With a powerful speech calling for “Team America” to be a place for inclusion and opportunity, the great running back of the San Diego Chargers was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
All spoke eloquently, with bursts of humor and heartwarming stories. But Tomlinson’s words resonated so strongly that he drew several standing ovations not only from the crowd of 13,400, but from his now-fellow Gold Jackets.
“Football is a microcosm of America,” Tomlinson said. “All races, religions and creeds, living, playing, competing side by side. When you’re part of a team, you understand your teammates — their strengths and weaknesses — and work together toward the same goal, to win a championship.
“Let’s not choose to be against one another. Let’s choose to be for one another. … I pray we dedicate ourselves to being the best team we can be, working and living together, representing the highest ideals of mankind. Leading the way for all nations to follow.”
Tomlinson and Taylor were elected in their first year of eligibility. Taylor’s emotional speech during which he had to pause several times to compose himself was another highlight.
A third-round draft pick from Akron — just down the road from the Hall of Fame — Taylor’s 139 1/2 career sacks helped him make the All-Decade Team of the 2000s. He also was the NFL’s Man of the Year in 2007.
“I honestly can’t believe I am here,” said Taylor, who kissed the shaved head atop his bust when it was unveiled. “In 1992 I was at the University of Akron, just 20 miles away….
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