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Pro Football Hall of Fame 2017: Ceremony Recap, Speech Highlights and Reaction

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 6, 2017

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 05: LaDainian Tomlinson reacts as he and presenter Lorenzo Neal unveil Tomlinson's bust during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 5, 2017 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

LaDainian Tomlinson, Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Jason Taylor, Jerry Jones, Kenny Easley and Morten Andersen officially took their place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame at the 2017 enshrinement ceremony Saturday. 

The seven-man class for the hallowed halls in Canton, Ohio, was announced Feb. 4, the day before Super Bowl LI. Tomlinson and Taylor got elected in their first year on the ballot, while Easley was voted in as a senior committee nominee. 

Hall of Fame weekend serves as the official kickoff to the NFL preseason. It features an emotional journey through the respective careers of every inductee, so let's look at what these legends had to say about joining the ranks of the immortals.

Before taking the stage for their individual speeches, all seven men got together for one final huddle:

NFL Network @nflnetwork

"Hall of Fame on three ... 1-2-3..." #PFHOF17 https://t.co/Xb064zUIQw

Despite not speaking last during the ceremony, Tomlinson was the headliner of this class and delivered a speech nearly as great as his talent on the football field:

After he brought the house down with his speech, Tomlinson's message resonated on social media:

Clarence Hill Jr @clarencehilljr

LaDanian Tomlinson bringing race to the forefront. Don't be afraid to talk about race #HOF2017

Mike Leslie @MikeLeslieWFAA

LaDainian Tomlinson with the speech of the night. Outstanding. Absolutely outstanding, top to bottom.

ig: josinaanderson @JosinaAnderson

Jesus. LaDanian Tomlinson's great-great-great-great grandfather was a slave who tilled the land he grew up on--now renamed. #TomlinsonHill!

Jordan Schultz @Schultz_Report

Ladanian Tomlinson just gave an all-time #hof speech. He was vulnerable, but confident. Really hard to do. Props to LT!

As one of the most animated figures in the NFL, Jones was not going to miss an opportunity to be bold. The Cowboys owner's first statement came with his choice of custom footwear from Nike:

NFL Network @nflnetwork

Jerry Jones' @ProFootballHOF kicks... A special gift from Phil Knight ahead of tonight's festivities https://t.co/HXmNFEjsrH

Jones did use his speech to go all the way back to his first draft after he purchased the Cowboys in 1989 when the team made quarterback Troy Aikman the No. 1 overall pick to help shape the franchise into what it would become in the 1990s:

NFL @NFL

The very 1st pick Jerry Jones ever made for the @dallascowboys? Mr. @TroyAikman! #PFHOF17 https://t.co/UcJtd5BopC

Warner served as the main-event speaker as the last man out. The two-time NFL MVP was one of the great success stories in all of sports when he went from an employee at a grocery store in 1995 to leading the St. Louis Rams' "greatest show on turf" offense to one Super Bowl title in 1999 and an NFC championship in 2001, and taking the Arizona Cardinals to their first Super Bowl in 2008. 

Brenda Warner, Kurt's wife, introduced him on the stage and had this to say about her husband's journey to NFL success, via Rams.com's Myles Simmons:

Myles Simmons @MylesASimmons

"I think Kurt Warner is the best NFL story of all time because so many people can relate to him." - Brenda Warner

Warner talked about his struggle to reach the NFL during his speech, summing the whole thing up with one brilliant sentence, via ESPN's Carol Voronyak:

Carol Voronyak @carolvoronyak

"Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, while you are waiting to do what you are born to do." -Kurt Warner HOF speech

The opportunity Warner received with the Rams in 1999 came after Trent Green injured his knee during the preseason. Warner gave a shoutout to his former teammate with a show of great respect and admiration:

NFL @NFL

“You could easily be the one standing up here tonight.” - @Kurt13Warner to Trent Green #PFHOF17 https://t.co/ZZecufoOze

Easley had the honor being the first inductee to speak, and the Seattle Seahawks legend set the template Tomlinson later followed by using the platform to discuss race and race relations in the United States.

Here is a portion of Easley's speech on the topic, via Charean Williams of NBC Sports:

"Please allow me this opportunity and this moment for a very serious message for which I feel very strongly about. Black lives do matter, and all lives matter, too. But the carnage affecting young black men today from random violence to police shootings across this nation has to stop. We've got to stand up as a country, as black Americans and fight the good fight to protect our youth and our American constitutional right not to die while driving or walking the streets black in America. It has to stop, and we can do it, and the lessons we learn in sports can help."

After making his pointed comments, Easley drew high marks from the crowd on social media:

Peter King @SI_PeterKing

Attaway, Kenny Easley. This is good, poignant speech.

Jarrett Bell @JarrettBell

Great speech by Kenny Easley, including his acknowledgement -- like @Kaepernick7 -- of issues facing black men in America. #Canton

There were lighter moments in Easley's speech. He took it upon himself to end any debate about who was a better safety, himself or fellow Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott:

NFL @NFL

Kenny Easley? Or Ronnie Lott? Who was better? Kenny Easley is going to settle this debate. Right here. Right now. #PFHOF17 https://t.co/cajW1w9PJ1

Easley's NFL career ended prior to the 1988 season due to kidney disease, but he made his 30-year wait to get into Canton count on Saturday. 

After making life miserable for NFL quarterbacks for 15 seasons, mostly with the Miami Dolphins, Taylor had praise for his opponents for helping him in his career:

NFL @NFL

“I’d also like to thank those opponents that forced me to raise my game... Guys like Tom Brady & Peyton Manning…” -@JasonTaylor #PFHOF17 https://t.co/o54YL67DKX

Taylor did have one of the night's best jokes, directed at Washington owner Dan Snyder for the defender's one disappointing season with the team in 2008, per USA Today:

USA TODAY NFL @usatodaynfl

Jason Taylor on Dan Snyder: "I didn't give you much, two and a half sacks. Stole a lot of money from you, but I appreciate it."

On the heels of Taylor's speech, special teams got some love with Andersen becoming just the second placekicker ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

One of the NFL's most reliable kickers for 25 seasons, Andersen summed up his entire career and outlook in a few short sentences:

NFL Network @nflnetwork

💯 #PFHOF17 https://t.co/PR7WIyhY8Q

Coming right after Andersen, who holds the NFL record with 382 games played, was Davis. The former Denver Broncos running back had one of the shortest NFL careers by a player inducted into the Hall of Fame with 78 games over seven seasons. 

Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders did offer this bit of analysis regarding Davis' induction:

Scott Kacsmar @FO_ScottKacsmar

Terrell Davis only needed 4 seasons to accomplish all a RB really needs to accomplish in the NFL.

Just in case anyone needs a refresher on what those four seasons encompassed, this NFL highlight video will remind you:

NFL @NFL

2x Super Bowl Champ. 1998 MVP. 1 of 7 players with a 2,000-yard rushing season. @Terrell_Davis' career highlights! #PFOHF17 https://t.co/7CsYLw6atB

In recounting his career on the field, Davis offered a story about the first NFL game he played in as a member of the Broncos:

NFL @NFL

.@Terrell_Davis explains the very 1st play of his career… 22 years ago today. In Tokyo. With a belly full of hot dogs. #PFHOF17 https://t.co/DkM0m0BBOD

After giving the fans in attendance a Mile High Salute, Davis received a warm ovation from two of his biggest fans:

NFL @NFL

Phenomenal 😂 #PFHOF17 https://t.co/LlLOz6GYSG

The NFL and its fans got to celebrate the league's past on a picture-perfect night in Ohio. All seven men inducted carried themselves with the kind of dignity and class befitting the Hall of Fame status they now hold. 

Now, the focus can shift to what happens the field when the 2017 regular season begins in less than five weeks. It's also time to look ahead at what awaits Canton next year. 

The 2018 class is loaded with first-time eligible candidates, including Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, Steve Hutchinson and Ronde Barber. Terrell Owens, Brian Dawkins and John Lynch highlight the returning nominees seeking their place among the greatest players in NFL history. 

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