It was a night of good speeches at the enshrinement of the Class of 2017 at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but it was LaDainian Tomlinson who stole the show.
Each speech was long and the night took nearly five hours, despite being scheduled on NFL Network to last only four. But Tomlinson still managed to stand out with the fifth speech of the night, wedged between Terrell Davis and Jerry Jones.
Tomlinson told the story of his ancestor who came to the United States as a slave and was given the last name Tomlinson by a slave master. He preached a message of unity and earned two standing ovations from the crowd for his inspiring and powerful words.
If you watch nothing else from Saturday night, the final 10 or so minutes of Tomlinson’s speech are worth your time.
There were other highlights too, though.
Jerry Jones came out in some stylish gold shoes to match his gold jacket and Terrell Davis’ kids cracked everyone up with their energy.
Here’s a rundown of all the best moments of the night as they happened:
Last but not least, it’s Warner.
Warner said thanks to his brothers, Matt and Matt. Wait, what? Does he really have two brothers both named Matt? I need answers.
Dan Marino’s face on a box of Wheaties apparently motivated Warner to not give up on his dreams during his time working in a grocery store.
Few Hall of Famers have a inspiring underdog story even half as good as Warner’s. Most of his speech told the story of his climb from grocery store worker, Arena League quarterback, and NFL Europe quarterback to Super Bowl winner.
Jones gave us a highlight long before his speech just by showing up with some slick gold sneakers to match his new jacket.
The entire Cowboys team stuck around in Canton after the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday so they could watch Jones’ induction two days later.
Jones gave thanks to a few of the Cowboys players who helped him get three Super Bowl rings in four years. A bunch of those players were already sitting on the stage with gold jackets. The 90’s were a great time to be on the Cowboys.
He also thanked media, owners and even gave Roger Goodell a nod for his job as commissioner. A few of the fans in the crowd booed. Shocker.
One speech to go.
In the weeks before his induction, SB Nation spoke to a handful of the AFC West defenders that faced LaDainian Tomlinson most about what it was like to try to stop the future Hall of Famer.
Tomlinson told a touching story of his mom saving enough money to send him to a football camp organized by Cowboys tight end Jay Novacek. There a 12-year-old Tomlinson met Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith and was inspired to chase his dreams as a football player.
Dean Spanos was among the people who got a thank you from Tomlinson. Spanos also got a chorus of boos from the Chargers fans that made the trip.
Of the five speeches so far, Tomlinson’s hit the hardest, was the most powerful and the most inspiring. He traced the lineage of his last name to when his great great great grandfather was brought to the United States and given the name Tomlinson because it was the name of the slave master.
Tomlinson used that anecdote to tell a powerful story of identity and preached a message of unity that drew two standing ovations from the crowd in Canton.
It’s absolutely worth the listen. Bravo, LaDainian for one hell of a speech.
Just after Morten Andersen finished his speech, it started raining hard in Canton. Terrell Davis is going to have to deal with a little bit of weather, it seems.
Davis spoke about the challenges that migraines and the loss of his father caused him, and nearly cost him his life. Instead a near-death experience fueled him to take football seriously.
Like Taylor, Davis said he considered quitting after struggling to adjust as a rookie. Only problem was his inability to speak Japan and find his way out of Japan where the Broncos were playing a preseason game. He was stuck and made an impression anyway with a huge hit on special teams.
Davis gave a shoutout to his kids. One of his sons took the opportunity to give a shoutout to Sour Patch Kids while his daughter couldn’t care less.
Kickers are people too, folks.
It’s possible that Andersen’s bust is the first in Canton with a mullet.
Andersen was born in Denmark and told a funny story of his first time being introduced to American football and his confusion every step of the way. He gave thanks to the high school coach who gave him a shot and offered some really solid advice on his first day: “Just kick the shit out of it.” Words to live by.
Former Dolphins and Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson did the introduction, and Taylor said he hopes the next time Johnson is in Canton it’s for an induction of his own.
Taylor said that after five days of practicing in the heat of Miami with Johnson yelling at him, he called his mom to tell her he was considering quitting. She told him he could join the military or get his butt back to practice. Mom to the rescue.
Taylor gave Dan Snyder a thank you and a sorry for stealing so much money from him in 2008 when he recorded just 3.5 sacks in one season in Washington.
Tom Brady wrote a letter to Hall of Fame voters campaigning for Taylor to get inducted. Taylor gave Brady and Peyton Manning a thank you in his speech for forcing him to step up his game.
Most of Taylor’s speech was emotional and heartfelt thank you’s to each the people who had an impact on his career and life — that included everyone from his mom to Dan Marino.
First up is Easley, who played seven seasons for the Seattle Seahawks — including a Defensive Player of the Year performance in 1984 — before kidney problems forced a premature retirement.
Easley gave shoutouts to the many players — Jack Tatum, Steve Atwater, and several others — that haven’t made it in the Hall of Fame yet, but are still hopeful for a spot in the future.
He threw in a subtle plug of his book that hasn’t yet been published. Don’t knock the hustle.
There was debate during Easley’s career whether he or Ronnie Lott were better. Easley put it to bed by telling the crowd that Lott is the best safety in the last 30 years.
Easley decried police violence against black Americans and briefly discussed youth football before his teleprompter went out and he was forced to cut his speech short.
He was near the end of his speech anyway, which can be read in full here.
One speech down, six to go.
Before the ceremony
The Pro Football Hall of Fame will induct seven new members Saturday night with a class that is headlined by LaDainian Tomlinson, Kurt Warner and Jerry Jones.
Speeches on Saturday night will begin at 7 p.m. ET with Kenny Easley, a former Seattle Seahawks safety who earned five trips to the Pro Bowl between 1982 and 1987. He’ll be followed by former Miami Dolphins pass rusher Jason Taylor, Saints and Falcons kicker Morten Andersen, and Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis.
The night will finish with Tomlinson, Jones and Warner.
Each inductee will first be introduced by a presenter before giving a speech of their own. In 2016, Brett Favre took the most time with a speech that lasted about 36 minutes, while Marvin Harrison breezed through his in about 11 minutes.
With seven inductees and seven introductions, it might be a late night in Canton, Ohio.
LaDainian Tomlinson and Kurt Warner headline the Hall of Fame class. Here’s some full details on the careers of each inductee.
A few former AFC West defenders spoke to SB Nation about what it was like trying to stop LaDainian Tomlinson during his prime.
Kurt Warner’s family was close to missing his Hall of Fame party, but the Cardinals owner came to the rescue with a private jet.
Tom Brady’s induction in the Hall of Fame is still several years away, but he helped convince voters that it was time to induct Jason Taylor.
Kenny Easley didn’t play long, but he was an enforcer in the Seattle Seahawks secondary and earned his place in Canton.