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2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction takeaways: Tony Boselli first Jag anchored, Dick Vermeil thankful

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CANTON, Ohio — The Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed eight new members for football immortality on Saturday afternoon. The ceremony, which took place at 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 coats.

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 earn a Hall of Fame jacket. Like Boselli, Mills represented a team – the Carolina Panthers – that broke through in the league in 1995. Branch, Butler, Seymour, Young and Vermeil come to Canton with a combined nine Super Bowl rings. McNally was inducted after an award-winning career credited with 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 beat 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 came across well with the audience.

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

Mills keeps banging

Posthumously inducted, Mills anchored the Saints “Dome Patrol” defense before helping the Panthers to an NFC Championship Game appearance in 1996. That season, the 37-year-old linebacker became the oldest player ever named to the Pro Bowl. Mills’ mantra was “keep pounding,” a battle cry that the Panthers use to this day.

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

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

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

“Sam treated everyone with the respect and dignity they deserved,” she said. “He asked about your day and he listened, because he cared about you.

“Keep stomping, everyone, because that’s what Sam would want you to do.”

Seymour Praises Bill Belichick, Lets HOF Push Robert Kraft

An integral member of the early 2000s Patriots dynasty, Seymour is the first player drafted by Bill Belichick to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“You’re 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 2023 Hall of Fame class. Seymour said Kraft fostered a selfless culture focused on team success.

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

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

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

McNally makes history

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

McNally, who watched the ceremony from home, recorded a word of thanks expressing his appreciation for NFL officials. He also joked about how officials usually don’t want attention, but today was clearly an exception.

“This is the best thing, I think, for a civil servant: do the job, hopefully no one knows you’re around and make the calls appropriately with a good dose of common sense.”

“QB” Tony Boselli

Boselli, one of the best tackles in league history, said he had different football ambitions 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 quickly ended, as Boselli was moved to tight end for the junior varsity and water boy for the varsity.

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

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

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

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

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

Young honors his late son

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

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

Young’s path to the Hall of Fame reached an important 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 sustaining the injury. An All-Decade Team member of the 1990s, Young helped the 49ers win the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl during his rookie season.

“I’ve proudly worn gold my entire career,” said Young, who played collegiate for Notre Dame for the 49ers. “I will cherish this jacket for the rest of my life.”

Branch brings speed to Canton

Branch becomes the seventh member of the 1974 Raiders Offense to be recorded at Canton, an NFL single-unit record. Branch, who passed away in 2019, was a valuable member of all three of the Raiders’ Super Bowl championship teams. His unparalleled speed helped him earn 1970s All-Decade Team honors.

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

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

“Clifford was delayed, but was not denied.”

Branch’s teammate, fellow Hall of Fame wideout Fred Biletnikoff, was on hand to celebrate Branch’s introduction.

“The gentleman has some speed there at last,” Biletnikoff said before Branch’s introduction.

Dick Vermeil praises others for induction

Few coaches are 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 coaching, Vermeil led the Rams — who lost more games than any other team in the 1990s — to a memorable Super Bowl run in 1999. He went on to finish the seven playoffs of the 1990s. Chiefs by leading Kansas City to victory. a 13-3 season in 2003.

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

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

Vermeil, a former high school coach, pointed out members of his high school team who attended and whom he coached more than 60 years ago.

“I still call them kids, they’re in their early seventies now,” he said.

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

From his Eagles years, Vermeil paid tribute to Wilbert Montgomery and John Bunting, former players who then served as coaches under Vermeil. Vermeil also thanked the Eagles fans who supported him both 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 howler, Vermeil didn’t cry until he spoke of his wife, Carol. He deliberately waited until the end of his speech to praise his 66-year-old wife, knowing he would shed tears.

Sources

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