Pro Football Hall of Fame 2021: Recap, Speech Highlights for Peyton Manning, More

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIAugust 9, 2021

Peyton Manning, left, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021, and his presenter and father Archie Manning unveil a bust of Peyton during the induction ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021, in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Richard)
AP Photo/David Richard

The Pro Football Hall of Fame officially inducted seven new members as part of the class of 2021 on Sunday in Canton, Ohio.

The group featured a pair of first-ballot Hall of Famers in five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning and NFL single-season receiving yards leader Calvin Johnson.

San Francisco 49ers general manager (and nine-time Pro Bowl safety) John Lynch made his way into the Hall, as did one of the game's best interior offensive linemen this century in Alan Faneca.

Charles Woodson's storied football resume, which includes a Heisman Trophy, a Super Bowl and a Defensive Player of the Year award among other accolades, now includes a Hall of Fame bust as well.

In addition, two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Tom Flores and three-time first-team All-Pro wideout Drew Pearson's long waits into the Hall finally ended.

Bill Nunn, the legendary longtime Pittsburgh Steelers scout, was posthumously enshrined last spring as a member of the class of 2021. He was recognized with a video tribute during Sunday's ceremony.

Here's a look at some of the night's most notable moments alongside highlights from each speech.


Drew Pearson

NFL fans are familiar with Pearson's public speaking prowess as evidenced by his legendary work at the 2017 draft, when he trolled Philadelphia Eagles fans on their own home turf.

Pearson remained entertaining on Sunday, showing off his "skinny" legs and referencing the fact that there wasn't a bigger afro on a Hall of Fame bust:

Mike Chappell @mchappell51

Drew Pearson absolutely killing it. Pulled up pant legs, showed his skinny legs.

Pro Football Hall of Fame @ProFootballHOF

Well, that was a first... ๐Ÿคฃ<a href="https://twitter.com/88DrewPearson?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@88DrewPearson</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> <a href="https://t.co/Xbf9VDWpEp">pic.twitter.com/Xbf9VDWpEp</a>

Rich Eisen @richeisen

BREAKING: the <a href="https://twitter.com/ProFootballHOF?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ProFootballHOF</a> best Bust Hair Class of all-time just set the bar even higher with what Drew Pearson called the โ€œlargest afro in the history of the NFLโ€ <a href="https://t.co/6Q4AiCONFD">pic.twitter.com/6Q4AiCONFD</a>

The former Dallas Cowboys great was presented by his ex-quarterback, Hall of Famer Roger Staubach, who found Pearson on the famous Hail Mary play to beat the Minnesota Vikings in the 1975 NFC Divisional Round.


Tom Flores

The first-ever minority head coach to win a Super Bowl finally got inducted into the Hall of Fame, and he used the opportunity to shout out Raider Nation.

He also managed to get a dig in on Raiders owner Mark Davis, whose father Al Davis ran the team when Flores was coaching. Flores noted how Davis used to "create havoc" as an eight-year-old during team practices.


"Raider Nation is everywhere." - Tom Flores<a href="https://twitter.com/Raiders?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Raiders</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/ProFootballHOF?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ProFootballHOF</a><br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> Enshrinement on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/u6Hfj4jJSF">pic.twitter.com/u6Hfj4jJSF</a>

Flores also used the opportunity to honor his ex-boss.

Pro Football Hall of Fame @ProFootballHOF

"Al Davis was my mentor and my coach." - Tom Flores<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/Raiders?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Raiders</a> <a href="https://t.co/COrY0jLVCX">pic.twitter.com/COrY0jLVCX</a>

Flores played for the Raiders, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs from 1960 to 1969 and served as an assistant coach before running the Raiders sidelines.


Peyton Manning

The funniest speech of the night was courtesy of Manning, who got as many quips as he could in the short time allotted to each Hall of Fame honoree.


Six minutes isn't enough to recap Peyton's career. ๐Ÿ˜‚<br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> Enshrinement on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/XJs8dLoCDo">pic.twitter.com/XJs8dLoCDo</a>

Manning also shouted out his former rival, Tom Brady, who was in attendance. The ex-Indianapolis Colt and Denver Bronco said that Brady would only have enough time to post his speech on Instagram by the time he gets into the Hall.


Another classic Manning-Brady moment.<a href="https://twitter.com/TomBrady?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TomBrady</a><br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> Enshrinement on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/r03kVcEBhw">pic.twitter.com/r03kVcEBhw</a>

Manning soon honored his father and presenter, Archie Manning, a successful college and pro quarterback in his own right.


"My favorite quarterback. My hero. My role model. My dad."<br><br>The Manning Family ๐Ÿ™<br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> Enshrinement on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/nPtWogKj8v">pic.twitter.com/nPtWogKj8v</a>

He also noted the importance of nurturing the game and shaping its future.


No one loves football quite like Peyton Manning.<br><br>What a speech. ๐Ÿ‘<br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> Enshrinement on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/dm3HydH9GH">pic.twitter.com/dm3HydH9GH</a>

"A legacy is only worthwhile when there is a future to fuel," Manning said.

That future could include his nephew, Arch, a high school quarterback who is ranked No. 2 in 247Sports' prospect rankings for the class of 2023.


John Lynch

The former safety thanked and recognized numerous people during his speech, with his ex-Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy among them.

Pro Football Hall of Fame @ProFootballHOF

.<a href="https://twitter.com/TonyDungy?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TonyDungy</a> had a profound impact on <a href="https://twitter.com/JohnLynch49ers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JohnLynch49ers</a>' career.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/Buccaneers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Buccaneers</a> <a href="https://t.co/WsieOzD75r">pic.twitter.com/WsieOzD75r</a>

In that vein, Lynch talked about the power of belief and how people can help each other in that regard with some encouragement.

Pro Football Hall of Fame @ProFootballHOF

"Belief is not something that simply happens. It has to be nurtured, a million times over." - <a href="https://twitter.com/JohnLynch49ers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JohnLynch49ers</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/Buccaneers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Buccaneers</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/Broncos?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Broncos</a> <a href="https://t.co/lzQs0tYAs3">pic.twitter.com/lzQs0tYAs3</a>

Lynch also recognized the importance of celebrating each other's differences.


"Let's celebrate and learn from our differences." - <a href="https://twitter.com/JohnLynch49ers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JohnLynch49ers</a><br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> Enshrinement on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/9V4hkzM8hZ">pic.twitter.com/9V4hkzM8hZ</a>

The former Stanford star played 15 NFL seasons, winning Super Bowl XXXVII with the Bucs.


Calvin Johnson

No wide receiver was more dominant than Calvin Johnson during his nine-season NFL tenure, and he recognized how he set out to achieve that goal.


"I made up my mind I was going to be the best, most dominant receiver in the NFL." - <a href="https://twitter.com/calvinjohnsonjr?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@calvinjohnsonjr</a><br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> Enshrinement on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/7wFu9jmgvA">pic.twitter.com/7wFu9jmgvA</a>

Team success did not come along with the individual accolades, as the Lions largely struggled even with Johnson crushing the competition. One of those seasons saw the team go 0-16 (2008), but Lions fans' loyalties did not go unnoticed.


To: <a href="https://twitter.com/Lions?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Lions</a> fans<br><br>โค๏ธ: <a href="https://twitter.com/calvinjohnsonjr?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CalvinJohnsonJr</a><br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> Enshrinement on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/94SIer6cbM">pic.twitter.com/94SIer6cbM</a>

Most notably, Johnson took the time to explain how he played through serious pain and advocated for change to help current players alleviate their physical and mental symptoms. ESPN's Jenna Laine provided more information.

JennaLaineESPN @JennaLaineESPN

Calvin Johnson: โ€œThere are so many people living in our world with pain right now and I want to speak to you for a moment: I want you to know that I see you. You matter. Fight and do your best to make it through and never give in to the pain.โ€

JennaLaineESPN @JennaLaineESPN

Hearing Calvin Johnson talk so much about the pain he played with is just... ๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ’”

JennaLaineESPN @JennaLaineESPN

Calvin Johnson used his <a href="https://twitter.com/ProFootballHOF?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ProFootballHOF</a> speech to advocate for alternatives to opiates to improve the quality of life for current and former players. The NFL long steered clear of marijuana research until this year, and the new CBA no longer punishes positive tests. Major changes

Johnson was a first-team All-Pro from 2011 to 2013.


Alan Faneca

The nine-time Pro Bowler and NFL 2000s All-Decade Team member won Super Bowl XL with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That game's MVP, Hines Ward, presented Faneca into the Hall of Fame.


Hines Ward presents Alan Faneca for enshrinement! <a href="https://twitter.com/steelers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@steelers</a><br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> Enshrinement on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/OAWa6P3Jnk">pic.twitter.com/OAWa6P3Jnk</a>

One of Faneca's most notable speech moments was his tribute to his wife, Julie, whom he met when they were students at LSU.


"You are my champion."<a href="https://twitter.com/afan66?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@afan66</a>'s incredible tribute to his wife. ๐Ÿ–ค๐Ÿ’›<br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> Enshrinement on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/IZ63Yfk8Ei">pic.twitter.com/IZ63Yfk8Ei</a>

Faneca also serves as an inspiration to those diagnosed with epilepsy. He suffered his first seizure at the age of 15 and spoke about that experience and how it shaped him (h/t Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk).

โ€œFifteen was a transformative year for me. My dream of playing in the NFL was awakened, and that was when I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I vividly knew that I was not going to let anything prevent me from fulfilling this dream. I knew as long as I listened to my doctors and followed their guidance, along with a strong support system, I would be fine.
"I always told myself, and have spoken about the fact that epilepsy is part of me, but it does not define me. We are in charge of our destiny. I never want any challenges to define us. We must define ourselves. Whatever oneโ€™s challenge in life, whether we have a disability or not, my message is always to maintain an integral commitment to not let anything stop us from fulfilling our vision. We all get knocked down in life, but itโ€™s how we get up that matters.โ€

Faneca's 13-season NFL career ended after the 2010 campaign. He now works as the head football coach for Virginia Beach's Frank W. Cox High School.


Charles Woodson

Woodson's presentation and speech primarily served a tribute to his mother, Georgia, who raised him and his two siblings as a single parent.


.<a href="https://twitter.com/CharlesWoodson?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CharlesWoodson</a> โค๏ธ Mom<br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> Enshrinement on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/N1z8ZgewPb">pic.twitter.com/N1z8ZgewPb</a>

Georgia Woodson served as her son's official presenter.

Woodson also provided the crowd and television audience some inspirational parting words to close the evening.


"You own undeniable respect. Love everyone. Give everything."<a href="https://twitter.com/CharlesWoodson?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CharlesWoodson</a> left us with some inspiring words. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PFHOF21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PFHOF21</a> <a href="https://t.co/r6JuHwDNUc">pic.twitter.com/r6JuHwDNUc</a>

Woodson played in the league for 18 seasons with the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers, winning Super Bowl XLV with the 2010 Pack.

Also inducted earlier in the weekend, on Saturday, were the Class of 2020, whose official ceremony was delayed as a result of the pandemic:

Steve Atwater

Isaac Bruce

Harold Carmichael

Jimbo Covert

Bill Cowher

Bobby Dillon

Cliff Harris

Winston Hill

Steve Hutchinson

Edgerrin James

Jimmy Johnson

Alex Karras

Troy Polamalu

Steve Sabol

Donnie Shell

Duke Slater

Mac Speedie

Ed Sprinkle

Paul Tagliabue

George Young