This weekend, Canton, Ohio, welcomed another class into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 2019 group included many contemporary football stars like Champ Bailey, Tony Gonzalez, Ty Law, Kevin Mawae and Ed Reed.
These popular inductees drew a large crowd to the enshrinement ceremony. They have also become popular personalities on the sports speaker circuit and their ability to connect on stage really shined during their acceptance speeches.
Bailey was celebrated as a cornerback throughout his career, making 12 trips to the Pro Bowl as well as being selected as a first-team All-Pro three times. He retired with 52 career interceptions.
Bailey spent plenty of time discussing the impact veterans like Darrell Green and Deion Sanders had on him early in his career with the Washington Redskins. He also addressed the joy he had finishing his playing days with a class organization with the Denver Broncos.
Most notably, Bailey used the final minutes of his presentation to tackle the country's issues regarding race relations.
"You want to create change, you better start with your friends and your family," Bailey said. "On behalf of all the black men that I have mentioned tonight and many more out there, who have had most of the same experiences that I've had in my lifetime, we say this to all our white friends: When we tell you about our fears, please listen. When we tell you we are afraid for our kids, please listen. When we tell you there are many challenges we face because of the color of our skin, please listen and please do not get caught up in how the message is delivered."
Gonzalez is arguably the best tight end to ever play the game and he was selected to 14 Pro Bowls. He holds the tight end record with 15,127 receiving yards and is second among all pass-catchers with 1,325 receptions.
Gonzalez's speech was an emotional one, as he talked a great deal about family. He shared the letters he left for his children that morning and talked about his 101-year old grandmother, who was in the audience.
Gonzalez also poignantly touched on what football has meant to him.
"It's not about the touchdowns, it's not about the catches, it's not about the glory,'' Gonzalez said. "The most learning you'll do comes through the bad times."
Law cemented his legacy in the postseason, where he won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots and also had six interceptions in 13 career playoff games. He was also a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro.
As the first player associated with the Patriots epic run to get into the Hall, Law recognized his former teammates that were in the audience. In that same vein, he also touched on the importance of having other people in your corner as you go throughout life.
Ultimately, Law shared a motivational message that hammered home how important it is to believe in yourself.
“You can’t wait for someone else to validate your purpose,” Law said. “You have to believe in yourself. You can’t wait for somebody else to tell you you’re great. You have to believe in yourself. You can’t wait for society to tell you that you’re beautiful or that you’re a good person. You have to believe that for yourself."
With eight Pro Bowl selections and six All-Pro nods, Mawae is one of the greatest centers in NFL history. He blocked for running backs who combined for 13 1,000-yard seasons during his career.
Mawae was able to remark on the unique history he was making as the first Hawaiian to make the Hall. He also spent time remembering his brother, who died in a 1996 car accident.
Most importantly, Mawae wanted the audience to remember all the great lessons football teaches.
“The game of football taught me accountability. It taught me discipline, sacrifice and selflessness. It developed in me grit, tenacity and confidence. It challenged my faith. It grew my ability. It sealed my legacy. That journey that started 40 years ago on a European continent and took me to the deep south and other parts of this great country, the journey that encompassed many miles, many friends, numerous lessons and a lifetime of memories, today that journey finally ends. Today I stand at the doorstep of football immorality. I knock on this door, and I tell all of you, ‘I am home.'”
Reed was one of the most feared players on defense during his career. He was a three-time league leader in interceptions and a nine-time Pro Bowler.
Reed opened his speech with the "Athlete's Prayer," something he recited before each of his games in the NFL. He also spent a lot of the time thanking everyone in his life from his father Edward Reed Sr, who was his Hall of Fame presenter, to other family members, teammates and even his barber.
Like Bailey, Reed also used his platform to tackle some bigger issues, including mental illness and gun violence.
"America, what is our standard?" Reed said. "That's what we need to do, help each other, lift each other up."
To inquire about the speaking fee and appearance cost for the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, contact the agents at Athlete Speakers by calling us at 800-916-6008 or by Starting Your Booking Request Now.