Takeaways from 2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction: Tony Boselli first enshrined Jag, Dick Vermeil grateful

CANTON, Ohio — The Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed eight new members into football immortality Saturday afternoon. The ceremony, which took place inside the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, included memorable speeches, tributes, highlights and a few tears from the men who received their bronze busts and gold jackets.

This year’s class included offensive tackle Tony Boselli, receiver Cliff Branch, safety LeRoy Butler, linebacker Sam Mills, defensive linemen Richard Seymour and Bryant Young, coach Dick Vermeil and official Art McNally. Boselli is the first Jaguars player to win a Hall of Fame jacket. Like Boselli, Mills represented a team — the Carolina Panthers — that broke into the league in 1995. Branch, Butler, Seymour, Young and Vermeil arrive in Canton with nine combined Super Bowl rings. McNally was inducted after a decorated career that includes creating instant replay.

Here are the main highlights from today’s ceremony, starting with one of the most popular Packers in franchise history.

LeRoy’s jump in Canton

A standout safety for the Packers, Butler is credited with making the first-ever “Lambeau Leap” in 1993. His versatility helped the Packers defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, Green Bay’s first title in 29 years. Butler started his speech in a unique way. He quoted musician DJ Khaled, who was a crowd pleaser.

Later in his speech, Butler referenced his former Packers coach Mike Holmgren, who is a finalist for induction into next year’s class.

Mills keep beating

A posthumous inductee, Mills anchored the Saints’ “Dome Patrol” defense before helping lead the Panthers to an appearance in the NFC Championship Game in 1996. That season, the 37-year-old linebacker became the player oldest ever named to the Pro Bowl. Mills’ mantra was “keep beating”, a battle cry the Panthers still use today.

Former Saints coach Jim Mora served as one of Mills’ presenters. Mora shared his memory of watching the 5-foot-9 Mills break huddle during his rookie season. Mora admitted he was scared for Mills before watching him make a tackle moments later while throwing off a blocker that was at least 100 pounds heavier.

“I coached the Saints for nine years,” Mora said, “and he never seemed short to me again.”

Mills’ acceptance speech was delivered by his wife, Melanie, who gave insight into the man Mills was off the pitch.

“Sam treated everyone with the respect and dignity they deserved,” she said. “He was asking about your day and he was listening, because he cared.

“Keep hammering, everyone, because that’s what Sam wants you to do.”

Seymour praises Bill Belichick, pushes HOF for Robert Kraft

A full member of the early Patriots dynasty of the 2000s, Seymour is the first player drafted by Bill Belichick to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

“You are the best coach in the game,” Seymour said of Belichick. “Thank you for everything you taught me.”

Seymour also paid tribute to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is a finalist for the Hall of Fame Class of 2023. Seymour said Kraft has fostered a selfless culture focused on team success.

“You too will grace this scene,” Seymour told Kraft, who was seated in the audience.

Seymour follows former New England teammates Ty Law, Randy Moss and Junior Seau to Canton. Other Patriots, including former New England QB Tom Brady, are sure to follow.

“We had a young quarterback,” Seymour said of Brady during his speech when discussing the Patriots of the early 2000s. “But we made it work.”

McNally makes history

Known as the founder of modern officiating, McNally spent 48 years in the NFL as an official, including a successful run as supervisor of league officials. He is the first former official to be consecrated in Canton.

McNally, who watched the ceremony from home, recorded an acceptance speech that included his appreciation for NFL officials. He also joked that officials don’t usually want to draw attention, but today was obviously an exception.

“That’s the biggest thing, I think, for an official: get the job done – I hope nobody even knows you’re there – make the calls the way they should with a healthy dose of common sense.”

QB Tony Boselli

One of the best tackles in league history, Boselli shared that he had other footballing aspirations during his childhood.

“I wanted to be a quarterback in the NFL,” said Boselli, who specifically wanted to play QB for the Broncos. That dream was quickly ended, as Boselli was moved to tight end for junior college and water boy for college.

“But I was a damn good water boy,” Boselli said with a smile.

Instead of serving water, Boselli served opposing defensemen their lunch in high school, at USC and during his Hall of Fame career with the Jaguars.

Although he was not inducted as a quarterback, Boselli’s Jacksonville QB Mark Brunell served as his presenter.

“He absolutely wanted to dominate the opponent,” Brunell said of Boselli. “He was a fierce competitor and he wasn’t going to let anyone get to quarterback. He made us all better.”

Boselli is very proud to be the first Jaguars player registered in Canton. He pushed former teammates Fred Taylor, Jimmy Smith and Tom Coughlin to join him in Canton.

Young pays tribute to his deceased son

During his speech, Bryant Young spoke about his son, Colby, who passed away in 2016 after a courageous battle with cancer. Young pushed back his emotions as he spoke to his son.

“Colby, you live on in our hearts,” Young said. “We will always say your name.”

Young’s path to the Hall of Fame reached a major crossroads in 1998. Then, in his fifth season with the 49ers, Young suffered a serious career-threatening leg injury. Despite the severity of the injury, Young persevered and played nine more seasons. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1999, a year after suffering the injury. A member of the 1990s All-Decade team, Young helped the 49ers win the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl during his rookie season.

“I proudly wore gold my entire career,” said Young, who before the 49ers played collegiately for Notre Dame. “I will cherish this jacket for the rest of my life.”

Subsidiary brings speed to Canton

Branch becomes the seventh member of the 1974 Raiders offense to be dedicated to Canton, an NFL record for a single unit. Branch, who died in 2019, was a valued member of the Raiders’ three Super Bowl championship teams. His unparalleled speed helped him earn All-Decade Team honors for the 1970s.

Branch’s sister, Elaine Anderson, gave her induction speech. Raiders owner Mark Davis also served as a presenter for Branch, calling him “my best friend.”

“When it’s not God’s time, you can’t force it,” Anderson said in his speech. “When it’s God’s time, you can’t stop it.

“Clifford was delayed, but not denied.”

Branch’s bandmate, Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff, was on hand to celebrate Branch’s induction.

“The lord finally has some speed there,” Biletnikoff said before Branch’s induction.

Dick Vermeil praises others for induction

Few coaches have been so good at turning losing teams into winners. Vermeil ended a 12-year playoff drought in Philadelphia before leading the franchise to its first Super Bowl. After a long hiatus from practice, Vermeil led the Rams — who lost more games in the ’90s than any other team — to a memorable Super Bowl run in 1999. He then ended the seven-series drought Chiefs playoffs by leading Kansas City to a 13-3 season in 2003.

Instead of celebrating himself, Vermeil thanked everyone who helped him win a gold jacket. He specifically mentioned the player whose tackle at the end of that biggest win contributed to his Hall of Fame induction.

“If Mike Jones doesn’t make the tackle at the end of Super Bowl XXXIV, I’m not staying here,” Vermeil said. “I will be forever indebted to all of you.”

A former high school coach, Vermeil highlighted the members of his high school team in attendance that he coached more than 60 years ago.

“I still call them children, they’re over seventy now,” he said.

Vermeil also pointed out Torry Holt, who was part of the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf.” Vermeil said Holt will one day join him and fellow former Rams Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Orlando Pace and Isaac Bruce in Canton.

From his Eagles years, Vermeil paid tribute to Wilbert Montgomery and John Bunting, former players who later coached under Vermeil. Vermeil also thanked the Eagles fans who supported him from near and far. He thanked current Chiefs coach Andy Reid for traveling to Canton to congratulate Vermeil despite being in the middle of training camp.

A well-known crier, Vermeil didn’t cry until he spoke about his wife, Carol. He intentionally waited until the end of his speech to praise his 66-year-old wife, knowing he would shed tears.

Leave a Comment