Hall of Fame enshrinement speech of Deion Sanders, star cornerback who played 14 NFL seasons from 1989-2005:
Thank you, Lord, I thank you. Jesus, I love you. If it wasn't for God, I wouldn't be here today, so, Lord, I thank you.
The Hall of Fame staff, Canton, Ohio, that was a wonderful parade, although I thought we were headed to Cleveland. It was a good parade. Love you all.
President Stephen Perry, Tammy, Dave, Steve, Jerry, thank you. Thank you. You've made this a wonderful thing. We often times have football coaches, but when it comes to the spiritual things, we don't want any coaching.
But I have a wonderful team of spiritual advisors I just want to appreciate. So if you can bear with me I'm going to run through a lot of thank yous because unfortunately I played for five teams. It's not like I wanted to leave one, but I had to. So I have a lot of thank yous. My spiritual advisors, my spiritual father, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Bishop Watkins, Bishop Jones, Bishop Long, Bishop Owens, Pastor R.J. and April Washington, the Hornbuckles. Dr. Leroy Thompson, Pastor Paula and Randy White and Pastor Tracy David Forbes who led me to the lord.
Thank you, because often times when we have public success, we have private struggles, and thank you for blessing me and speaking into my spirit.
Coach C, Coach David Capel, Coach Capel who suffered a massive heart attack in his excitement to get here was so vital in who I am, what I am, and where I am today. Coach Ron Hoover, my high school coach for kicking me off the team my junior year although I was the starting quarterback, that taught me a valuable lesson, but to this day, I still wasn't insubordinate in that cafeteria. I promise you I wasn't. I don't know what that lady was talking about. For real.
Principal Stickles, Deshazo, athletic director Bobbie Dewey, my English teacher Ms. Fleming, I thank you so much. Recruiter Jim Harveston, Coach Bobby Bowden, the best college football coach ever. Jimmie and Donna Callaway, I love you because you love me like I'm your own.
Mickey and Diane Andrews, my defensive back coach at Florida State. Coach Andrews, where are you? You taught me everything. I love you. The two things that you taught me, I could be two persons at the same time. You could yell at us, scream at us, by the time we get in the cafeteria, how's the family, how's everything going? You blessed me. Also, you made me what I am. You remember that drill that you had that you laid this mat out on the field, and the punter had to come and lay out and dive and try to block the punt? I don't even dive in pools. I don't even do that.
But the guy before me, right before me, dove and the kicker kicked him and split his jaw wide open. And I said, Coach, I'll go back there and return these punts. So I want to thank you for allowing me to be that punt returner.
Special people, Eugene (Parker), I love you, man. You've been there. You've been straight up. You've been forward. I've never heard you use profanity. I've never seen you out of character. You've always been a blessing and told me the right things, not just a yes man. I love you for that. I really, really do.
Jamie Dukes, like my brother, Andre Rison, Keith, Al Williams, Corey Fuller who allowed me to come back and play for the Ravens by telling my beloved Ozzie Newsome that I could still do it.
Jason Phillips who is the offensive coordinator at the University of Houston, but when we went at it against each other in Atlanta on the scout team. He didn't have Sundays to play. He had Wednesdays and Thursdays, and he went at my butt. We had a battle every day, and I love you Jay for that.
Snoop Dogg, thank you for coming, my man. Cube, where you at? Cube, I've been loving you since the early '90s, baby. Thank you. Constance Schwartz, my business manager, Jose Ayana, Jeremy, Roger the Sandman Thomas, Nancy Lieberman, Nate Newton, and D.L. Wallace.
Sponsors, Under Armour, you see a bunch of kids around here with Truth on. It would not have been possible if it had not been for UA, I thank you, UA, and I love you dearly.
My family, Auntie Scooting, thank you for all the sacrifices, the love, the compassion that you've given me. Stand up, baby. That car phone that you got me when I was in college. I love you for that.
Aunt Vet for putting this whole thing together because you know I'm not like this, really. I have a hard time being a recipient of things. I still got presents and birthday cards and gifts way back from two birthdays and Christmases ago. Thank you for handling all of this. Uncle Billy for being my man, my dog for forever more.
My sister, Tracy, for always having my back. I love you, girl, cousin Carson, niece Tia, grandma Hattie Mae Mimms, my prayer warrior who has always prayed me through. I thank you so much.
Atlanta Falcons, Rankin Smith, Coach Campbell, Hanavan, Glanville, June Jones, Jimmy Carr, Fred Bruney my defensive back, coach of special teams Bobby April, my equipment manager that I wore his helmet every game that I played in until I went to Baltimore, the late Whitey Zimmerman and God bless you, thank you, Boris Daniels.
The new regime. I had a wonderful meeting today with one of the most beautiful owners I've ever had, and I wish I would have played for him, Arthur Blank. Thank you, man, I love you. Rich McKay, Reggie Roberts, Kevin Winston, Thomas Dimitroff, thank you so much for everything.
Eddie DeBartolo, Carmen Policy, Dwight Clark, (George) Seifert, Ray Rhodes, my man, Ray Rhodes, I love you so much. Defensive back coach Tom Homer, PR Rodney Knox. Jerry Jones taught me so much about family. Taught me so much about business. Taught me a lot about life. Your beautiful wife, Gene.
Steven, I love you, the Jones whole family. Secretary Marilyn Love who is the best cup of corner I've ever seen. Coach Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, Mike Zimmer, defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals right now. You will be a head coach one day, sir.
Joe Abazano, Rich Dalrymple, Mike and Bucky, equipment men. I told you I had five teams. Washington Redskins, Daniel Snyder, Vinny Cerrato, Norv Turner, Ray Rhodes, once again, Ray Meeks, Jay Byrd, equipment man, and my man, Mel Brad, man, I appreciate you so much.
Baltimore Ravens, Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome, thank you for giving me the opportunity to end right. You must everything you do in the right way.
Head Coach Billick, Jim Fassel, Mike Nolan, I love me some Rex Ryan, PR, Kevin and Chad Steele, equipment manager, Ed Carroll. I'd like to thank all the trainers as well who were there prominently for me. I thank you so much.
Do you understand this is the Hall of Fame? I grew up on some of you guys.
If I could just get a glimpse of that television and some of some you of you guys, to play against the Marinos, to play against the Montanas, Troy Aikman, man, Emmitt Smith, Mike Irvin. Are you kidding me? Steve Young I got to play with? Some of the best in the business. Irving Fryar from the Washington Redskins, Andre Rison, the guys I adore.
The best secondary to me in San Francisco. Eric Davis, Tim McDonald, Dedrick Dodge as well. This game, this game, this game, this game, this game taught me how to be a man. This game taught me if I could get knocked down, I've got to get my butt back up again. This game taught me there are things in life you can't do prematurely. They call it offsides. In life, it's just life.
Throughout this game I've gained five wonderful, beautiful kids. Deiondra, Deion Junior, Shilo, Sheduer, Shelomi, with all my teams jerseys on, I love you. Thank you, babies.
My beautiful wife, Pilar, who has sacrificed and put her dreams and ambitions on hold to make sure I achieve mine. Thank you, baby, for all you do and for all you've put up with me because I know I'm not easy to deal with.
This game, I appreciate this game so much because I thought about it as a child. I wanted to do it, and they told me we'd get compensated and paid for a game that I always loved and I hear so many people say I would do this for free. I would too as long as you're doing it for free.
But this game, this game means so much to me, but I always had a rule in life that I would never love nothing that couldn't love me back. So I admired this game, I liked this game. It taught me how to get up, it taught me how to live and play with pain, this game. This game taught me so much about people. It taught me so much about timing. It taught me so much about focus, dedication, submitting one's self, and sacrifices.
This game, this game, this game. And I went at this game and attacked this game because I made a promise that I needed this game to fulfill.
I made a promise when I was 7-years old to this young woman at the age of 27. She was working two jobs just to see if ends could see one another because they never met. And she was slaving over pots and pans on that precise day. I can remember, it was a little high chair right by the kitchen. In the kitchen there was a high chair right by the stove that she was cooking.
And I said, mama, because I was tired of seeing her go to work and come home all tired. I said I'm going to be rich one day. Mama, “I'm going to make a lot of money, and you will never have to work another day of your life.” My mama said “that's fine, but until then you get that lawnmower and go out there and cut that grass.”
14 years later, that's why you can't give up on your dream, your promise, because 14 years later, this dream, this promise came. That I was able to allow my mama to go into a job and say I'm not doing it anymore. My son has blessed me.
But there is something inside of me, mama, that I never told you. That I never could admit, and I'm going to share it with all of you, because now we're family. I played for a youth team called the Fort Myers Rebels and they blessed me. They took me all over the country to expose me to things, to expose you to things.
Everybody on their team, their parents owned something. Their parents were doctors or lawyers or the chief of police. It was that type of organization. Me and one of my friends were the only African American kids on that team. It was a very affluent team, and I was ashamed of my mama because my mama worked in the hospital. She cleaned up the hospital, and I was ashamed of my mama who sacrificed, who loved me, who protected me, who gave me everything. I want to make sure I was best dressed in school and I had everything that was laid that came out. I had it first.
I was ashamed of my mama because one of my friends in high school, he saw her in a hospital one night pushing a cart, and he came back and he clowned me, he ridiculed me and he mocked me because of my mama.
So I made a pledge to myself that I don't care what it takes, I don't care what it may take, I'm not going to do anything illegal, but my mama would never have to work another day of her life.
And I recognized the defensive backs at that time didn't get paid a lot. Cornerbacks, running backs, linebackers, defensive backs weren't paid a lot. And in my dormitory room at Florida State, I created this image. This thing that you can imagine. You could love him or you could hate him, but he was Primetime.
I pre-rehearsed the sayings because I knew I had the substance. I knew I had the goods, I knew I had the work ethic, but I needed to secure myself enough that my mama would never have to work another day of her life.
See the problem is with some dreams, the dreams are only about you if your dream ain't bigger than you, there is a problem with your dream. I understood there were going to be stones, because when you make a difference, there are going to be haters.
When you're provoking change, there are going to be naysayers. People don't condone what they've never seen. But when you talked about me, media, guess what, behind I saw my mama. When you wrote about me, when you naysayed me, when you criticized me, I looked right through your TV and I saw my mama.
When you told me what I couldn't do, when you told me what I didn't do, when you told me what I would never be, I saw my mama pushing that cart. When you told me I was too small, I wasn't educated enough, I saw my mama because I made a promise. And whenever you make a promise, there will be a responsibility to that promise. You have to maintain that responsibility, that's why I love this game.When we get away from this game and put these jackets on and we're no longer on the field in that locker room, we lose responsibility because this game has given us responsibility that Troy Aikman had to make that throw when Mike (Irvin) came out of that break. Emmitt (Smith) you had to pick up that block. Jerry Rice, you had to be where you said you were going to be. Responsibility, it was a promise, it was a responsibility. There is an intellect and intelligence one must have.
You think these guys are sitting up here flanked on my right and my left and they didn't have the intelligence? I'm not talking about the IQs that you learn in school. I'm talking about that knowledge of life, intelligence.
I had a promise. I had a responsibility. I had somewhat of intelligence, then I had to manage all these things. There are no classes that teach us how to manage people. There is no class that told us how to manage millions. There is no class that teaches how to manage time. We had to learn this on the fly because ultimately most people that are around us are on a payroll, and often times they tell you what you want to hear. Thank you, Eugene (Parker) for being you.
Now I got a promise, I got a responsibility, I've got an intelligence and an intellect. Now I'm managing things. The last thing that I have is expectation. It separates us from some of you kids, from some of you adults, from some of you people that we expect to be great.
I heard some of the Hall of Famers say I would never really dreamed like this. I'm sorry. I did. I expect to be great. I expect to do what hadn't been done. I expect to provoke change. I expect when I walk into a room and it's 72 degrees, when I get there, it's going to be 70. I expect to make change.
I expected no matter what the team I played on to be great. Thank God I went to five different teams, because when I got to the next team, I had to prove myself all over again. When I got to the next team, I had to prove myself all over again.
I expect certain things. People, start expecting what you desire. Start thinking outside the box. On my shoes right now, on these kids shirts behind them, it says "You've got to believe." I have a problem that if you don't believe in yourself, how will somebody else believe in you?
I gave you a promise. I gave you the responsibility. I gave you intellect, intelligence, I gave you management, I gave you expectation. I don't know if you figured it out by now, but I just gave you Prime. I just gave you the formula in who was really standing before you because I was trick or treating and it wasn't even Halloween. Because all the things that you really thought I was, and some of the things you didn't like, you didn't love, you didn't want to accept, I was doing it for my mama.
I will leave you with this. Many of my naysayers said, you know, Prime didn't tackle, but show me some film where I didn't or where I hurt my team. But I want to respond to that publicly because that affects me, it bothers me. That's insinuating that I'm soft, and I've got kids.
Since 1989, I've tackled every bill my mama has ever given me, haven't missed one. The next time they say Prime didn't tackle, make sure you let them know, yes, he did. Hall of Famers, I am so privileged and so thankful to be amongst you.
You don't understand how I didn't understand it until I got here, until I spoke to some of you, until I saw some of you, until I heard some of you articulate yourselves. When I heard the struggles and the trials.
I met a new friend. His name is Chris Hanburger. I know the rest of y'all, so I'm not giving you that. But, Chris, I love you, man, you're a good dude, man.
NFL Network, thank you for blessing me and for giving me the opportunity to be me.
Truth family, stand up. Ladies and gentlemen, I came here with seven buses full of kids and parents, all ethnicities, all social climates and social statuses. We're one family. I tricked these kids by telling them by using sports to educate them.
I'm trying to open a charter school. What are we doing with this platform that we have? Just to wear this gold jacket? Just to walk around and say I'm a Hall of Famer? Come on, people. Let's provoke change.
Truth family, I love you, because we are training you. We are raising your kids to be CEOs, not employees. We are raising your kids to be leaders and not followers. And Truth family, thank you for your sacrifices, for your love, for your compassion that you have for me. Because guess what, I need it.
I thank you. I love you. Hall of Fame, I tell you what, I don't know what's going on in the other tents, but Snoop, Nelly, Cube, you going to do something. We about to go tear this thing up.
I appreciate you. I got one final thing because I like him, but something's missing.
Thank you, and God bless.