New England Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here's the text of Tippett's and presenter Robert Kraft's speech from the Hall of Fame ceremony on Saturday in Canton, Ohio.
Presenter Robert Kraft
Thank you very much. Let me begin by congratulating the Class of 2008 on your induction. It's a tremendous thrill to share this evening with all of you and to be on this stage with so many legends of the game who have made the NFL what it is the today. Thank you all.
I'm a life-long fan of the NFL, and became a Patriots fan in 1960, when the team was created. And in 1971, I became a season ticket holder and have enjoyed nearly every game since then with my family. Of all the players I watched and rooted for during that time, I can say, without a doubt, that Andre Tippett was the most dominant defender the Patriots ever had and one of the greatest ever to play the game.
Andre possessed the perfect combination of strength, speed and athleticism. In his prime, Andre was probably the most intimidating player in the game. I can't think of a higher compliment for a linebacker. For those of you who don't recall the type of player he was on the football field, let me remind you that in 1984, Andre set a Patriots franchise record with 18-and-a-half sacks. The next year, in 1985, he recorded 16-and-a-half sacks. Andre Tippett is still the only linebacker in the history of the NFL to ever record a total of 35 sacks in back-to-back seasons.
I will never forget the first time I met Andre. It was on the field at the old stadium in 1985 and Andre was doing a photo shoot. He wasn't dressed in his Patriot uniform. He was wearing a white karate ghi with a black belt wrapped around his waist. Now, I have met a lot of football players over the years, but Andre Tippett is the only football player that I have ever met in his full karate garb and the only one I know with a fifth-degree black belt. Now, that's an image I'll never forget that the rest of my life. What impressed me most that day was his graciousness. Hearing him talk about the love of the martial arts and the discipline required to excel at karate, I started to understand and appreciate how he was able to maintain his individual excellence.
My second meeting with Andre only served to underscore the depth of his character. It was in 1989, at Mass General Hospital where Andre was recovering from surgery. I saw Andre in the hospital and I was flattered that he remembered me. He asked me why I was there, and I told him I was visiting my son, David, who had just suffered a very serious knee injury that had ended his wrestling season. Andre insisted that I take him to David's room so he could offer him words of encouragement. That visit meant a tremendous amount to my son and left a lasting impression on me. I didn't own the team at the time. I was just a fan that he had only met once before. Yet, Andre, who had just suffered a season-ending injury, insisted on visiting my son to cheer him up. To think that this man, who was so ferocious and intimidating on the field could be so gracious and thoughtful off of it, to me these are the traits that make Andre so special.
Andre's retirement coincided with my purchase of the team. And the standard of excellence he had on the field has translated to the front office, where his impact continues to resonate through our entire organization and the entire New England community. He is a great role model for our current players, and I encourage them to emulate Andre. Since 1994, I have had the privilege of working with Andre and getting to know him and his family better. For all of Andre's successes, I know he is most proud of his family, including his four beautiful children, Janea, Asia, Madison and Coby, and, of course, his supportive and wonderful wife Rhonda.
26 years ago Andre Tippett began giving fans of New England some great thrills and memorable moments. If you had told me then while I was sitting on those cold metal benches at the old stadium with my four sons, who I'm happy to say are here today to honor Andre, that Andre and I would one day become friends, I wouldn't have believed it. I never could imagine then that this Patriot fan would one day be asked by Andre Tippett to present him for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
For someone who sat in the stands all those years, this is truly the ultimate sports fan's dream. And I am extremely honored that Andre has given me this unique opportunity. Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the entire New England Patriots organization and all our fans, it's my distinct honor and privilege to introduce one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, my personal friend, Andre Tippett.
Thank you, Robert Kraft. As Robert told you guys, he and I have shared so much personally and professionally. When I was contemplating retirement, he chose to keep me in the front office, and for that I'm ever grateful for that. He and I share a common bond of loyalty and family. I love Robert, Myra, his sons Jonathan, Danny, Josh and David. A lot of those guys I get to see every day. Robert, thank you again for believing in me. I am so proud to have been a Patriot for 26 years. I hope to be a Patriot for another 26 years.
Thank you for presenting me. As I stand here today, I feel like the man standing on the North Pole. And the only way to go from here is south. (Laughter) I shall cherish this moment for the rest of my life. To the city of Canton and the dedicated folks who run the Hall of Fame, your warmth and hospitality you have shown my family has been incredible. I can't wait to return every year. To the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee, thank you for believing in me, especially Ron Borges, the best in the business. Thank you, Ron, for your commitment and persistence. Thank you also to Stacey James and his staff for supporting me. To the Class of 2008, Emmitt, Fred, Art, Darrell and Gary, you guys exemplify character, pride and desire. I am honored to be forever linked to you guys. Congratulations to you.
As I look out at all these great men sitting here, I can't believe I'm joining this fraternity. I tell our young players to know their history, because you are the living representatives of that history. You have inspired me since I was a young boy, dreaming of one day standing here. In my youth, I watched every game I could. I studied all the great players like Ham, Lanier, Youngblood, Bobby Bell, Lee Roy Selmon and many more. Some kids play cops and robbers. I emulated you. You are my heroes. Even in my college years, my teammate and I, Brad Webb, would pretend we were the Steelers linebackers in our Iowa black and gold. Brad Webb was Jack Ham and I was Dennis Winston. To my contemporaries, you also inspired me. The linebackers of the '80s. You guys set the standard for how to play the position. You are -- we are -- the best of the best.
My journey here has been a long one. And it hasn't always been easy along the way. So many people have touched my life. I'd like to use this time to thank as many of them as I can. Francis Tippett, my mom. What can I say about my mom?
Thank you for teaching me perseverance. Life wasn't easy for us moving from Birmingham, Alabama to Newark, New Jersey, with not much more than the clothes on our back. Through my mother I learned to be accountable for my actions and understand the consequences of those actions. And with that you better believe my mom -- she made me appreciate, understanding what's right and what's wrong. She ruled with love and a whole lot of discipline. Mom, I love you and thank you for that.
To my brothers, Gregory, Reginald, Kelvin and Gerard and my sister Yvette, my stepdad Willy Lovett and my uncle, Eugene Tippett, and my nieces and nephews, thank you for making the trek out here to celebrate this special day for us. To all my Newark friends and family and the folks here from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Iowa, Chicago, Michigan, Massachusetts, thank you all for being here today.
I was a player I became because of the great coaches and teammates I was surrounded by. From the day I was cut from my freshman football team at Barringer High School, coach Frank Verducci instilled in me the proper mindset to play this great game. My high school model was truth, honor and light. In truth, coach Verducci taught us to recognize our strengths as well as our weaknesses and to raise our hand if it was our fault. In honor, he taught us to be proud of our names. He always said, rob me of my money and you have nothing, but rob me of my name and you take my most prized possession. In light, coach wanted all of us to get an education. He said, 'Only a fool doesn't go to school.' Coach, thank you and I love you.
Thank you all of my Barringer teammates, in particular Prentice Walker and Cedric Shaw for leading the way. You guys were the real role models for me. When I later arrived at Iowa, Hayden Fry delivered on his promise to turn the program into a winner. We went from the laughing stock of the conference to winning the Big Ten championship and being the Rose Bowl representatives. I owe a debt of gratitude to the University of Iowa and my teammates, some who are here today, Brad Webb, Michael Hooks, Keith Hunter, Norman Granger and some of the assistant coaches including Howard Sissu and Bernie Wyatt who recruited me. Thank you for the opportunity.
To my second family, the New England Patriots, Dick Steinberg and the Sullivan family. Dick Steinberg is no longer here with us, but everybody knows that Dick had a great eye for talent and he was a beautiful person. To the Steinberg family, thank you. And to Pat Sullivan, thank you for everything that you did for me. Thank you.
Raymond Berry, innovative player, same as a coach. He taught me the value of preparation and understanding the business is winning football games. Under coach Berry we became the first team to take the organization to the Super Bowl. The single greatest moment of my career. Coach, thank you for everything.
Rod Russ, without him I would not have had the career I had in New England. He was the mad scientist we all grew to love. To some of my defensive coaches, Sidwell, Shenecky, Ray Hamilton, Eddie Kayak, and even Donny Blackmon. Marl Moore, Al Groh, Romeo Crennel, thank you all for the lessons you taught me. To the backers, I love you all. Blackmon, Wisu, Mabrew, Ingram, Rembrandt, Reynolds, Nelly, we were a tight group. We were the 'backers and I'm sorry for not having the T-shirt this year. To all my other teammates, thank you, all of you, for your work ethic and your contribution to the New England Patriots. We had a lot of good times and some great, great memories.
To the veterans who helped show the way, John Hannah and Mike Haynes, when I was young and to the young guys who challenged me as I became the old man on the team, thank you guys. Now, I have to thank Allen Niro and his wife Leah. Allen, you're not only an agent but a lifelong friend, a confidante and a shrink. But most importantly a member of my family. I love you. To my martial arts family, teachers and students, (speaking foreign language).
My family, family is the most important ingredient in my life. I am lucky to have married a warm -- married into a warm, loving and accepting family. I am so grateful for my in-laws, Chuck and Myrna, and to my sister-in-laws Barbara and Eileen, and my brother-in-law Tony, and to my two nephews, Aaron and Brandon. I love you guys. To my four beautiful children that are here today. Wow. What a great time for us to share together. I am so proud of you as you are of me. Janea, Asia, Madison and Coby. You are my pride and joy.
Now, they say behind every great man is a great woman. And I certainly have one. My wife, Rhonda. Thank you for being a wonderful wife, mother and friend. You truly are the glue that holds our family together. Thank you for being the most patient considerate, understanding, for giving woman in the world. I love you. I regret that I can't mention all the people who have had a positive influence in my life and my career. I hope they all know how important they were and are to me.
I do need, though, to give a huge thank you to all those passionate Patriot fans who have supported me and continue to support our great franchise. You are our backbone. You are why we do what we do. And in closing, if I may, to the young kids out there. I am proof you should do everything you can to live your dream. Whatever that may be. I did not have the material advantages, but through commitment to achieving my goals, using the advantages that I did have and listening to the wise men and women who offered their support, I was able to live my dream. This was my dream!
I am truly humbled and I'm honored to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.