The Pro Football Hall of Fame officially has eight new members.
After more than six months of waiting, the Class of 2019 was inducted on Saturday in a ceremony that covered nearly five hours. This year’s class wasback in February, but they weren’t enshrined until they took the stage at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
The Hall’s newest class was heavy on defensive backs, with Johnny Robinson, Ty Law, Ed Reed and Champ Bailey all being inducted. The 2019 class also included former Cowboys vice president of personnel Gil Brandt, former Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, offensive lineman Kevin Mawae and one of the best tight ends in NFL history, Tony Gonzalez.
From Reed’s bust to the powerful message in Bailey’s speech to Gonzalez’s record-setting closing speech, it was a memorable night.
Here’s a recap of the inductions.
The festivities started on Saturday when Brandt took the stage for his induction. Even if you don’t know who Brandt is, you’re definitely familiar with his work, and that’s because he helped build the Cowboys into America’s team. After being hired by the team during their expansion year in 1960, Brandt would go on to revolutionize the scouting industry, which helped the Cowboys quickly turn into a dynasty.
Brandt was presented for induction by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
“What is amazing to me about Gil Brandt is his attention to detail,” Jones said. “He developed concepts and going into areas of evaluations that were unique. He was one of the first to ever create a computer bank, back when the computers were pretty antiquated compared to today.”
During his lengthy career with the Cowboys, Brandt was responsible for drafting 10 Hall of Famers, including Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Tony Dorsett and Randy White.
“I’m here today because of a great organization like the Dallas Cowboys that had an owner, a general manger, and a head coach who believed in my ability to find talented players and build a roster,” Brandt said.
During his speech, Brandt admitted that one thing he’s the most proud of is that the scouting system he put into place nearly four decades ago is still being used.
“It was professionally fulfilling for me that so many of the traits that we identified as scouting metrics and landmarks in the early days have been used by the greatest football coaches, scouts and evaluators of the current generation,” Brandt said.
Brandt was one of the two inductees who entered the Hall of Fame as a contributor. Broncos owner Pat Bowlen was the other.
It’s possible hat no player inducted on Saturday was more thankful than Robinson, who has been waiting more than 40 years to be inducted. As a matter of fact, Robinson had been waiting for so long that he thought the NFL basically forgot that he existed.
“It’s been 47 years since I last played professional football,” Robinson said during his speech. “After all this time, I thought I had been forgotten. I can’t tell you how pleased I was to be notified that I had been selected as a senior finalist after all these years.”
It makes sense that Robinson finally got voted into the Hall of Fame, and that’s because he was one of the best safeties of his era. During a 12-year career that spanned from 1960 to 1971, Robinson was named a first-team All-Pro a total of five times, which is still the most for any defensive back in NFL history.
The most impressive thing about Robinson might be the fact that he ended up being an All-Pro safety even though he started his career as a wide receiver. Robinson played offense for the first two years of his career before moving to safety during his final year with Dallas. After leaving Texas, Robinson signed with the Chiefs and spent nine seasons in Kansas City. The safety finished his career with 57 interceptions, which is tied for the 13th most in NFL history.
You can see Robinson’s entire speech below.
Although everyone else gave a speech in Canton, Robinson’s was pre-taped before Saturday’s event.
When Mawae was inducted on Saturday, he became the first Hawaiian-born member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and just in case that wasn’t clear, he wore a lei on stage for his speech.
The former offensive lineman, who spent 16 seasons in the NFL playing for three teams, got emotional at times during his speech, and most of those emotions came while he was talking about his parents.
Mawae did do one thing during his speech that most players don’t do: He thanked an opposing coach.
During eight of his NFL seasons, Mawae played for the Jets, which means he had to deal with the Patriots twice a year. Although he always seemed to struggle against New England, it seems that he was actually appreciative of how good they always were.
“Coach Bill Belichick, I never felt more challenged mentally in game than when I faced your teams,” Mawae said. “I came to love the puzzle of figuring out your defenses and the chess match that those games became. I didn’t win all of them, in fact, my teams lost most of them. I think we were 4-13 against you. That sucked. That was awful. I still hate the Patriots. Everyone hates the winners. Congratulations to you in all your success, and thank you for making me a better player.”
Besides the Jets, Mawae also played for the Seahawks (1994-97) and Titans (2006-09) during his career. Mawae was voted to the Pro Bowl a total of eight times in his career and also blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in 13 of his 16 seasons.
The death of former Broncos owner Pat Bowlen put the Hall of Fame in a rare situation this year, and that’s because Bowlen was alive when he was voted into the Hall back in February, but he wasn’t alive for Saturday’s induction ceremony. After his, the decision was made to send his children to Canton so they could honor their dad.
All seven Bowlen children — Christianna Bowlen, Brittany Bowlen, Beth Bowlen Wallace, Amie Klemmer, Annabel Bowlen, Johnny Bowlen, Patrick Bowlen — took part in presenting their dad for induction, along with former team trainer Steve “Greek” Antonopulos.
After the presentation, the Bowlen children took the stage in Canton and unveiled their dad’s bust to the world.
Bowlen played a big part in helping the turn the NFL into the money-making machine that it is today. The former Broncos owner helped spearhead Sunday Night Football, which is regularly the highest-rated show on television each week. Bowlen was also a highly successful owner. During his 35 years of ownership, the Broncos had as many Super Bowl appearances (7) as they did losing seasons.
Believe it or not, Ty Law is the first player to win a Super Bowl with the Patriots and be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Although the Patriots have six Super Bowl wins, Law is the only member of any of those teams to be inducted to the Hall.
The most entertaining part of Law’s speech might have been the fact that he let everyone know who was responsible for the beginning of the Patriots dynasty.
“We started this s—,” Law said.
There were plenty of former Patriots players in attendance, along with coach Bill Belichick, who got a nice shoutout from Law during his speech.
“Thank you for showing me how to me a true professional,” Law said. “It’s no mistake or coincidence that you are the greatest coach this game has ever seen. I love you Bill. Thank you.”
Law also thanked his mom during his speech, saying she was apparently responsible for making him into the competitor that be eventually became, which is completely believable because it seems she was quite the trash-talker.
“I get my competitiveness, my will to win, from my mama,” Law said. “I had to earn every win I got and she talked trash with the best of them. Mom, you always had my back, even when I was dead ass wrong. You had my back, you are my rock. We had our personal struggles. At times, we bent, but we never broke.”
Law ended his speech with a message to everyone: You need to believe in yourself.
“You can’t wait for someone else to validate your purpose,” Law said, via Pro Football Talk. “You have to believe in yourself. You can’t wait for somebody else to tell you you’re great. You have to believe in yourself. You can’t wait for society to tell you that you’re beautiful or that you’re a good person. You have to believe that for yourself. I thank each and every one of you for believing in me and my dreams. Because of you, my legacy lives on. Thank you for this incredible honor.”
After Law’s speech was over, everyone in the Patriots organization took a group picture with his bust.
They all look happy.
Before we get to Reed’s speech, we have to talk about his bust, and that’s because it might go down as the best Hall of Fame bust of all-time. As soon as Reed saw it, even he seemed pretty amazed by its accuracy.
“I mean, it looks just like [me],” Reed said.
He’s not kidding, either.
After getting over the shock of just how good his bust was, Reed started his speech and he used it to basically touch on every topic that’s important to him. Reed thanked nearly everyone in his life from his family to his friends to his former teammates to his barbers (and yes, that’s barbers with an “s,” apparently Reed has two barbers).
Like Law, Reed also had a pretty powerful closing to his speech. The former Ravens safety encouraged everyone to keep encouraging each other.
“Everyone has their own greatness and you reach your own greatness depends on your environment, your structure, the company you keep and your attitude,” Reed said. “There will be good and bad, right and wrong. Your reaction of choice — good or bad — has consequences that affects you and those around you. No matter what, encourage those around you and yourself.
“I stayed encouraged. That guy there, no matter what, was focused. He stayed encouraged. There was some hard times. There was a lot of tears. Even now. I tell you, each one of you, stay encouraged. Encourage each other. Help somebody. We should. We’re supposed to. That’s what being a human is about, leaving this place better than when we got it. That’s all it’s about y’all. Man I love y’all.”
Reed also asked everyone to think about mental health issues and gun violence.
The first-ballot Hall of Famer was voted to the Pro Bowl a total of nine times in his career. Reed also racked up 64 interceptions in his career, which is the seventh highest total of all-time. If you want to see how impressive Reed was during his playing days, just watch the video below.
Reed’s speech ran for just over 36 minutes, which made it, even though it wasn’t even the longest one of the night.
If Champ Bailey’s goal was to take a few subtle shots at the Redskins, he definitely accomplished that on Saturday. Although Bailey started his career in Washington in 1999 after the Redskins made him the seventh overall pick in the NFL Draft, it sounds like he was pretty excited to leave.
“The best thing in my career happened in 2004. I was traded to the Denver Broncos,” Bailey said during his speech. “I’m super proud to be standing here today as the seventh member of the Denver Broncos to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bailey didn’t exactly go out his way to compliment the Redskins at all during his speech, which kind of makes sense when you consider this is the same team that didn’t even call to congratulate him on his induction(the Redskins found out in February that he was being inducted).
Bailey’s Hall of Fame speech ended in a Hall of Fame way with the former Broncos cornerback making a plea to America.
“I’m a firm believer that if you want to create change is to start with your friends and your family,” Bailey said. “We say this to all of our white friends: When we tell you about our fears, please listen. When we tell you we’re afraid for our kids, please listen. When we tell you there are many challenges we face because of the color of our skin, please listen. And please, do not get caught up in how the message is delivered.”
Bailey then encouraged everyone to start listening to each other.
“Most of us are athletes, but we’re black men first,” Bailey said. “Understand this, the things that make us great on the field — like our size and our aggression — are the same things that can get us killed off the field. I believe if we start listening, there’s no telling the progress we can make. If we can’t get our friends to listen, then no one will. To my black brothers, if you don’t have anything positive to say about our social challenges, please keep your mouth shut.”
Bailey’s Hall of Fame career lasted 15 seasons. The former first round pick was voted to the Pro Bowl a total of 12 times, which is tied for the most ever among defensive backs.
The celebration in Canton ended on Saturday with Tony Gonzalez. The former Chiefs and Falcons tight end gave an emotional speech that covered all aspects of his life. Gonzalez started off by talking about how he was able to overcome bullying and the fear of failure.
The most decorated tight end in NFL history then ended things by reading a letter to his children.
“True success is about more than making a lot of money or being recognized as one of the best at what you do,” Gonzalez said. “True success is about giving back. It’s about kindness. It’s about quality of relationships. It’s about finding joy in other people’s joy. Trust me, I have learned these things the hard way at times. These principles combined with doing what you truly love to do will no doubt make you an all-star in the most important game there is and that’s the game of life.”
Gonzalez was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, which was probably an easy decision for voters. When his 17-year career ended, Gonzalez retired with the most receptions (1,325), the most receiving yards (15,127) and the most 100-yard receiving games (31) among all tight ends.
Gonzalez added another record on Saturday with the length of his speech. The tight end spoke for roughly 39:05, which means Gonzalez now holds the record for longest speech ever given at an enshrinement ceremony. The previous record was held by Jerry Jones, who.
If you missed anything from the ceremony, you can re-live the night by checking out all our updates below.