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More than just great players, this class featured great people

CANTON, Ohio -- There are a few times every year that remind me the NFL does it right most of the time. Whether it's the Super Bowl, the draft or the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the league has a lot of which to be proud. This year's enshrinement was no exception.

For me personally, getting into the Hall of Fame is more than being a great player in your era. It is also important that the candidates are really good people with values, integrity and humility. This year, the 44-person selection committee got it right and in a big way. We all know these men were great players with impressive stats, so I'm not going to bore you with the numbers. Here are a few of the messages the six enshrines delivered that really hit home for me as a husband, father, former coach, former club executive and a guy who loves football.

Former Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett said he felt like a man standing on the North Pole. His final message to the audience was to the kids of Newark, N.J. and other places where growing up can be difficult.

"I am proof you can make it. Only a fool doesn't go to school," Tippett said.

I talked with Tippett after the enshrinement and he just felt his speech was the best time to do some good for young people seeking inspiration.

Former Chiefs cornerback and current Falcons assistant coach Emmitt Thomas started his acceptance speech with this statement: "I'm here because I played the game with heart and poise."

In the middle of his talk he said, "I never wanted to cheat the fans."

And he concluded his speech by saying, "You are looking at a man that never quit."

As he wrapped up his humble display of gratitude, I couldn't help but wonder why he isn't a head coach in the NFL. Emmitt Thomas can lead men!

Third up to the podium was Fred Dean, the great pass rusher for the Chargers and 49ers. Dean was the most humorous of the six new members. He asked us to take a walk down memory lane with him and upon doing so, we learned how hard his life was growing up. But we also learned how much love there was in his home and that his father told him, "Get off the dirt road to failure and make a life for yourself."

Darrell Green played 20 years in the NFL and still looks like he could run a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash.

He challenged the audience to understand its responsibility to help young people.

"No matter how hard a young person works, someone needs to give them an opportunity."

He finished up the night with a strong comment that I felt was dead on target.

Green said "I belong here (in the Hall of Fame) because I know what to do with it."

I spoke with coach Joe Gibbs after the induction and his reflections on Green were about a man who played at a high level, had special people skills and always had a bigger plan than just being a player.

Gary Zimmerman, best described as the quiet man, played through lots of physical pain but his message to young and old alike was about preparation.

"It was a lot easier to play the game when you really knew what the opponent was doing."

The lesson for anyone who wants to be successful is work hard, but even more important, work smart.

Finally, the guy I have the ultimate respect for, Art Monk. I signed Monk after the Redskins released him, and for one season with the Jets, I had the privilege of being with a man who defined class. Monk thanked the loyal Redskins fans eight times for making the journey to Canton. His son, James, presented him and as a father myself, it was so satisfying to hear James cite one of his father's messages to him growing up when he said, "Dad always says the reward for hard work is the opportunity to do more."

Monk was passed over for the Hall a number of times, but as he spoke, those voters who changed their no vote to a yes vote this year were rewarded. Monk said he was okay with the process that left him on the outside looking in several times. As he said, "Football does not define me."

His strongest football message came late in his speech when he said, "I loved playing against the best because it brought the best out in me."

It was a great evening, full of great messages that our whole country could have benefited from watching or listening to on radio. I was honored to cover the event for my radio station and felt compelled to share my final thoughts on the event.

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