September 25, 2023

The Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed eight new members on Saturday.

Hall of Fame induction is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a player once his playing career is over, and former Green Bay Packers defensive back LeRoy Butler – a four-time All-Pro who helped the Packers win the Super Bowl XXXI – explained Why.

“When you play for the Green Bay Packers, it opens a lot of doors,” Butler said. “When you win a Super Bowl, all the doors open. But when you make the Hall of Fame, football heaven opens.”

Sam Mills’ widow, Melanie Mills, gave a Hall of Fame speech honoring the former Carolina Panthers running back, sharing a motto her husband used as motivation as he went from free agent to five-time Pro Bowler.

He used the same motto in his battle against cancer before he died in 2005.

“Thank you for this honor,” said Melanie Mills. “For believing in Sam and helping keep his story alive. Keep beating everyone — that’s what Sam would have wanted you to do.”

During his speech, Richard Seymour, who helped the New England Patriots win their first three Super Bowls, recalled his first memory as a football player while thanking his mom.

“It was 31 years ago this month that you drove me to my first football trial and I didn’t even get out of the car,” Seymour said. “Mom, if I told you three decades later that I’d be wearing a gold jacket, you’d have no reason to believe me. But you believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.”

Art McNally made history Saturday, becoming the first running back ever to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Considered the “Father of Modern Officiating,” McNally worked as a game official from 1960-67 before serving as the NFL’s Supervisor of Officiating from 1968-1987 and later as Director of Officiating from 1988-90. McNally, who turned 97 in July, gave a taped speech.

“That’s the best thing I think about an official,” McNally said. “Do the work, hopefully no one knows you’re even around, make the calls properly with a large dose of common sense.”

Tony Boselli also made history on Saturday, as the five-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle became the first Jacksonville Jaguars player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Boselli shared how his high school coach killed his dreams of becoming a quarterback, which ended up being the best thing for him in the long run.

“I was destined to be an offensive lineman, but not before a brief stint as a tight end on the sophomore team and water boy for the varsity team,” Boselli said. “I was a damn good kid. … Not the brightest path, but kudos to you coach. It was the right path.”

Former defensive tackle Bryant Young helped the San Francisco 49ers win Super Bowl XXIX in 1994. His 89.5 sacks during his 14-year career are also the most in 49ers history.

Young said it was fitting that he was part of the Class of 2022 because 22 was his late son Colby’s favorite number. Young paid tribute to Colby, who died of cancer at the age of 15.

“We assured Colby that we will keep his spirit alive and continue to say his name,” Young said. “On October 11, 2016, God called Colby home.

“Colby, you live in our hearts. We will always say your name.

Cliff Branch was the only wide receiver inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday. He helped the Raiders win three Super Bowls in the late 1970s and early 80s, leading the league in receiving in 1974. He was also a three-time All-Pro.

Branch died at age 71 in 2019. His sister, Elaine Anderson, said her brother still enjoys the day, likely with a couple of other Raiders legends who have passed on.

“I can tell you there’s a sweet spirit in this place today,” Anderson said. “Our Clifford, No. 21, wouldn’t miss his vault for anything. He longed for this day and 21 sits front and center with Al Davis and John Madden.”

Former head coach Dick Vermeil closed Saturday’s ceremony.

Vermeil, who also coached the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, won his only Super Bowl as the Rams’ head coach, leading the “Greatest Show on Turf” in 1999. He gave a special shout-out to one of the players from the Super Bowl-winning Rams team.

“Kurt Warner, his story is true,” Vermeil said. “Where would I be without Kurt Warner? I wouldn’t be standing here. God, thank you for the contributions you all have made.”

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