Ozzie Newsome Enshrinement speech

Ozzie Newsome Enshrinement Speech 1999

Presenter: Calvin Hill

All you Cleveland Browns fan out there…I know you were waiting for this, because until Ozzie came up, all the rest of us chit-chat. You know the southern black church tradition teaches us a phrase, and that phrase is “God is. “And we use that phrase for special times, times when we are celebrating the joy of His bounty, the specialness of His love, and for me, this is one of those special times. Because you know, think about where we are. This is the last year of this century, this is the last year of this millennium. And I have the distinct privilege and the honor of presenting for induction to the Hall of Fame a special person, my friend and teammate, your Ozzie Newsome.

And I got to tell you, when Ozzie called me and asked me to be a presenter, his presenter, it was a sobering and emotional moment. But I realize I stand here as a representative of so many of his friends and fans, from Muscle Shoals to Cleveland, from Leon Douglas and Johnny Davis to Brian Sipe. From C.T. Manning in Muscle Shoals to Sam Rutigliano in Cleveland, Ohio. And we all realize, like you do, that Ozzie is special. We know about the consecutive games catching a pass, the consecutive games starting, the all-time leader as a tight end receiver. But I stand before you to talk about my friend, Ozzie Newsome, and the qualities that make him special for me. And these are qualities that transcend statistics or receptions, and yet were essential to his success on the field and off the field.

Ozzie is grace. And not just the grace of an acrobatic reception, but the grace of congratulating an opponent after a bitter loss. The grace of consulting a teammate after a critical mistake. And I know, because I made one of those mistakes against Denver in 1981, and the first arm around my shoulders was Ozzie Newsome. Ozzie is dependability. One of the greatest coaches whose bust is in this building, Vince Lombardi, once said that “ability is important, but dependability is critical.” And for Ozzie whether it was practice or games, or even more important, a verbal commitment to a young kid to be there. You could etch his word in stone. Ozzie is humility. We all call him “The Wizard of Oz.” When he was introduced in Cleveland Stadium, they would put up “The Wizard of Oz.” I heard people in the parade today yell “Wizard” and he would chuckle, almost embarrassed. Because with his greatness comes a deep, deep humility. Ozzie is class. Twenty-one years ago, when I first came up to Cleveland, he showed me a telegram he got from Bear Bryant. He was embarking on his professional career and Bear Bryant was just telling him some things, and he ended that telegram by saying “Ozzie, keep your class.” And for 21 years, he has kept his class.

You all know about the touchdowns but let me tell you something else about my friend Ozzie Newsome. Ozzie is family. If it gets bright while I’m talking, that’s because his number one fan Ozzie Newsome Sr. probably has got a special skybox watching his baby today. As much as he enjoys the bust and the trophies, the things that mean the most to him are his mother, Mrs. Ethel Newsome, his daughters Theresa and April, his wife Gloria, his brothers and sisters. And then there’s a special person, his son Michael. And see I know what it means to be the father of a son. As a father, you know it’s interesting, as a father, you hope to impart all the right values by example. But you know, it takes a village. And there are others in that village that help. And when my son was five years old and he first met Ozzie, he was someone I used as an example outside of my house. An example of grace, an example of humility, of dependability, of class, of family. And so, it excites me, because I’ve talked about Ozzie to my son for a lot of years. And he’s watching, and he’s going to see this man that I have used as a role model to him. Finally, I have spoken today to the Top Dawg, Mr. Hanford Dixon. And the Top Dawg has agreed to relinquish the title, at least for this weekend, to Ozzie. So, it’s really with a distinct honor that I turn to these greats and all of the greats that are not here, to present for the pleasure of their company, my friend and teammate. And it’s with tremendous humility that I stand before you and present to you, your latest Hall of Famer, in the great Browns’ tradition, the Wizard from Muscle Shoals, Ozzie Newsome.

Ozzie Newsome

Thank you…Thanks, Calvin. That was really a pleasure to have you, thank you, present me today. I’d like to first begin by acknowledging Christ in my life. It’s because of Him that I can have an inner peace each and every day, and I can deal with the different trials and tribulations that are put before each and every one of us, just like it is for myself. And I too, as Eric (Dickerson) talked about, accept the gifts that he gave me, but I only use them for his glory and for his honor.

I’d like to congratulate my classmates. It’s been three or four great days in Hawaii, three or four great days here in Canton. Eric, Tom, Billy, and L.T., this is a special group to go in, and I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed hearing your talks, and I’m looking forward to hearing yours L.T. To the other Hall of Famers, the guys that were my heroes that I’ve watched for many, many years. They’ve paved the way; they made the game what it is today. And to a unique bunch of Hall of Famers, those from that family of the Cleveland Browns, I stand right now to say I’m proud to be joining you as a member from that great tradition.

You know, at some point during my career, I was at a dinner and I heard Hall of Famer Paul Warfield talk about Hall of Famer Jim Brown and the passion he had for the game. And Paul related the story how Jim drove from the College All-Star Game all night so that he could be at the very first practice. Well that’s passion, you know I’ve got to appreciate passion, but I never got the opportunity to play with Jim and just as most of you, I only saw the highlights. But I’ve come to understand and appreciate passion for 13 years for playing in front of what I consider the greatest football fans in America. You know, we’ve got the great fans here from Buffalo and the great fans here from New York. But I want to give you your official welcome to the “Dawg Pound.”

You know along the way, in order for any of us to achieve, there had to be some mentors. And I can think back on the coaches I’ve had along the way, my high school coaches, Coach Griese, Coach Daly, Coach Rose, and as Calvin says, Coach C.T. Manning. My position coach for four years at the University of Alabama Bobby Marks and one of the greatest college football coaches to ever walk a Saturday afternoon, a man by the name of Paul “Bear” Bryant. You know, just ask some other fellow Alabamians have come before me, talked about Coach Bryant, I think we can all agree that the lessons that he taught us while we were there are the lessons that we are living right now in our lives. And that’s how special a man he was.

As I talk about the coaches, I had in the National Football League. Rich Kotite, my position coach, who took a young, unknown, skinny wide receiver, and helped him to become a tight end. Because Sam Rutigliano had the vision to move me there. Marty Schottenheimer and Bud Carson, those are the guys that were the mentors in my life.

You know, about three or four months ago, I had the opportunity of going to a funeral. And, you know, the thing about the funeral is that instead of the family being sad, they started to talk about, that this was a home-going celebration. Now with that home-going celebration, the tears of sorrow became the tears of joy because we got the opportunity at that point to enjoy that person’s life and to dwell on that. If you will give me one-minute, and I want to steal a theme from a group up in Cleveland, the O.J.s, and say for the next two or three minutes allow this to be my family reunion. Because as I look out here today, I have the fans, I have my teammates, from high school, from college, and from the Cleveland Browns. You know I think back of my three roommates at three different times during my career, Ricky Feacher, Johnny Davis, and the “Top Dawg” Hanford Dixon.” I think about the quarterbacks who threw to me, Brian Sipe, Paul McDonald, Gary Danielson, and Bernie Kosar. The greatest thing about football is that it’s a team sport. In order for any of us to achieve anything that we did out on the football field, we had to depend on ten other guys. And I know out there in the audience, there are a lot of my teammates that are hear today and sharing in this moment with me, but also sharing in that moment that’s going to happen on Monday night when those orange helmets come back on the football field.

You know, but just after you’ve had a family reunion, there’s always the opportunity to think back and to share with each other a people who are special in your life that are not able to be here. You know there is a lot of people that had a lot to do with Ozzie Newsome that for different circumstances cannot be with me here physically, but I know they are here with my spiritually. And I’d like to applaud them for that.

As I moved on to talk about a family, I want to talk about my own family. I have a Ma here today with all of my family and I am fortunate enough to have family from Cleveland, please stand up and get your applause. The thing about the family is that when they’re involved with a professional athlete, there’s a lot of sacrificing that goes on. And I’ve had my brothers and my sisters who have sacrificed with me. My wife, who is my friend and my companion. But the special lady – that is her day not mine, my mother, thank you. And any time you have a gathering of people, there is a reason and a cause for celebration. And today, we have that cause, because in 1999 there’s football back on the lakefront. And as the song says, as the song that I have been kind of playing in my head for the last three or four hours, I just want to share with you “Here We Go Again.” Thank you.



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