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Loved ones give Hayes, Thomas their Hall of Fame moments

CANTON, Ohio -- What do you say for those who cannot speak?

How do you handle the moment, this Hall of Fame moment, if you are the son or the teammate? Or the general manager who plucked greatness?

You reflect. You close your eyes and think back to simpler times. Quiet times. Alone, you and Derrick Thomas, you and Bob Hayes. The joys and the fears. And surely tears, too. What they said. What they shared. What they meant. What really mattered.

Then you stand before the world and share some of it -- not all of it. Some of it is too personal, too injurious. You would never betray. But that is the comfort in speaking for Thomas and for Hayes. The best of them gives you plenty with which to work. The best of their football earned them a bronze bust, a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

Both are dead. Someone had to speak for them.

What do you say for those who cannot speak?

The sons, Derrion and Bob Jr., have been in this town the last couple of days, hearing new yarns about their fathers. Both were young when they lost their dads but old enough to remember the company. The talks.

Before both walked on stage here for the induction ceremony, their hands were in their pockets and then out of their pockets. Their knees knocked. Their hearts raced. They felt the awesome magnitude of the moment and shared those feelings. Both would see their taped film presentations saluting their fathers shown to the world. Derrion Thomas would gain an assist in his from his grandmother, his father's mother, Edith Morgan.

"I am really humbled by this and I still don't know how it happened in my family that I was chosen to speak for us," Derrion Thomas said just before walking on stage. "Everyone has told me I look so much like my dad. That's OK. Maybe it's like he is a little closer to actually being here."

Bob Hayes Jr. said minutes before his stage entrance: "This is a great moment for anyone who cared about my father. And I can see, there are many people who do."

It hurts, Hayes said in his presentation, that his father was not present. He said, to him, his father was always a Hall of Famer. And he also was to the young Hayes' schoolmates, who always wanted to come to his house and play just to get a glimpse of his famous dad.

Bob Hayes Jr. said his father has likely been "restless" over not being in the Hall of Fame. "But now," he said, "he gets wings and can rest now."

Derrion and Bob Jr. were not alone in nervous anticipation of history. I saw Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, whom the Hayes family asked to speak for his late Dallas Cowboys teammate, backstage before his entrance. Staubach was pacing, shaking his arms and hands like he had just broken huddle and was heading to the line of scrimmage for a decisive Super Bowl pass. One more time.

Few, still, can deliver like Staubach.

"I don't know if he ever showed me his gold medals from the Olympics," Staubach said of Hayes. "He was humble. He made quality plays and big plays and made it happen on the football field. He was a really decent and caring individual with extraordinary skills."

What do you say for those who cannot speak?

Former Kansas City Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson drafted Derrick Thomas in 1989. He grew to think of Thomas as a "son."

Now this was a man who could speak for Thomas.

And with a gracious heart, he did.

"Derrick would want to thank the (Lamar) Hunt family," Peterson said. "He would want to thank all of his teammates. He would want to thank all the fans who traveled here from Kansas City and from around the country. Derrick Thomas loved football, people and life. A unique and gifted player and a unique and gifted human being."

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