Dave Casper Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium
August 3, 2002
John Madden (Presenter):
Thank you. I’ll tell you, this is great - this whole thing. If you’re a fan of football then there is no better football than pro football. This is the place you want to be today. When you have all these great players of the past that are up here. That was like the ‘Holy Roller’ (referring to a page of his speech that fell from podium) - when that thing rolls there, Casper, just jump on it, you know what I mean?
Anyway, these great players, and congratulations to the Class of 2002. You know, they say, that when you get up here, they already got the votes, you don’t have to say why they ought to be in the Hall of Fame. They’re already in the Hall of Fame and we’re here to celebrate. And, I don’t think there’s any place better to celebrate the Hall of Fame than here in Canton, Ohio - the job that you people do is just amazing. I mean you go to a breakfast at 7:00 in the morning and there’s 5,000 people there, and a dinner last night. And you go to a parade - I counted over 100,000 people at the parade today - counted 50,000 blue 12 jerseys. Now that’s a celebration - that’s what we’re here for - we’re here to cheer, and to celebrate, and to have a good time.
They show the pictures of Dave Casper, and the “Ghost to the Post,” and you see the “Holy Roller” and that’ll be part of his legacy but that’s not what Dave Casper was all about. Dave Casper was a great tight end, and the best tight end that ever played. If you look at the definition of a tight end. When you want a blocker, you want that tight end to be as good a blocker as the offensive lineman. Dave Casper, when you needed a blocker, was as good a blocker as any offensive lineman. Then, when you wanted a receiver, you wanted a guy that was as good as any wide receiver. And, Dave Casper, as a receiver, was as good as any wide receiver. He was passionate about football and he was bright. And, as I said, he was one of the smartest guys that I’ve ever known. And, what happens when you’re smart. You know talking about smart, what I can’t figure out is I just listened to this thing (video) and I thought they did a pretty job with him - they got him in 1974. You know, we drafted him in 1974, didn’t start him until ’76. Most guys wouldn’t do that - how you gonna get a guy in the Hall of Fame, well ‘let’s draft him and not play him for two years and then play him, and he’ll be in the Hall of Fame.’ You know, sometimes in life, you just get stuck on stupid and that was me for those first few years. I apologize, but I’ll guarantee you, he made it up, he made it up after that
And then, when you’re bright like him, then the next thing is you get bored. Like, we were coming over here in the bus today and I just wanted to see if I could still do it. Don’t worry about the horse being blind; just load the wagon - what the hell. So, that gets him ready. Then, he was saying that he could cut Deacon Jones. So Deacon Jones says, ‘you couldn’t cut me, you wouldn’t touch me.’ So, I get John Stallworth and I said, ‘watch this.’ So I said to Deacon, ‘you know I think Casper can cut you.’ ‘No, there’s no way’ so all the way over for about 15 minutes, they argued about whether Dave Casper could cut Deacon Jones, and that’s the statement that Dave Casper makes, and that’s who he is.
We used to take film and he would get so bored that as the play would go away, he would do a somersault. And, then you’d have to catch him - that he did the somersault. But, that was his statement, ‘okay, I got it, now I’m bored.’
One time with another team, this wasn’t when I was coaching him. But, the coach told him, and we didn’t have this at Oakland, but the coach told him ‘you have to keep your helmet on at all times. Always keep your hat on.’ I always believed you only needed your hat when you were playing but this coach wanted him to always keep your hat on at all times. So Dave Casper being Dave Casper that we all know and love, kept his helmet on. Went to shower, took a shower with his helmet on. Went to lunch, swear to God, ate through the mask, ate his lunch through the mask. Coach told him to keep his helmet on at all times.
But, that was because he was so bright. On the football field, he was everything that you’ve always wanted in a football player and more. The great thing about this Hall of Fame is if you have a good game, that’s pretty good - you know, a lot of guys get pretty excited to have a good game. If you have a good season, that’s good. If you have a good career, that’s good or something that lasts a lifetime. You just think that this is going to last you a lifetime, and that’s pretty good. But, the Hall of Fame is forever. I mean, this Hall of Fame, and these guys, will be there for all of their lives and all of everyone else’s life. And, it’s something that Dave Casper is in there and will be there, and his family will know this and they will see this forever. And all your families and everyone forever. And, it doesn’t get any better than that. And the big thing is he is in there forever because he earned it and he deserves it. And, I just want to say that it was an honor to coach him, and it’s an honor to be a friend of him and his family. And, it’s an honor to now introduce him for induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dave Casper.
Thanks John, members of the Hall of Fame, the committee, inductees, fans, and the people of Canton. I say the same thing John did, you’ve been great.
I look out - I have most of my friends here - I see most of my life. I see a bunch of Caspers, they’ll come to a party for anything. I see friends from Chilton, from Elgin. I see my coaches from Chilton. You know we were undefeated, untied, and unscored on my senior year in Chilton, Wisconsin. Way to go guys.
I see a lot of people with the Raiders and Notre Dame. Of course I have my family, Susan my wife. Kelly, Carrie, and Andy, my mom, my brother John, my brother Edward. A lot of friends. You know, I stand here, and I’m just going to tell you I’m thankful, I just really am.
It’s been 17 years since I played football. Football did teach me a lot of things, but I think, what I’ve been doing for last 17 years, makes me understand. I don’t think from football but now I understand a little bit. About 12 years ago, I began a career with Northwestern Mutual. After not doing that well at the beginning, they basically told me to get to work. Do the right thing. And, they were great people. And, I started to do better, and my life kind of got better, and I started - a light went on. I realized that in my life I’ve been around world-class people and world-class partners. And I’ve had four of them. I’ve had Notre Dame, I’ve had my wife Susan, I’ve had the Oakland Raiders, and of course, Northwestern Mutual.
You know what, I can take credit for three of them. I picked Notre Dame. I asked my wife Susan to marry me. I actually picked Northwestern. The fourth one, I was lucky when Al Davis drafted me, so thanks Al.
Notre Dame gave me four unique gifts. One is a family - no matter where I go, I’m a part of it. Two is a relationship with God that we know is unique. Three was introduction to my wife Susan, and four was Coach Parseghian.
Coach Ara Parseghian demanded excellence. I was fortunate to be there in 1973 when these guys took us to the national championship. So, coach, I’ll never forget it. You were the greatest - you made us all better than what we were.
I married Susan a week after I graduated in Sacred Heart Church, and we’ve been through good times and bad times. Thank you.
Then, the Raiders drafted me. I became a part of a great team built by Al Davis, coached by John Madden, who maybe could have started me a couple games earlier. But, you know what, he was on my butt every day. He made me better than I was willing to be, and I thank him for that. We have Tom Flores who was my receiver coach. I’m not sure Tom taught me how to play tight end but he taught me how to learn how to play tight end. Every day he worked with me, taught me a lot of skills. Nobody else was a better teacher - the Raiders were great teachers.
I see other coaches, I see a lot of the Raiders and Notre Dame friends. We have some great Raiders obviously - there’s double-digit Hall of Famers here from the Oakland Raiders. I would not be here if I had not played next to Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Dalby, Philyaw, Vella. If I hadn’t had Flip and Fred. If I hadn’t had Willie, if I hadn’t had Jack, if I hadn’t had Hendricks. You go down the line, they brought me here. I wouldn’t be here without them.
So, anyway, I just have to finally say that - I’d like to tell you a quick story. When I was 10 years old, I rode my bike around Elgin, I watched some kids playing football. I went home and told my mom, and she said ‘why didn’t you go play with them?’ I said, ‘I didn’t think you wanted me to.’ But, she said ‘go ahead,’ and so I did.
I ran into Coach Hopkins, he was my peewee football coach, I don’t know where he is. They put me out there. They said, ‘you think you can do it? Are you tough enough? Are you scared?’ I said, ‘hell, I don’t know - I didn’t say hell.’ They put a pair of shoulder pads on us, and a pair of blue jeans. You know, they didn’t have any lawyers back then - they didn’t worry about getting sued.
They had a kid named Junior Croom and they handed him the football. And, I somehow got Junior down, Junior was big. They let me play, and it was a lot of fun. And my Mom dressed me for every game. She went to watch me. Hope you had fun, Mom.
I just hope all you guys have the friends that I have. Thank you.