Raymond Berry Enshrinement speech

Pro Football Hall of Fame
July 23, 1973

 

 

Weeb Ewbank (Presenter):
Thank you, Jim. Reverend clergy, honored enshrinees, and football fans. It is a pleasure to be here. As a matter of fact, I feel I'm the most privileged person here. I coached all three of these fellows. I had Raymond and Jim at Baltimore and I was the first pro coach of Joe Schmidt. I had him in the Senior Bowl. I might say to you that the first two I had to run them off the field from killing themselves from overwork and I had to really work hard with the rest of them so that when we played the Lions that Joe Schmidt wouldn't kill them.

According to our scouts and criteria used in picking ends, Raymond had none of the characteristics you normally attribute to a great pass receiver. As a matter of fact, we used to build up Raymond's shoe because he had a back condition and also he wore a brace for that back and we found out--the doctors here who gave him the first set of contact lenses which made him see better, and then he had special rib pads. It is true also that he wasn't blessed with blinding speed, he wasn't physically overpowering and he didn't stand several inches taller than the defenders trying to stop him. However, Raymond's pass patterns were so minutely perfected that he was almost unstoppable. I don't believe that he had in his career 13 dropped balls. There were many years that he never dropped the ball. Raymond had many other things going for him. Unusual jumping ability, a pair of fantastic hands, I mentioned, and a dogged sense of purpose that allowed him to become nothing less than the very best. As one newspaper man said in Baltimore … he said, ''it wasn't the great passes always thrown by John Unitas that made this a great Baltimore team, but rather it was the great passes that Raymond caught.

The very best is exactly what he did become in his 13 seasons with the Baltimore Colts. He was so very good, in fact that the Enshrinement into Pro Football's Hall of Fame is coming this weekend in his first year of eligibility following the required five year waiting period after retirement. There may be pass receivers blessed with more natural ability than Raymond, but few have ever approached the standards of proficiency that became a weekly habit for Raymond. And it should be emphasized that Raymond and Raymond alone made himself into the super star he was. He combined his dogged determination to succeed with the keen football mind that perfected the scientific approach to the art of pass receiving that was far ahead of his time.

Many of Berry's techniques are now more or less common place in football. But when Raymond first started to employ his methods of preparedness he was truly a pioneer in perfecting and specializing a pro football skill. For example, one of the things that the pros use today is a net and I think that has gone down into college and high schools for practicing passing. And this all came about because as we went up our hill from practice field there was a softball backstop and Raymond and Jim Mutscheller his teammate, a rookie quarterback used to stop nightly after everybody else had gone and this quarterback use to throw bad passes, but he would make those great catches right in front of that net. In this era of record-breaking performances Raymond's marks have for the most part stood the test of time -- even though today there are two more games annually than there was when Raymond played.

One of Raymond's brightest days as a pro is still reflected in the pro football record books. In our famous championship game between the Colts and the New York Giants in 1958, Raymond caught 12 passes for 178 yards. Three of these catches came in our last minutes offensive drive to tie the game in a regulation and two more came in the final march for the winning touchdown in the overtime.

He is a real Christian athlete. For example, for years I had always said a prayer before each football game and Raymond came to me one day and said coach I think we have a lot of things to be thankful for after the game as well as pray for a good game before. And, so we instituted the practice of praying before and after the games which I still do. And if I had a son, I only had three cheerleaders, three daughters, but if I had a son, I would want him to be like Raymond. Raymond Berry has been a 20th round future draft choice in '54 and was in reality given only a 50-50 chance of sticking when he joined the Colts in 1955. But, within three years he had reached all-pro status and for more than a decade had reigned as pro football's most feared receiver. He is a perfect example young fellows, that hard work does pay off. And now he reaches the pinnacle of his sport--membership in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It gives me a great pleasure to present to you. . . . Raymond Berry.

Raymond Berry:
Thank you … Thank you. I don't know exactly what I'm going to say or how it is going to come out. I was pretty cool and relaxed up to about 15 minutes ago and all that coolness and relaxation r - flatly gone out the window ... I'll guarantee you. I think I'm foremost a football fan myself. I love to watch football and always have and always will. And, from that respective, I can understand that it is a little bit awesome to me to be standing up here today receiving an award for such as being inducted into Pro Football's Hall of Fame. When I came into professional football with Baltimore I can assure you that the furthest thing from my mind was making the Hall of Fame. I was hoping that I would make the first 33 just for a couple of years. I have had about six months to give a little thought to what I would like to say today. Dick Gallagher called me back in January to notify me of my induction into the Hall of Fame and it is very difficult to describe how I felt at that time. In the months that passed, I reflected upon a lot of things that came about that resulted in my being here today. I don't know if you have ever considered how long the odds are for a young Texan high school football player to end up in this spot today. The odds are unbelievable and the reason how it happens is it depends on a whole lot of folks and a whole lot of things going for you. I think this is a very appropriate time to acknowledge that. I think I would like to start with my parents because I came from a home that gave me background and stability that a football player needs I know a lot of professional football players throughout the country, professional players that are playing for money. You can get out there and get beat and do your best. Football will be good to you if you are good to it. I am going to remember the Hall of Fame and thank you. To the people of Canton thank you very much for the way you treated my family and me over these three or four days that we have been here. To each and everyone here, thank you and god bless you.



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