CANTON, Ohio – Being a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame class in 2022 has a special – and painful – meaning for former San Francisco 49ers defensive player Bryant Young. It is an emotional reminder of his son Colby, who died of cancer on October 11, 2016. Colby’s favorite number, as his dad said in an introductory speech Saturday afternoon at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame, was 22 years old.
“This, my tenth year of eligibility, I’m entering Hall as a member of this ’22,” Young said, his voice breaking. “2022. 22. “
Young’s voice cracked even more as he spoke about how his son, diagnosed at age 13 in 2014, bravely dealt with the news after learning in 2016 that the cancer had spread and treatment had stopped working.
It was a powerful moment that caused the crowd to give Young a standing ovation.
“Colby has sensed where things were going,” Young said. “He was not afraid of death as much as he was afraid of the dying process. Will it be painful? Will it be remembered?
“Colby … you live in our hearts … We’ll always say your name.”
Young’s speech was the most touching moment of the afternoon. Young in the Hall is joined by offensive Tony Boselli, Cliff Branch receiver, LeRoy Butler security, official Art McNally, linebacker Sam Mills, defensive line player Richard Seymour, and coach Dick Vermeil.
Young was a four-time Pro Bowler, a two-time All-Pro rookie, and a member of the NFL’s All-Decade team in the 1990s. He was also NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1999, after leading 49ers with 11 bags to go along with 20 quarterback pressures in returning from a broken leg.
Boselli was a five-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and a member of the NFL’s Decade Team in the 1990s before his career was cut short by a shoulder injury. He was the first ever Jacksonville Jaguars player in 1995 (second overall) and the first ever franchise player to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
He summed up this honor with the first four words he said, “Well, that’s amazing.
“… It is a great honor to be the first Jaguar Jacksonville to be welcomed as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Branch, who died on August 3, 2019, won three Super Bowls in his 14-year career at the Oakland / Los Angeles Raiders. He was a three-time first All-Pro team and a four-time Pro Bowler. His sister, Elaine Anderson, spoke on his behalf and said she felt her brother was here spiritually along with two other Raiders Hall of Famers.
“Today is bittersweet because we miss our beloved Clifford and sweet because that’s history,” she said. “I want to tell you that today there is a sweet spirit in this place. Our 21-year-old Clifford would not be missing out on anything. He missed that day and 21 sits front and center with Al Davis and John Madden. “
Butler has played 12 seasons at Green Bay, won the Super Bowl and was four times Pro Bowler and four times All-Pro. Member of the NFL’s year-round team during the 1990s, who is also credited with creating one of the most iconic landing celebrations in NFL history: the Lambeau jump. As a child, he struggled with foot problems – they wore orthoses or casts, and was sometimes strapped to a wheelchair – to play more games than any defense in Green Bay history.
“When you play for Green Bay Packers, a lot of doors open up,” said Butler. “You win the Super Bowl, all doors open. When you hit the Hall of Fame, the football sky opens up. “
McNally is the first official to enter the courtroom. He is considered the “father of instant replay” following the introduction of the NFL replay system in 1985, and is named after the Manhattan League’s command center.
“This is the most wonderful thing a clerk needs: get the job done [and] hopefully no one even finds out you’re alive, ”McNally said in the film. “The phones do the right thing as it should: with a lot of common sense.”
Mills began his professional football career with the USFL prior to signing with the New Orleans Saints in 1986. Even though he was only 5 feet 9 inches, Mills quickly became one of the league’s best players, winning five Pro Bowls and receiving the All-Pro title three times. Mills died of bowel cancer in 2005, two years after his diagnosis. His widow Melanie Mills said her husband’s motto, “Keep Pounding” – which was adopted by the Carolina Panthers after he signed a free agent contract in 1995 – was also something he made a living off of the pitch.
“He was more than just a great footballer,” said Melanie Mills. “He was a father, friend and husband, and a leader who always pounded no matter what the chances were.
“Keep going, everyone. He would like you to do it himself.
Seymour has spent eight seasons with the New England Patriots and four with the Oakland Raiders. He made seven Pro Bowls and was selected to the All-Pro team three times. He won three Super Bowls and was a member of the All-Decade Team of the 2000s NFL.
“I’m overwhelmed by humility today, not because of what the moment says about me, but what the moment says about us and what we can do together,” said Seymour. “Today I am overwhelmed with gratitude because I did not get here alone. None of us made it. None of us could, class 2022. They say you can judge a man by the company he maintains. in better company than you.
“It’s an honor to have my name forever associated with yours in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Vermeil, who led the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl and St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl, was named NFL Coach of the Year twice by The Sporting News and once by The Associated Press. A man known to wear his emotions on his sleeve made the longest speech of the day. He spoke for over 20 minutes and thanked the long list of players, coaches, mentors, friends and family members.
“I wish I had time to go through everyone,” he said.
Vermeil said the only thing that will make him feel better is seeing coaches Mike Holmgren, Dan Reeves, Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Shanahan and Tom Coughlin.
“Believe me, if I deserve it, so do they,” he said.