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The 7 most memorable Pro Football Hall of Fame speeches in the last 20 years

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Hall of Fame speeches are fun and also sad sometimes.

NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

This weekend, eight new members will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Every year at the enshrinement ceremony, the new inductees in attendance are slated to speak. And every year, most speeches begin the same way — they thank God, their family, the team owners, and fans. But after that, each induction speech is different from the next.

From goofy to heart-warming to tear-jerking, there are a number of great Hall of Fame induction speeches and moments. I picked the most memorable ones from the last 20 years, starting with my absolute favorite speech.

And the 2019 Hall of Fame class isn’t lacking in personality — including players like Champ Bailey and Ed Reed — so this list could have another addition come Saturday night.

1. Ray Lewis, Class of 2018

The only real answer to the question of “What is the best Hall of Fame induction moment?” is the entirety of Ray Lewis’ nonsensical monologue. His enshrinement speech felt like it lasted 12 years but only went on for 33 minutes, somehow, with his personality falling somewhere in between an inspirational speaker and a Southern Baptist preacher on Easter Sunday.

For all the theatrics, Lewis made some serious points throughout his speech. He went out of his way to thank his coaches and teammates, with both the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Hurricanes. He praised his mother for being there and raising him alone, while saying that he continually tries to be the father he never had.

He also said he still kisses his kids on the mouth, to which both his sons aggressively shook their heads.

As Lewis said, “Don’t hate.”

2. Brett Favre, Class of 2016

One of the most emotional Hall of Fame speeches in recent memory is Brett Favre’s from 2016.

“This is tougher than any third-and-15, I can assure you,” Favre said as he got especially choked up sharing stories of his family throughout his life.

Early in the speech, the longtime Green Bay Packers quarterback recounted an adorable story about how he and his future wife, Deanna, started dating when he was 14. He also gave a shoutout to Deanna’s mom: “My mother-in-law who for 33, 34 years has been by far my biggest fan. I have never thrown an interception that has been my fault, according to my mother-in-law, Ann.”

(No one tell Ann that Favre actually threw 336 interceptions, the most in NFL history.)

3. LaDainian Tomlinson, Class of 2017

LaDainian Tomlinson’s Hall of Fame speech was nothing short of inspirational. He delivered a powerful message about unity and noted, “My story is America’s story.”

But the former Chargers running back also brought the laughs. He said that told his mom at 6 years old that he would go to the NFL. At 7 years old, he asked for a weight set for Christmas because he “needed to get bigger if he was going to make it to the NFL.”

That’s the most football guy thing I’ve ever heard. This man was meant for Canton.

4. Joe Montana, Class of 2000

Joe Montana originally had another speech planned. He said that before the Hall of Fame weekend in 2000, he felt like he was already in the coffin with dirt thrown on him, at just 44 years old. “I saw the Hall of Fame as an ending point,” Montana said.

Then, he spent time with his fellow inductees and came to a realization that his enshrinement didn’t mean death. After going his entire life hopping from team to team — from Pop Warner, to high school, to Notre Dame, to the 49ers, and to the Chiefs — he was part of yet another new one.

“I’ve now seen the light that this is not an ending point. This is a beginning point. This is the beginning of the rest of my life, post-career with a new team. Take a look at these guys [pointing to other Hall of Famers behind him] — what a team it is.”

Sometimes, it’s all about the proper perspective.

5. Jerry Rice, Class of 2010

Hall of Famers are just like us. 49ers legend Jerry Rice wore one black and one blue sock to his enshrinement ceremony in 2010 and jokingly asked the crowd to lend him a black sock.

His speech got more sincere as he went on. Rice first joined the football team his sophomore of high school after sprinting away from his principal to avoid getting in trouble. In turn, the principal told the football coach about Rice’s speed and he was offered a position on the team — he had been running ever since.

“There are no more routes to run, no more touchdowns to score, no more records to set. That young boy from Mississippi has finally stopped running. Let me stand here and catch my breath. Let me inhale it all in one more time.”

There’s a reason he’s considered the GOAT.

6. John Elway, Class of 2004

Coach Wade Phillips once called John Elway the “Lou Gehrig of quarterbacks” — which is both quite a large name to live up to and an amazing compliment. Elway said it was his proudest moment as Broncos quarterback because, “I didn’t always have a great game, nor was I always healthy, but my teammates knew that I’d always show up.”

During his enshrinement speech, Elway spent a few minutes talking about all the things his dad, who was also his coach when he was younger, taught him. The most important was: “When you go out with your offensive linemen, you pick up the tab.”

Elway’s father passed away a few years before his son’s induction, but his lessons will live on.

7. Cris Carter, Class of 2013

Cris Carter didn’t have an easy path to Canton. Carter was selected by the Eagles in the supplement draft, but battled drug and alcohol abuse until he turned things around with the Vikings, where he played for 12 seasons. He also had to wait until he was elected to the Hall of Fame, finally getting in during his sixth year of eligibility.

When he got there, he didn’t waste any time, sharing his passion and appreciation right off the bat.

He ended it the same way: “I love football. I love this game. It gave me an identity. It gave me a sense of purpose. For an African American man, it’s a great opportunity in America to be able to play football.”

He should’ve been inducted earlier, but at least he made his speech worth the wait.