Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions: Sunday’s highlights for the 2021 class

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CANTON, Ohio — The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2021, headlined by three gamers who had been of their first yr of eligibility, closed out the Hall’s largest enshrinement weekend Sunday evening in Tom Benson Stadium.

Seven members of the category took to the rostrum throughout the night, together with Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson and Charles Woodson — all three had been chosen for enshrinement of their first yr of eligibility. It marked the ninth consecutive yr a minimum of one former participant has been enshrined in his first yr of eligibility.

The celebration got here on the heels of Saturday’s enshrinement ceremony, which featured Troy Polamalu, Edgerrin James and former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson.

Here are a number of the highlights from the seven latest Hall of Famers who spoke from the rostrum Sunday within the order they appeared, in addition to social media and congratulatory messages from their former rivals, teammates and groups:

Sunday’s audio system

Drew Pearson, vast receiver (Dallas Cowboys, 1973-1983)



Former Cowboys vast receiver Drew Pearson thanks Roger Staubach for his or her time collectively in Dallas.

The résumé: A former school quarterback who made the Cowboys as an undrafted rookie vast receiver, he was the one first-team choice to the All-Decade crew of the Seventies who had not been enshrined within the Hall of Fame. Like many senior finalists, his profession needed to be checked out within the context of his period, on condition that his 58 catches in 1976 and 870 yards in 1977 led the league. A 3-time All-Pro, he averaged a minimum of 17 yards a catch in 5 seasons, together with 4 of his first 5 years within the league.

He stated it: “I had the biggest afro in NFL history [pointed to bust]. … This confirms it, the wait is over, is over. The original No. 88 being presented for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. … Guess what, strong hearts just keep going and that’s why I’m standing here on the steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. … It has been a journey, a tough, long journey on the road less traveled. … I did it my way and I did it the hard way. … Let me show you these legs, these legs made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame [pulled up trouser legs for crowd].”

Tom Flores (Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders 1979-87; Seattle Seahawks 1992-94)

The résumé: As a participant, assistant coach and head coach in professional soccer, Flores has 4 Super Bowl rings and one AFL championship to his credit score. Flores and Hall of Famer Mike Ditka are the one individuals in NFL historical past who’ve been Super Bowl winners as gamers, assistant coaches and head coaches. His time with the Raiders included two Super Bowl wins and an 8-3 postseason report for a .727 successful share that ranks him behind solely Vince Lombardi.

He stated it: “The reason I’m here and the reason I’m second in the program tonight is I’m 84 frappin’ years old, I have to go to bed at 9 o’clock. Where’s my pillow? … Our first house had dirt floors and no indoor plumbing. … [In 1960] we were just a bunch of guys without a home stadium and most of the guys didn’t know where Oakland was, I had to tell them. … That’s what brought me to this stage tonight, passion. … The passion that you have sustains you in professional football. … Today on this stage, we’re all on one team, a team of gold jackets.”

Peyton Manning, quarterback (Indianapolis Colts, 1998-2011; Denver Broncos, 2012-15)



Peyton Manning makes a Hall of Fame speech for the ages as he cracks some jokes and displays on the sport of soccer.

The résumé: One of the league’s most adorned gamers, Manning was a five-time MVP, a 14-time Pro Bowl choice, seven-time first-team All-Pro choice and gained two Super Bowls. At the time of his retirement, he held NFL information for passing touchdowns (539), passing yards (71,940) and quarterback begins gained by his crew (186, tied with Brett Favre). His single-season information of 5,477 yards passing and 55 touchdowns, set in 2013 with the Broncos, nonetheless stand.

He stated it: “Tonight’s speech is the ultimate hurry, hurry. … Ray [Lewis] just finished giving his speech and he started in 2018. … I think it’s pretty cool to be on the same team as Johnny Unitas and Slingin’ Sammy Baugh. … Dad, there’s no one I would rather have or be more appropriate to present here. … To Jim Irsay and the Indianapolis Colts, my gratitude to you is off the charts. … To Pat Bowlen, the Bowlen family and the Denver Broncos organization, you took a chance on me at a crucial time in my life and I will never forget it … The future of this game is ours to shape, we just need to take tomorrow on our shoulders as easily as we donned our pads for games. … God bless you and God bless football.”

John Lynch, security (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1993-2003; Denver Broncos, 2004-07)



Former Buccaneers and Broncos security John Lynch tells the story of how coach Bill Walsh instilled the boldness in him to turn into a Hall of Fame participant.

The résumé: The San Francisco 49ers‘ normal supervisor was a nine-time Pro Bowl choice as a participant, two-time first-team All-Pro choice and a Super Bowl winner. A extremely touted baseball prospect who was as soon as a second-round decide of the Marlins, he developed into one of many NFL’s finest safeties. He had eight 80-tackle seasons, together with 84 tackles in 2006 at age 35, and three with over 100 tackles.

He stated it: “What a humbling honor. … Nothing about my Hall of Fame journey has been easy. I waited eight years and then [Hall of Fame president] David Baker tells me I’m following Peyton Manning, thank you David. … One day I received a call from the late, great Bill Walsh and he said, ‘John, I watched our defense from last year and you were our best player on defense, you can be a Pro Bowl safety.’ … Herm [Edwards], you were also the first person who told me I could have a bust someday in Canton, but only if I believed that. … In football we quickly discover we’re only as strong as our weakest link. … Each of us comes from a different walk of life, but when we huddle up, we huddle up as a team.”

Calvin Johnson, vast receiver (Detroit Lions, 2007-15)



Former Lions vast receiver Calvin Johnson opens up in regards to the ache he endured throughout his NFL profession and the way it motivated him to profit from each second.

The résumé: A six-time Pro Bowl choice, Johnson led the league in receiving yards twice, and in 2012 he got here inside 36 yards of changing into the primary receiver in NFL historical past to complete with 2,000 yards in a season. He had six completely different beginning quarterbacks in his nine-year profession and caught a landing cross from seven completely different quarterbacks. During the 9 years he performed, he led the NFL in receiving yards (11,619), receiving TDs (83), receiving yards per sport (86.1), 100-yard video games (46), 200-yard video games (5) and video games with a number of receiving TDs (17).

He stated it: “Trying to keep my emotions in check here, so all y’all chill out. … As many of you know I’m not one of many words, but I try to make my words count. … The pain began to take a toll on my body and my quality of life. … But I was OK with this, because I left it all on the field and enjoyed every moment. … There are so many people in pain right now, I want to speak to you for a moment, I want you to know I see you. … Lions fans, and city of Detroit, when we were 0-16, you never stopped showing up. You loved me and my family unconditionally. … This right here [pointed to bust], this is a good thing.”

Alan Faneca, guard (Pittsburgh Steelers, 1998-2007; New York Jets, 2008-09; Arizona Cardinals, 2010)

The résumé: Faneca was so athletic and versatile that his string of first-team All-Pro choices was damaged solely as a result of the crew wanted him to play left sort out for a lot of the 2003 season. A nine-time Pro Bowl choice in addition to a six-time first-team All-Pro, he’s one in every of 12 guards in league historical past to be a first-team All-Pro six or extra occasions — the opposite 11 had been already enshrined in Canton. His groups had been among the many league’s high 5 in speeding six occasions in his 13 seasons and led the league twice.

He stated it: “Perhaps the best word is simply gratitude. … I have always told myself and spoken about the fact epilepsy is part of me, but it does not define me. We are in charge of our destiny. … Be resilient. We all get knocked down in life, it’s how we get up that matters. … Without my teammates, all of you, I would not be up here today. … My brothers, I love you guys, you are all standing with me tonight. … My beautiful wife, Julie, you are my champion.”

Charles Woodson, cornerback/security (Oakland Raiders, 1998-2005, 2013-15; Green Bay Packers, 2006-12)

The résumé: Woodson was a nine-time Pro Bowl choice and was each the Defensive Rookie of the Year (1998) and Defensive Player of the Year (2009) in his profession. Woodson was the primary participant in NFL historical past to have a minimum of 50 interceptions and 20 sacks, his 65 profession interceptions are tied for fifth all time. He led the league in interceptions with 9 in 2009 at age 33 and tied for the league lead in 2011 with seven at age 35.

He stated it: “Look no further than my mama to figure out where I get it from … I watched her every day as a child get up and work her fingers to the bone to make sure she provided for our family … You hear people say a woman can’t raise a man, I call bulls— … (To his children) you’ll understand why grown men stand up here and cry … Love your mother the way that I love mine … Anybody who’s a fan of the way I played football, you stand up, too … Keep standing, don’t sit down, stand up, we did this together, me and you … When I say ‘when I go in, we all go in,’ I mean that from the bottom of my heart … Build your legend, thank you, we in the Hall of Fame, baby.”

One member of the 2021 class was honored posthumously, together with his bust unveiled on stage and a video tribute performed on the stadium’s video boards:

Bill Nunn, scout/personnel government (Pittsburgh Steelers, 1970-2014)

The résumé: Nunn began his profession with the Steelers as a part-time scout whereas additionally working for the Pittsburgh Courier, the place he was sports activities editor after which managing editor. He was the primary evaluator in league historical past to indicate an NFL franchise the long-term worth of scouting gamers at traditionally Black schools and universities. The Steelers’ draft in 1974 alone, and Nunn’s position in it, was in all probability greater than sufficient to get him within the Hall of Fame. In that draft, the Steelers chosen 4 future Hall of Famers — Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert and Mike Webster. They then signed a fifth future Hall of Famer — security Donnie Shell — as an undrafted rookie. In all, the Steelers drafted 11 future Hall of Famers in Nunn’s tenure, and Shell was a twelfth.

Photos and movies from Canton

Read extra on these NFL legends

Peyton Manning changed QB’ing forever
Inside Calvin Johnson‘s 329-yard game
Troy Polamalu‘s bond with Bill Cowher
Edgerrin James‘ legacy tied to HBCUs
J. Johnson: ‘How ’bout them Cowboys?’
Charles Woodson‘s legendary path in NFL
Winston Hill, Joe Namath’s friendship
Get to know this year’s HOF classes
Videos: Watch these HOF moments

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Jeff Legwold

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