August 4, 2006
ADAM SCHEFTER: Welcome to the enshrinee press conference for the Class of 2006. A great weekend for everybody, an honor to be here.
The first gentleman we're introducing today is the former Dallas Cowboy defensive tackle, converted tight end, a man who played high school basketball, went to Fort Valley High School, Rayfield Wright.
Rayfield, how does somebody go from Fort Valley State into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
RAYFIELD WRIGHT: Tell you what, it's a really interesting question. Mr. Gil Brandt asked me a while back, he said, 'Rayfield, it's a long way from Fort Valley State to the NFL.' I said, 'Gil Brandt, I tell you what, it's a long way from Griffin, Georgia, to the Hall of Fame. '
But you do it by, I guess, dedication, commitment and hard work because it certainly was each of those. We certainly had to make a dedication, certainly had to have commitment, and you certainly had to work hard, no question about it.
Q. Rayfield, had you come to the point where you had accepted the fact that this might not happen? Given how long you had to wait, does it make it even more satisfying now?
RAYFIELD WRIGHT: Well, no question about it, it's certainly satisfying. I think any player that played in the National Football League that had an opportunity and get an opportunity to receive such an honor such as this, this is the highest honor you can receive in the National Football League, no matter how many years you have waited or all the things that were said, whether or not they were negative or positive or even how you have felt, whether it was good or bad in some cases, this is certainly the cap of all of it.
You know, everything that has happened in the past, you know, has basically gone away, and that's a good thing.
Q. Mr. Wright, have you thought about what it would have been like had Coach Lomax not convinced the Air Force recruiter to let you go to Fort Valley, what type of military career you may have had?
RAYFIELD WRIGHT: You know, when I retired -- when I left high school, based on the hardships in our family, I really didn't have an opportunity to go to college as far as family finances were concerned. I did volunteer for the Air Force. If Coach Lomax hadn't come to Griffin to talk to my mother, my grandmother, my Boy Scout master, I'm an Eagle Scout, my minister and recruiting officers, there's no telling what would have happened. I probably would have ended up in the Air Force, no question about it. I was going into special services so I could continue my education and at the same time play basketball, which was my favorite sport. That's where I think I would have been (laughter).
I'm an offensive lineman. I don't mind you asking questions. I got my helmet off today.
Q. Roger Staubach said you saved his life literally on that field for the Dallas Cowboys. He credits you with being the prime force that brought them Super Bowl championships on offense.
RAYFIELD WRIGHT: Well, Roger Staubach is a tremendous quarterback, no question about it, that the Cowboys had for several years. We've had a lot of great quarterbacks, including my teammate up here Troy Aikman.
As far as Roger was concerned, when Roger came to the club in 1969, I believe I had been there two years as a tight end. Coach Landry called me into his office one day and said, Rayfield, I'm going to move to you offensive tackle. I just looked at him because I never played that position before in my life. I said, Coach, if you believe I can best help this football team by moving into a position I never played before in my life, I'll give it everything I have. He just looked at me and said, Rayfield, I believe you can do it. That was good enough for me.
Roger was a tremendous athlete. The thing about Roger is that he felt as though, whether we had one yard, 10 yards or 20 yards to go, the kind of athlete that he was, he felt he could get it, whether he had to pass the ball or hand it off to a runningback or run the ball himself. Lot of the times, that's what he did.
But it was great playing with Roger, no question about it.
Q. Mr. Wright, did you attend the luncheon today? Can you give us your thoughts from that? Seems like a pretty emotional time for most of the guys there.
RAYFIELD WRIGHT: Well, absolutely. It was a great luncheon that Ray Nitschke luncheon was today. I don't know whether many of you were around at that time. As far as I was concerned, it was a very, very special event because not only was it special for the new guys that are going in today, but it was also special for the guys that are already in the Hall of Fame.
It's more of a family-type situation. It was really interesting and really good to see the guys that you have played against for so many years, that have hit you and you've hit them over the years, it was just really good to see these guys. It's more like becoming a rookie again and joining a football team again because that's what the Hall of Fame seemed to be for me. It seemed to be a team.
That's what Coach Landry was always talking to us about, being a team. That luncheon today was something that was very, very special. It's something I'll never forget because it was my first one.
Q. What are you going to cherish more, your time out on the field or your time in the Hall of Fame?
RAYFIELD WRIGHT: Well, I tell you what, you know, out on the field, it's going to be something different. I think each event that we attend, I think each segment that we go through, I think it's going to be a different feeling for all of us. I think that feeling itself is going to be very special and we have to cherish that particular moment as it come to us because you don't really know how you're going to feel when you get to that particular moment itself on that particular event.
But I do remember this right here. Coach Landry did make a statement to us about team. You were talking about team a few minutes ago. He said, Rayfield, no matter how many honors you receive, you'll never be greater than the team. So, you know, we are a team. I'm happy to be a part of this team up here today, no question about it.
ADAM SCHEFTER: Rayfield, I want to take this opportunity to ask you a question myself. Having read your book, seems there were two people in the beginning of your career very important, Coach Lomax, and Gil Brandt, the way the Cowboys happened to find you. Could you elaborate a little on those two gentlemen, how you got to the Dallas Cowboys.
RAYFIELD WRIGHT: Coach Lomax is certainly very important to me because I didn't know whether I was going to go to college or not, even though I had several basketball opportunities to go. As I said earlier, we didn't have the financial resources in my family for us to go. That's when I volunteered for the Air Force.
Coach Lomax started it all off. When I went to Fort Valley after everything was worked out, I thought I had a basketball scholarship, and I went back home to Griffin to get a job to work. And I get a call from Coach Lomax. He was very, very upset with me because I wasn't at spring football practice. I called him and I said, Coach, I didn't know I was supposed to play football. I thought I had a basketball scholarship. He said, No, son, you have an athletic scholarship, so come on back down here.
I had to quit my job and go back to college. I started playing football. First position I played was free safety. I was a punter. I played defensive end and tight end.
After that, you know, my junior year, they tried to get me out of college to play basketball. I rejected this, said, You have to wait till I graduate from college based on other commitments I had made. Then my senior year, I get a call from Gil Brandt. Gil Brandt was funny. When he first called me, he said, Are you Rayfield Wright? I said, Yes, sir. He said, I'm Gil Brandt of the Dallas Cowboys. We're thinking about drafting you. I said, For what? I didn't have any idea. You know, the Cowboys was only six years old at that time. So we didn't know much about Dallas.
They did have a great receiver that I was certainly aware of, and that was Bob Hayes. We were in the same college conference. No question about it.
ADAM SCHEFTER: Thank you.
RAYFIELD WRIGHT: Thank you very much.
ADAM SCHEFTER: The next person inducted into the Hall of Fame is the great defensive lineman, Reggie White, 15 seasons in the NFL, the "Minister of Defense." Everybody knows all about Reggie White. Representing her husband here today is Sara White.
Sara, I'd like to call you to the podium and ask you, did Reggie ever mention the idea of coming to Canton and what it might have meant to him had he been here for this day?
SARA WHITE: Good question, because I -- the question of the hour is: What would Reggie have said tomorrow? If only I would have known he wouldn't have been here, I would have asked and I would have had my speech all prepared. But, unfortunately, I don't.
We never -- we talked about the Hall of Fame, but it was always afar because when you think about the Hall of Fame and the elite group, you think about a group of men who are older, who are wise, who have been in the league a long time, who developed character, character in the NFL. Of course, Reggie had that character. He just had the youth. You know, he didn't have the age like Rayfield has waited a long time.
We never knew that Reggie would be inducted the first time, and we never really spoke about it as far as what you go in as, what you do. It was something afar that we spoke about.
Q. Can you explain, please, what this special day means to you?
SARA WHITE: You know, the whole weekend, you embrace it. Somebody asked, What's the ambience of it? I said, 'The ambience is rush, rush, hurry, hurry, wait, just like the Army. 'They said you need to come back the next year to really enjoy it.
As far as me and my family and the kids, it's something that we really regret that Reggie is not here and that he should be up here. This is not -- all the other stuff we've done, all the things we done over the past 22 years has been about Reggie and Sara. This is about Reggie White. It's very difficult for me to be Reggie White and to say what Reggie White would have said. Twenty four years knowing a person, being with a person, I hope I say the right things he want me to say tomorrow.
Our family has really embraced it. The sad part is that he isn't here. My son said, he really is because he's been, for the past 19 months, everything we've done, we've done in his name and in his honor, whether it's football related or charitable.
Q. What kind of process have you gone through as you've gotten ready for this weekend? Who is going to present you and are you accepting for him?
SARA WHITE: Yes. The process has been very fairly easy thanks to Tammy (Owens) and Judy (Kuntz) and Joe (Horrigan) of the Hall of Fame. They just tell us what to do and we do it. Jeremy will be presenting. Our daughter will actually be singing the national anthem, Jecolia. She'll be a freshman this year in college. Jeremy will be a junior. I am accepting, like I said, on behalf of Reggie. So just pray for me tomorrow that I say what he wants to say.
You're laughing. I'm not laughing. This is not a joke.
Q. You just mentioned you regret that Reggie is not here. Does your family at all have regrets about that one year in Carolina because Reggie seemed to be a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer?
SARA WHITE: No, actually, because it would have been '05. He wouldn't have been there either last year.
You know what, that was -- Reggie wasn't ready really to give up football. That one year of Carolina, really it made his transition easier. What he was missing was his camaraderie with the guys that he grew up with, the seven years in Philly and six years with the Packers, and then he went to the Panthers. Structurally everything was great, but the same guys weren't there. He understood, I'm not missing football; I'm missing the guys in the locker room from the Eagles and the Packers.
That really helped our family develop the empty-nester type, no-football, just watch it on TV, flip from play to play. As far as that, no, there are no regrets actually, no regrets.
Q. Reggie just seemed larger than life. Is it almost surreal and is it going to be hard for you in the next day or so to think that obviously he's not here to accept this?
SARA WHITE: I've been reflecting on that a lot. I think the biggest challenge for me, this will be the biggest speech I've ever made in my life, the hardest in my life. I think the next hardest time would be to see my daughter walk down the aisle without her father. For me, that's the most important part, is family.
Tomorrow, Reggie wouldn't have said anything about football. He would have said everything about helping the community, helping people, you know, trying to live a life that we all need to be better people. It doesn't matter about the X's and O's, it doesn't matter about the wins or the losses. Like Rayfield said, you know, you may have the lunch today, it's not about who you didn't like on the field, who you did like, because together now they're one fraternity. Reggie is part of that fraternity. That can never be taken away.
But, anyway, so tomorrow will be a hard day. I think the hardest days are to come when my kids do their firsts, you know, for their father not to experience it.
Q. Could you maybe share a story, especially maybe from that '96 season when the Packers won the Super Bowl, what was Reggie like when he would come home from that and would be with the family?
SARA WHITE: The funny thing is, I don't know if you know this, no boos, please, after they won the game that took them to the Super Bowl, my son was about 10 years old. He went into the locker room, he said, Dad, we're going to the Super Bowl, we're going to the Super Bowl. He looked down at my son, and he said, Emmitt Smith didn't make the Super Bowl. I don't know who you're going with.
Jeremy had been a Dallas Cowboys fan forever and ever and ever. Today he's still a Cowboy fan.
The funny thing is, when we went to the Super Bowl, it was all about the Packers actually finally getting there. It wasn't about Reggie. It wasn't about Brett. It was about the community actually getting to the Super Bowl. I think that was the most important part that we took from that Super Bowl, is that the community embraced everyone. That was the most exciting part.
Q. I would think you have to have great peace of mind to know that you really in many ways are carrying on the work that your husband started, so much in his heart. That must be a great feeling for you and for the children.
SARA WHITE: It is. You know, people say, After tomorrow, will his legacy end? I said, No, his football chapter will end. By all means, it's ended at the largest plateau, the biggest height of anybody's career. But his life and his legacy will live on. First and foremost through Jeremy and Jecolia, and second through all the philanthropic things we've done during the past 22 years.
I can be proud to say that Reggie White -- I think some people still think he's alive because of how much he's done over the past 19 months and he hasn't even been here. I'm still getting cards in the mail for autographs, just so you know. I think maybe they think he really still is alive because he's living on through you guys, through people, through our entrepreneurs, through the teachers, educators, through family, through friends. That's what is so important to us.
Q. Did Reggie ever reflect at all in his last years about his time with the Eagles? He had that great success with the Packers, failures with the Eagles. Did he talk about that at all?
SARA WHITE: Did you say he failed with the eagles?
Q. Some of the playoff failures.
SARA WHITE: You know what, you -- as a player, you have to forget the losses, otherwise you -- am I right? Troy will tell you. He got hit by Reggie 50 times one game. He had to forget all that.
TROY AIKMAN: 55.
SARA WHITE: 55 times (laughter).
He did not reflect about the losses. He did, however, talk about that one year, two years that we had the best defense in the league and never went anywhere. It was frustrating, very frustrating. But in the last years of his life, when Jeff Lurie bought the team, he said, Man, I wish I would have played under him because I know we would have had a winning team.
So, yes, he did reflect on the people of Philadelphia. They gave him a rally in Philadelphia. They didn't want him to leave. Norman Braman never offered him a contract, so on and owe forth. He did reflect, What about if Jeff was the owner of the team and not Norman. Look how far we may have come.
Yes, we missed Philadelphia just as much as we missed Green Bay.
ADAM SCHEFTER: Next up is a man who threw for nearly 50,000 yards during his 17 seasons in professional football. I call to the podium Warren Moon.
The first thing I wanted to ask you, Bill Willis is going to be honored at halftime on Sunday as the first player to break the color barrier. What has it been like for you to break the color barrier in the sense of being the first African American quarterback to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
WARREN MOON: There's no question that Bill Willis' contributions to football are legendary because he did open the door for other players of color to come into the league. You can see now there are many players doing very well in the National Football League. It took the trailblazers like Bill to do that.
As far as me being the first here, I think it is significant whenever you do anything of accomplishment for the first time. I also know there are a lot of guys before me that kind of helped blaze that trail for myself, like Marlin Briscoe, the first African American to start a game, Willie Thrower, the first to ever play in a game, so on and so on.
All I did was take that responsibility as a player, along with the other guys, during my era, Doug Williams, Vince Evans, the other guys that played with me, and just continue to try and play as well as we possibly could so we help opportunities for other guys.
Now I think it's to a point where it's not even talked about anymore, and it probably shouldn't be talked about any more. I'm just happy that the guys that are playing today are getting so many opportunities to play the game. That's all you really want as a player is an opportunity. We weren't sometimes given an opportunity in the earlier days, but now that doesn't seem to be a problem.
Q. Getting this close to this thing, what is your emotional state? Can you tell us about your new job this week, which has been a travel agent, getting everybody here and settled.
WARREN MOON: A lot of it is what Sara talked about. It's a lot -- we're hurried up to a lot of different events, trying to make sure we stay on schedule. We've been given our marching orders to be on time for everything. You see, I come walking in a little bit late, but that's only because I am worried about making arrangements for everyone, trying to get everybody where they need to be. I do have over 300 people here this weekend. A lot of these people I haven't seen in a long time, relatives, a lot of friends I haven't seen since high school. You just want to make sure their accommodations are taken care of because they're taking time out of their hard-working schedules to come spend a weekend in Canton, Ohio, in the summer. You want to make sure it's a very pleasurable weekend for them.
That's kind of what I've been doing over the last few weeks, not really thinking about the actual Hall of Fame induction ceremony itself. But I think the luncheon kind of brought a little bit of that to reality today, being there with all the guys. I think that's when you start finally feeling like you're a part of this thing, when you get with the rest of the Hall of Famers, listen to their stories, listen to how they feel about professional football, how they feel about being in the Hall of Fame, that's when it really starts to mean something to me.
Q. Warren, your reaction when Jack Pardee took over the team and said, We got something called the run-and-shoot. You had seen it with Jim Kelly playing in Houston with the rival league. What was the change for you?
WARREN MOON: I spent a lot more time in the weight room, believe it or not, because I knew being in that offense that I was going to be exposed a lot because I was going to throw the football quite a bit, I was going to take a lot of hits. I really had to be at the top of my game because in order for that offense to work, the quarterback really has to be on each and every weekend. If he's not, it's not like you can turn to a running game and say he's not on this week, so we'll run the football. It puts a lot of onus on the quarterback. I like that pressure, I like that challenge. I also knew it was going to take a lot more preparation for me to get ready to function in that offense.
Q. Are you getting a chance to enjoy this weekend? How satisfying is it to see all these people from different parts of your life get to celebrate this with you?
WARREN MOON: I think that's the most enjoyable part for me, is seeing all these different people. There are people that I have a lot of friends since I retired from the game, but obviously a lot of people that I had relationships with while I played, then people before I even became a pro, as far as back as high school or when I was a little kid.
Being able to see all these different levels of your life be right here this weekend, you know, I kind of describe it as getting ready for this thing is like putting together a reunion, a family reunion, a wedding, an induction ceremony all at the same time. It's a tremendous amount of work that I don't think people know going into this thing getting ready for it because you do have all these people that you want to include in this special weekend 'cause all these people have passed through your life and had something to do with your career.
I'm glad it's finally here. I'm glad we're finally going to get a chance to enjoy all these experiences. You try to enjoy it as much as you possibly can. Like Sara said, it will probably be better when we come back next year and don't have to worry about all the other distractions that go along with it.
Q. You mentioned how many hits you were going to take when you went to the run-and-shoot. Can you share with us your memories of playing against Reggie White, who was able to get to you a couple times, in particular on a Thursday night when he ushered Cris Carter to your shoes?
WARREN MOON: Yes. Well, there was probably a time before that when we were at Houston playing against the Philadelphia Eagles on a Monday night game. One of the most physical intimidating defenses, not just Reggie himself, but that whole defensive unit, was so intimidating. They just intimidated our receivers to death that night. They broke Ernest Givins' nose on a pass over the middle. Really took our receivers out of the game where they didn't want to touch the football any more, the secondary did.
The incident you're talking about where Reggie White was when I was in Minnesota. I used to play Reggie twice a year when he was at Green Bay. This was in Minnesota. We ran a little waggle play where I faked the ball to the left, come back to the right. Cris Carter is supposed to like slow block off of Reggie who is the defensive end on that side, release to the flat, I'm supposed to hit him with the football. Reggie is not only a very physical, intimidating player, but he's a very smart player. He recognized what was going on. As I came off of my fake, he took Cris Carter, who was trying to slow block against him, believe it or not, picked him up, threw him into me. Sacked me and threw Cris into me at the same time. That's the kind of player he was, just very physically intimidating, very smart, too. One of the nicest guys you ever want to meet off the field.
Q. When you look at John and Rayfield and Harry, think about how long they waited, interested in your thoughts about getting the opportunity to be up here in your first year of eligibility?
WARREN MOON: Well, that I think was the most surprising. I guess 'surprising' is the best word for me, of making the Hall of Fame. That was more of an honor to me than actually making it because I think a lot of people told me after I retired from the game, because of my sheer production, that somewhere down the line I would probably be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But then to have it happen your first time, with all the guys that are still out there waiting to go in, that to me was the biggest honor and the biggest surprise to me.
No question about it, being involved with this group, which I think is one of the most diverse classes that I've seen in a while, to be a part of that is very honoring to me.
Q. How often do you hear from professional quarterbacks who are playing today that you are the reason they are doing what they're doing, you were their inspiration? What does that mean to you? Does it bother you at all when you are sometimes introduced as having passed for 50,000 yards when you actually passed for 70,000 yards in professional football? Do you feel that sometimes gets overlooked?
WARREN MOON: Well, I do hear from some of those guys from time to time, different ones like Donovan McNabb or Michael Vick told me they kind of idolized me as a young kid growing up, really thanked me for their opportunities they're getting now. That's really nice to hear you are held in that type of regard.
I did the same thing to guys that played before me, like James Harris and guys like that. I thanked them for the opportunities they gave me. So it's kind of just helping each other out. It's like a chain, everybody just kind of helps each other out.
As far as my yardage, it just depends how I'm being recognized. If they say it's my NFL yardage, that's what my NFL yardage is. If they're talking about my pro football yardage, that's what it is. It really doesn't matter to me. I just feel like I gave everything I had as a player. I think one thing that people can always say about me that played with me or played against me is I gave it all out there on the field. Sometimes it was good enough, sometimes it wasn't, but it wasn't because of lack of effort.
My main thing was always I played with a chip on my shoulder all the time trying to prove myself because I took some different routes to get to where I got to, but I was very stubborn and I didn't let anybody tell me that I couldn't do something. That's I think one of the reasons why I continue to strive forward is because of my stubbornness, then people giving me opportunities. I just tried to take advantage of that opportunity. Basically that's who I am, that's why I'm here today.
Q. You played for four teams. You look at guys in your class like Rayfield and Troy, Harry and John, who are affiliated with one team. I'm sure you sort of have a different perspective having played for a number of teams. Do you wish you had the opportunity to remain with one team over the course of your career?
WARREN MOON: I would have loved to play with one team my whole career. I told the Houston Oilers that when I left there. You have to remember, when I left there, I was 38 years old. Most guys don't play that long. Most guys, I guess their skills start to diminish somewhere around that time.
For some reason, I was able to play longer than most guys. I don't know what that reason is, I don't know if it's God given, genes, hard work, staying away from injuries or all of the above.
I know I had a lot of football left in my when I left Houston. I told Floyd Reese that, the general manager at that time. He was shocked that I played another seven years. So was I. I never knew how long I was going to play the game. I just played as long as my heart told me to play and my body let me play. Fortunately I was able to play as long as I did.
This is a game you don't want to leave until you have to leave it because me as a player, I loved it. I was a fan of it. I just loved competing. I wasn't going to leave because I knew once you leave, you don't go back. You play as long as your body and your heart tells you. Then when it's time to move on, you move on.
ADAM SCHEFTER: Thank you, Warren.
WARREN MOON: Thank you.
ADAM SCHEFTER: Our next inductee has more titles in football than I know. He's a pitchman, a former coach, a broadcaster, the greatest broadcaster that we know in society today, and now a member of the Hall of Fame. I'd like to call up to the podium John Madden.
John, earlier today you told me you hadn't slept much in light of this ceremony, this big honor. When do you think you'll be able to get some sleep? Any chance you'll get any sleep tonight?
JOHN MADDEN: I don't know and I don't care (laughter). You get to the point where, you know, you wait for this, and it finally comes, and you want to cherish a moment, you want to make a memory forever. Sleep, when you eat and stuff, I don't say that a lot, eating and sleeping is not important to me. I guarantee you right now the most important thing is just being here and having fun and then taking it all in.
I know that I was saying I have a hard time thinking. My mind kind of feels like mush. I was talking to Nick Buoniconti last night, he was telling me, when you go into the Hall of Fame, he said the whole weekend is just a blur. I said, Thank God I'm normal. I thought, man, I had flipped.
Q. John, saw John Robinson in the hall this morning. What was it like all those years ago when you kids were running around Daly City? Did you have any idea you would be in the Hall of Fame?
JOHN MADDEN: No. You know, I see John here. John was like my brother. I didn't have a brother, so we grew up together. Everything was baseball during baseball season, basketball during basketball, football during football. I just look at John, neither one of us had anything. We were both poor, didn't know any better. Two dufuses, that's what I said, two dufuses from Daly City. Here he's coaching USC, the Rams, I'm coaching the Raiders.
I mean, when you can go back, at my age, you go in, you have a lot of back, a lot of things to think about down the line. Sara, this is for you. When you can go into the Hall of Fame and have your kids there and your grandkids there, that's pretty special. I got two of mine in the back. I just saw Jack and Jesse. To be here, to have this weekend, say, Hey, Jack (laughter). Grandpa, you're goofy as ever. Hey, Jesse. No, that's pretty good.
It is it's about that, them, John Robinson, growing up. It all comes here, catches you, you go into the Hall of Fame. It's forever. Like Dan Dierdorf was saying at the luncheon today, you go into a club that you can't be traded, you can't be cut, they can't fire you, and you don't even get out of it when you die. Pretty good. Pretty good.
Q. I was watching an NFL Network show this week about you, where you said you left coaching at an age where a lot of guys are finally hired as head coaches, 42 years old. Why did you leave coaching when you did? Was it the flying, a Dick Vermeil type of burnout?
JOHN MADDEN: When I retired, they didn't even have that word 'burnout'. That 'burnout' word came later. In those days, Vince Lombardi was my idol. I think Vince Lombardi was the greatest football coach ever. Vince Lombardi coached for 10 years. I kind of felt, you know, you can coach for 10 years, you win a hundred games, you win the Super Bowl, you've done it all, then you just go do something else. I mean, the game wasn't what it is today. It was a different era, a different time, the money was different. It had nothing to do with that.
I will say this. I retired early at 42. I went into broadcasting. That filled that gap. I mean, I went from a player to a coach to a broadcaster. Had that not filled that gap, I would have coached again. But after getting out at 42, I never considered it again.
Q. John Robinson said even at an early age you showed a real reverence of football, the culture of football. Where did that come from? Knowing your love for the culture of football, what is your favorite exhibit in the Hall of Fame?
JOHN MADDEN: Well, you know, I mean, first of all, it's the respect that I've had for the players that play in the National Football League from the time I was a kid. I mean, when I used to watch the 49ers. I saw John Henry Johnson here today, Joe Perry. Those were the guys I watched. Leo Nomellini played for the 49ers, that I watched as a kid. I respected those players so much. Then I always had respect for the players.
When I go through the Hall of Fame, to me it's about the people. You just think of those guys. You see their busts. I mean, you think of coaches, you think of players, you look at players without face masks, what they went through, what that had to be like. If it weren't for them, there wouldn't have been anything for us.
You look at the evolution of football, and I think we ought to thank those guys every day. I think that's a shrine to football, the Hall of Fame is. Everyone that's in it, everyone that loves it, everyone that has a passion for it ought to be thankful to those people that are in there for giving us a foundation. That's what I think.
I think if it weren't for these people and these things -- Jack, am I boring you? I was talking about my grandson. I see he's walking out. It will get better. Someone else will get up here, yeah. We got other guys. Aikman will be up here in a minute. Harry Carson is coming (laughter).
But, no, I mean, that's the thing. Just the respect that I have for players, the love that I have for the game, you know, where it is now, where it came from. I don't think we should ever forget that.
Q. How does it feel to be such an icon, not only among older generations but among the younger generations who never got a chance to see you coach?
JOHN MADDEN: You know, I don't know. I never thought of myself as an icon. I've never met anyone that thinks of themselves as one.
I know that I have done a number of things. I mean, because I got out of coaching so young, at 42, then I had life after coaching, which has been television and my video game, so on. You know, it's just a part of your life that is just an addition to what it was before.
One is made possible by the other. That's how you got there. I never forgot that. I think Rayfield Wright has an interesting story that I hope something comes out of this. Sometimes with kids, I think we plug 'em into something too young. We take kids, they play little league, they say he's a baseball player, I don't want him playing basketball, football. He's a basketball player, he can't play baseball. He's playing soccer. We won't let them play. You don't know what they are when they're kids. You don't know what they're going to be.
Here is Rayfield, listening to his story, he didn't even play football until he was a senior in high school, then he went to college and he thought he had a basketball scholarship. I was thinking, coaches are the same. We all lie. That was Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes used to say, you always have to take the first year of a kid, when he's in college, to unrecruit him, take those things you told him you were going to do and change him.
Here is Rayfield Wright, when he was a kid, was a basketball player, and now he's going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I think there's a lesson there is what I'm trying to say.
Q. Over the years you've seen so many Raiders, players that you coached, Al Davis, owner. Your wait was considerably longer, as it's been for Harry Carson and Rayfield Wright. Do you ever wonder how that process is? Was it ever frustrating at times?
JOHN MADDEN: No. You want to be there when you get there. Like now it's been a long wait. Maybe because it's been a long wait, you sure appreciate it more maybe. I know you can't appreciate it any more than I appreciate it.
I just think out of respect for the players and coaches, contributors that are in the Hall of Fame, you don't think a lot, I mean, you ought to be there. They're there. They got voted in. They belong. If your day comes, it comes. If your day doesn't come, it doesn't come.
When my day came, just like everyone else up here, it's the happiest day of my life, I'll tell you that. Doesn't get any better than this. Doesn't get any better.
Q. Were you ever approached to come out of the broadcast booth to coach again? If so, were you tempted? What are you most proud of as far as an X's and O's point of view that you contributed to the game?
JOHN MADDEN: First of all, I had opportunities to come back to coach. They never went very far because I was never interested.
I had one night in my life where I thought I wanted to go back to coaching. It was when Jimmy Johnson left the Cowboys, went to FOX, we were working together at FOX. He took the job at Miami. We were doing a Cowboy championship game in Dallas. We were having kind of a dinner, a party, the night before. Jimmy was talking about going back to coaching Miami. Here I am, I'm in there with him, you can do this, you can do that, watch that, it will be great. I got caught up. I'm saying, I want to coach. I want to be like Jimmy. I want to go back like Jimmy. It's in Dallas. Mexican restaurant right across the street from the hotel.
I'm walking back to the room with Matt Millen. I said to Matt, you know, I have a feeling for the first time since I got out of coaching that I want to coach again. I said, I hope when I wake up, it goes away. I woke up the next morning and it went away. That was true, I did have that one night. That was it.
Anyway, thank you very much. It's great to be here.
ADAM SCHEFTER: Our next inductee is the former New York Giants linebacker, Harry Carson, nine-time Pro Bowl selection, seven straight Pro Bowls, the heart of a Giants defense that was terrific. He was a great run defender, especially around the goal line.
Harry, there was a big hullabaloo made over the fact whether you would want to be inducted one day. Now that you are here, was it worth the wait and do you have any regrets about being here?
HARRY CARSON: I wouldn't say I waited. I think everybody else waited. You know, in football you're taught to deal with the things that have control over. I had absolutely no control over it.
But in looking at what the process was doing to the people who I loved and cared about the most, I didn't want them to go through it. I had to soothe them oftentimes. I think that was one of the reasons that prompted me to ask to have my name removed from consideration.
As to whether it was worth the wait, I would have to say, and this is quite -- I'm being very candid, very honest with you, if it's something about turning 50 that you don't really worry about being validated. It's worth it to be able to share this experience with my family and with my good friends.
I think the one thing that I've gotten from this whole experience is I've gotten tremendous amount of love from people all around the world because I've gotten so many emails and letters from soldiers in Iraq, people in Switzerland, Europe, Australia. They were very much aware of the situation, how long it has taken me to get to this point.
But, believe me, when I knew that my teammates thought I should be here and the other players who I played against, it really didn't matter whether I was elected or not. But I'm very happy to be here, more so for the sake of my family. I got my granddaughter in the back. I stepped away for a little while. That's what it was. My family was coming in. I wanted to see my kids. I wanted to see my granddaughter.
Q. Could you comment about playing at South Carolina State, going to the NFL?
HARRY CARSON: Me going to South Carolina State was probably a Godsend because I was playing ball during desegregation. I was going to a high school, we didn't have any black coaches. I guess 30 to 40% of the team was black. We really could not adjust to one another. I wound up quitting my high school team, wound upcoming to South Carolina State.
I think the experience at South Carolina State not only made me a better ball player, but it really turned me into a man. I went from being a boy into a manhood at South Carolina State.
Just talking with Rayfield, we have so many things in common. He went to Fort Valley State. He had an interest going into the Air Force. I went to South Carolina State. I also had an interest in going to the Air Force. We both were asked to play different positions. We consider ourselves not just football players, but we were athletes.
South Carolina State built me. I think what they did was they made me understand that I was responsible to represent where I came from. You know, when I went to the NFL, it was nothing compared to their conditioning, the program at South Carolina State. When I went to the NFL, it was like a piece of cake. It was a piece of cake.
Q. Mr. Carson, your career stands on its own. Everybody back in your hometown knows you deserve to be here. An element of your greatness is the things you've done for that community as well as many others. Who are some of the people who inspired you along the way?
HARRY CARSON: You know what, the reason why I'm here is because of those people who inspired me. I'm just going to name one. Dr. Roswell Beck, who was the only black doctor in Florence. When I was going to South Carolina State, I had to take a physical. My sister Ruth, who is back in the corner, Ruth gave me money to pay the doctor to take a physical before I went to South Carolina State. When I went to the doctor, he gave me a physical. I went to pay him. He said, I don't want your money. I was really stunned that he didn't want the money. He said, I just want you to make something of your life.
That has always resonated with me. That little tidbit of advice affected me. It has affected me over the years. "Make something of your life and give back." That's what I've always tried to do. There's so many other people who have affected me in some way.
I was not the biggest, the fastest, the strongest, but for whatever reason, I wound up going on to college, then going on to the NFL. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to play in the National Football League, but I also understand that I represent so much more than me, that I represent where I came from.
I'm just happy to have had the opportunity to represent the city of Florence, all of my friends who I left back there, South Carolina State, the state of South Carolina.
Q. Have you had a chance to do that for someone else yet, to actually give someone that kind of feeling that's going to have them turn out to be something great?
HARRY CARSON: I do as much as I can working with young people. I work with young people back in the New Jersey area. I'm bringing out some young people who are hardship -- they've grown up hard. I've tried to impact their life. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me or for anybody else. For me to have my family be here to share in this, to have those young people who are coming share in this, it's going to make a difference in their lives.
What I try to do is just make a difference in the lives of others because so many other people have made a difference in my life.
Q. Can you compare this experience, which is more of maybe an individual achievement, to just about 20 years ago when the Giants won the Super Bowl?
HARRY CARSON: Then it was exorcizing the demons of not winning, and it was hard. I had gone through quite a bit as a player. Coming from a winning situation at South Carolina State, coming to the Giants, the Giants were awful. They were bad early on. There were times when I wanted to be traded. I begged George Young to let me go. He wouldn't let me go, so I had to stay there.
When we started winning and we won the Super Bowl, it made the wait really worthwhile. I really savored it, having the opportunity to win a Super Bowl.
This is a little different sort of situation because this is an individual honor, but we all know that we're not here as individuals, that on our backs we carry so many other people with us: our teammates, our coaches, the organization. In my case, there's so many Giants fans who have supported me when I played but also after I played.
There's not a day that goes by that someone doesn't stop me and say, Thanks for what you've done, what you've done for the organization. I'm very appreciative of all of those people. I'm very mindful of the fact that I didn't do it by myself. With this honor, I'm looking to share this with so many other people. It's no secret, I wrote the Hall of Fame, I asked them to remove my name from consideration. When it didn't happen, I really detached myself from the situation.
Me being here is because Wellington Mara really lobbied for me and he really supported me in this cause. But also my family, who stood behind me. I look at my sons that are here, my fiancée is here. She is the one who would cry when I didn't make it. I'd have to take her out to dinner to soothe her. I got my granddaughter back here. It's my first grand. I want my grand to know that her grandfather did something so monumental that it hasn't happened in my family. I want her to be able to tell her kids and her children's children about what I was able to accomplish as a player.
That really is one of the key things about being here.
Q. You talked about how much Marty Schottenheimer. He was the one that found you, made you a great player. Talk about how much Marty means to you.
HARRY CARSON: Marty was responsible for drafting me. I was a down defensive end. I never played the position of linebacker. But he chose me out of all the other players in the fourth round. He brought me to camp a month early to teach me how to play linebacker.
Coming from a small black school, being asked to play probably the most important position on defense, it was considered a thinking man's position. In the New York market, which is probably the largest market in the country, in the world, it was huge. It was huge.
Having been groomed, gone through a system at South Carolina State, I knew there was no room to fail. I just had to do the best that I could, play the position as best I could. Everything Marty tried to get me to do, I did ass backwards. It frustrated him. He threw up his hands. But he recognized I was an athlete. He didn't bog me down with too much responsibility. He tried to keep it simple.
People always link me with Parcells. Parcells and I have a great partnership, but Parcells inherited me. Marty really drafted me. I hope that I validated him and/or the choice he made in me in making the all-rookie team my first year having never played the position of middle linebacker.
Q. You talked a lot about coming from a small town in the South, going to a small all-black school in the South, then you go to the biggest stage in the world. You seem to have transcended what some people would say was not only a football barrier, but a social barrier, reaching out and have people feel like they can know you. What do you think that was all about?
HARRY CARSON: My mother always said, Be nice to people. I tried to be nice to people, except on the football field sometimes. I am a people person. I always try to treat people the way I want to be treated. As an athlete, I always thought it was a temporary situation. One of the great things about going to South Carolina State, they would not allow my head to get too big. I always understand that I was blessed to have the opportunity to do something that was very, very special.
You know, it was a temp job. Everybody is the same. Every person is the same. It really doesn't matter whether you're Harry Carson, Rayfield Wright, George Bush, whatever. We're all the same. I should not try to put myself over anyone else. I always try to be nice to people, especially fans, because I know what it feels like to go up and try to ask somebody for an autograph, to be shot down. I got kids. I always try to uplift fathers because when a kid is with his father, the father approaches an athlete, to that kid, that father is a king. As an athlete, you can never shoot down a father in front of his kid. You always try to be nice because that kid will always remember.
One of the great things from the situation now is that I get letters from people who will say something to the effect of, When I was six, my father brought me and my sister to Giants training camp. When everybody else walked off the field, you stopped, you signed the autograph, you gave us a popsicle, and I really appreciate it. I still got the autograph. I can't tell you how much it means to me. You're the reason why I started playing football. You're the reason why I wore No. 53.
I think I sort of look at things much differently than the average athlete. I probably never should have been a football player because it's not in my mindset to go out and be physical and hurt people. I'm too much like my mother: loving and sensitive and so forth. You ladies can understand that. But football was something that I fell into. It wasn't a goal, just like coming -- making the Hall of Fame was not on my list of things to do, but I'll take it. There are a lot of people who helped me get to this point.
I don't want to talk any more because I know all y'all waiting on Troy Aikman. Troy, we'll be here until like 7:00. With that, afterwards I'd like to answer any questions you might have. I want to hurry and get Troy up here so y'all can ask him questions.
ADAM SCHEFTER: Your last inductee in the Class of 2006 is the former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman. Now a broadcaster with FOX. During his playing career, Troy won 90 games in the '90s, more than any quarterback has ever won in any decade. He was a winner even more so in the post-season where he posted an 11-4 record, including a 3-0 mark in the Super Bowl. Ladies and Gentlemen, Troy Aikman.
Troy, does the feeling of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame compare to the feeling of winning any of the three Super Bowls?
TROY AIKMAN: I think it definitely compares to it, I mean, as far as the enthusiasm, the excitement of it. You know, I think as far as trying to compare what it's like to win a World Championship and then receive an honor that's really basically an individual honor, but also recognizing there's so many players that played a part in it.
The great thing about team sports, the great thing about winning championships is you get to celebrate those things with your teammates. That's the thing that I always enjoyed most. I'm asked a lot what I miss about playing. That's really what I miss the most. I miss being on the plane right after a big victory, going back to Dallas. I miss being in the locker room after a big win, celebrating with the guys after a game.
This has been a great honor for me, there's no question, but it's also been a great honor for my family, the guys that I played with. You certainly celebrate a World Championship much more than you do something of this magnitude with the players that were involved with that.
Q. Obviously you're joining a special fraternity here. Of the 202 players in it, there's 41 that are quarterbacks. Can you talk about the special bond that possibly exists among being a quarterback, having dealt with the pressure of the position, and whether that pressure is fair?
TROY AIKMAN: I think it's fair. I've said it because I played it, I lived it. I believe playing quarterback in the National Football League is the hardest thing to do in sports. I'm obviously biased. I don't know what it's like to maybe do some other things in sports. But I think what's expected of this position, in order to be successful at this position, so much of it goes beyond just your own skill level.
I certainly was fortunate enough to have played with some really great players. That's why I am here. That's why Warren is here. That's why Dan Marino was here a year ago, Steve Young, all of us would say that.
The fraternity amongst quarterbacks is there because we all recognize and we all understand, I guess, those pressures that you talk about: what's expected, the demands on us when things aren't going well. Really the two people within an organization that get exposed the most, whether you're winning or losing, are the head coach and the quarterback. Everybody kind of talks about that. The other players kind of talk about that. But they don't really know what that's all about.
As a quarterback, we would get together. Warren was a part of it. We had a quarterback club. Several of the modern-day quarterbacks that I played with, Steve Young, Dan Marino, John Elway, those type guys, Jim Kelly, we would get together in the off-seasons and we would talk about some of those things. It was great because you have those guys on your team that you can talk to, and I had 'em, I had a bunch of guys on my team I was able to talk with, share my frustrations with, they were really helpful, but until you really get with a quarterback and talk to him about it, they don't quite understand what you're dealing with.
Q. Roger was up here earlier. When you look at your career now, do you look at the success you had as like a continuation of what he accomplished? Or because of 1989, do you feel it was completely disconnected from the previous Cowboys, you had to just build it from the ground up?
TROY AIKMAN: No, I think that -- I look at it now as though it was a continuation of Roger's era. I never did when I was playing. I certainly didn't when I got drafted.
It had been 10 years since Roger had played before I came into the league. I'm thankful for that because there's a lot of guys who tried following in Roger's footsteps, and it was tough. There's quarterbacks that were very successful while they were in Dallas, but Roger really set the bar.
So when I came in, I never really felt that I was replacing Roger. There had been that gap. After Danny White, the championship games he was a part of, those three consecutive NFC Championship games, there had been a gap of some level of success for the team. So I just got to come in and do my thing and play.
I think that all the guys would tell you that. I think Michael Ervin, Emmitt Smith would say the same thing, that we were able to play knowing that there were high expectations because of the franchise history, but yet with not a lot of pressure from a lot of people because of the struggles the team had had.
Now looking back, or at least now, it is somewhat of a continuation because not a lot of teams just go that short a period of time before they have the kind of success that we were able to have there in the '90s.
Q. We ran into some people from your hometown over at the Hall of Fame. How is it to have people from so many different stages of your life come together for a weekend like this, what does that mean?
TROY AIKMAN: It's obviously meaningful. It's meaningful for all of us that are going in this weekend. To have people that are very important to you. There's people that are here, family, friends, that I've remained in contact with over the years. They were at my wedding, various things I have during the year. There's other people have been instrumental in my career, my development as a player, that I have not seen in 30 years. They're going to be here this weekend as well.
Having all these people here that have touched me and impacted my life, my career, it's been an emotional time leading up to this. It will be emotional tomorrow.
I've not seen all the people that are here yet. In fact, John and I were just talking about it. Tonight will be the first time I get a chance to see a number of people that have made the trip.
It's a very emotional weekend for all of us because it kind of is one final opportunity to thank the people that have impacted your career and acknowledge the people that have meant so much. Then in my mind, it's okay, we're not going to revisit this any more. It kind of is in the can and we move on.
Q. You had Jimmy Johnson as your coach for your first two championships. All of a sudden he's gone. Your first Coach Barry Switzer came back in your life. How did that work out? You had to do some fast footwork, but you made it work, got another Super Bowl.
TROY AIKMAN: That's right. That's right. Was that the last question (laughter)?
You know, there's a lot about my career that I'm very appreciative of, very thankful of. We kind of hid lightning in a bottle when I was in Dallas early there. Jerry and Jimmy were a great team. Jerry was the owner that desperately wanted to win, was willing to do anything he could to help us win. Jimmy comes in, he's wanting to prove himself. At that time not a lot of college coaches had come into the league, had much success. He was wanting to prove that he could do it. He had a great eye for talent. He developed this team and put together these talented players. We had no idea how talented we were until free agency came about and we started losing some of those guys. Jimmy left.
There's always a part of me that will wonder if Jimmy had stayed for 10 years, how would we have been different. What would have been different about our team over the course of those next five years with Jimmy. Barry came in and we were a talented group. We continued to win.
There came a point where we stopped taking care of the little things. I think that anybody who's ever won at a hey level will tell you that the difference at the professional level in winning championships and then just being a good team is really defined by how you handle the little things. I thought we started to lose sight of some of those things. There towards the end, we began to decline.
You know, I hope tomorrow in my speech that I'm able to properly acknowledge the coaches that I've had in my career because they've made a difference for me. They've impacted me, have meant so much. I played for a lot of great ones. Barry was one of the greatest college coaches in the history of the game. Of course, what Jimmy did. Terry Donahue at UCLA, a number of others. I've been very blessed to not only play with great players, but I played with a lot of great coaches over the years as well.
ADAM SCHEFTER: Thank you all for your patience today. Appreciate that.
End of FastScripts...