August 08, 2010
During today's Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies in Canton, Ohio, former Detroit Lions cornerback and current Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau talked to the Steelers team that broke camp to come and watch him get inducted. Washington Redskins offensive lineman Russ Grimm remembered his Pennsylvania roots, asking the crowd, "How yinz doin'?" Legendary defensive tackle John Randle may have set a land speed record for the shortest induction speech, quite a surprise for a guy who was so loquacious on the field with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks.
New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Rickey Jackson spoke emotionally about his time in the game. Denver Broncos running back Floyd Little spoke of the deeds of his children with great pride and eloquence. Jerry Rice remembered how he ran scared all the way through his career.
But the hands-down moment of the 2010 Hall of Fame ceremony was a moving and heartfelt tribute from one teammate to another. After a Jerry Jones-narrated intro montage of his career highlights, Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith took the podium and delivered an unforgettable speech. First of all, he was remarkably well-spoken for someone who's taken some heat for his public speaking in the past, and it was good to see -- he spoke with a clear voice and a very strong resolve. Typical of his unselfish nature, Smith spent most of his time thanking others. And 10 minutes in, after he thanked Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin -- the two other "Triplets", -- things got really good.
The crowd started chanting "Moose!" before Emmitt could even mention his name, and that's where he went next - asking fullback Daryl "Moose" Johnston to be recognized.
"Daryl Johnston, where are you? Would you please stand?"
"Daryl, you mean the world to me. Not just because we shared the same backfield, but because you sacrificed so much for me. People don‘t understand what it took to be a fullback in our system - the sacrifices you made not just with your body, but your whole spirit. You took care of me as though you were taking care of your little brother. Without you, I know today would not have been possible.
"I love you, Daryl -- from the bottom of my heart."
Smith started tearing up halfway through this soliloquy, and I defy anyone who loves the game and understands the importance of the the efforts of many in the ultimate team sport to watch that part of the speech and not get a little misty-eyed yourself. While Smith lasted long enough to set the NFL's all-time rushing mark, Johnston's career was cut short by a neck injury. It was as great a reminder as you'll see why when former players are asked about what they miss most about the game, they will almost always mention the camaraderie -- the moments they shared with their teammates as they went through the wars together.
On this night, Emmitt Smith did himself, his beloved teammates, and the Hall of Fame proud. If you haven't yet (or you'd just like to relive the moment), see for yourself:
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