On Saturday, Edgerrin James stole the show with his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, bringing the house down with his humor and authenticity. The crowd first roared its approval when Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay pulled the cover off James’ bronze bust, showing his determined face and familiar dreadlocks.
James first thanked those who made a major impact on his journey to the NFL Hall of Fame as he paid tribute to his mother Julie, his six children, his coaches at the University of Miami, and Immokalee (Fla.) High School, Irsay, and former Colts general manager Bill Polian and his Indianapolis teammates.
James wows the crowd with a passionate speech
However, what captivated the audience was James’ message regarding what is going on in the country right now. He used as an example his position as running back and how one of its job descriptions is to protect the quarterback. James pointed out that should also be the case outside the white lines, saying, “In the real world, we need to think about protecting people we’re supposed to protect.”
He challenged those who were listening to his speech to do their jobs and keep the light shining on the issues happening right now in the United States. James said, “If everybody did their job, the world would be a better place.”
James’ long road to the Hall of Fame
It has been a tremendous journey for James, who had to battle preconceived notions and societal biases to land a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was already a superstar before he came to the NFL, amassing 2,960 yards and 32 touchdowns during his three-year career at the University of Miami, ending his stint there as the school leader in single-season rushing yards and touchdowns.
Even with those impressive stats, many expected the Colts to pass up on James for the fourth overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft and select Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams instead as the backfield partner to Peyton Manning. However, Polian and Irsay shocked the football world with their selection of James, who rewarded their faith in him with a fabulous rookie season.
He made an immediate impact on the Colts, leading the league in rushing yards (1,553) and touchdowns (13) in his first year with Indianapolis, earning; as a result, the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and a spot in the First-Team All-Pro that same season. He didn’t let up the following season, leading the league again in rushing.
He continued to post monster numbers after being traded to Arizona in 2006, eventually finishing his career with 3,028 carries, 12,246 rushing yards, and 80 rushing touchdowns. James said the journey started with gold teeth has now ended in Canton with a gold jacket, an achievement and distinction he fully deserves.
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