Richard Dent Enshrinement speech

Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium
August 6, 2011


Richard Dent grew up in Atlanta and played football at Murphy High School.

Joe Gilliam (presenter):
Richard's coach the late William Lester wanted Richard Dent out of Atlanta. He thought maybe Richard would be better off with me but Richard was too small for us. That fall we were practicing and I looked through the gate there by the practice field and there comes Coach Lester with Richard Dent in tow with a little suit case and he says 'here he is coach.' And I say 'yes, but I didn't sign him.' And he says 'well, he's here and I'm going to leave him and you got him.' And he left.

Soon after Coach Lester left, it became apparent that Dent was not suited to play offensive tackle at Tennessee State. Joe Gilliam, then their defensive coordinator, put Dent at defensive end.

I've been around football all of my life and Richard Dent was relentless and I don't believe you can teach relentlessness. Richard honed in like a guided missile. In the coaching profession you say he's got a fire in his butt and that's the way Dent played, like he had a fire in his butt.

Richard Dent's pain threshold was to me extraordinarily high. Things that hurt other people didn't hurt Richard. I don't think you can teach that. I'm pretty certain you don't.

Dent wasn't chosen until the eighth round of the 1983 draft, 203rd overall by the Chicago Bears but he quickly became an impact player on Buddy Ryan's 46 Defense. In just his second year he registered 17 and a half sacks.

Dent felt that it was his job to get there first and make the tackle. He was not fast of foot, but he was quick in those first three steps.

In 1985 Dent had a league-leading 17 sacks and the Bears went from good to great, peaking in Super Bowl XX when they dismantled the New England Patriots 46-10, the MVP in that game, Richard Dent. Dent averaged over 12 sacks a year for a decade. He retired with 137 sacks at the time the third most in NFL history and still currently sixth on the all-time list.

The only thing that stopped Richard Dent was the man in the white hat or a whistle. And I believe that Richard Dent was predestined to be a great football player.

For a man who first coached Dent when he was a teenager, virtually left at his doorstep with nowhere else to turn, this is indeed a special, special occasion.

I'd like to think that most of the characteristics that a football player has are taught by coaches. But the Hall of Fame houses people who have skills that are untaught, innate and that's why everybody who plays can't make it there.

I am honored to present Richard Dent for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Richard Dent:
Thank you, thank you, thank you. You know, I grew up in a time where a man always said, I have a dream, and that man was Martin Luther King. And as a kid growing up at that time listening to him all I could do is dream. I wanted to be someone special that my mother and my father and my family looked up to. I wanted to be someone that, you know, I enjoyed playing a game, but then again I enjoyed working and just trying to take care of myself.

When you've got seven brothers and one sister and you're number six out of nine, there's not much left over for you. When you ask for food, my dad would tell you a burger's only going to last for a second. You don't need anything. I don't have a dollar for you.

Richard Dent went to work and tried to find himself. It was tough. Not in my wildest dream that I thought I'd be here. When you have dreams, it's very tough to say that you can do everything by yourself. It's all about other people. None of us can get anywhere by ourselves.

I had a friend of mine by the name of Scott Dean who gave up the band to help me to stay in school and helped me to pursue my dream. I had a young lady by the name of Ms. Sandy Payton. Ms. Payton and I used to hang out in her store when I was eight years old, and she decided to give me a job because she knew that I was taking things. It was a clothing store, so she taught me a lot about business, so she gave me something to look forward to.

There was another lady by the name of Ms. Mary Knight. Ms. Knight's about 93 years old. Ms. Knight, you know, you took care of my mother. My mother and I and took care of people, raised people, raised people in our community, and I commend you so much, Ms. Knight, I appreciate your love. I appreciate you coming here to celebrate this with us.

There is, also a guy by the name of William Lester that told my mother, look, I'm going to try to do something for him. Because I know he would want to leave the state of Georgia, because wasn't taking the place of Georgia.

When I grew up I used to watch Claude Humphrey, and I used to watch Tommy Nobis, and Hank Aaron, and Mohamed Ali, so as a kid, I loved Claude Humphrey and didn't know I was going to go to Tennessee State. I took a little piece of Claude, and little piece of Mohammed Ali and said I am going to raise some hell. So from there, William Lester, like coach said, he dropped me off. Tennessee State wanted three other friends of mine from Murphy High School. Murphy High School guys would you stand up? Chuck, I appreciate you guys. You know, Coach Lester dropped me off and you know we finished school August 6. I was at Tennessee State August 8, and before you know it, I was working at Sunbeam Bread August 9th and in summer school.

But, you know, that was important to me. It was important to me that William Lester and I moved out of the neighborhood, And Coach Lester gave me a ride for two years in a row. Between him and his wife, they gave me a ride and allowed me to walk about a mile home, but yet I didn't want to transfer. I came in the game late. And William Lester and his family, you know, he died a couple years ago.

We had a chance to do this at the Georgia Hall of Fame, and I just want to say thank you because if it weren't for him, I couldn't be here today. I wouldn't be in Chicago, and I'd have never gotten to Tennessee. So thank you there.

Also, the first guy out of Atlanta, Georgia, out of Atlanta public school for the Hall of Fame, the first player out of the state, you know, I just couldn't believe it. What, 100 something years that one could do such a thing, but that's what took place.

So my Tennessee State people, are you out there? I love you all, because my Tennessee State people shaped me, you know, loved me. I appreciate the band coming out and it was nothing like going to big blue. Big Blue was awesome.

All the guys that I played with there, I appreciate you guys coming out. Aron Ford, Joe Adams, John Smith, and if you don't mind, I would love for you guys to reach on out and give my coach, give your coach, you might have been a student or you might have been any alumni, I'd love for everybody to just stand and give Coach Gilliam a hand for all that he's done in the last 35 to 40 years. A man that had a record of 254 wins, 93 ties, 15 losses, sent over 147 guys to the pros, had a 1948 undefeated team in Indiana, and '45. First black quarterback, first black backfield.

Let me tell you, you don't meet this kind of person too often. I used to hate this person, but I learned to love him (Coach Gilliam). You know what I mean? I learned to love him because he shaped me and he made things work for me. Coach, thank you, Coach. Thank you, thank you.

Dr. Frederick Humphries, our former president, I'd like to say hello to you, doc. Thank you for coming out. Paula, our new president, thank you for bringing the band out. I know it cost you a lot. We are the first, and well, I should say I am the first for Tennessee State, and I really appreciate your love and I appreciate you coming out and bringing the kids out.

Craig Gilliam is coach's son, and Craig is first guy that taught me how to breakdown films. Taught me how to, you know, sink in on ballplayers. Craig, I'd like to say thanks, and I appreciate your love. Thank you a lot, Craig. Thank you a lot, baby.

There are two other guys that I should say I stand on your shoulders, and that's Claude Humphrey and "Too Tall" Jones. I think "Too Tall" is out here somewhere. "Too Tall" and Mr. Humphries, Claude Humphrey I want to say thank you because there wouldn't be no me without you.

I used to get in a little trouble in college back in the day. And there was a gentleman by the name of Dean Murrell. Dean Murrell and Ms. Murrell were husband and wife, and they were the Dean of the school.

Ms. Murrell, I want to say thank you. Please stand, thank you, Ms. Murrell. Thank you for your time, for Dean who is not here anymore, but thank you.

Also I'd like to say thanks to some guys that I started the game with, Jim Osborne and Emery Moorehead, and Neil Anderson, Al Fontenot. And I'd like to say thanks I like that '85 team out there. I know I've got that Chicago '85 team. Where you at? Please give me a little love. There they are. There they are, thank you. Derek Benson, Tyrone Keys, Mike Richardson, Emery Moorehead, Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael, love you, Steve. Steve, I hope to see you up here some time. You were the heart of the defense, and you made it work for us.

Most important of all, it's a guy by the name of Jimbo Covert that I had to lineup and practice against day in and day out. He made the game easy for me, because I knew I wasn't going to face a guy like him in the game. But me and Jimbo, we definitely pushed each other to make each other the best. Walter was great for a long time. He led rushers for a long time. Jimbo I look forward to seeing you on the stage. I love you brother, thank you.

The guy that found me was a guy by the name of Bill Tobin. I was so skinny when I came in the league. I was 228 pounds. I had bad teeth and I didn't know what was going to take place. But, Bill, appreciate your love, Bill. Please stand. Thank you. Yeah, I know you wanted me to go higher, I went lower, but that's all right. We're here.

Dale Haupt was our defensive line coach. Coach Haupt, thank you for coming and your family. Appreciate you. That's Mr. Drill Sargeant, guys, Mr. Drill Sargeant.

John Levra, Coach Levra thank you for coming, too. Thank you a lot.

Also, you know, I love to thank the Chicago fans and the people in Chicago. You know, it's such a great place to play. It's where the game started. There's not a better place to play. It means so much to me to get a chance to play there where a guy like Walter Payton, and a guy like Dick Butkus, and a broad shoulder like the city of Chicago. It was a pleasure to get a chance to entertain them on Sunday to allow us to come into their home and have so much fun.

Thank the 49ers and the Eagles and the Colts also for giving me a chance to come and play with those folks.

My dad, dad, I know you're sitting there. Thank you, Dad, because you taught me some things about hard work. You know, I used to bump a lot of clothes with you and click a lot of clocks, and I'm just glad that you didn't allow me to go to jail with you that day either when we went fishing and you didn't have a license anymore. The guy told you to follow him, and we went another route. Thank you, Dad, thank you, because I was seven and my brother was six. Who knows what was going to happen in Covington, Georgia, if you know Covington, Georgia, you know.

Obviously, my mother was my heart. And I tell you, I couldn't be here without her. Everybody else were daddy's boys, I was mama's boy. I'm so thankful to be here. I wish my mother was here, but obviously not. My sister, Brenda, my brother Naji, and Johnny, and Steve, you know, thank you guys because you guys had that band back in the day.

In the '60s, if you had a lot of kids, everybody wanted to be the next Michael Jackson group, and hell, it didn't happen, but I went and cut some grass.

Brothers, thank you, guys. Thank you over there, my brothers. Thank you. Thank you a lot.

You know, my two daughters, Mary, Sarah, I love you to death. My son, R.J., you guys got this legacy, and I look forward to you guys to take it on with the Make a Dent Foundation. Angie Sandborg who has been my mother in Chicago, thank you, Angie, for helping me out, because nobody can do anything alone. You have to have some type of support mechanism.

When I tell kids don't look at me as a player. If you're going to think of me, you look at Mr. Dent, you take the first letter in my first name is dreaming, you must dream. You must dream and you must be dedicated to proceed with anything in life. Okay, when you dream, you have to get up and do something about it.

The letter E, you have to be educated to figure out what to do, how to do and when to do. The letter N, you represent your family, your name, your team, where you came from, whoever. And the letter T is, you know, you're going to get knocked down one day, folks.

But you got to get back up and you've got to try again. These challenges were tough for me here today. I don't have a lot of time to tell you how long it took to get me here. But I took those four letters and I was destined to make something of myself, of my community, and my friends, and my loved ones, everybody to appreciate.

I'd like to thanks to some people that are not here anymore that are important to my life also. Obviously my mother, Dwayne Roberts, Brian Howard, a buddy of mine named Bruce Walker who taught me the pass rush to move in Tennessee State. Steve Moore who played against in the Super Bowl. We were both rookies coming out of it. And obviously a guy named Fred Washington who was just at the Bears for a short time who I became to love.

A guy like Todd Bell who both of us saw ourselves the same. Todd was a great man. Obviously, the late Dave Duerson and the late Drew Hill.

But the guy who I tried to pattern myself on was the late great Walter Payton. Walter was the best of all. I loved watching this man go to work. Also I'd like to congratulate the class of 2011. Congratulations, brothers. I look forward to being in this house.

As a kid, you look at some of these guys left to right, I've watched these guys as a little one and never thought everything in sports I'd dream and I'd seen myself accomplish, but I never thought about being in the Hall of Fame. This kid I had a chance to meet one time, and he told me, hey, brother, keep doing what you're doing, you'll get there one day. The leader just started.

Also, I'd like to thank all the people at the Hall of Fame for the festivities, and putting this on. Like I told my friends last night, it's time to party. It's time to drop it like it's hot.

I have to thank my buddy, M.J., my buddy at Luke Capital, FirstEnergy and First Communications and the Borris family for putting this party on the for us. Thank you all, love you all, see you down the road.