Football honored its newest class of Hall of Famers on Saturday night. Randy Moss, Ray Lewis, Brian Dawkins, Brian Urlacher, Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer each participated in the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio. Terrell Owens gave his Hall of Fame speech at a ceremony earlier in the day at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Build 'a legacy bigger than football'
Ray Lewis made it evident from the start of his Hall of Fame speech that he would embrace the same bombastic bravado that characterized his 17-year NFL career.
In a truly unique enshrinement speech that included breaking out from the behind-the-microphone mold, Lewis talked about the huge odds he overcame to play football, danced on stage with former Ravens teammate Jonathan Ogden and touched on a number of social and political topics while challenging everyone to make the most of their lives.
"We can go from being legends into building a legacy bigger than football, bigger than sports," Lewis said. "I want us to work together to really take on these challenges to look at our goals at what unites us.
"How can we come together? The answer is simple. The answer is love. Hope, faith and love and greatest is love."
Lewis demonstrated the same level of passion on stage that made him a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP in 2000. Known as one of the great team leaders in NFL history, the seven-time All-Pro implored people to find meaning and purpose in their lives.
"Listen, our gravestone has a day," Lewis said. "A day when you are born and a day when you die and they got a dash in between. And that dash defines what your legacy is."
Lewis made it clear that even though his on-field career is over, he is still working hard to make a difference in the lives of others.
"I was a leader on the field then, I'm a leader in my community now. I've joined a new team and my goal is clear with this team: To lift up my brothers and sisters, to inspire the leaders in this next generation. To fight for love, not money, not fame, not success, not how many follows I got, but to fight for love.
"My mother once told me, she said, 'Win the race. Run your race, Ray. Do not give up. Do not sit down. Do not lie down. But stand up, go forward and I will go with you.'"
'The haters became my elevators'
In a deeply emotional speech punctuated by explosions of cheers, Dawkins vociferously thanked his family, friends, teammates and fans for providing the inspirational backbone for his career. He also talked about the personal battles he's fought and how it made him stronger.
"There's a purpose for my pain," Dawkins said. "I suffered from depression. I went through it mightily my rookie year. I suffered through suicidal thoughts. And I wasn't just suffering from suicidal thoughts, I was actually planning the way that I would kill myself so my wife would get the money. But what that pain did for me, it increased by faith exponentially. I have grown leaps and bounds because of the things that I've gone through ...
"So for those going through things right now, there's hope! You do have hope! There is something on the other side of this! Don't stay where you are! Keep moving. Keep pushing through!"
"They gave me even more energy. So my haters became my elevators," Dawkins said. "They helped me out so thank you. Thank you to all those who doubted me and told me what I couldn't do."
He also said the fear of letting his teammates down also motivated him on the field.
"I had a healthy dose of fear of letting you down. That's why I worked so doggone hard. I never wanted to let you down. I didn't. Anything I could do for you, you know I would do for you. And it's not just those who are sitting here looking at me now but all of you looking at me on TV. I gave everything I had to the last drop for you because I loved you so doggone much."
Moss to Belichick: 'You challenged me to be great'
A league-changing talent from Day 1 in Minnesota, Randy Moss was one of the most dominant wide receivers ever to play the game. He thanked the fans, teammates, coaches and team owners who helped make his career possible. He specifically thanked the Vikings fans and owners for giving him a chance to show what he can do.
"I want to thank you for being a friend when it wasn't always about football," Moss said. "You showed me how much I loved the game. You challenged me every day to go out here and be great. You challenged me to be great. And I'm sorry we did not bring it home.
"All those individual awards don't mean anything to me. Football is a team sport. If you checked your pride at the door and you're not ashamed. For all my teammates, coaches, equipment managers that are in attendance today, I want to thank you all because it doesn't take one. It takes all 11 of us."
'You can if you will'
Sixty years later, Kramer reflected on the life lessons he learned playing for and alongside some of football's immortality.
Standing next to his Hall of Fame bust on the stage in Canton, Kramer reflected on how his ascension to hallowed halls of Packerdom didn't come easy. Early in his career, Vince Lombardi made it clear what he should expect: "We're going to work harder than you've ever worked in your life. There's only three things in your life: Your god, your family and the Green Bay Packers."
It's virtually impossible to write the history of the NFL without Kramer. He opened up the hole that helped Bart Starr score the winning touchdown in the "Ice Bowl" and helped change the way NFL players were seen after writing a book "Instant Replay" with the late Dick Schaap.
The gridiron lessons Kramer learned ultimately served as the foundation to how he's approached his life in the five decades since his retirement.
"A great deal in life is a matter of choice," Kramer said. "To sum it all up: After the game is over, stadium lights are out, parking lot is empty, you're back in the quiet of your room, championship ring is on the dresser. The only thing left at this time is for you to lead the life of quality and excellence and make this whole world a little bit better of a place because you were in it.
"You can if you will. You can if you will."
'Competition is in my DNA'
He also talked about how he wants people to remember his remarkable career.
"This is my legacy moment," Urlacher said. "As a player, I just want to be remembered as a good teammate, that's it. I want to be remembered as a guy who would do anything for his teammates and always go above and beyond for you.
"I feel like I played it the right way. I had fun when I was out there. I respected opponents as well as teammates and coaches. I may be one of the most competitive people you ever know. I want to win every snap, every game, even though it was not possible ... it really wasn't about the conquest, it was about the challenge. Every moment, every practice, every game, everywhere; I just love competing. Competition is in my DNA."
'After all these years, I'm at home!'
Robert Brazile no longer looks like the man who earned the nickname Dr. Doom while operating with little remorse for his victims during the glory days of the Houston Oilers' "House of Pain" era. It's been more than three decades since Brazile played an NFL game but the ferocity and passion that made him a five-time All-Pro was clearly on display at the end of his Hall of Fame speech.
"When they knocked on my door, all of my dreams came true," Brazile said. "And after all these years, I'm at home!"
Surrounded by his family and his "Luv ya Blue" era teammates, Brazile thanked his family and all of the players and coaches who helped make his long trek to Canton finally possible. A member of the NFL's 1970s All-Decade team, Brazile's long journey to the Hall finally is a reality.
A remarkable front office career
He is best known for his work with the Redskins, where he became general manager in 1978. Often using a method of trading away his first round picks, the Redskins' Super Bowl XVII title included 27 free agents. Beathard led the Redskins to two Super Bowl titles. Throughout his career, his teams advanced to seven Super Bowls and won four of them.
In a previously recorded speech, Beathard reminisced about accepting the Redskins job from then-owner Jack Kent Cooke and how it was the "best decision" he ever made. He thanked former Washington coach Joe Gibbs (also a Hall of Famer) for "getting them to three Super Bowls."