Gil Brandt Enshrinement Speech
Thank you, all. It's been a great honor to be here this evening in historic Canton, Ohio, the birthplace of professional football. Who would have thought the Canton Bulldogs would have been the catalyst to lead us where we are today, with the National Football League being the biggest sports league in the world. And thank you to those who asked. No, I was not a scout for the Bulldogs.
I would like to begin tonight by recognizing my family and thanking my beautiful wife, Sara; my son, Hunter, and my wife Callen for always being at my side. With all the travel and long, long days in today's ‑‑ in this industry, you have to have the support of family, and I have been blessed to this very day. Thank you very much.
Thank you to the Hall of Fame voters for allowing me to be here today. And a special thanks to my fellow Hall of Famer, Jerry Jones, for the greatest honor of him presenting me for induction.
As you know, Jerry and I have come a long way since our first three months of working together. When we parted ways following the 1989 draft, I could not imagine how incredible the next three decades in the NFL would become. Jerry, thank you for today's wonderful presentation, thank you for inducting me into the prestigious Cowboys Ring of Honor last season, and thank you for making me a free agent 30 years ago.
(Laughter and applause.)
Jerry and the entire Jones family has done an unbelievable job of building the Dallas Cowboys into one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. Jerry has been an incredible catalyst and leader for the NFL's growth since he came onto the scene in 1989.
I want to thank ‑‑ especially thank another member of the Cowboys family, public relations senior vice president Rich Dalrymple, for being such a trusted friend. He's one of the best there is.
I recognize ‑‑ I must recognize three legendary men who aren't with us anymore but made such a defining impression on not only the Cowboys franchise but the NFL as a whole. Mr. Murchison has never received the proper national recognition for his contributions to the NFL.
His vision in 1960 of what a pro football team should look like led him to one of the showcase franchises in NFL history. His resounding commitment to Tex, Tom, and myself was the foundation of what has become today's America's Team.
Tom ‑‑ Tex Schramm was one the most visionary men in modern sports history. He was an innovator who never stood still and, along with commissioner Pete Rozelle, led the dynamic growth of the NFL in the '60s, '70s, and '80s. What would a generation be today without instant replay, Thanksgiving Day games on national television, and the world‑renowned Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.
His network TV background allowed him to see the different vision for the game, colors that had proved ‑‑ that appealed to viewers, arrows next to the numbers on the field, a referee microphone, wind direction strips on the goalposts, just to name a few. We once shared a bridge between our properties in Dallas, and I'm so proud our busts will share a room here in Canton.
Another legend who I'm so proud to join here in Canton is my good friend Tom Landry, Coach Tom Landry. What a great man to work alongside.
(Cheers and applause.)
You can go through all the stats, 270 NFL wins, two Super Bowls, 10‑straight winning ‑‑ 20‑straight winning seasons. You can go ‑‑ and you can go through his own history of innovations ‑‑ the flex defense, the shotgun, and situation substitution which he began using in the '80s.
But what made him such a truly great person was his character, his personal integrity and the way he treated people, whether it was coal workers, players, or fans. Whatever line of work Tom Landry had ventured into, he would have been a huge success. Thank goodness for us he chose football.
I was fortunate enough to work alongside these great men for almost 30 years and help bring winning football to the growing city of Dallas, Texas. What made the Dallas Cowboys organization so successful was the players, and a number of them are on the stage here today, and plus we have a bunch of them here in the audience today. That's why the Cowboys were successful.
Here as ‑‑ the lifeline of any organization is the players. Over my 60 years in this industry, I still get the biggest thrill I got out of seeing college kids I scouted and believed in and championed grow into some of the greatest players to ever wear a uniform.
I'm extremely proud, I'm extremely proud, that with the backing of the Dallas Cowboys during a highly volatile time in race relations in our country I was able to get in on the ground floor of doing scouting at predominantly historically black universities and colleges.
Places like Jethro Pugh from Elizabeth City Teachers College, or Fort Valley State where future Hall of Famer Rayfield Wright dominated the competition. Florida A&M, where I witnessed the world‑class athlete Bob Hayes, and over 20 years later another great athlete in guard Nate Newton. Langston University in Oklahoma where Thomas Henderson played on an 0‑11 team as a senior
But he possessed some of the most incredible athletic talent I've ever seen. I'm so proud of "Hollywood," who I believe is here tonight, the demons that he overcame and what he has accomplished over his last 35 years of sobriety, and I can promise you ‑‑ I can promise you this ‑‑
(Cheers and applause.)
There weren't any other scouts on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University the day we were fortunate enough to bring Pettis Norman into our organization.
I'm still highly honored to hold an annual vote for the Black College Football Hall of Fame who will play a game here in September, where I'm proud to say former Dallas Cowboys running back Timmy Newsome from Winston‑Salem State was one of our inductees this past year.
I'm also grateful to our organization for being on the cutting edge of some great personnel decisions while locating talent in other sports, basketball players who had never played a down of college football. One of my all‑time favorites, Cornell Green of Utah State who went on to start 145 consecutive games and was named All‑Pro four seasons. Never played a day of college football.
Even a European soccer‑style kicker like Tony Fritsch from Austria who was one of the first soccer‑style players to come into the league. Not to mention the undrafted free agents that we brought into training camp every year for an opportunity to show their talents.
Fantastic players emerged, many of whom should be in the Hall of Fame today, players like Drew Pearson from Tulsa, safety Cliff Harris from Ouachita Baptist, Bill Bates from Tennessee, Dave Edwards from Auburn, and a young corner from Grambling named Everson Walls who finished his NFL career with 57 interceptions.
As every scout and personnel man knows, being on the road scouting gives you an opportunity to interact not only with players but coaches and other scouts.
It gave me a chance to develop an everlasting relationship with a lot of legends of the game, like senior linebacker at Wichita University I scouted in the fall of 1963, Bill Parcells. Never played a down in the NFL but coached two NFL teams to Super Bowls. Or a backfield coach for the Minnesota Vikings Golden Gophers in 1979, a young offensive genius named Mike Shanahan ‑‑
(Cheers and applause.)
I thought you Denver people would like that ‑‑ who went on to lead the Broncos to two Super Bowl championships.
(Cheers and applause.)
Some of them weren't even in coaching, like a brand‑new 31‑year‑old head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team during a scouting trip to ‑‑ I met during a scouting trip to Bloomington, Indiana. This was my first encounter with my most endearing lifelong friend, a legendary Bob Knight.
And some of you just cannot fathom like a 12‑year‑old kid whose dad, Steve, was a coach at Navy. He would run routes on the practice field for quarterback Roger Staubach during my scouting visits to Annapolis in the early '60s. How was I to know that that little boy who loved football so much would be a six‑time Super Bowl champion named Bill Belichick
(Cheers and applause.)
Who finds his name to be listed among the best coaches ever to coach this game and has been a great friend for over 50 years.
Not to mention great players and great men who deserve further recognition like Lee Roy Jordan, who's here tonight; Charlie Waters is here tonight that played so great for the Dallas Cowboys for so many years; or the last two first‑round picks I was part of with the Cowboys, my fellow Hall of Famers Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman; or even going back to the early days with incredible men like lifelong friends Bob Lilly and Mel Renfro.
My life has been an incredible journey, all inspired by football. I have been fortunate enough to see this growth of this game the past 60 years. When we were one of the founders of the first scouting combine in the early '80s, who would envision how far this event has advanced.
Esteemed Hall of Fame voter Rick Gosselin recently said that 20 years ago, the first combine, there were seven media members credentialed for the combine. This past year there was over 2,000.
And the draft. Where do I even begin? We used to do it in one day when teams gathered in a hotel ballroom to divvy up that year's draft, college draft to supply ‑‑ of college talent has become one of the biggest annual events in sports. It's now a three‑day national television premier event with millions watching around the nation. And I would imagine everybody in this crowd probably watched the draft for some time this past year.
When we started working with computers back in the early 1960s, before any other team saw the advantages that followed suit, there was a lot of skepticism in the industry. Fortunately, with the help of a young computer genius from the IBM office named Salam Kerishi, we were able to begin a process of sorting, categorizing, and ranking all the vital data for the process of each player for the incoming college draft.
It was very professionally fulfilling for me that so many of the traits we identified as scouting metrics and landmarks in the early days have been used by the greatest football coaches, scouts, and evaluators of the current generation.
And let me speak directly for a few moments to all of the scouts in today's audience and watching on TV. What you do in locating and securing talent is the lifeblood of the sport of football.
All the time in random hotels, driving from one place to another, it pays off, seeing that player that was something special in his lateral moves or going to a DIII campus and finding a diamond in the rough. It's really, really ‑‑ you deserve a huge applause, I'll say that.
It seems to me that the magic that keeps coming out of on‑the‑road for the half of the year and half the year in a film room has been very important to our success.
Scouting isn't always easy when you get into the nuts and bolts of finding and following 500 new players every season, but it's so rewarding, and I want every single one of you to look at my election into the Hall of Fame as a tip of the cap to the entire scouting industry and see yourself in inclusion in Canton someday.
There's no better testament ‑‑ there's no better testament ‑‑ my notes all flew away here ‑‑ there's no better testament in this league than how much fans care. And I hear from thousands of them from all over the world on my SiriusXM radio shows. I'm so happy to be involved in the NFL channel from the very beginning, and thanks ‑‑ a special thanks to Steve Cohen, Nick Pavlatos, Alex Marvez, who have been with me the entire season.
Also, I have some dear friends from Montana that are here today, and my wife and I and son have shared many wonderful days in the great state of Montana. And when I talk about the two, Jamie Roberts, what a wonderful guy he is, and Brian Wheeler, who's been so helpful over so many of the years, as I wanted to say.
And nothing ‑‑ and then we have so many people that are local people that I know and want to thank. You know, it starts with my good friend ‑‑ my good friend ‑‑ he's a pretty good friend; I can’t think of his name.
But I've got a neighbor just down the block, and he's the greatest entrepreneur in the state of Texas and in the entire world, and he's here tonight with his family and two children.
And nothing would be more complete here unless I talked about Randy Allen, a high school coach at Highland Park High School who has won a state championship three years in a row and overcome a great deal. And is not only that, he was the 2018 High School Coach of the Year. And I spent many afternoons over there.
And I've got a great dear friend by the name of Frazier Maxwell, who's really been my personal assistant for the last 20 years and really keeps me on the straight and narrow.
I'm here today because of a great organization, and at that great organization, as far as I'm concerned, is the office of the National Football League.
Everybody that I've worked with at 345 Park Avenue and I've had the pleasure of working alongside for the past three decades, but especially Greg Aiello, who's no longer with the league; Tracy Perlman, who does such a great job with the players; Michael Signora; Pete Abitante; Joe Browne; and Commissioner Roger Goodell for their respect and assistance.
I'm here today because of the great organization like the Dallas Cowboys that had an owner, a general manager, and a head coach who believed in my ability to find talented players and build a roster. The great players we were fortunate enough to draft and sign are the reason the Cowboys have won five Super Bowls. And I've seen 25 of these players that we drafted are right here in the Hall of Fame today as players, coaches, and contributors, is what it is.
And I want to say this: I'm lucky to be involved in this great enterprise, and I thank all these coaches and players on the staff that we've worked with all the time. I'm so proud of being a part of a continuing impact of the National Football League.
Thank you again to the Hall of Fame voters for this incredible honor and thank you for every one of you who is here today and the millions of Cowboy fans all over the world.
(Cheers and applause.)
And thank you so much to all the fine people of Canton, Ohio, for having me here today. Thank you very much.
(Cheers and applause.)