Orlando Pace Enshrinement speech
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium
August 6, 2016
Thank you. Wow; this is amazing. Wow. Thank you, Justin. When David Baker knocked on my door in San Francisco Saturday night before Super Bowl 50 to tell me that I was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I immediately began to think who would present me. Although I wanted to share this amazing moment with my entire family, I knew that Justin, being my eldest, would be our family spokesman.
Now he can carry this memory of this moment forward as he shares my story with his children one day. Thank you, Justin.
First I'd like to thank the Hall of Fame Selection Committee and congratulate the 2016 class of inductees. I couldn't imagine going in with a more deserving group of men. I am honored and humbled to stand here today, for along with my induction, this occasion marks a fulfillment of each and every goal I've established for myself in football since the age of 13. For at 13, following a basketball tournament here in Canton, I toured the Hall of Fame and was inspired; me, a kid from Sandusky, that I too could be here one day as well.
This became my first goal, and now here I am, 27 years later, standing in Canton, Ohio, accepting this incredible honor. From high school, through college, to the final game of my career, my goal never wavered. It has always been to be the very best I can be. Hear what I'm saying, the very best I can be. Not simply in football but in life. Throughout the Hall of Fame was the pinnacle, my Matterhorn, which I strived to ascend. I never spoke to anybody about my goals, but it fueled the fire inside me that I unleashed in every game I played.
My name in the Hall of Fame will stand as a lasting reminder, a message that no matter how humble a man's beginnings, success in achieving one's highest goal is possible, if you have the courage to truly believe and the integrity to work as hard as you possibly can to sustain the mental and physical stamina that is required. Not just for one season, but for an entire career.
When you set your goal to be your very best, there is no other path. None of us on this stage had the privilege of being here without the support of so many people. For the first time in my life, I have an opportunity to acknowledge and honor with deepest gratitude those individuals that have meant so much to me along my journey.
First, my mom, who is the most important person in my journey. She worked two jobs to support my sister and I. Mom, your selfless dedication to do whatever it took to raise my sister and I was a true blessing. I am thankful for your love and your countless hours of blessings. My life work has always been and will continue to be to make you proud. Thank you.
To my sister Katrina, thank you for your love, always keeping it real with me no matter what. Your love and support has meant so much to me. Thank you.
To my grandfather who filled the role as my father. Dad, you don't know what that meant to me. That meant the world to me. Thank you so much for being in my life.
To my grandmother, who is no longer with us, but I know she's smiling down today at this moment. She was the best person I knew. My family would agree. She only saw the best in everyone, which set an example for me. Now, I never required anybody to motivate me. I've always been a self-motivator. What drove me most was to help my family overcome the hardships they had to endure. That was always a fundamental force in my drive to achieve excellence and be at my best. Materially speaking, we didn't have a lot, but what my mother and grandparents provided were values, and a strong work ethic that I live by today.
Wow, this is amazing, man. There were some rough crowds in Sandusky where gangs and drugs were prevalent. But because of their love, faith and guidance, supporting me, I steered clear of that. My football odyssey actually began when I was seven years old, playing with friends in the park. At 10 I was old enough to play tackle football. I am so thankful to those dedicated men who gave their time to help shape my character and mold my football skills at a very early age.
In high school some of my biggest influences was my head coach, Larry Cook. Thank you for your guidance, your toughness, your leadership. That meant the world to me.
My offensive line coach, Coach Munafo Sr. I'm not sure if you're here or not, but thank you for providing a foundation for me to play offensive line so I could play on the next level. Another coach, Coach Bill Sarter, I'm not sure if you're here as well, but I remember in 9th grade you telling me when I first walked on the field, if I did everything correct I could choose any college of my choice in four years. Coach, that meant the world to me. Thank you.
The last person is my cousin, Keith. I've never told you this in my life, man, but you've meant so much to me in my life. You're the first person in our family to go to college, and from that point on you inspired me to go to college as well. I appreciate everything you're doing. I love you.
Now, I'm one of the few players to play high school football in the state of Ohio, but to also play my college football in the state of Ohio as well. I often say those were some of the best years of my life. I was fortunate to be surrounded by great players who challenged me to be great every day. I'd like to acknowledge those players in attendance. Will you please stand my Ohio State Buckeyes, please.
One of my biggest influences in college and one of the main reasons I went to Ohio State was because of the late Korey Stringer. He was my football role model. He meant so much to me. As a freshman I wanted to play the game the way Korey played the game. I was so fortunate to have him in my life. I know he's not here, but I know he's smiling down on us today, and I'd love to share this honor with you, Big K. I love you, man.
To Coach John Cooper, I'm not sure if you're in attendance today, but I want to say thank you for giving a kid from Sandusky to start from day one at the Ohio State University. And also supporting my decision to enter the NFL Draft as a junior, thank you, Coach.
Now to the Rams. I'd like to thank Georgia Frontiere, the late owner of the St. Louis Rams, as well as John Shaw, Jay Zygmunt, Charley Armey for selecting me with the number one pick. Hopefully it paid off.
Also I'd like to thank the current owner, Stan Kroenke, thank you for truly believing in me for building an organization that truly aspires to be great.
To my teammates, the greatest show on turf. To my Hall of Fame teammate now, Marshall Faulk, thank you, man. Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, all of you guys, I hope to see you standing on this stage soon. Your work ethic, dedication, professionalism was unmatched.
I'd like to recognize the offensive line that year. There were some great players. Adam Timmerman, thank you for bringing that championship grit to our team. Mike Gruttadauria, who made everything happen for us. Got us all in the right plays. I appreciate you, Mike. And my left guard, Tom Nutten, my man. Thank you, man, for always protecting my B gap. Andy McCollum, thank you, man. I know you're here somewhere. Thank you, man. And Roland Williams, my tight end. I'll go to battle with you any day, man. I love you. You guys are all incredible athletes and I truly enjoyed creating priceless memories with you.
In 1999 was a special year, although we were a very young team, what made it special was we were all coming into our own and peaking at the right time. There were no egos and we genuinely enjoyed being around each other. When faced with adversity, we were relentless, and because our selfless attitudes, we accomplished great things together.
Coach Vermeil, you were the heart and soul of our team. Coach, thank you for investing players, investing in men. That's what guys on that team really enjoyed was the investment in the person, and not so much the player.
Coach Martz, thanks for challenging us every day. We took on your persona, fast and furious, Coach, and we loved it. Thank you so much.
To my offensive line coach, Jim Hanifan, I remember day one when I walked in the Rams facility, Coach, you said if I'm not standing on this stage when my career is over, it's nobody's fault by my own. Thank you for having the confidence in me.
To the St. Louis Rams fans, I'm so proud to say we brought that city a championship. Thank you for the support that you gave us during that run. No one could ever take that away from you. Thank you.
To my family, I've accomplished great things in my career, but none of them as great as my children. We've already introduced Justin. We have three more in the stands today. Jalen, who has been living this HOF life as much as possible. Thank you, son, I love you.
Kendall, my princess, I love you to death, thank you. Landon, who challenges me to be a great dad every day. I love you. I'm so proud to see where you kids are today, but I'm really excited where you're going to be in the future. Thank you so much, and I love you.
To the most important woman in my life, my wife, Carla Pace. Thank you for your sacrifice that allowed me to live my dream for 13 years in the NFL. And I know I wouldn't be standing here if it wasn't for the love and the support that you provided to us. Even though I'm on this stage by myself, I share it with you, all of it. Thank you, honey, I love you.
As I move forward post Hall of Fame, post-football, my goal and promise is to be as caring to my children, Justin, Jalen, Kendall, Landon, as my grandmother was to me. To be a loving husband to my wife, Carla, a great son and grandson. I will serve as a role model for success and exemplify unwavering passion, work ethic, dedication, and commitment to excellence that can lead to success for anyone with the courage to inspire.
Always remember the dream always begins as a dream. The older you get, you realize what it takes to turn that dream into a reality.
For me, my dream started when I was seven years old, playing in Sunnyside Park in Sandusky, Ohio. That's when I first began to be aware that because of my size and natural athletic ability, perhaps God had destined me for something special, something great. Now here I am Canton. Thank you, God bless.