Lesson From the Hall of Fame: One Common Denominator of Greatness

Last night as I watched the Induction Ceremony of the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame, I started out simply watching for our daughter, Courtney, and son in law, Adam Meadows,  who were in the audience at the invitation of Bill Polian.  Adam played on the O Line for the Colts (1997-2003) when Bill Polian was the General Manager.

Here’s Adam (behind Polian) with teammates Jeff Saturday and Peyton Manning to Adam’s left.


And Courtney and Adam with Jeff and Karen Saturday.


What started out as just watching for the fun of seeing family on TV became a study in greatness.

As each inductee spoke, I was struck by their words.   A common thread became evident.  What I would’ve expected was some grandiose bragging and chest thumping.  Instead, to the person, each did this: they gave the credit away.

Not in a stingy way, either.  Their words were humble, not self-aggrandizing.  Their words were more about the debt of gratitude owed to others rather than themselves.

Photo credit: Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports

Ron Wolfe: “Thanks for the privilege of being part of the ultimate game.”

Charles Haley thanked his ex-wife, who diagnosed his manic depressive disorder.  “I didn’t listen at the time.  Now I know, the only way to grow is to ask for help.”

And this: “My mom taught me how to pray.”

More words of gratitude: “Stand up, Coach. I had the greatest coach ever.  Because of Tommy Hart, I’m here today.  I’m truly blessed.  I’ve played with some of the greatest players ever.  I’ve learned.  It’s about team.

Mike Tinglehoff, who suffers from dementia and didn’t speak, was presented by Fran Tarkenton.  Fran, obviously moved, explained: “Mike’s a man of few words, but a lot of action.” He reflected how during the years of football, Mike had Fran’s back, both on and off the field.  Now he had his friend’s back as he presented Mike for Hall of Fame.

Will Shields:  “No one gets to the top by themselves.”  “To Coach Madden: I will always remember your kindness.  Thank you for providing my family and me the opportunity of a lifetime.”  “To my fellow offensive linemen: without you, there is nothing.”

Bill Polian:  “Everybody was important.”  “Never has one person owed so much to so many.”   He conveyed appreciation to the grounds staff, videographers, scouts, assistants, personnel executives and assistant coaches…the people behind the scenes. ” I am here because of you and I am forever grateful.”

Tim Brown: “Without Lou Holtz, I would not have won the Heisman Trophy.”  “The consistency and hard work that people talk about with me…I got from my dad.  I love you, Dad.”

Junior Seau, who died in 2012, received his honor posthumously from his daughter, Sydney Seau.  The epitome of grace and dignity, she took no glory for herself.  “This isn’t my speech to give…it’s his.” “Thank you to every teammate, fan, the community of San Diego and the Chargers for the career of a lifetime.  Without you he wouldn’t have become the player that he was, and I thank you as well.”

Jarome Bettis: “This night is not about me.  This night is about the people who have imparted to me….I’ve been blessed with the best teammates in the world.  We knew we were a family and we would get the job done.”

These Hall of Famers did what great leaders do: they made sure everyone else got the glory, both on the field and off.  You and I may not be professional football players, but we all are leaders in some way or another, through our professions, volunteering, in our churches and families. May we take a lesson from these leaders and be like them.  Give the glory away. Lavishly.  It will come back ten fold.

Blending music and humor, 2014 Georgia Author of the Year Connie Carey inspires her audiences to view their challenges from a renewed perspective, Her book, Falling UP, offers healing, hope and a touch of humor for hard times.  For booking info, visit www.conniecarey.com.   

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