The 2017 class was officially inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past Saturday in Canton, Ohio, and this year’s class was filled with some truly great names. Among the entries were running backs Terrell Davis and LaDainian Tomlinson, defensive end Jason Taylor, quarterback Kurt Warner, safety Kenny Easley and kicker Morten Andersen. Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones also finally took his spot in Canton. However, as happened so many times during his outstanding career, LaDainian Tomlinson ended up making the biggest highlights.
During the ceremony, each inductee was given time to speak about their lives and careers. The result was an evening filled with plenty of humor and heartwarming stories of sacrifice and dedication. Nonetheless, Tomlinson took a slightly different tactic and instead used his speech to call for an end to the racial and religious differences plaguing the country. During his speech, the former San Diego Chargers running back referred to football as ‘a microcosm of America,’ and noted how football drives all members of a team to put their differences aside and work together for a common goal.
Using this team analogy, Tomlinson then called for all Americans to put aside their differences in order to work and live together in harmony. Instead of being divided by our differences, Tomlinson’s speech called for ‘Team America’ to be a place of inclusion where all Americans worked together to set an example for all other nations to follow.
Each inductee’s speech was well received, but by far the best reception came for Tomlinson’s speech. In fact, his speech was interrupted several times for standing ovations from the 13,000+ attendees and his fellow Hall of Fame members. At a time when the United States seems more divided than ever before, Tomlinson’s message was especially poignant and truly resonated with the audience.
As well, Tomlinson also took time to pay homage to his predecessors and the contributions they made to the game that allowed him to make it to where he did. Specifically, he noted the influence that Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton had on him and how they drove him to pursue his dreams.
Of the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, Tomlinson and Jason Taylor were both elected during their very first year of eligibility. On the other hand, Kenny Easley had to wait a full 24 years to finally be honored for his contribution to the game. Also notable was the fact that Morten Andersen became just the second kicker to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, following in the footsteps of Jan Stenerud. Still, despite all of the incredible stories surrounding each of the inductees, no one made quite the same mark on the event as LaDainian Tomlinson.