Dan Hampton Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of Fame - Canton, Ohio
August 3, 2002
Ed O'bradovich (presenter):
Thank you. My congratulations to the Class of 2002. Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm here to present a true friend, Dan Hampton or as his peers called him, 'Danimal.' The 25th (26th) Chicago Bear to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.
When Dan was drafted in the first round in '79, one of the things you knew early on in his career was the tradition and pride of what it meant to be a Chicago Bear. And nobody exemplified the meaning "Monsters of the Midway" better than Dan. His loyalty to the Bears and to his teammates was never to be questioned. He wanted to play 12 years in three decades and play in the final play of the last game, win a Super Bowl, and he did.
The story about Dan's unique qualities on the field are too numerous to mention. But there are some facts and stats that I would like to share with you. And, this will tell you why he earned the respect of both his teammates and his opponents. From Dan's years of '79 to '90, the Bears defense led the league in each of the following categories: fewest rushing yards, fewest rushing touchdowns, most sacks, fewest points allowed, fewest total yards. Breaking down the Bears defense from '83 to '90, into 20 different categories, separate the games that Dan played from the games that he didn't play and in every single category, the Bears defense improved dramatically with Dan on the line. Chris Berman eluded to one when he introduced Dan early, and I think it's worth repeating because there's a few examples. The Bears won 75 percent of their games when Dan played and only 33 percent when he didn't. Sacks: 3.6 with Dan; without him: 2.3. And, the one category that really stands out, Bears only gave up 14 points per game with Dan, and without him, 23 points a game - incredible.
One quality that impressed me the most about Dan's play was his unbelievable strength. He constantly had to beat a double-team either by running over the center, guard, or tackle. What he was really good out was picking up a 290-pound center in one hand, a 295-pound guard in the other hand, driving them back seven yards and dumping them both into the quarterback's lap - awesome stuff.
If you talk to teammates Jim Osborne, Steve McMichael, Mike Hartenstine, Gary Fencik, or Hall of Famer Mike Singletary behind me, they all would say one thing that Hampton made it a hell of a lot easier for us.
Throughout Dan's 12-year career, he is one of the few players to be enshrined into the NFL Hall of Fame to play two different positions, defensive end and defensive tackle. And made all-pro and the Pro Bowl at both of these positions.
So, I know how hot it is out here, and I'll tell you what, you people are absolutely the best. God bless you for hanging in here - it's tremendous.
So, please if you want go over there after this over and view the Hall of Fame, take some time in visiting the Hall, to view Dan's highlight films. To see the awesome ability that he displayed, game after game, year after year, and doing so through 12 - I repeat 12 - knee operations. Thank you.
When you talk about pride, dedication, ability, and courage, those words are Dan Hampton.
You getting ready here big guy. And, now, it is my privilege to present for induction into the National Football League Hall of Fame Class of 2002, six-time all-pro Dan Hampton!
Whew. Take a guess why O'B's here with me today. God love you O'B. You talk about what it meant to be a Chicago Bear, I learned it all from you - I love you. Thank you so much for being here - you and your great family.
To the people of Canton - thank you so much for opening your hearts and your city to not only my class - the Class of 2002 - but all of the Hall of Famers who are back today. God bless you, thank you so much for being here for us. And, I'll tell you what; this has been an outstanding experience the last few days. But, I'll tell you what, as I sit here and watch each of the guys in my class get presented, all I could think about is one thing - how great a game is the game of football that we're all here today to be a part of this class going into the Hall of Fame, it's incredible.
Quick thanks to the Hall of Fame Board of Selectors, and of course, the committee. But, I've got to tell you something folks. Man, I am so fortunate; I'm the luckiest guy that you'll ever meet. Because I'm the 25th (26th) Chicago Bear to go into that building over there. God, "Papa Bear" would be really smiling, and I'm sure he is somewhere today. But, my God, it's the greatest feeling in the world.
I'm humbled to be a part of today's festivities. But let me just say this, I'm kind of sick of hearing about myself. You know, you get a little overkill on this thing, but. I just want to start by saying that as I go into that Hall of Fame this afternoon that I will not be walking in there by myself. I do not stand alone, and I haven't stood alone my entire life. That's why I think I'm one of the luckiest people you'll ever meet. But man, how great is it that this great game of football has taught me how lucky I have been in my life. You know, the great thing about football is it's a special game played by special people. Because you have to learn to love each other, to be committed to each other, to sacrifice for each other. And, my God, how lucky was I to play with the players and coaches that I did.
Man, I'll tell you what, playing the game of football will teach you so many things. Deacon has talked about all the different qualities, and of course, John just mentioned them. I don't want to go over them again. But, I've got to tell you something, it'll teach you how to compete. You know, your life's based on competition, but, man I'll tell you what, I'm so fortunate to be around so many great people that taught me how to compete in my life. Because, as you got off that film there, I didn't want to play football. I guess a lot of these guys on the stage grew up thinking they wanted to go to the Hall of Fame at some point in their life. I never thought about the Hall of Fame. But, I'll tell you what, once I got involved in the game, it teaches you those qualities that you really look for, not only in football but in life. To give you the strength, the dedication and courage, to try to become and strive to be the best person you can be on and off the field.
But, I'll tell you what, how lucky was I that as I learned to compete in this game, that the good Lord had me go to Chicago where I got to play with one of the greatest competitors of all time, #34 - Walter Payton. I've got to tell you something; I got to play nine years with Walter Payton.
Man, it wasn't because Walter was the biggest or the strongest or the fastest that's all-time NFL leader in yardage but it's because he had the biggest heart. Now, I'm not saying he wasn't a great athlete - I watched Walter a long time. I got to see him play tennis by himself once, and that's pretty impressive if you think about it. But, my God, how lucky was I to be a part of his career and his life. But, that's the way it was being a part of the Chicago Bears - so many great people, from the players to the coaches.
And don't think for one second as we stand before you today - and after 12 knee operations O'B, I'm glad to be standing after this weekend. As we stand before you today, the four athletes that are going in, every one of us our coaches are in the Hall of Fame. And the other coach, of course, is George Allen who is being inducted today. So, how about a round for all the great coaches that we have had in our life that we don't have time to mention while we're up here for our seven minutes. My God.
I'm so very fortunate that a couple of my coaches are here today. You know, when I got to Chicago, we weren't very good. We didn't have a lot of talent but, by God, we had some great coaches. My defensive line coach, Dale Haupt's sitting right over here. He's very special to me and I'll tell you why. He taught me that this game of football, and especially at the position I played, that you have to be willing to sacrifice yourself for the greater good of the team. And, I'll tell you what, I'll never forget that after a very trying day up in Minnesota where I was double-teamed about 65 times during the course of a ballgame, I was frustrated, I was really at the breaking point. And, I told him and in not so many nice words as I held him by his throat, that I'm sick of this stuff and I'm not going to play inside anymore, I want to move back outside. And, Dale Haupt said to me, he says, 'Dan, what makes you special is the fact that you can do something special. But it's not easy.'
To play inside, and Merlin Olsen and these defensive lineman up here with me today, they know that that's part of the legacy of playing inside on the defensive line. That it's not easy, but that's what makes you special. Coach Haupt thank you so much for making sure that I realized how important I was to the team to be able sacrifice for the greater good. Thank you. Thanks for the million up-downs, not really. You're the best. Thank you so much for coming.
You know, we had Buddy Ryan on the screen here a moment ago, but. In every player's life, you get a certain coach that really touches your soul. Buddy was from Oklahoma, I was born in Oklahoma, and right off, we hit it off the bat. I'll tell you what, as a first round pick, I really felt like the Chicago Bears expected an awful lot of me. I'll tell you this, I started playing pretty good at the end of my rookie year, and I got a little bigheaded. I thought I was doing pretty good. And, we go into Pittsburgh my second year. Yeah, it's when they had this juggernaut - about half of them are up here on this stage. And, we go in there, and I swear, not only do I not make a play but I'm not even in the film. It's like I walk into a spaceship or something. You don't even find me on the tape. The next morning we come into the meeting after getting beat about 40-0. Buddy is standing up in front of the meeting and he's got tears in his eyes. And, he says, 'you know, big Rook, I thought we could count on you. Because, with you playing the way you're capable of you give us a chance to be special. Now, if I can get some other guys to show up and they have a great game, man, we've got a chance to really have a great day as a defense. But, if I can't count on you to be the player that we expect, man, we're dead. We'll get gutted week in and week out.'
But, I went home and I didn't sleep for about three days. And, I realized then, that what he used to say is true. That football is not a game where you make a living, the game's not about making money. To us, the guys that really care about it, it's about winning. It's a game of finding the difference in people. Looking in their hearts and seeing who's willing to compete and to make a difference. And, who wants to be a man. And Buddy Ryan, you made me a man by making me understand that I had to grow up and do what I had to do each and every week to become a true professional football player. And, you were the greatest thing that I could ever tell you about anyone that ever played under you is that you made us men, and we love for that. Thank you so much, Buddy.
But, as I said, you know, the thing about it is - the great thing about football is you get a chance to win. And, we talked about how George Allen turned it around wherever he went. Of course, John Stallworth was with great teams, and of course, Dave Casper winning a championship in Oakland.
But the thing is man, winning is so important in this great game of football because that's the only salvation we have. A lot of us, we don't get our names up in lights, we don't get ourselves in the newspapers. So, winning was our only salvation and that's why it became a very special thing to us in Chicago to try to turn it around.
Well, we started to turn it around because we started getting some great players. Of course, the thing that you look at on a football team is great talent. The Steelers were great, the Raiders were great, they got a lot of guys in the Hall of Fame because they had great talent. But, I'll tell you what, in Chicago we started getting that talent. We had some guys. We had guys like Gary Fencik who's here, Jim Osborne, big Al Harris, but, I'll tell you what, we needed more. We started drafting well - we got McMichael and Dent, we starting putting together what I think is the greatest defense of all time, the 1985 Chicago Bear defense. Deacon, I'm sorry buddy, but we still have the NFL record for sacks - set in 1984.
But, I'll tell you this, how great was it to be a part of that. To be a part of something special, man. It's something that every football player yearns for. That's what we wanted to achieve. And, of course, the final piece of the puzzle came when Mike Ditka was hired on as our head coach. When Ditka addressed our team in 1982, he said, 'my goal is to go and win the Super Bowl.' And, up to that point, nobody believed that the Bears were even qualified to go to the Super Bowl. Well, four years later, down in New Orleans after winning Super Bowl XX against the New England Patriots, we knew, that of course, that we had come full circle. From a team that didn't know where we were going to the top of the heap. And, I'll tell you what, these coaches are the ones who that made it possible for not only myself, but all the other players that played for you. Thank you so much to coaches of the Chicago Bears. I'm so happy that you're here today.
Of course, when you start talking about thanking people, you got to thank your friends and family. I've got so many friends here today, but. But our family has been so, so special and my greatest supporters throughout my life. My sister's here - Linda, I love you. Thank you so much for being there all the times. My brother Matt who drove over 10,000 miles in my college career to watch me play for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Thank you Matt, I love you. Thank you for everything that you've done, and you and Paula coming up today. And, of course, my mother. Mama, you're in Canton, baby. My dad's not here but he'd watch it. To my daughter Dakota who's here. Honey, thank you, you know I love you "Mini-me." And, my fiancée Gina, you Michael, and your family mean the world to me. Thank you so much for coming today and being such a great part of this Hall of Fame endeavor for me. Thank you.
I'd like to say thank you to the Bears organization. Of course, the great Jim Finks, the late great Jim Finks and his scouts Bill Tobin, who's here today; Jim Parmer who's too ill to come. They were the guys convinced the Bears organization to take a chance on a skinny kid out of the University of Arkansas. Back in college, I didn't think I was very good. I had the three things that you don't want to be as a football player - small, slow, and friendly. But, I'll tell you this, they took a chance on me and I'm so grateful for that.
Brian McCaskey, you're here today to represent the McCaskey family. Thanks for coming. You know, you talk about where did it all get started. I started in 11th grade in high school, and Bill Reed is the guy who got me out of the high school band. I've got to say thanks to him. Of course, Lou Holtz and Harold Horton, my coaches in college, they were terrific for me. Fred Caito, the trainer of the Bears. I mean I don't know how tough your job is but this guy had his hands full with me. Clyde Emrich, the weight coach, he was terrific.
But, most importantly of all, the players that I had a great chance and privilege of playing with. As I said, Gary Fencik, he he's today, "The Hitman," you and Plank taught me so much about being a pro when I first got there. I love you. Mike Singletary. I don't know what else I can say about this guy but I love him, and we'll have a bond together as long as we live. Thank you Mike. Otis Wilson, Wilber Marshall, the other two linebackers - they were great to be a part of that team with us.
Now, my defensive linemates. Mike Hartenstine, I still think the greatest defensive lineman from the state of Pennsylvania. You were the best Mikey. Jim Osborne. Ozzy, you were such a ball to play with, it was a joy to be just out on the field with you at anytime. Fridge - now how can you not love playing with the Fridge, and I'm so thankful that he never fell on me. Big Al Harris, we were drafted together and we played together, and we stayed together. I love you, thank you so much for coming today. Richard Dent, the best pass rusher I ever played with. He should be over here making a trip one day, I hope so, the Super Bowl MVP. And, of course, Steve McMichael. "Ming the Merciless" - he and I, for one special moment in time, we were about as good as good gets. And, he's the toughest man I ever met south of the picket wire, maybe next to me. Thank you to all of you that played with me.
O'Bradovich, you know that I think the world of you. This whole week has been just a privilege and honor and I'm just so humbled to be a part of it. But, you know, on the plane as I flew in here, I was thinking about coming to this ceremony today. Now, this is an awards banquet of sorts, and this is the granddaddy of award banquets of all time. And, I'll never be able to come to another awards banquet and not think about this.
But, I remember my very first awards banquet. I was the first one in high school to make All-American, and I went to awards banquet and I sat right down front, thinking I'm going to get some awards. And, boy I couldn't wait when the head coach, Bill Reed, said 'our the offensive lineman of the year is…' and I thought to stand up, 'Lee Monroe.'
I said that's okay, I play both ways. I'll wait. The next thing he said, 'is our defensive lineman of the year goes to' and I was about to stand up again, and he says 'Rodney Jansen.' I'm saying wait a minute, wait a minute, what's up with this. Then, I remembered we had the big award, the Red Devil Award, and I say, 'oh yeah, that's me.' And he said, 'our 1975 Red Devil Award winner of the year is,' and I stood up and he said, 'Fernando Weathers,' and I immediately led a standing ovation for Fernando Weathers.
But, I realized right then that maybe you're not as great as you think you are. Man, I'll tell you what, this is a humbling game, and this is a humbling thing for me to do today as I stand here before you. I don't know - is Dan Hampton good enough? Does he deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? Only time will tell but I'll tell you this - it is a great honor to be standing before you today. But the thing that coach told me in high school is, 'the reason I didn't give you those awards Dan is because the guys that you played with, they played just as hard, and they cared just as much, and they practiced just as long, and they bled just as much, and they sweat just as hard. And, they're not going to get a chance to go to college. And you are because the good Lord has given you a great gift. So, instead of these awards, you think about honoring the good Lord and his gift to you by going and making the most of your talent.'
So, as I leave here today, and I go back over and I walk into that sacred ground, I'm thinking about everyone I played - from high school to college to Chicago. And, like I said, today you know why I've never walked alone. God bless America, and God bless pro football. Thank you.