Former Indianapolis Colts running back Edgerrin James delivered one of the most poignant and memorable speeches in recent Pro Football Hall of Fame history Saturday as he accepted his spot into Canton, Ohio's shrine for football's legends.
Among other lines, James told the live crowd and television audience that he was "inmate No. 336" in the "Canton Correctional Institute."
Steve Doerschuk of the Repository explained the line's significance: "James' 'inmate' line was tied to fighting to help his family, never having been in jail, coming from a community where plenty of people had, and ignoring how critics perceived him."
The No. 336 is in reference to him being the 336th member inducted into a Hall of Fame that now includes 354 members, per Mike Chappell of Fox 59.
James spoke about others' negative and offensive stereotypes that others held toward him and how he ignore the noise to construct a great NFL career.
“People looked at my gold teeth and dreads and were shocked and surprised that I had never been arrested or spent time in jail," James said.
"So many people told me you couldn't have dreads and gold teeth and be accepted in the NFL. I never listened."
He added: "I always knew who I was: A great football player, a great father, a proud Black man, a lion—and this was my mane—which many of those guys would later discover once they got to know the real me."
James also delivered the line of the night to close his speech:
"My career started with gold teeth, and ended with this Gold Jacket." - Edgerrin James<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF20?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF20</a> Enshrinement on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/f19VikWrKJ">pic.twitter.com/f19VikWrKJ</a>
His inspirational speech captivated the crowd:
Inspiring from Edgerrin James. 💙<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF20?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF20</a> Enshrinement on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/4m8JfXwHAo">pic.twitter.com/4m8JfXwHAo</a>
"Do your job. That’s what I did. I put my body on my line and I protected my quarterback. If everybody did their job, this country would be a better place," James said.
James was a four-time Pro Bowler who earned a spot on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-2000s team. He earned Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 1999 and led the league in rushing in 1999 and 2000.
The former University of Miami star amassed 15,610 yards from scrimmage and 91 touchdowns over an 11-year NFL career spent with the Colts, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.
The Colts took James with the No. 4 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft.