Mike Webster Enshrinement speech
Mike Webster Enshrinement Speech 1997
Presenter: Terry Bradshaw
Thank you. How you doing folks? Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, thank you. Ah, don’t sit down, stand up. As you noticed, I came up here without any notes. I don’t need any notes. I know this man; I know his backside as well as anybody. When Mike called and asked me to present him today, I was in shock. Quite honestly, I didn’t feel like that I deserved this great honor, this great privilege that he has bestowed upon me. I actually said “Why?” He said, “Who knows me better than you, Blonde Bomber?” Back when I really was a “Blonde Bomber.” So I had to put together some thoughts about Mike Webster, and I got to thinking, when I was a child, I had a dream, everybody here has a dreamed, all these great inductees into the Hall of Fame, all these fans, all of you out here, at some point in time in your life sat down and had a dream. And whether or not it came true mattered not. But the fact that you had a purpose in your life and something to get up and turn you on everyday was all you needed. My dream was this; I want to play in the National Football League. So finally, after I had this dream, I said “What’s it going to be like Terry, what’ it going to be like?” I said, “Well first of all, I got to have me a great offense, I got to have somebody that can run down the field and throw it up in the air, wearing number 88 and catch all these passes.” And then I got to have a tight end, I got to have a little bitty one from Temple, and then I got to have a big old big one from Clemson who would say to me, “Ah, Brad, I’m open, throw me the ball. I’m open on a five-yard hook.’ I don’t throw five-yard hooks. And then I got to have a tackle, 290 pounds.
He went from 230 to 290 overnight, Larry Brown, I nicknamed him “Bubba.” And then, give me a guard that can run like the wind and catch a pass if we have to play around at the goal line. Give me somebody smart, because we’re going to trap, trap, trap. Gerry Mullins came to us. Then give me a left guard, need someone that can move to the left and move to the right and trap, trap, trap, and he gave me Sam Davis. Then give me a left tackle to protect my blind side and give me somebody that likes horses cause I’m in the horse business. And so, all of a sudden, my dream gave me Jon “Cowboy” Kolb. Then I said I got one guy on the right, I got to have a receiver on the left to compliment that little tiny little 88, so he sent me a guy out of Alabama A&M, John Stallworth who makes great catches. Then I said if we’re going to have all these great people, we got to have somebody to run the football, so give me a fullback out of Penn State, isn’t that right? And if he’s going to be a great one, you got to have a nickname, we’ll call him the “Italian Stallion.”
Franco Harris inducted into the Hall of Fame, was our fullback, he ran the traps. And then we had to have an unselfish man in the other backfield, give me somebody out of Notre Dame, cause I think that’s kind of a neat school. And he sent me a little tiny guy, a little bitty guy, who went over to Vietnam, got shot in the toe, came running back to us, Mr. Rooney fixed his toe up, stuck him in the backfield and he blocked for the “Italian Stallion.” And I sat back and a took a look at my Dream and I said, “Ah, this is good!” Now give me a defense that can stop all this offense and give them a nickname cause you win with defense in the NFL, you got to have a nickname – “Steel Curtain.” And give me a tackle, give me a tackle that’ll spit on a reporter. He got a nickname for that and they called him “Mean” Joe Greene. And another tackle who carved the hair on the top of his head, pointing yonder way. And when I asked him why, Ernie Holmes, he said “To give me direction in my life.” Then he gave me a linebacker, 6-5, 218 pounds, knock down a side of the barn easy all by himself, and they named him “Fang” Jack Lambert, sitting over here. Jack Ham, Mike Wagner, Donnie Shell, Mel Blount, on and on and on. And then the dream was complete. I had a great owner in Art Rooney, I had a great coach in Chuck Noll.
What good is a machine if you ain’t got a center? And oh, did I get a center. I just didn’t get any old center. No siree, I got the best that’s ever played the game, ever put his hands down on a football. And I said to my dream, if you’re going to give me this guy, make sure he ain’t as pretty as me, and he ain’t. I love you, sit you butt down, I ain’t through. I said make him 6-2, make him 250 pounds out of Tomahawk, Wisconsin. Drafted in the fifth round, 1974, and he was the only center I ever saw the first time that my arms were actually bigger than his. I loved him from the very first moment I put my hands under his butt. He was the total package. He could get down low and squat under a nose tackle. We didn’t have to double team with him because he was strong, he was quick, quickest hands you’ve ever seen, move right, move left, the man was outstanding, outstanding, simply, nothing has ever compared to Mike Webster.
I turned him on to Jimmy Dean Hot Pork Sausage. I taught him how to scramble eggs with whole butter. Taught him what apple butter was on toast and he sat by me every Sunday morning as I went through my game plan cause he knew I couldn’t read real well and he helped me every Sunday morning. I showed him what buttermilk tasted like and he drank a gallon of it every Sunday morning on game day. And he was the only center to take liver tablets that kicked in some time in the fourth quarter. I said dream, give me a winner. Give me somebody I can count on, give me somebody that I can talk to. Give me somebody that’ll help me in a game, somebody that’ll tell me “Terry no, don’t run this play.” While were at the line of, don’t run this play, get out! Okay, what do you want me to get out of? I don’t know, just get out!” Ran another play. Somebody to help me with the slide calls, Mike did. Someone to help me with Max in protection, Mike did. Someone to help me call the plays, Mike did. Somebody helps me get the team in line, Mike did it. Mike controlled it. Mike ran it. We needed him, we used him, we leaned on him, he was our strength in our offense. There has never been, there never has been, or there ever will be another man as committed, as committed totally dedicated to making himself the very best that he could possibly be. There has never been a man who is so loved, look at this hillside, Mike, when you get up here, who is so loved, in which a city, in which the City of Pittsburgh so identified with on offense. He reflected our defense on offense, he was the backbone upon all which we were built around, he was our spine.
There never has been and never will be another Mike Webster. Mike Lewis Webster. I love this man, I always have. He is dear and precious to all of us. Ladies and gentlemen, the last time I was here in 1989. Just one more time, let me put my hands under Mike Webster’s butt! Just one more time! Let me take that snap! Are you ready? Are you ready, Mike? (Webster proceeds to snap a ball to Bradshaw.)
Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest center in the history of the National Football League, your inductee into the Hall of Fame, number 52, “Iron” Mike Webster.
Thank you. Thank you very much. I did that for Lambert. As you can tell, when sometimes you think things change, the more they stay the same. Giving Bradshaw a forum and a microphone is like giving Visine to a Peeping Tom, you know? I know I see that ball there, that’s my ball, 1997 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement July 26, 1997 13 okay. I don’t want you selling it. And I don’t want to see 500,000 copies on the market at Dick’s Sporting Goods next week. I want to keep that, that has value to me.
I’d like to begin, obviously, I want it to be fun, but I want it to be truthful and I want you to understand, as you well do, what this is all about. The people out there are tremendous fans, locally the Pittsburgh Steeler fans are tremendous fans. But as we go through this, I want you to understand another thing, that when it is all said and done, these gentleman over here have provided us with an opportunity. This Class, tremendous group of football people, owners, coaches and players. However, the most important thing is, is that they’re tremendous people, not perfect people, not people that are pretentious or whatever, they’re real people. And that’s what the game of football’s all about. And before, I appreciate that very much, but before I even start, and I’d like to introduce a lot of the tremendous, most important people in my life, obviously. Members of my family, I’d like the members of my immediate family, Pamela and my children to stand up and to remain standing please.
I’d like my mom and dad, my brothers and sisters and Pam’s mom and dad and all the brothers and sisters and relatives to stand up, please. Remain standing, remain standing. And there’s a reason for this. Remain standing please. I’d also like any member of the Steeler organization, past, present or future to stand up. Ed Kiely is over here; I know Ed use to be with us. Members over here in the alumni, Jack. I’d also like members of the Kansas City Chiefs organization to stand up please. I know Mr. and Mrs. Lamar Hunt are here. Carl Peterson, Tim Connolly remain standing please. I’d like all the Pittsburgh Steeler fans to stand up. And I’d like the fans of professional football in general to stand up, all fans, for any reason to stand up. Remain standing for a second. (Webster walks into the crowd, hugs family, etc.) That’s as far as I go with that one. Carl, I didn’t get over there, I couldn’t make it buddy. I’ll catch you later.
But the big thing, the big thing about it is that we’re all in this together, right? And yeah, we compete against one another on Sunday and we hated each other on Sunday, I still hate Lambert. I mean every day for years; I mean it took us two years to figure it out that we were on the same team. But every single day, but he started it, you know? He was miserable from the beginning; he didn’t like himself. But he made me a better football player and the Pittsburgh Steelers provided me with an opportunity with the environment they had already instilled from 1969 on. But you got to remember now, it’s forty years, forty years of not failure, because you don’t fail until it’s all said and done and then you’re on the bottom, that’s not failure. You only fail if you don’t finish the game. If you finish you win, okay? But you don’t measure that in the middle of the second quarter, third quarter, you measure it at the end. As long as you keep going, you keep trying, you keep working at it, all right? Sometimes you’re going to be down, sometimes you’re going to be struggling, but when I was in Pittsburgh and when I was in Kansas City, I knew I was there with people that work together, we were on the same team we could depend on one another.
Yeah in the National Football League, there is only one team that wins the championship, and as it should be, all right? In that arena, that’s what it should be, that’s what we all understand that up front, okay? But as all of these men here understand the very best in your profession or the very best as a measuring stick, what that goal is does not have to be the point of a pencil. It doesn’t have to be a dot where one person can stand, it can be a plateau and a lot of people can get there, okay? There’s a standard of excellence, there’s a standard of success that everybody can attain, but it’s measured differently, you have to measure it by where you started out from, what you’ve overcome and what you’ve dealt with. But the big thing is that you keep going forward, and the greatest thing that has happened to me in my experience in professional football is to have the opportunity to work with people with a common goal and with the same purpose and to sacrifice.
The Kansas City Chiefs have such a rich and storied tradition, much like the Pittsburgh Steelers. And I had the opportunity to play for two fantastic owners, and even more important, two very, very special people, “The Chief” Mr. Rooney, Arthur J. Rooney, the founder and president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, everybody knows how special and wonderful he is, I don’t have to go into that, and Mr. Lamar Hunt, also a founder and owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, is a fabulous person and a wonderful person, his wife Norma provided me, and Carl Peterson provided with me the opportunity, even though he tricked me and fooled me into going to Kansas City. I went there only for the purpose initially, I know, and I didn’t tell you this, why in the world anybody would want a fifteen-year center, I thought I had to go find out. And right when they did had me, him and Marty Schottenheimer, enthusiastic, eloquent speakers, personable guys, you know, tell me how great I was, and I believed it, you know? I never worked so hard in my life. And it was painful too. But it was a great experience, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
I still have my championship rings, I still have my Super Bowl rings, so contrary to what you might have heard. But I don’t need the rings, and I don’t need to wear those rings to know how special that time 1997 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement July 26, 1997 14 was for me because the rings are symbols. The relationship with the players and the things that we did together over a period of time was really very special. And the whole experience was very, very special and the other day we had the opportunity to listen to the old timers, over there, speak about what it was like in their career and whatnot. And they talked a little bit about what they could do to maybe turn around the attitude and what was happening with the younger players. And the best thing that we could do is to go on ourselves and to be successful, to work together. We have great resources amongst ourselves and together we have strength, we could do anything we want to do together. We don’t need anybody’s permission, we don’t need anybody’s approval and we don’t need to be selfish, which we aren’t. But we can attain anything we ever attained on the football field if we do it together. And that’s the best thing we could do for the young players.
It’s not to go down and counsel them and tell them of what they should do or how they should change and this and that. The best thing we could do is to go ourselves and to go forward and achieve things and to reach our goals because those goals would include everything that was good for the entire group. And that’s the very, very special thing about being a Pittsburgh Steeler and a Kansas City Chief. From the very top down, it’s very, very evident why they have very rich and storied histories. And I’ve had very, very great pleasure, and I don’t say this, you know it is painful to play football, obviously. It’s not fun out there being two-a-day drills in the heat of the summer and banging heads, it’s not a natural thing. Football is kind of rare in that it tests you mentally, physically and emotionally in so many different ways. And you know what, the worst part about that is that it’s on film. If you get your tail kicked out there it’s on film. And the next day, you gotta watch it with the boss, guys like coach Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history and the second greatest coach in NFL history, who incidentally gave us the greatest coach in NFL history, but like I said, the top measuring stick, the very top rung of the ladder doesn’t have to be a point, it could be a rung, so you guys are equal.
But anyway, there’s just so many people that have taken part, and that’s the most important thing. Hell, like I said, I was no ballerina out there, I wasn’t pretentious, and I worked hard because I was scared. I was scared I’d fail, honest to God I was scared I’d fail. Scared of the possibility of failure, I should say that. And I’m still scared of that, you know? Because that’s the motivator that we go through. And the failure I’m talking about is the failure to be the very best that we have been given the talent to be and are accountable for. Now they can be in different areas, everybody has very significant talents but a lot of them are in different areas, they’re not all the same. But in a lot of ways, ladies and gentlemen, we are the same. We have the same fears, we have the same desires, we have the same temptations. We have a lot of those basic fundamentals. So, what we decide to do with those, you know, is up to us. But it is important to be truthful with ourselves, so we understand them. And as a football player, you embarrass yourself a lot of times.
I mean over and over and over again. I’ve embarrassed myself over and over and over again. And I admit it. But you know what, if I concentrated or tried to concentrate and worked every second, twenty-four hours a day for every moment of my life, did not do it, you know I’d still embarrass myself. And I’d still make mistakes and I’d still screw up, but that’s okay. And it’s okay for other people to do that. And if you do do that and I think if you do realize that and you do understand that then you can make progress. Then you can be willing to go forward and attempt things and learn what life’s really all about. You could have the opportunity to experience things that maybe you’d be afraid to try if you didn’t, you know? Who wants to get to the end of their life, as Longfellow says, and find out that you have not lived at all? We are free to do that. But the freedom to do that it has to include the opportunity and many of you people out there and especially over there have provided opportunities for people like myself. And it’s up to us to continue to provide that opportunity not only in football but in every area of life. And you know what, we’re in this damn thing together, folks. And I’m talking about the things that are going on today that have been ignored for a long period of time. Yeah, we’re addressing them now because we have a history of addressing them only when they jump up and bite us in the ass.
And not until we do that. But we can change that, we can change, but were in this thing, we got to care about on another. We got to care about our kids, we got to care about a lot of things. And we do care about a lot of things, but we got to have enough people care and working together. And we can get that done, it’s not impossible. Hell, nothing else is working, you know, maybe it’s idealistic, but nothing else is working, folks. And I’m just appreciative that I had the opportunity to play with these men, both in Pittsburgh and Kansas City and against the jerks on the other team. I have another term, but I try to keep it halfway decent.
But one of the real significant things for myself in being here today was getting Bradshaw here. I couldn’t find him for a long period of time and he steadfastly refused to come in and introduce me because he’s afraid of having the opportunity to follow him instead of being ahead of him, you know because he was an ugly baby when he was born, you know and he didn’t want, he talks about me being ugly, right? 1997 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement July 26, 1997 15 He was ugly when he was born, I asked his mom that and she said that’s true, she said. Dad told me, I mean his dad said, “He was so ugly his mom carried him around upside down for two weeks, thought he had only one eye.” Anyway, the biggest thing is I’d just like to thank everyone that I have played with had the opportunity to play with and the offensive lineman. I stand up here and accept this award, and heaven forbid they made a bust out of me, but hopefully there’s enough shadow and curves and whatnot that it doesn’t scare anybody away.
But the big thing is, they put one of us up here for the Hall of Fame, okay, but that jacket the I took off is really, they got hundreds and hundreds and actually thousands of people in it. Because it represents not only the players and coaches and owners and coaching staffs and assistant coaches and whatnot that were involved in this thing because football is concept a of team sport and I needed guys to help me. I had to have a Bradshaw, I need to have a Franco Harris to spread out the defense vertically and horizontally so, especially in space, I wasn’t real visible when I missed blocks, you know? And you got recognition at a young enough age that, by winning championships, somebody had to do it, okay? And I certainly wasn’t willing to correct anybody early on in my career when they wanted to give me credit as being a half way decent player, I was just quiet about it, you know I mean, thought maybe the people wouldn’t’ find out, but I enjoyed it. The reason I was, I was good, don’t get me wrong. Because there is, it is a talent and it is a gift if you work hard, if you do everything you possible should do, if you develop the work habits and you give everything you got and you study film and you help, maybe, some of the younger guys in any way, shape or form that you can. That’s a talent. I wasn’t fast, I wasn’t big, I wasn’t strong.
But you can make up for things in different areas in other ways, and those are talents and gifts too. So, it’s important for each and every one of us to recognize that we do have some talents, special talents. Some are very obvious; some may not have developed yet so don’t give up on yourself. Continue to develop, continue to try, do not be afraid to fail because you’re going to fail, believe me and there’s no one keeping score all we have to do is finish the game and we’ll all be winners. And if we’re going to finish the game and all be winners, why not enjoy it a little bit more by caring about one another? And making sure they have an opportunity to understand what that’s all about.
Now in closing, I said I’d made mistakes, I say I screw up right, I made a huge boner in this thing right here in this event. There’s a gentleman that’s not here, very, very special person, that I wanted to get him here, and he was one of the, I mean he is one of the truly significant persons in my life and there is always so many I couldn’t mention them all anyway. You got Johnny Lestini over here, has been just a tremendous friend and if I start talking about him, I’ll start bawling like a baby and I don’t want to do that. He knows how I feel about him. But there’s a guy that I did not get in here for this event, I failed miserably and there’s no way I can apologize to him, but he won’t expect an apology. He’d probably just kick my ass the next time he sees me, but he’s the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at the University of Nebraska, Charlie McBride, who coached under Frank Kush.
Frank is a great football coach but, Mike (Haynes), you said it was fun or enjoyable or a pleasure? You have that mountain that you had at Arizona State? Did you run up that thing? Just once. You must have transferred after that. But anyway, in closing, Charlie, I’m sorry, God bless you, you are fabulous, you’ve helped so many players in so many ways. I remember you wanted to send me back to Harshaw just because I wanted to play defense one day. But I screwed up bad in not getting him here because I wanted him here, he was special. Mr. Tim Connolly, everybody has a lot of, we’re very fortunate we have a lot of friends in life, we have a lot of great and wonderful people. Everybody has those several really, really, uniquely, special friends and I’ve had more than my share of them. And I’ve had more than my share of blessings. And when it comes to the Hall of Fame, I mean, when they say, “What is it like” I said “I’m way, way past using my using up my quota.” So, I’m very, very appreciative, and I’m thankful, and I just want it to be fun, you know? That’s what it should be.
Obviously on the football field, when the balloon goes up, fun is winning. And winning in the National Football League and being successful. The object of the National Football League is to be the best -- the Super Bowl Champions. And let’s understand that, that that is the goal in professional football. Because we have to be honest about it, okay? So, when we start talking about those things, that is the goal. But that means the player, okay, that is trying to achieve that goal, there’s other things that they can get out of the game that you have to get out of it. But in other areas at certain ages when they’re growing and developing to get to that opportunity, you have to give them the chance to develop and grow and to do it without them being afraid to go in there and fail. So, encourage one another, especially the children. And not only do we have to do things to provide them, to continue to provide them with the opportunity, we have to give back some things to redevelop opportunities and we’ll all benefit from that. So, I thank you very, very much.