Welcome to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Michael. This honor was long overdue, but there's no question it is well deserved.
I have always had great respect for you and what you meant to our team - not to mention what you meant to my success. The fans always saw your flamboyance and charisma, and I know it might have been a bit excessive at times. But for those of us who played with you, we know you were the most unselfish superstar. You were a smart player, so you knew why you were getting ball when you did and why you weren't getting the ball when you didn't. And you made the most of your opportunities.
Nobody gets to the Hall of Fame without talent, and of course you had it in abundance. But that was not your greatest asset. That was your work ethic - there was no question as to who was the hardest working guy on our team. As good as the Dallas Cowboys were in the '90s, we needed you to raise the level of competition.
As with any team, there were some times when we might have been a little unmotivated to practice. You simply would not accept that. You always practiced like you were getting ready to play in the Super Bowl - and we made sure we did, too.
Michael, you made no bones about how important it was for you to be selected for induction to the Hall of Fame - that it would validate your career. Not that everything you did during a stellar 12-year career wasn't validation enough, but the route you took to get to Canton only underscores the grace and unselfishness that you possess.
I remember when you were first eligible for the Hall back in January 2005, working on the ESPN set during Super Bowl week with Steve Young, who was also eligible for the first time. Steve got in and you didn't. I remember watching ESPN that night as they were showing highlights of Steve's career and congratulating him on the set. I knew how painful it was for you to not get in, yet you handled it with such grace and you were clearly happy for Steve.
The following year was my first year of eligibility, and we both know how amazing it would have been for both of us to enter the Hall together. And I shared your disappointment when you didn't get in. Yet there you were on that Saturday before the Super Bowl, doing all those interviews. It was a great illustration of what I've always known to be true. Maybe people outside the Dallas Cowboys organization didn't realize what a giving, caring and loving guy you were. But we knew. And you displayed these characteristics after each of those first two Hall disappointments.
Looking back, though, maybe it was for the best that you had to wait until this year. With Super Bowl XLI in your backyard of South Florida, your mother, along with other family and friends from the area, were able to be in attendance at the Miami Beach Convention Center when you were finally selected for induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Surrounded by your loved ones and so many people who are important in your life, it was almost as if it was meant to be.
Michael, you were a phenomenal teammate in Dallas and I'm looking forward to being teammates with you again in Canton. I'm looking forward to seeing the other members of the Hall learn what a great teammate you are. Most of all, I am looking forward to seeing how much you will cherish your new team. Welcome!