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Hall of Fame Enshrinement: 2023 class takes its place in Canton

The Pro Football Hall of Fame opened its doors to nine more legends of the game on Saturday in Canton, Ohio, welcoming seven fearsome defenders, a Cleveland hero and one of the foremost innovators of air-it-out offenses. 

The group of greats were enshrined to conclude another historic week attended by fans, media and fellow Hall of Famers in their honor.

Here are highlights from the class of 2023's speeches and enshrinements:

Joe Thomas

"I want to start by quickly talking about a random number. 10,363. It's not too random, but that's how many consecutive snaps I had during my career. And from my first snap as a rookie in 2007, to my last snap when I tore my triceps tendon, that's how long this journey has been. That number, 10,363, is special to me in a lot of ways. And not just because it's an NFL record, but because it shows that I was there for my brothers 10,363 times in a row. They could count on me."

"To my best friends growing up, Steve Johnson, you always kept me humble. You beat me out my senior year of high school for the offensive lineman of the year in the Greater Metro conference. Thanks for never letting me forget that. I guess I was just a harder worker than you in college because you ended up being a long snapper, and I'm standing up here with the gold jacket. I'll let you buy me a beer later."

"To my six NFL head coaches, I know, six, can you believe it? I had nine offensive coordinators in only 11 years. Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rod Chudzinski, Mike Pettine, Hue Jackson. Each one of you guys gave me something on the field and off the field that I've taken with me, and will take with me the rest of my life. To my quarterbacks, all of them. 20! Yes, I blocked for more different starting quarterbacks than any player in NFL history. What an honor. No matter who was back or what our circumstances were, which sometimes were tough -- some of them were your fault, I'm not going to lie -- but I won't call out which ones. You guys still laid it all out on the line for your team. And that was always very special to me."

"To Jimmy and Dee Haslam, and to the Whitney and JW Johnson family, you guys have built a first-class organization in Cleveland. And the success is right around the corner, and I cannot wait to be the biggest fan when it comes. Your investment in Cleveland and all of Ohio has made us Browns players fall in love with this city and with this great team and this historic franchise."

"To Browns fans, the most loyal group of people I know. And I don't think it's gonna be argued by anybody. … In Cleveland, even if we were losing, you guys were there on Sundays barking in the Dawg Pound. You guys are the heartbeat of the Cleveland Browns, and it was truly my honor to be able to represent you on and off the field for 11 seasons."

"It is the greatest honor of my career to be able to accept this lifetime award on behalf of all of Browns nation. Cleveland, you could always count on me. Thank you so much for allowing me to count on you. Don't forget to keep showing up for each other. God bless the Cleveland Browns, God bless America and God bless football, the greatest game of all. Thank you."

Ronde Barber

"I'm not going to stand up here today and give you ordinary. Because I was not an ordinary cornerback. I stand here amongst these legends of the game remembering a time when I was never imagined to be a Pro Football Hall of Famer. My rookie year, hell, my second year in the league, I was literally just hoping (general manager) Rich McKay wasn't going to cut me. Come a long way in 26 years. I was not Darelle Revis. Trust me. I was not that guy. But not all of us are anointed, right? Or can't-miss prospects proclaimed to be future Hall of Famers on Day 1 of our careers. In fact, most guys are quietly fighting that little crisis of confidence wondering if you're good enough. And there was plenty of doubts about me. Now that I'm here, I think I owe a very small thanks to those of you, for whatever reasons, questioned me."

"It's easy to be marginalized when you're surrounded by Hall of Fame defenders. (Warren) Sapp. (Derrick) Brooks. (John) Lynch. Our man Simeon Rice. They all grabbed a lot of headlines. And early in my career, I was simply overlooked. And again, it was the doubt that most bothered me. But it also provided me that fuel and it sent me to work angry. I was never gonna be satisfied just being a guy. I wanted to prove everyone wrong. And ordinary was not an option."

"Without (Tiki Barber), I wouldn't have had that daily reminder to chase greatness. And if you don't remember anything else I say today, remember this: I am here because of my brother. The inherent competition, the easy motivation to match accomplishments and the unwavering, unconditional support only a twin can know. You simply cannot tell my story without telling our story."

"I had this realization that every single one of you guys have had up here. That it's done. The journey. My football journey that I've been on for 40 years has reached its zenith. And with that realization comes a pretty good reflection for me that there's nowhere else to go. I can stop being an angry worker. I can actually stop trying to prove everyone wrong. I've come a long way in 26 years."

Don Coryell

Speech by Don Coryell's daughter, Mindy Coryell Lewis:

"Growing up my dad was just my dad or Pop. The stories that you might have heard about him being so focused on football, that he'd forget that I was in the car, driving me and the trash to San Diego State ... go Aztecs, rather than dropping me off at the bus stop and the trash in the bottom of our very, very long and steep driveway are all absolutely true. So certainly, I was aware of his focus on football watching him constantly scribbling on his ever-present yellow legal pad, but never really knowing or considering as a young person how his doodling would forever change the game of football."

"Lots of people tell me, especially his old ball players ... how my dad either invented or improved so many offensive concepts. But more importantly that he was a players' coach, and that the relationships he fostered were really the key to his success. I believe that he felt that not only the Xs and Os were his work and his passion, but also the lasting relationships that he built."

"One of my earliest memories is of little Mindy playing on the living room floor and a very young, very big John Madden coming over for dinner. And as he walks through our front door, he envelops the entire door frame, and my memory, I think he actually had to stoop to walk in our front door. Big John said in his enshrinement speech that he believes that after the last fans leave for the day and the lights have been turned off and all the doors lock, that all the busts talk to each other. Can you imagine that? Don't you wish you could be in that room listening to Big John, Pop, and other guys telling their stories. Oh my gosh. And the laughter? I want to personally congratulate and thank the Gold Jacket Class of 2023, all you guys and their families for their support and friendship over the last six months. Lastly, our family would like to thank the Chargers and the selectors and, of course, the Pro Football Hall of Fame for this exceptional honor. Ladies and gentlemen, Air Coryell has landed in Canton!"

Darrelle Revis

"Now that you know how I started, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to some of the people who have supported me on my journey, and I'd like to start with Rex Ryan. Ahead of the 2009 season, Rex Ryan called me the best corner in football and I hadn't even met him yet. Needless to say the expectations were high. After our first meeting, I was convinced that I'd play my heart out for him. He was crafting a winning culture and told me that he was confident that I was the guy to set the tone for the rest of the team. Rex, thank you for seeing something special in me and motivating me to live up to that potential. Thank you."

"When Rex joined the team, he brought over a secondary coach who I became very close with. Dennis Thurman was a perfect fit for my development as a player. I don't know if you recall, but 2009 ended up being a historical season for me, and DT was pivotal role in my success. To help me stay focused he would often tell me, get used to fighting boredom, but when the ball is thrown your way be ready. They will come at you when you least expect it. His words stuck with me to a point where if I let up a single catch I felt like it was a letdown to my teammates. Thank you DT for all your valuable advice and for helping me achieve greatness."

"Also I would like to thank all of my teammates and coaches for making me be a better player. I came to work every day with a desire to elevate my game, and you helped me achieve that. It's been an honor to suit up with you every day. I love you guys."

"I didn't get a chance to play with this guy named Deion Sanders, but he was the prototype for me. What Jordan is to Kobe, is Prime to Revis Island. You came first and I wanted to play just like you. You were the road map to greatness. Thank you for paving the way."

Chuck Howley

Speech by Chuck Howley's son, Scott Howley:

"I'm honored to represent our father today on such a momentous day. To the football world, Chuck Howley was an icon, a legend and a symbol of excellence. To my sister Robin and I, he is simply Dad, the man who instilled in us the values that have shaped our lives. His legacy extends far beyond the records he set or the awards he earned. It lies in the hearts of all who have had the privilege of knowing him as a player, father or a friend."

"To the Chicago Bears, who selected Dad in the first round of the 1958 draft, giving him the opportunity to begin his NFL journey. … To Clint Murchinson Jr., Gil Brandt, Tex Schramm, coach Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys, our heartfelt thanks to acquiring Dad from the Bears in 1961. At the time, Dad believed his football career was over due to a knee injury. But their belief in his potential allowed him to make a remarkable comeback. Their willingness to take a chance on him enabled Dad to reach new heights and fully realize his talents. In fact, coach Landry once remarked, 'I don't know that I've seen anybody better at linebacker than Howley.'"

"Our family is truly honored to have this opportunity to represent our dad as he takes his rightful place among the immortals of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Since Dad can't be here today, and I hope he's watching on television -- and with that in mind -- I have a special request for all of you out there. I'd like to ask that we all give Dad a shoutout. And so on the count of three, we're going to yell, 'Hello, Chuck.' OK. Here it goes… Hello, Chuck!"

Joe Klecko

"Once I asked my defensive line coach Dan Sekanovich, a guy I really looked up to, about making the Pro Bowl. And he said to me, 'Joe, you're not going to have to worry about making the Pro Bowl. You're going to have to worry about some day being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.' And believe me, from that day on I played a lot harder. In 1985 defensive genius Bud Carson entered our fold and switched me to a three-man line. I played in cot position like Mean Joe Greene used to play. I had so much fun and caused so much havoc. I confused offensive linemen because they never knew which way I was coming from.

"And the Jets owner Mr. Leon Hess, a true fan of the game. We were all his boys. He treated our football team like family. In 1981 one of the greatest names in football was born: The New York Sack Exchange. We led the NFL in sacks in '81 and reached the AFC Championship Game the following year.

"Marty Lyons, whom you've met, was a first round pick out of Alabama. Abdul Salaam was a soldier of peace when he battled with us every Sunday and left it all on the field. And then one of the biggest personalities in NFL history: my teammate, Mark Gastineau. Mark, I know that through our competitive nature we made each other better. I want to quickly acknowledge a teammate of mine who passed away last August, Jim Sweeney. He died suddenly and I just want to mention his name."

DeMarcus Ware

"Statistics supposedly tell us that if you come from a single-parent home, you're probably not going to graduate high school or go to college, or three times more likely, you're going to live in poverty. And if you live in a Black community, that's even tougher. But not my community."

"Often there is something in our lives that pushes us to make a real change. For me, that one, single, frightening moment was when I was in college. I was attending a parking lot party when I was visiting home. My uncle was in his car and, without warning, was knocked across the head with a gun. A knife dropped to the ground and I picked it up. And when I looked up, all I could see was the potential shooter's eyes and a gun barrel pressed against my head. All I heard was my family say, 'Don't kill him.' There was an eerie silence, after which I simply said, 'This isn't me.' And I dropped the knife. At that moment, I knew God gave me a second chance, and I had to do something with it. That was my turning point."

"Jerry (Jones), I want to thank you for taking a chance on me. You gave me the opportunity to play in two of the greatest stadiums with the most amplified crowds that helped silence the pain of my past. Those places became my new church. Every Sunday."

"The most frequently asked question I got as a Dallas Cowboy was, 'Why are you always smiling?' I smiled because you guys were the highlight of my day, and you helped me get through life outside football. I was a sponge that absorbed everything, and I smiled. And now I look out, and I see you guys smiling. What a wonderful feeling."

"Dallas taught me how to be the best-in-class leader because I was surrounded by so many of them. So, when I went to Denver, I had a huge opportunity to once again let that light and leadership shine. It started with a call from John Elway, the Bowlen family and Peyton Manning. I remember that call. You said, 'Let's go win this thing.' And we did it, brother. Whether it was Miller Time with Von, or if I had to call on the No Fly Zone, that Orange Crush spirit helped bring home Super Bowl 50."

"The light that shines on my village reflects all the people who have watched over me. My story is one of gratitude, forgiveness, brotherhood and humility. It could've ended in a different way, but I made a choice to work hard and accept God's will. And enshrinement, by definition, is to cherish the sacred. I cherish every trial and tribulation that has gotten me here."

Ken Riley

Speech by Ken Riley's son, Ken Riley II:

"Years ago, when I was talking to my father, I told him I wouldn't visit Canton until he was enshrined. And now I'm here today, and I believe that he and my grandmother are smiling down on us. My father played with the Bengals for 15 years from 1969 until '83. And even though he never played defense until they drafted him, my father Ken Riley ended his career as the No. 4 all-time interception leader. Today, 40 years later, he's still tied for No. 5."

"The good ones make it look easy. Most people think they're just born with talent, which is true. But what they don't see is the blood, sweat and tears that go into making that talent shine. Dad is just being inducted today, but his whole life he was a Hall of Famer on and off the field."

"I want to say a couple of words to my mother. One of the strongest women I know. My dad always used to say that marrying [her] was the best decision he ever made, and he was right. When he was doing the season, she was mom and dad. She was the rock of our family. And even though she was working as a teacher, she always made sure that we had everything we needed. Mom, I know it's hard to see the fruition of everything that you and Dad worked for and him not being with us here today, but all the love that everyone here is feeling for him, that's for you, too."

Zach Thomas

"Exactly 27 years ago today, August 5, 1996, Jimmy Johnson named me the starting middle linebacker for the Miami Dolphins. All you need is one chance, and Jimmy gave that to me. I was a kid who didn't look the part, and I was the 154th draft pick. … Thank you, Jimmy, for believing in me and giving me that chance. I never wanted to let you down, coach."

"To all my passionate Miami Dolphins fans, you mean the world to me. When I looked up in the stands and saw you wearing my No. 54, I knew I couldn't let you down. Thanks for believing in me until the very end, and even putting pressure on the Hall of Fame to get me here. Here we go ... To all the Buffalo, New England and New York Jets fans. I got it coming for you. Despite all the things you screamed at me, threw at me and did to me, don't tell anybody this -- I really enjoyed it. And I still do."

"There's one person whose name I've yet to mention. His poster hung on my wall in college, and he was everything I wanted to be as a football player. He was my inspiration, and he became my teammate and friend. Though he's not here physically, he's here in spirit and in a bust in that building behind me. I'm truly honored to join him. Junior Seau. Love you, buddy."

"This is a dream come true for this small-town country boy to be standing here on this stage with all these legends behind me. My football career has come full circle from August 5, 1996, being given that one chance, to August 5, 2023, being forever enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, baby!

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