Pro Football Hall Of Fame Class Of 2012 Enshrined In Canton

Six former NFL players, including Curtis Martin and Willie Roaf, were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

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Curtis Martin Hall Of Fame Speech: 'It's Not About What You Achieve'

Curtis Martin almost told Bill Parcells no. As intimidating as Parcells can be, it was nothing compared to the kind of adversity Martin faced growing up amid the crumbling neighborhoods of inner city Pittsburgh. Martin, of course, agreed to Parcells' offer to join the New England Patriots, though more out of a sense of duty to himself and his family than a love for the game itself.

Martin's admission that football had never been a true passion left some fans scratching their heads, or even frustrated that he would make such a confession the center of his induction speech into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Football would seem insignificant to someone who watched his father torture his mother, had his beloved grandmother murdered in his own house and was almost killed himself, saved only by a misfire.

The league's fourth all-time leading rusher started playing football at his mother's urging. "'I want you to do something after school so that you're not in this neighborhood 24 hours a day,'" Martin recounted his mother telling him. He weighed his options, deciding against baseball because of the hot summers and basketball because he figured that he would max out at 6-foot. That left football.

Martin's career took off, and soon enough college recruiters scrambled to lure him to their schools. He chose Pitt because it was close to his home. Bill Parcells chose him in April of 1995. Martin was reticent about the decision to play because football until that point had just been something he did, not a passion.

That started to change when he joined Parcells in New England. Parcells became the first father figure in Martin's life, and when the coach left New England for the New York Jets, it was Martin that persuaded Parcells to bring him along.

"He was a staple of our offense," Parcells said. "He had an ability to elude contact, and I think that's part of the longevity factor."

Martin also pointed to the experience of his grandmother's murder.

"When I think about the fear that must have been in my grandmother's heart the whole time they were robbing her, it's almost like, I'll tell you, that was something that drove me my whole career, because that's what kept me fearless," Martin said.

Under Parcells' wing, Martin flourished. At one point in his speech he called his former coach his "consigliere," the man who gave him advice about the game and life. Parcells was more guarded in his remarks, but the mutual admiration unique to such a deep relationship was still there.

"He has tremendous compassion for his fellow man," Parcells said. "He's the poster child for what the NFL is supposed to be. Tonight the game is telling you that you belong among the very elite that have ever played."

Martin summed up his career in the most fitting way imaginable for a player who opened with his confession.

"It's not about what you achieve in life, but who you become during the process of those achievements that matters the most," Martin said.

For more on the Jets, visit Gang Green Nation. For more on the Patriots, visit Pats Pulpit.


Dermontti Dawson Hall Of Fame Speech: 'Play With A Passion'

Dermontti Dawson's former high school coach, Steve Parker, misidentified his player the first time he met him in the hallway of their high school. Parker thought he was adult. In a more recent assessment, Parker identified him as the greatest center in professional football.

The former proved to be a fateful moment.

"If not for Coach Parker," Dawson revealed, "I never would have played football. I want to thank Coach Parker for having confidence in me.

After high school, Dawson went on to play at the University of Kentucky. The Pittsburgh Steelers plucked the former Wildcat out of the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft. After spending a year at guard, he moved into the middle in his second season.

"He could make a bad step and still make a great block," Parker said of his former player. "Watching him develop in college and in the pros, I can say he is the best player to ever play the game."

Dawson had to be the best. He took over the center job for the Pittsburgh Steelers from Hall of Famer Mike Webster. Anything less than the best, and he would have been just another lineman.

Over the course of his 13-year career, Dawson made seven Pro Bowl appearances. He was a starter in six of his Pro Bowl appearances. Perhaps most amazing of all is the fact that Dawson played all 16 games for 10 straight seasons in Pittsburgh.

"Being a Steeler meant being a blue collar worker with an unwavering commitment to excellence," Dawson said. "I hope I made Steeler nation proud."

Dawson went further, explaining his own personal ethos that says more than anything about why he was at the podium in Canton on Saturday night.

"Do everything with a purpose," Dawson said. "Live, act, play and work with a purpose, with a passion and more importantly with honor."

For more on the Steelers, check out Behind the Steel Curtain.


Chris Doleman Hall Of Fame Speech: 'Anything You Want ... You Can Get Through Sacks'

Chris Doleman carried a brief case to work. Not an unusual move for someone that works in a corner office, but Doleman's corner office was on the outside of the Minnesota Vikings defensive line, until the center snapped the ball and his office relocated to the pocket.

One of the most dominant defensive ends to play the game, Doleman actually started out as a linebacker -- a middle linebacker -- before the team moved him to the outside. It was a move that hearkened back to the start of his football days at eight-years-old. Doleman's first goal was to be a starter. From there it was to be the best, regardless of what position he played.

Thank yous took up the bulk of Doleman's speech. He ran through a long list of former teammates, coaches, friends, businesses and business associates. He thanked his two children three times, and his remarks revealed just how important his family was to his personal and professional life, even when it came to choosing a college.

With offers from a number of schools, Doleman opted for the University of Pittsburgh so that his parents could come and watch him play.

Aside from the long list of people to thank, Doleman did take a moment to recognize what it was that brought him to Canton this weekend.

"Anything you want in life you can get through sacks," he said.

For more on the Vikings, check out The Daily Norseman. For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic. For 49ers coverage, visit Niners Nation.

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