Joe Montana Enshrinement speech
Joe Montana Enshrinement Speech 2000
Presenter: Edward DeBartolo Jr.
Thank you very much. Thank you very much. What a day. I told Joe that was going to have to have a speech in front of me because this was not one you could wing. Before I begin to introduce Joe, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate all the other inductees today for all their inspiration and their outstanding achievements in this great sport of football. Dan, Howie, Ronnie, Dave, especially Ronnie. It wouldn’t be right for me not to mention how much you mean to me. You were the heart and you were the soul of our defense. Not for a little time, but for a long time, and I hope you know that I’m as proud of you today as I would be if my own son was coming into the Hall of Fame. My congratulations go out to you, Karen, your lovely family for this very special honor that you are receiving today.
Ladies and Gentlemen, ever since Joe Montana asked me to induct him today, I’ve experienced emotions that go back and forth, but to say the least, they’ve been mixed. Besides being deeply honored, I have also agonized how mere words could do justice to a man whose impact of football reaches far, far beyond the sport itself. I’m not so sure it’s possible to articulate such a legacy, but I’m going to do my best.
Joe Montana, simply stated, was the greatest quarterback ever to play the game. And I don’t think we’ll see the likes of him again. The likes of which go back all the way to 1979 when I don’t even think that Bill Walsh, with all his foresight and with all his brilliance, could ever of realized what we were in midst of when we took a chance on that skinny kid from Notre Dame. It changed our lives forever.
But we all knew greatness when we saw it. The fans of San Francisco certainly knew it, and so did the fans of Kansas City. Football fans everywhere, were well aware of the fact that they were witnessing history in the making as they watched Joe turn losses into wins. What to any other quarterback would have been a career-making highlight, was to Joe, just another day at the office. A dramatic example was a game that we played in Cincinnati many years ago. The Bengals were ahead, they had the ball, and there was about a minute left in the game. All they had to do was use their four downs and run out the clock. For all intents and purposes the game was over. In fact, I was so sure that the game was over that I was on my way down to the parking garage with my family to the car when I was informed that we had the ball back with one second left, somewhere around the 30-yard line. Joe marched on the field. Called an alley-oop pass to Jerry Rice and the game was over. We won the game in one second. That to me is what football is supposed to be all about. Passion, dedication, camaraderie, and a desire for victory so strong that you can taste it.
Look at any old picture of Joe Montana right after he’s thrown a touchdown pass and you’ll see it. Arms raised in the air, that special gleam in his eyes, and a grin full of pure joy. This is the spirit that defined him, the spirit that created the champion that he is. But excellence wasn’t an accident for Joe, it was a habit, a singular act of talent and discipline. He was a master, and he was skilled in an art. The kind of player who could take his time and finesse his way down the field for a touchdown or drive 90 yards in 90 seconds without ever perceiving it as an insurmountable obstacle. And if Joe didn’t perceive it as an insurmountable obstacle, you can be sure none of his teammates did either. Whether 15 minutes or 15 seconds, Joe always maintained the same level of composure. He was a leader, the hero you always wanted to emulate and a legend to behold. It goes without saying that Joe Montana’s athletic abilities were phenomenal, but we all know that, don’t we, or we wouldn’t be here today.
But there’s more to Joe Montana than just what he gave us on the football field. I could never step off this podium today without pointing out that his heroics on the field, however impressive, are only a small part of his measure as man. Joe, as much I value your athletic accomplishments and triumphs, they pale in comparison to what you have meant to me as a friend. Besides personally showing me loyalty, unmatched by anyone who ever played for me. Your achievements as a son, as a husband to Jennifer, as a father to your grand family, and as a man are by far your greatest.
Joe, I thank you, your fans thank you, and the NFL thanks you. Your excellence, courage and your heroics will live in our hearts and they will live in our dreams forever. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with overwhelming pride and love that I give you the very best of the best, Mr. Joe Montana.
Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, thank you. Thank you. It’s well appreciated and overwhelming to hear that. It’s deeply appreciated. It’s kind of hard being up here after all these guys and standing in front of this group behind me. I made a promise, which some of the guys so far have not been able to keep up with. Two promises, basically, one was keep with my eight minutes. The other was that Deacon Jones has kind of taken over as the gatekeeper and said that anyone that came up here without notes, he was going to be worried about, and that I would ramble on. So, I brought my notes for Deacon. I hope he doesn’t mind. I got them, Deacon, just for you.
First of all, I want to say what a deep pleasure it is to be standing here today, an immense honor. As the guys have said before me, I want to start off by thanking the Hall of Fame for its welcoming, not only my family, but all of our families here this weekend on this very special weekend. Tammy Owens, John Bankert, for all their help throughout. Trying to get us settled into hotels and seating. It’s got to be a difficult job, I want to thank you, very much, for what you’ve done for all of us. I want to say congratulations also to a wonderful Class of 2000. Not in any particular order, but Mr. Rooney, I’ve always been a Steeler fan all of my life. I grew up in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Loved the Steelers then, love them now. It’s always scary though when I see Joe Greene sitting behind me. To Dave Wilcox, whose own son called him a cheap-shot last night. He said he was an intimidator and I believe him, cause some of the film I’ve seen, as you saw, he was definitely a force in this league, and another great part in the San Francisco 49ers organization. To Howie Long, who chased my skinny butt around for so many years. Asked me to slow down a few times. Sorry, I couldn’t help him out on that, I think you could understand.
To Ronnie Lott, who’s meant to me, not only on the football field, but off the football field, what a true man’s supposed to be. Ronnie spoke, and Ronnie delivered. That’s and old saying, you walk the walk and talk the talk, that’s Ronnie. When he said something, he didn’t just say it, he went out and did it. He was a great example to me to continue. There were times when we were down and I had a few injuries in my career, Ronnie was always the first there to pick me up. Same with anyone. In your personal life, on and off the field, Ronnie stepped up. When a guy was in need, he’s there. Doesn’t matter when, where, how far. His wife would agree with me that he’s rarely home because he’s fulfilling objects. He’s fulfilling all these, all these people who are in need. He’s always got his hand out, and not to take, but to give. And to me, that’s more special than anything. I think, when you can say, when you ask someone to stand up, or a member of your family, Ronnie and Karen are the Godparents to our youngest son. I think that says a lot about how you feel from your heart about a man and his wife. So, Ronnie, I thank you for always being there all of those times. It hasn’t always been easy, and I appreciate it.
I want to start kind of where that film left off because it’s kind of left everyone hanging there. The Hall of Fame is a tremendous, tremendous honor. I had a very difficult time with it in the beginning cause I don’t think I was looking at it in the proper perspective. I saw the Hall of Fame as an ending point. I mentioned to a couple people that in some ways I felt like, wow I only 44-years-old, I feel like I’m in my grave in my coffin, alive, and they’re putting, throwing dirt on me, and I can feel it, and I’m trying to get out. And it wasn’t until this weekend, these past three days, these gentlemen behind me, spending the time with them, that I think I really got the true meaning of what this is all about. All my life, and most of these guys lives, we’ve spent, from time to time, going from Pop Warner to a new team, to junior high school, to a new team, to a high school, on to another team. For me it was Notre Dame, and on to a new team, the San Francisco 49ers, and then on to Kansas City. And in the middle of the night last night, I woke up. I had a whole other speech prepared. I Turned the light on and told my wife Jennifer that I got the meaning, and I got to write it down cause I don’t want to forget it. I‘ve now seen the light, that this is not an ending point, this is a beginning point. This is the beginning of the rest of my life, post-career, with a new team. And take a look at these guys, what a team it is. Now granted, some of them are on the ugly side, but I can’t help that. Try to do the best we can with them. But it is truly an honor to have spent these last few days with these guys, people that I’ve looked up to all of my life. I’ve grown emulating in my backyard. Throwing touchdown passes. Can’t say tackling somebody, I can outrun a Howie Long, beating Mel Blount. But it’s been a joy, and they’ve taught me the true meaning of what the Hall of Fame is really all about. Cause it is a beginning for me, it’s a beginning of a bunch of new teammates, and a tremendous, tremendous honor. I want to thank them for showing me the light, not only in my football career, but to what this is all about. My hat is off to them for what they have proven on the field, and again to me in the last three days.
I couldn’t walk away from this podium without thanking a lot of people that have helped get where I am. We all started in Pop Warner. I’m going to name off some coaches, I don’t know if they’re here. Carl Crawley and Cecil Palmer were Pop Warner coaches who kind of taught me the meaning of really not quitting. Cause as a kid, most guys want to quit the game. I tried to quit at some point, between my father and those two-gentleman got me back on the field. Wouldn’t let me quit in the middle of the season. Taught me not to go ahead and be a quitter but going in and staying there. And then next year, thank God I can back to play again.
On to high school where a man I thought was, did a tremendous, tremendous job at Ringgold High School, preparing kids, not just for football, but for later in life. And they went to bat for everyone. A guy named Chuck Abramski. Two other coaches back here that I dealt with directly, that I have seen, Paul Zolak and Jeff Petrucci. I want to thank them for their support and continuing my growth as a quarterback throughout my high school career.
Ara Parseghian and Tom Pagna who had the foresight to draft me along with seven other quarterbacks. Notre Dame was what I grew up to want to be. It was my first dream in my life, was to go to Notre Dame. I wanted to play for Ara Parseghian, and I wanted to be just like Tommy Clements. And I thank those guys for giving me that opportunity to get to the university. Another man that was very important in my life at the University of Notre Dame, his wife is here with him, Mike and Paulie DeCicco, who threatened me many times. He was our offensive coach and our academic advisor, while making sure I was in class on time and didn’t miss a class. Unfortunately, I had that card memorized and never wanted to see it. Please report to Mr. DeCicco’s office immediately. No excused will be accepted. He became my surrogate father on the road. They took me in. Took into their house, became more than just my advisor. I thank them for their help. Dan Divine, who continued my career with Merv Johnson, Ron Toman, and Hank Kuhlmann. Gave me the opportunity to fight back at the University of Notre Dame and to overcome some places where I never thought I’d be. And I always pictured being at the top of the line-up, and always being on the top. It wasn’t always that easy. I had to fight back from being seventh on the depth chart. They eventually gave me a shot and hung with me in some pretty tough times at Notre Dame.
On to a guy that I had to most fun beating in any Super Bowl, Sam Wyche, who taught me the basics of the game. Reading defenses, reading coverages, how to study, how to prepare. Paul Hackett, who continued that. Paul, if anyone knows Paul Hackett, a workaholic. Work you to death and prepare you to death so that when you got in the game you didn’t say “God, I didn’t know about that.” You were prepared. Mike Holmgren, his work speaks for itself. Mike continued that, having great success with quarterbacks all over. With Brett Favre, Steve Young, and on down the line. George Seifert came in after Bill Walsh, who I’ll get to. He gave us a chance, me a chance to fulfill my dream of continuing a Super Bowl career. Look back after that, I got an opportunity to go on to what I thought was another great, great organization in the Kansas City Chiefs. Marty Schottenheimer, Carl Peterson, who I see here. Lamar Hunt, for that opportunity to continue a career while a lot of people were ready to give up on me.
But the next few people, I think had the most impact on my life. Starting with the man who drafted me, Bill Walsh. There are a lot of things that I learned from Bill throughout my career, but I think the one thing that I continue throughout my life is that that want to be perfect. The need for perfection. He pushed me and pushed us, especially the quarterback position which he was so proud of, to want to be perfect. And if you missed perfect, you end up with great, and that he could handle, nothing else. He taught me to be the same way.
The man that presented me here today, Mr. Edward DeBartolo. His family, Candy, Tiffanie is not here. Lisa and Nikki are here. Who have always been very, very supportive, and we’ve had a great time. Mr. DeBartolo, as Ronnie put it, there are a lot of great owners in this league, and there have been a lot, but I can’t find one that’s been any better than that man. His support to all our teammates, they know what I’m talking about, on and off the field. He was always there. When there was a problem, nothing would stop him from helping. His friendship has continued past, long past my playing-days and will continue, is what I cherish more than anything. It’s meant the world to me, my wife, Jennifer, and my family. He’s always been there for us, and I’ll always be there for him.
To two people that also brought me into this world, and I think also along the way I got the same sort of lesson about winning is what’s expected of you. My mother and father, Joe and Theresa Montana brought me along and taught me to never quit, and to strive to be the best. Cause there’s only one reason of doing anything that you set out to do. if you don’t want to be the best, then there’s no reason going out and trying to accomplish anything. I thank my mom and dad for always being there. Through thick and thin. They sacrificed their life to make sure I got up and down to state to play basketball, baseball and football. It wasn’t an easy job. Both of them working in the same office. That I can’t figure out yet. But they were always there. They took me to where I wanted to be and where I needed to be and got me there on time and made tremendous sacrifices to see that I was able to accomplish the things and I had things that they never had. And I appreciate that beyond any belief, or any words could ever say to them. And I thank them with all my heart.
I want to especially take time also to thank my family that’s traveled from Monongahela and around the Western Pennsylvania area, and from all parts of the country. My family, my friends, my attorneys, my accountant. They’ve been there all the way, from day one, from the first time I stepped onto a football field, they’ve all been very supportive. A guy who I wished could have been there from the very beginning, and I told him this many times, Peter Johnson, for his guidance throughout the time. Unfortunately, my association with Peter started when I tore the tendon off my elbow, so he’s had a rough go with me since then. Jennifer and I, and the family, have been very appreciative of all he’s done for us. To Jennifer’s mother and husband, Jan, for their support. To my kids, Nathaniel, Nicholas, Alexander, and Elizabeth. I surprised this building’s still standing with my Nicholas and Howie’s little Howie around. We both have a huge bill at the hotel for the damage being done. But for their support and their sacrifice also. And most importantly to my wife and also my best friend, Jennifer. It’s not the easiest, living with an athlete. They’ll all tell you. We seem cool and calm on the outside but the inside, we’re a mess. There’s a lot happening in there and they’ve got to deal with a lot that people never begin to see. And I love here to death, all of them, and I thank her for her support and her sacrifice. She did the same also. She gave up a career so that I could continue mine. As often as I don’t say it, I do very much appreciate it, thank you.
And all you fans – Kansas City, San Francisco, all over the NFL, I want to thank you for your continued support. Not only for me, not only for these guys, but for all the NFL, cause it is the greatest game that I’ve ever been around. It’ll continue to get better and be the greatest. I want to thank you all for being here, and for making, help making a new dream for me come true, and that’s being a part of another great team in the Hall of Fame. I thank you.