When anyone is appreciated, they have to appreciate their wife. I have the greatest in Virginia. Thank you. Stand up, you deserve it. After all those years putting up with me, you deserve to stand up and take a bow on this day.
And my two sons, Mike and Joe, I'm so proud of them. They're not only my two sons, but they're my two best friends. Just everything that they do. When they were kids, I used to take them to practice on Saturdays, I'd take them to the Pro Bowl. I coached the Pro Bowl way too many damn times. I used to take them to the Pro Bowl, Super Bowl, every time I could. Those were special times.
As I look back now on my coaching career, I think of my family. I think of the days that we spent together. I say this to coaches everywhere: If you ever have a chance to take your kids with you, take them. Don't miss that opportunity. Because when it's all over and done with, when you look back, those are going to be your fondest memories.
When you go in the Hall of Fame at my age, then you have kids who have wives, then they have kids. Mike's wife is Noelle. Joe's wife is Wendy. Between them, they've given me five grandkids that I love to death. They're the love of my life. They're 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Sam, Jack, Jesse, Aidan and McKenna. That's what it's all about. It's about family and having them and having them here, with your team.
I go into the Hall of Fame as a coach. I know that I go into the Hall of Fame because of my players and what they did. I'm so proud. Al already introduced the players that are in the Hall of Fame behind me. If they'd just stand up. All my players that are out there, there's between 30 and 40 ex-Raider players.
My family, stand up. Just take your day. I mean, you remember. You remember all these guys that did all these things. No, no, stay up. This is our day in the sun. Doggone it, take it. If we're here, stay up and take it. You guys stand up and take it, too. Fred Biletnikoff, Big Ben Davidson. This is what it's all about. These are the guys, I go in here. No, no, stand up, Ben.
All of a sudden, I mean, 30 or 40 years ago, they were ready to hit anything. Let's go to the party, let's do all this. Now they want to sit down.
Stand up, enjoy the moment. This is ours. They can't take it away from us. They can't ever take this away from us. Thanks to all of you. The whole bunch of you. I love you. Thank you very, very much. You remember all those great Raider names in the '70s? We had such special fans, the whole thing. It was just something, you know, that I'll never forget. We'll have a party after, too. Don't worry about it. We'll go through and...
It's been a great road from Madden's Lot in Daly City. John Robinson. John, who would believe this, huh? This is amazing. Jefferson High School with my first real coach, Joe McGrath. Then Roy Hughes at Cal Poly. My roommate Pat is here, my college roommate. Philadelphia Eagles, Norm Van Brocklin had a great influence on me. Hancock College with Al Balder. Then to San Diego State with a great coach that someday will be in here, Don Coryell. He had a real influence on my coaching. Joe Gibbs was on that staff, too.
Then we went to the Oakland Raiders, John Rausch was the head coach, Ollie Spencer, Tom Dons, Charlie Sumner, John Palancheck, Joe Scanelli, Tom Flores came later, all those great coaches, John Robinson, I thank you all.
Again, you go in as a coach, but you take your players and your assistant coaches with you.
It's been so long that I had a pretty good road afterwards also. I ride a bus. I don't fly. The road has been with Dave Hahn, my first bus driver who passed away. Willie Yarborough. Joe Mitchell. I spend so much time with them that they're part of my team now and my family.
Then Sandy Montag is my agent. He's been with me for over 20 years. You know, I mean, agent, smagent. He's a friend, a very good friend. I thank him for everything that he's done for me.
My years at CBS and FOX were pretty good with Pat Summerall, you know, that team, Bob Stenner, Sandy Grossman. I say I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I go to ABC, now NBC with Al Michaels, Fred Gaudelli, Drew Eskoff. By the way, we have a game right over here tomorrow night.
You talk about a full weekend. I mean, man, they have dinners, parades, induction ceremonies, then a game tomorrow night which will be broadcast, the first one I do with NBC.
I just want to say in closing that it's been a great ride. I want to thank everyone who has been along for any part of it. Speaking of great rides, I was lucky enough to be carried off the field after we won Super Bowl XI. I was told it took like five or six guys to lift me up, then they dropped me. But that's OK, because that was me and that was them. They aren't going to carry me off. You carry him off for a while, boom, you dump him on the ground. But it was the happiest moment of my life.
Today feels like the second time in my life that I'm being carried off the shoulders of others. Yet instead of off the field, it's into the Hall of Fame. Instead of five or six guys today, I ride on the shoulders of hundreds of friends, coaches, players, colleagues, family. I just say this, I thank you all very much. This has been the sweetest ride of 'em all. Thank you.