Tony Dorsett Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of Fame
July 30, 1994
Tom Landry (presenter):
Thank you very much. Of course, I am really excited to be here today to be a part of this program not only to present Tony Dorsett but to also acknowledge Randy White's contribution to the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, this is kind of a special time for us and the Dallas Cowboys and I am also pleased to be here to see Jackie Smith who had his last year with us and went to the Super Bowl against Pittsburgh.
An what a class guy Tony Dorsett is and Tony Dorsett was the most publicized player that the Dallas Cowboys ever drafted. But it was of no surprise to me that he would be an outstanding professional. All you had to do was refer to his college career in Pittsburgh and you knew you had something special. Of course, Tony's college record was legendary. He was All-America his freshman, junior and senior year. He was a first to gain more than 1, 000 yards for four great seasons. He established an all-time record, an NCAA record of 6,082 yards. His best season as a senior saw him rushing for 1,984 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Of course, the Dallas Cowboys traded for Seattle's first choice and it was the right pick for us. We needed a back of Tony's ability and he was very important to carryon our winning ways with Dallas. Tony handled his celebrity status extremely well. He was a rookie, he rushed for 1,000 yards and 13
touchdowns. He was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, he went to Super Bowl XII in his first year and he scored the first touchdown and we went on to win it 27-10 against Denver.
Of course, Tony was even better the next year. He gained 1,325 yards rushing, 378 yards receiving. The Cowboys returned to Super Bowl XIII against a good Pittsburgh Steeler team and, of course, we lost that game 35-31, but Tony averaged 6 yards per carry and added 44 yards more in receptions. No other player that day could outdo Tony Dorsett. And of course he reached his peak and his best season in 1981 when he rushed for a team record of 1,645 yards. He played in four Pro Bowls, All-NFL in 1981, All-NFC three times, rushed over 1,000 yards for 8 times and had 48 games for over 100 yards rushing. His career records where 12,739 yards, 77 touchdowns rushing, 398 receptions for 3,554 yards and 13 touchdowns. His total was 16,326 career combined net yardage ranked second of all time in the NFL.
Of course, and he also holds an all-time record of a 99-yard run versus Minnesota in January. The only thing that was surprising at that time, we only had ten men on the field. That shows you how much coaching has to do with running. You know Jim Brown’s records, and Jim was a great player in the NFL and we all admired him who competed against him in the early (‘60s), he was yardstick for all potential and mortal running backs. And Tony set his mind and goals to break Jim's record which he did accomplish in his last season with Denver.
No one would be more proud (of) Tony's accomplishments than his teammates and coaches who were part of his career and I am sure his family shares this moment with all the rest of us. It is a pleasure for me to present Tony Dorsett for induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Thank you. Thank you Coach Landry for all those kind remarks. And I know there are some bets going on over here on this side of the stadium here. I told you guys I wouldn't do it (cry) and I am going to try my best.
First of all what I would like to do is congratulate all the other inductees and it is an honor for me to be up here with you guys and all the tradition and history that is sitting over there to my right to say that being here with you guys is making the moment even more special for me. Also up front I would like to thank the fans, fans in Dallas, those of you that are here today and those of you that have been with me through the years and tell you, you all played a part of me standing here today as well.
Also, I would like to thank he most important being of all and that is the Good Lord Jesus Christ and we know without his blessings of course none of this would be happening today. I want to say this is somewhat of a homecoming for me today being raised about 1½ (hours) down the road in western Pennsylvania. I would like to say it has been a long journey for me to get back here from Aliquippa to Pittsburgh to Dallas now Canton. Not to say that it has been a journey that has been filled with home, it has been filled with hope and it has been filled with heart. You know I come from a blue collar background, my hometown of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania and when I was growing up I pretty much grew up in two different worlds. Played ball and studied in Hopewell Township and went home to Aliquippa. It was like school was one environment and the streets were another. But looking back on it, I just want to say that it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, not going to school with all of my buddies, because it gave me a different perspective on learning and on life. You know, when we were growing up I didn't know if we were rich or poor. You know we were growing up in government housing in the projects, but I didn't know if that meant that we were poor. And the truth is I had everything that I wanted and everything that I needed. And that is a tribute to my parents.
You know, my dad worked in Jannel’s steel mill in the open hearth department, but in my opinion they should have called it the open heart department because my dad had one of the biggest hearts of any person I have ever known. And my dad was unfortunate because he didn't have a chance to go to school, but my dad was a wealth of knowledge to me, he taught me a lot about life, a lot about common sense, he taught me a lot about street sense. He never forced me into anything. My dad always told me, he said son if you are going to accomplish anything in life you have to be determined to do it yourself. Unfortunately my dad passed away about ten years ago and fortunately he got to see me achieve a lot in my athletic career. And I know, in more ways than one, my dad is here with me today.
You know, mom was there, she was there for us all the time, she was there for us when we were growing up, was the housewife, the matriarch of the family, the backbone of the family and I can remember as a kid there were hard times and mother would come to me and say son don't worry about this, this is something your father and I will take care of. My mother is in the audience today, she is sitting right up here. I have to say my mother knows something about heart too. This past October my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer, but this past May she had her last treatment of chemotherapy and right now my mom has a clean bill of health. My mother beat cancer and I want to use this as a platform to tell the world how much I appreciate and love the things that you have done for me over the years, I love you.
You know people often ask me how did I get involved in sports and I tell them I got involved in sports because I wanted to be like my brothers. I had four older brothers and my brothers were my role models, I wanted to be like them. And I can remember very distinctly the first time I tried out for football in Hopewell Township, my buddy Michael Kimbra and myself, we stuffed rocks in our pockets to try to make the weight limit. You know what happened, we were still too light. You know when I did start playing football I was scared. I remember the first time I ever touched a football I was so afraid of getting hit, I took off like a little rabbit, you know and ran 75 yards for a touchdown.
And I can say over my career I have encountered a lot of people I would like to thank. The first person I would like to thank is my high school coach, Richard “Butch” Ross. Coach Ross, actually as a sophomore in high school I was a defensive specialist. Coach Ross knew that all my other brothers were exceptional running backs, so my junior year he decided to try me on the other side of the line of scrimmage. From that point on, it was like a snowball effect, things just kept getting bigger and better and faster. Coach Ross just want to let you know, you tapped the source, you are the reason why it all started to flow.
Coming out of high school everyone said I was too small to be a major college running back. Tere was one guy that didn't think so and his name was Johnny Majors. You know I still use today the advice that Coach Majors used to give us. Coach Majors would say that little things make big things happen. It is the little things you do the extra studying in the classroom, running a little farther. It is envisioning what might happen in the ball game and then planning your reactions. It is also little things that make relations work well.
Then there was another coach at Pitt, Coach Jackie Sherrill. Jackie Sherrill recruited me to the University of Pittsburgh and gave me a chance, gave me hope. And he also told me with my size he said Tony to play major college football you will probably get knocked around playing the Penn States and the Notre Dames of the world and he was right. I did get knocked around. And I remember that sometimes, sometimes coming to the sidelines so beat and bruised up I didn't want to go back out there and Coach Sherrill would be there meet me at the sidelines and say oh come on, this team needs you, we need you to get back out there for us. Coach I just want to tell you, you helped toughen me up, you helped me deal with pain, pain I took for being so small. You also helped me understand that if I wanted to succeed, I had to put the pain behind me and keep going.
Coming out of college everyone said I would be too small to play professional football at 188 lbs. To be honest with you I figured maybe I would only play four or five years and that would be it. I never dreamed I would play 12 seasons. But I got there of course with the man in the hat, Coach Landry. Coach Landry had brought me along even further. He taught me the value of discipline, the value of setting goals and methods on how to accomplish those goals. These are things you take with you long after you leave the athletic arena. Coach Landry and I also had a lot, well should I say one-on- one conversations, some football related, some not. But I guess I needed most of those talks, huh coach.
But because of my personality I was aggressive. I said alot of things out of emotion and when I think back I possibly could have been a little bit more diplomatic but I think without the aggressiveness and emotion, it would have taken something out of me as a football player so I guess that was just the way it was meant to be. I also remember something about Coach Landry and that is Coach Landry listened. Coach Landry listened to me and one time I told Coach Landry, coach I can't run the ball. Sometimes it is strictly the players desire to run it. He understood when I said, Coach I run the daylight and the reason I know he listened to me when I said that was we were in the meeting room and he addressed our offensive (players). He said Tony is a different kind of runner, he said Tony is going to run to daylight so we have to keep our hats on the right people.
Coach Ross, Coaches Majors and Sherrill, Coach Landry these are men that not only gave me their knowledge of football these are men that gave me a piece of their hearts. And I would just like to say that a lot of you made a difference in my life and I thank you very much men.
You know I wish I had the time to thank all the players that I played with in pee wee leagues, high school, college, pros, they all played a part in this as well, but I would be cheating myself and you as well if I tried to mention them by name. You know who you are, you are my friends, my teammates, you're my buddies and guys I just want to thank you for helping me along the way.
But before I leave I would just like to say a big word to all those people that are out there trying to make something of themselves. And that is I am good testimony that you can accomplish just about anything you want to in life. What I am trying to say is don't listen to other kids when they tell you, you cannot achieve your dreams. Go out and set some goals for yourself and then try to accomplish them. It is what you think of yourself that will make the biggest difference in yourself. And just remember these words, ‘you can, you can, you can.’
And in closing I would just like to say that I played most of my football in Dallas and I have traveled all over the world and I know I have come a long way to get back in within an hour's drive of my beginnings in Western PA, back to my family, back to my first home and this is where it all started, this is where my roots are, where all my values and work ethics were established right here. My mom still lives here, my brothers and sisters still live here, all my immediate family. My son Anthony attends the University of Pittsburgh on a football scholarship. Today I would just like to say because of so many of you for so many years, I feel like I have finally made it, but I know this journey here to Pro Football's Hall of Fame was not one I made alone. A lot of people joined me throughout the way and many of you are here with me today to share in this magic moment with me. So, I would just like to say from the smallest kid who started by stuffing rocks in his pockets to get on the team, I would just like to thank all of you for making this possible. I would thank you for providing a home for values and family. I would like to thank you for giving me hope when others offered none, I would like to thank you for giving me a piece of your hearts when I needed it most because we all know that with a little hope and a lot of heart we can achieve just about anything we want to in life and, if we always run to daylight we can even find our way back home. I just want to say I am living proof of that. God bless you and thank you all for sharing in this wonderful weekend with me.