2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Takeaways: Tony Boselli First Jaguar Enshrined, Dick Vermeil Grateful

CANTON, Ohio – The Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed eight new inductees to football immortality on Saturday afternoon. The ceremony, which took place inside the 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 jackets.

This year’s class featured offensive tackle Tony Boselli, receiver Cliff Branch, safety LeRoy Butler, linebacker Sam Mills, defensive linemen Richard Seymour and Bryant Young, coach Dick Vermeil and journeyman 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 into the league in 1995. Branch, Butler, Seymour, Young and Vermeil come to Canton with a combined nine Super Bowl rings. McNally was inducted after a decorated career that includes being credited with creating instant replay.

Here are the highlights of today’s ceremony, starting with one of the most popular Packers in franchise history.

LeRoy’s jump to Canton

A standout safety for the Packers, Butler is credited with making the first “Lambeau Leap” in 1993. His versatility helped the Packers defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, Green Bay’s first title in 29 years. Butler began his speech in a unique way. He quoted musician DJ Khaled, who was well received by the crowd.

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

Mills keeps hitting

Posthumously inducted, Mills anchored the Saints’ “Dome Patrol” defense before helping the Panthers to an appearance in the NFC Championship Game in 1996. That season, the 37-year-old linebacker became the oldest player never named to the Pro Bowl. Mills’ mantra was “keep punching,” a battle cry the Panthers use to this day.

Former Saints coach Jim Mora was one of Mills’ presenters. Mora shared his memory of seeing the 5-foot-9 Mills break the pack during his rookie season. Mora admitted that he was scared of Mills before seeing him make a tackle moments later as he shrugged off a blocker that weighed at least 100 pounds more.

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

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

“Sam treated everyone with the respect and dignity they deserved,” he said. “He would ask about your day and he would listen, because he cared.

“Keep punching, y’all, because that’s what Sam would want you to do.”

Seymour praises Bill Belichick, has HOF push for Robert Kraft

An integral member of the Patriots’ dynasty of the early 2000s, Seymour is the first player recruited by Bill Belichick to be enshrined in 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 Hall of Fame class of 2023. Seymour said Kraft fostered a selfless culture focused on team success.

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

Seymour follows former New England teammates Ty Law, Randy Moss and Junior Seau in Canton. He’s sure more Patriots will follow, including former New England QB Tom Brady.

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

McNally makes history

Known as the founder of modern umpiring, McNally spent 48 years in the NFL as an umpire, including a successful career as the league’s umpiring supervisor. He is the first former official enshrined in Canton.

McNally, who watched the ceremony from his home, recorded an acceptance speech that included his appreciation for NFL officials. He also joked about how officials usually don’t want attention, but today was obviously an exception.

“I think this is what’s best for an official: get the job done, hopefully no one will know you’re around, make the calls the right way with a big dose of common sense.”

QB Tony Boselli

Boselli, one of the best tackles in league history, shared that he had other soccer aspirations during his childhood.

“I wanted to be a quarterback in the NFL,” said Boselli, who specifically wanted to play quarterback 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 very good water boy,” Boselli said with a smile.

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

While not listed as a quarterback, Boselli’s quarterback at Jacksonville, Mark Brunell, served as its presenter.

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

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

Young honors his late son

During his speech, Bryant Young spoke about his son, Colby, who passed away in 2016 after a valiant battle with cancer. Young fought back emotion as she spoke to his son.

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

Young’s path to the Hall of Fame hit a major crossroads in 1998. Then, in his fifth season with the 49ers, Young suffered a serious, career-threatening leg injury. Despite the significance of the injury, Young persevered and played nine more seasons. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1999, a year after suffering the injury. A member of the 1990s All-Decade team, Young helped the 49ers win the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl during his rookie season.

“I proudly wore gold my entire career,” said Young, who before the 49ers played college for Notre Dame. “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 enshrined in Canton, an NFL record for a single unit. Branch, who passed away in 2019, was a valued member of the Raiders’ three Super Bowl-winning teams. His unmatched speed helped him earn Team of the Decade honors in the 1970s.

Branch’s sister, Elaine Anderson, gave her induction speech. Raiders owner Mark Davis also served as host for Branch, calling him “my best friend.”

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

“Clifford delayed, but did not refuse.”

Branch’s teammate, Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff, was on hand to celebrate Branch’s induction.

“Mister finally got some speed there,” Biletnikoff said before Branch’s induction.

Dick Vermeil praises others for induction

Few coaches have been as 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 layoff as coach, Vermeil led the Rams, who lost more games in the ’90s than any other team, to a memorable Super Bowl run in 1999. He then ended the Chiefs’ seven-game playoff drought. by leading Kansas City to a 13-3 season in 2003.

Rather than celebrate himself, Vermeil thanked everyone who helped him win a gold jacket. He specifically mentioned the player whose entrance at the end of this great victory contributed to his induction into the Hall of Fame.

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

Vermeil, a former high school coach, told members of his high school team in attendance that he coached more than 60 years ago.

“I still call them kids, they are in their seventies today,” he said.

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

From his years with the Eagles, Vermeil paid tribute to Wilbert Montgomery and John Bunting, former players who later served as Vermeil’s coaches. Vermeil also thanked the Eagles fans who supported him from 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 known crybaby, Vermeil didn’t cry until he talked about his wife, Carol. He intentionally waited until the end of his speech to praise his wife of 66 years, knowing she would shed tears.

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