Warren Moon Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium
August 5, 2006
Leigh Steinberg (presenter):
In 1978, when Warren Moon was being scouted, a number of NFL personnel strongly suggested to me he would have a better chance for success if he would change his playing position.
In certain football circles, there was doubt as to the ability or desirability of an African American to master the high profile quarterback position with its emphasis on intelligence and leadership. Warren answered that question with steely resolve. Never, he said. I was born to play quarterback. No one's going to stop me from fulfilling my dream.
That moment played a critical role in reshaping NFL attitudes and opening the door for future generations.
Warren followed his dream to Canada, where his brilliant play on the field led in 1984 to a three league 12 team competition for his services that resulted in Houston making him the highest paid player in the history of the National Football League.
After 17 seasons with his dazzling performances on the field, that's eight straight Pro Bowls, his dignified bearing off the field, Warren's steely resolve showed the stuff that dreams are made of.
He wore No. 1 for a reason.
Years later I sat in the living room of a young African American quarterback who was preparing for the draft. There were the usual trophies and family pictures in that living room, and there were two other pictures. One was Martin Luther King, the other was Warren Moon. The young athlete told me, I looked at it every day. It gave me hope and inspiration.
I used to call Warren Yoda, that Star Wars repository of eternal wisdom. His circle of family, friends, teammates is extraordinary. Everyone relies on Warren for his sage advice, his support, his generosity. He's a rock, a father to all.
He could have been student body president of the National Football League.
Warren's impact as a role model has been enormous. He's worked tirelessly to help people who can't help themselves. He established a scholarship fund at Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, at the University of Washington, and his Crescent Moon foundation.
I sat in a banquet hall where an emcee asked every college graduate whose scholarship Warren had paid for to stand. One by one they stood, until an entire room was filled with college grads whose scholarships Warren had paid for.
One young medical student walked up to me and said, You know, I had no idea how I was going to get to college, much less become a doctor. Thank God for Warren Moon.
Here we are, two old Hamilton High grads 30 years later and 70,000 yards later standing in the shadow of the Hall of Fame. Warren Moon is about to make history as the first African American quarterback in the modern era to enter the Hall of Fame.
And because of his courage and perseverance, he won't be the last. From the Rose Bowl to Edmonton to Minnesota to Seattle to Kansas City to our office in Newport Beach, I've been honored to walk the road and dream the dream with you. My partner, my best friend, I love and respect you for the way in which you've held on to your dreams and ideals, and touched the lives of every person you've met for the better. Ladies and gentlemen, it's my extreme pleasure to present Mr. Warren Moon.
Thank you very much. Wow. Just sitting up here listening to everyone speak, talk about their feelings about today is really giving me a heavy feeling inside my heart and inside my mind.
I want to thank Leigh Steinberg, who is one of my closest friends, a great business associate, a guy that's made me millions of dollars through his negotiating style, but also for helping me and instilling in me his philosophies about giving back and using your status as a professional football player to make a difference in communities of where you live.
I've tried to do that each and every place I've stopped along the way, hoping to make our society just a little bit better. Hopefully I've been able to do that.
I want to thank the city of Canton and the Hall of Fame committee. You guys have been unbelievable this weekend, treating not only me but my family and all my friends and relatives that have come from all over this country, treating us first class. The hospitality, the warmth that you feel everywhere you go in this city, I want to thank you all for everything you've done for me and my family. Thank you very much.
It is an extreme honor for me to be standing up here today. Given where I came from, what was thought of me in my early days, and to be up here with these guys, a lot of 'em who I rooted for as a young kid. A lot of 'em were my heroes. And now for me to be standing up here as a part of them, I am deeply humbled and deeply honored to say that I am part of this family, the most esteemed family of any professional sports Hall of Fame in the history of sports.
I thank you guys for having me. I thank you for letting me be a part of this group. I'll do whatever I can to instill the honor and keep the integrity of these great young men behind me.
They are the game. They are the guys that have made the NFL great. And for me to be a part of that, it's something that is really hard for me to believe each and every day. I've tried over the last six months since my nomination to wonder if I even belonged in this club of people because I have held them in such high regard for so long.
But sitting in that luncheon yesterday, getting a chance to shake hands with a lot of those guys that I rooted for, a lot of them I got to know over my playing career, I really am starting now to feel like I belong. I will make sure I come back to Canton each and every year for this induction ceremony, because that's how important it is.
We're a family, and families support one another. I'm a part of this family. I'm going to support everything that it does.
Football for me has been a journey. It was a journey that started some 44 years ago. Make that 30 years ago for me. Playing at Baldwin Hills Community Park in the Pop Warner Association at 10 years old. I played on some teams that were very, very talented, or either we had coaches that just didn't understand personnel.
On my first team there, I played with another guy who is a member of the Hall of Fame, James Lofton. We were both on the same team together. James being a defensive end, and me being a linebacker. That tells you what kind of talent we had on our team, or that tells you our coaches just didn't know what the heck they were doing (smiling).
One of my coaches is out here today, councilman from Los Angeles, former police chief of Los Angeles, Bernard Parks, a guy that really instilled the values in me as a very young age of what being a policeman was all about. They showed us the same types of disciplines they learned in the police academy. They taught us hard work. They taught us to be dedicated. That's why we had so much success at such a very young age.
Then I went on to high school where Jack Epstein, my high school coach, came up to me one spring and told me, Young man, you're going to be my varsity starting quarterback next year. That's after the year before as a sophomore that I hardly ever got on the field because I had another coach that didn't believe I could play the position.
So I want to thank Jack Epstein and Ron Price, my two high school coaches, for believing in me at such a young age and giving me the opportunity to play quarterback at the high school level.
It was tough for me to get a college scholarship because, again, it seemed like I was always having to try and prove myself at that position. But knowing me, a very stubborn young man and a very confident one at the same time, I wasn't going to let anybody tell me that I couldn't play the position; it was just a matter of finding someone that could give me that opportunity.
Don James at the University of Washington gave me that opportunity to play major college football. He saw something in me that a lot of other people didn't see. He stuck with me through some very, very tough times at the University of Washington early in my career. I thank him so much for his confidence in me, for his dedication in me. I was able to persevere and move on and have a pretty successful college career.
Don James, I know he's in Africa right now on safari that he planned a year ago, but I know he's here with me today. I want to thank you, coach, for giving me that opportunity to play major college football.
After college, there just wasn't a good feeling about me going to the National Football League by the things that I was hearing. I was not really invited to the pro football combine. I had no coaches come out and give me individual workouts. It was just pretty much a foregone conclusion that quarterback was not in my future in the National Football League, but changing positions was.
Again, as a young, stubborn and confident player, I was going to play quarterback, and I was looking for somebody that was going to let me do that. The Canadian Football League came along and gave me that opportunity. Hugh Campbell, Norm Kimball, again, they saw something in me that a lot of other people did not see. I want to thank the Edmonton Eskimos football organization, Hugh Campbell, and all my tremendous teammates that I played with up in Canada for a tremendous six year experience that I will never regret doing.
A lot of people always ask me, What would have happened if you had come to the National Football League instead of going to Canada? I never looked behind. I always looked forward. I always take advantage of the opportunities given me. That's what I did when I went to Canada.
The Canadian people were so refreshing, so supportive of me. I had six of the greatest years of my life up there with those guys. I will never regret making that decision. So thank you, all of you people north of the border. Thank you, Canada.
A lot of guys would love to play their career with one football team. I'm no different. Troy Aikman had a chance to do that. Harry Carson had a chance to do that. Rayfield Wright had a chance to do that. I ended up playing with five teams throughout my professional career, and over 23 years of professional football. But, you know what, I am so privileged to have played in all five of those places. I've played in five great football cities that had great football fans.
You're talking about Edmonton. Those of you that have never been there before, we sold out every week, very rabid fans. It's known as the City of Champions. The Houston Oilers, everybody knows about the Astrodome. Love ya, Blue, the House of Pain. On to Minnesota, the Metrodome, one of the loudest places to play in the National Football League.
Everybody knows about the 12th man and the intensity up in Seattle at the Kingdome. And then ending up with the Kansas City Chiefs, one of the best football environments you could be in for a player. Eighty-thousand strong, all in red every week. A great football environment for any player to be a part of.
I want to thank Bud Adams, the owner of the Houston Oilers, Ladd Herzeg, the general manager at that time, and Mike Holovak, player personnel director, who gave me that opportunity to come back to the National Football League and show what I could do. Those guys had tremendous faith in me at a time where a lot of people were not so sure if I could make that transition. But Houston gave me that opportunity. There was a lot of pressure on me when I went down there.
But they eventually gave me the tools to be able to do the things that I was able to do along with some tremendous teammates and tremendous coaching.
I want to thank Jerry Glanville, Jack Pardee, offensive coordinator, quarterback coach June Jones for helping turn my career around in those early days, and then Kevin Gilbride, my offensive coach and quarterback coach who is here today as a member of the New York Giants for really taking my career and taking me to the next level. I really want to thank you for all the efforts that you showed me as coaches to make me the best player I could be.
Then I moved on to Minnesota, where Dennis Green didn't think I was done at the tender age of 38 years old. He gave me that chance to play football, along with Jeff Diamond, their general manager. I had a chance to be with Brian Billick and also Ray Sherman. We took that offense to some new heights.
Then on to Seattle at the tender age of 41, where, again, Paul Allen, Randy Mueller, Dennis Erickson gave me the chance to play some more football, along with Bob Bratkowski, also Rich Olsen as my coaches on the offensive side. We were able to do some good things in Seattle the short period of time I was there.
Then at the tender age of 43 years old, I went to Kansas City because I wasn't finished playing professional football. My body said, Keep playing. My heart said, Keep playing. So I kept playing.
Gunther Cunningham, Carl Peterson, the great Lamar Hunt gave me an opportunity to play for the Kansas City Chiefs. I had coaches like Jimmy Ray, Tom Clements, and also Tom Rossly that gave me the opportunity to keep playing the game and still showed me some things in my 22nd and 23rd year of playing football.
I want to thank all those coaches, all those owners and all those general managers that had faith in me.
We had many, many great players on all those teams that made me the player that I am today. There's no question about it. A quarterback is only as good as the people around him. I was so blessed to have great talent around me that made my job just a little bit easier. I want to thank all those players that are here today. I want to thank all those players who are out there and couldn't be here today. A little part of this induction has to go to you because, like I said, I couldn't be here today without the support of the guys around me.
A lot has been said about me as being the first African American quarterback into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's a subject that I'm very uncomfortable about sometimes only because I've always wanted to be judged as just a quarterback. But because I am the first and because significance does come with that, I accept that. I accept the fact that I am the first.
But I also remember all the guys before me who blazed that trail to give me the inspiration and the motivation to keep going forward, like Willie Thrower, the first black quarterback to play in an NFL game, like Marlin Briscoe, who is here today, the first to start in an NFL game. Like James Harris, who is here today, the first to lead his teams to the playoffs.
Then on into my era with Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to go to the Super Bowl and be most valuable player. Like Randall Cunningham, one of the most exciting players during our era. Like Vince Evans, who played 20 plus years of professional football. All of us did what we had to do to make the game a little bit better for the guys coming after us.
I only played this game not for just myself, not just for my teammates, but I always had that extra burden when I went on that field that I had a responsibility to play the game for my people. That extra burden I probably didn't need to go out on the field with, because I probably would have been a much better player if I didn't have that burden. But you know what, I carried that burden proudly.
As I looked at young people all along my route as a professional football player, they always told me, Warren, you got to represent. Warren, you got to represent. Warren, you got to represent.
Well, I'm standing here to say that, I hope I did represent while I played in the National Football League.
When you play the game for 23 years, a lot of fine people pass through your life. I wish I could acknowledge them all, but I can't. But family is so important to me that I have to acknowledge my family.
I was born and raised in a family that had six women. My dad died when I was seven years old. My mom took care of six of us. I have five sisters that were the loves of my life. They were my biggest fans. They let me get away with my night to wash dishes every now and then, my night to cook dinner every now and then, because my mom made me do those things. They were just huge fans of mine throughout my whole professional career. I want to thank all of my sisters, Gail, Carolyn, Natalie, Patsy, Kim, and Rene, for being supporters in my life. I love you all.
I have four of the best kids I think that any father could ever ask for. They are all in college. They're all very polite. They're all very good looking. I think they're all going to be very successful.
But the thing I love about them the most is, as a father, as a professional football player, it takes you away from home a lot. You miss a lot of things. As I moved around the National Football League, my family stayed in Houston. So I missed out on a lot of things in their lives. Those are things that I can never get back.
But I always ask them, How do you feel about me going here to play? They always told me, Dad, just follow your dream. I want to thank you all for letting me follow my dream. I love you all very much, and I only wish the best for you, and you know that.
I also want to thank the mother of my children, Felicia Fontanelle. She was with me when I was a junior in high school. You couldn't ask for a more supportive, a more loving wife that kept a family together throughout all those years of my professional career. I'm so happy that she's happy in her life right now. I'm so glad that she's here today because she's as important a part of my career as anybody that's passed through my life. Thank you for being here, Felicia. I'll always love you.
And to my cornerstone, the lady that made it all happen for me, my mom, Pat Moon. The way she kept our family together, the way she provided for us, I never in one day during my life thought I was poor because of the way she provided and made sure I had everything that I needed, whether it was for school, whether it was for sports, whatever it was, she made it available for me.
Mom, you're the most important person in my life, and I don't think you always believed that because of the busyness of my career. You are that. You will always be my rock. You will always be the person that I look to when things are tough. You'll always have those words of wisdom that you've had all my life. I will always love you more than any human being possible. Thank you for being my mother. I love you.
Finally to my wife Mandy, who even though she came into my life after my career was over, I am looking so forward to the journey that we have ahead of us. I think we have a very promising future. I love you being in my life right now. I look forward to spending the rest of my life with you. I love you and thanks for being here.
I know I've gone over my time, but everybody else has. Quarterbacks just seem to do that. It's been a great experience being here this weekend. I love professional football. I have a passion for professional football. I'm a fan of the game. To be included with these guys back here, besides my four kids being born, this is the happiest day of my life.
I want to thank you all for being a part of this. I want to thank all my family and relatives that came from so far around the country to be with me, to share this momentous weekend. Thank you much and God bless all of you. Thank you.