Commentary

Green: 'I belong here'

Washington cornerback Darrell Green was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here's the text of his speech from the Hall of Fame ceremony Saturday in Canton, Ohio.

Originally Published: August 2, 2008
By ESPN.com

Darrell GreenKirby Lee//US PresswireDarrell Green was brought to tears after his son Jared's presentation speech.

Former Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here's the text from Green's and presenter (and son) Jared Green's speeches from the Hall of Fame ceremony Saturday in Canton, Ohio.

Presenter (and son) Jared Green

My father always encouraged me to … you have to excuse me. I lost my voice last night. If anybody was there, you know what I'm talking about.

My father always encouraged me to be the best at whatever I do. That's the Green way. But he also humbled me by saying you're never there. Well, today, Dad, you're there.

But hold on, hold on. Don't get comfortable. Because, see, when you played, you were about a buck-73 (173 pounds). And that jacket they gave you last night, you better fit in it next year. (Crowd laughs.) On top of that, you guys might not know, but my father is the next poster child for the 40-and-up club. They need someone, too. Somebody wants to talk business, come to me, because I got a patent last month. So yeah. The most common question I've heard this week about my dad would probably be "Who would have thought?" But in this case it depends on who is asking the question. See, when I went to the Super Bowl in Arizona with my family, I knew what was going to pass, because my father has been a Hall of Famer for years now.

See, the definition of a true Hall of Famer is someone who is great at everything. My dad was a great football player, yeah, yeah, but he's an even better man, son, brother, father, friend, businessman and, most importantly, man of God.

If you're out there thinking to yourself, how did he do it? Know one thing. It was all the Lord Jesus Christ. And there's no cliché about that.

Before I get on with this, I want to acknowledge my family who I represent to the fullest up here, who also make up about 95 percent of the crowd.

But on a serious note, yesterday my father and I tried to think of some current NFL players that could possibly become Hall of Famers. I think we thought of two. So to my generation, our elders and our parents can set good examples such as my father, but they can't live it for us. It's up to us to stop the violence, sex abuse, drug abuse, alcoholism and the many more things that are plaguing our generation.

And in the same way my father was great, let's live lives that our kids would be willing to come up on stage one day and honor.

Before I introduce my dad, I just want to let you guys in on a little story. I've been holding his cell phone this past week. You know, he's been busy and all that. Last night I got a text message from a Green Bay number. And it said, "Hey, Darrell, one more time." (Crowd laughs.) I clicked delete. No. (Crowd laughs again.) Now, everyone, I'd like to present to you the greatest man to ever do it, my best friend, Darrell Green.


Darrell Green

Thank you. Deacon Jones said I would cry. You bet your life I'm going to cry. You bet your life I'm going to cry. You bet your life, I will. That's my boy. That's my boy right there.

It ain't this 'n' that. It's that [son]. Thank God. What a great day. What a great day. I want to thank the committee, the selection committee, the ones who put me up here, some men and women that watched my career over those 20 seasons and said he should be here and he should be here now. Thank you, guys and ladies. The Pro Football Hall of Fame, this city, this organization, thank you for hosting me and my family and friends. Jared, you are the man. I'll tell you I haven't seen everybody, but I've seen a lot in the world and material and so forth. And I have a clear vantage point, a crystal-clear vantage point, of what things are really important. It's Jesus Christ, his people, his family, it's your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters. It's what makes me excited today.

A lot of people have traveled this with me. It's been a long time. The most special of them all is my parents. Both of my parents are deceased. They're the most special of them all, because I'm not here, I'm not here if they weren't here first. My dad, my dad, Leonard Green Sr., everybody said, "You're too little, you can't do it." He said, "Boy, you can run that ball."

They said no. And he said go. (Crowd laughs.) The most encouragement you can ever get in life is when a dad encourages his son. Encourage your son, that's what he did for us. I'd sure like to have a drumroll right now because I'm going to talk about the greatest mother in the world.

Am I going to cry? You gotta be kidding me. You don't know my momma and daddy. Gloria Green, baby, Gloria Green. She told me a story one day. I was about 10 years old. She said, "You know, the day you were born, I was in the room there, and they had me up on these things and nothing was happening. You weren't doing anything, and everybody left out of the room, maybe 20, 30 minutes." And all of a sudden she heard a scream. Somebody said, "Catch that baby!" She said, "You were about to hit the ground."

When I got into football, she said, "Don't let them big boys hurt you now." I remember the first day you were born. My parents were the best. My parents were the best. They were the best.

I thank the Lord for them. Even though my parents are gone, I thank the Lord that I can celebrate my accomplishments with the people that they left behind. Starting with the best seven siblings in the world. That's what I'm talking about. My two sisters, Linda Flannagan, Deborah Green. My oldest brother, Leonard Jr. My brother Lester, the real athlete, the one who taught me the ropes. My two younger brothers, Reggie and Elwin. And you asked me again, am I going to cry?

I even have 12 brothers- and sister-in-laws. Cathy, Katrina, Dana, Yolanda. That's on the Green side of the aisle. My brother Elmo. My brother-in-law Rick. And Len, his wife, Robin. Rudy, Greg, Cheryl on my wife's side, tons of aunts and uncles and nieces, nephews. And I can further on my mother as I acknowledge her three sisters. Fred, you talked about your dad. I have an aunt here. If I'm correct, she's 88. My aunt Odessa. She's representing my mom. I love you. Happy birthday.

My aunt Marie Lucas. She's here representing my mom and supporting me and my aunt Edith Howard. Love you, and thank you so much for coming and being with me. My uncle John is here as well. I thank all of you today. From the Redskins, 20 years she was like a mother. Her name is Ms. Barbara Fry, just like a mother to me. From the capital city, my nanna, Dr. Bernadine Lacy. No one can ever take the place of my mom, though. But this lady, for 23 years, she tried, and she's coming close. It's my mother-in-law, Ms. Francis Fenner. Thank you. I love you.

And out of this same group, I'll add to that group, a man who treated me like a son, a Hall of Famer, Mr. Bobby Mitchell. Thank you.

And my late father-in-law, Mr. Rudy Fenner Sr., they all had me covered. I love you all so much. Boy, I could use another drumroll right here, because I want to introduce the first family, the greatest family in the world, starting with my son. You guys obviously have seen him. Jared. They're probably sick of me telling you how much I love you, man. I love you, buddy. My oldest daughter Crystal is here with us today. My middle girl Jerrell. My baby girl, Joi. Joi Elizabeth. They're here with me today. (Crowd laughs.) And then there is the queen. My lovely wife, over 23 faithful, faithful years, Ms. Jewell Green. I love you, baby.

My biggest supporter. A true Hall of Fame wife. I love you. Just a quick going through this process of trying to acknowledge friends. Quick shout-out to Jesse H. Jones High School and community. To young people in that community, this is what you can do. This is what you can do.

To my college football alma mater, Texas A&I, the Javelinas of Kingsville, Texas. My teammates. You guys can stand up with your blue on. It's a Redskins day. The people of Kingsville, Texas. And also to my friends down at St. Paul's College, where I finished up my academic degree, thank you.

It's a lot of teammates and a lot of years, over 20 years of football. I have a few guys here, and I'd like to try to acknowledge a few. I can't do them all. I had three roommates in those 20 years. And I didn't like any of them. (Crowd laughs.) My friend Vernon, VD, Dean, was one. Scott "Shall Rock" Turner. And my man, a brother from another mother, Tim, I won't call him big anymore because he's a pastor, Johnson, at Orlando World Outreach Center. You guys were good roommates and teammates. Other guys here, my buddy Johnny Thomas. Martin Mayhew is not with us today, but Kent Coffey, Curtis Jordan, Ricky Sanders, Gary Claude, Rick Walker, Mark Mosley, Jim Irsay, Ray Brown, Charles Mann, Ken Harvey, Kinnard Lane. And a very special recognition for the late, just this year, Kevin Mitchell, DeShawn Taylor, two young men. That's right.

The Redskins Nation stick together. OK. I gotta get through this. Other special friends on the Redskins from years back. Mr. John Cooke and coach Larry Peccatiello on the defense and Torgy Torgeson, GM Charley Casserly, B.J. Blanchick, my assistant, Dan Riley, Jay Byrd, Al Bellamy, John Jenkins and Lego, they used to take care of the football field. That's how I could play 20 years. Those guys took care of the field. We didn't have the synthetic stuff. Thank these guys. And also the late Nate Fine and Joe Cuso, just to name a few. But they were the best. I finished up my last season probably three or four seasons under the great leadership, and I thank him today of Dan and Tanya Snyder.

And any of you all, as they used to say in my church, if you know prayer, pray for Tanya Snyder. She's been under the weather. Just pray for her. She's a good friend. Arlette Snyder, Dan's mom, and Michelle, and my good buddy, the late Jerry Snyder, who I consider my personal friend. Dwight Short and the rest of the management team who supported us for so many years as well, thank you so much for being here with me.

To the most football knowledgeable faithful, most caring folks in the world, the Redskins' faithful, our fans:

We share this day with all of you. Here and all over the world, back home and everywhere else. God bless you. Thank you. Now, I'd like to move on real quick.

Now, over the last six months I've been trying. I've been living in a constant state of what I call introspective meditation. Basically trying to discover my story. It's been hard. And in doing so I found that there's so many stories within my story. And so I guess they can start the clock now. I'm going to try to finish this up. I've already mentioned to you an incredible story my mom told me about the day I was born, and just the mercy and grace of someone seeing me. This is 1960. You can imagine what it was like then.

And so I'm grateful for that. And there's another story, unique story. I met in 1971, I think I was in sixth grade, I met two guys. One was Carnel Green and one was Clem Greenwood. These guys over time became my closest friends. Throughout my entire childhood, my school-aged years. We went over to Addicks Junior High School in the seventh grade. We decided, Clem and I, we were going to play football. We decided we would go and play for Bastian Elementary School, the school we just graduated from. We decided we would make the mile run home each day, because it would be better for us to play with kids more our size as opposed to kids our age.

And so we did it. Coach Jefferson and Coach Smith, they welcomed us and gave us an incredible opportunity. After we finished up that season, we were eighth graders, and though Addicks had eighth-grade football, Clem and I decided, you know what, we probably ought to just skip it. We're not going to play anymore. And so we went on through life and in 11th grade I went over to Jones High School. And I met coach John Smith and Coach Bayer, coach Roland Rogers. In 11th grade Clem didn't come and I said, "Coach, I'd like to play football." He looked at me, obviously about 5-foot-nothing and 100-and-nothing pounds, but they put me on the junior varsity and I played. I did well. And the next year, coach James Bo Humphrey, he's here with us today, he invited me to play and start at the cornerback position. About 145 pounds on my senior team as a varsity player.

And at that point I realized I was on my way, baby. I'm on my way. Hey, Coach, I see you back there. Yes, sir. Thank you. Coach, I'm going to tell on you, they told me this was the first time ever flying in your life and you're 79 years old. You all think that Hall of Fame is that important. Give him a hand.

But I was on my way at that time. And I needed to figure out how I could take this thing to the college level. An opportunity came again in the form of coach Fred Jonas. He came up and met with Coach Humphrey, and Coach Humphrey said, "I've got a little kid you might want to look at." Came over and talked to me and said, "Look here, son, I think I'll give you an opportunity. I don't have a scholarship for you, but we can get a grant." I said, "Coach, let me check my options first. I'll take it." (Crowd laughs.)

So I went with him. And when I went to school, Carnel went with me, too. He wasn't a football player but he went as well. And I was homesick from day one. As a matter of fact, Coach, you got my $20 my momma gave me. I want it back. (Crowd laughs.) She gave me $20 to ride the Trailway home, and I attempted on several occasions to escape, and he took my money. But one day Carnel said, "Man, I've got us some guys. We're going home." Met a guy from another school. He drives a car. And somehow our wires got messed up and they left me. I cried the whole weekend.

And Monday morning they were talking about this car wreck. And it was Carnel and them. And he didn't make it. He didn't make it. And I didn't make that ride either. I went home after that last game, Coach, remember? I went home. I couldn't take it. I was homesick. I lost my friend. I went home and got a job, went to night school. Grew up a little bit. And I came back to A&I a year and a half later.

Fred was gone. We had a new coach, coach Ron Harms, and he welcomed me in real quickly. Started me right off the bat. And a new opportunity came to me again in just those short three years. Now I'm about 165, 170, depending on who is saying it, and an opportunity came knocking again. A man by the name of Bobby Benson.

So they drafted me. They drafted me, put me in the draft. I'm going to the Redskins, and two weeks before I get ready to go, I'm at home. I'm pulling up on a Sunday morning to my mom's house after church. This young girl from the community runs up to my car and she's screaming and hollering. And she said Clem took his own life. And so I came to Washington, D.C., both of my buddies were gone. My sixth-grade best buddies. It was tough.

But when I went back to A&I, I met a family. They were the Melendez family and a good friend named Doug Taft, and they told me about a man named Jesus. Jesus saved my soul, gave me a different perspective on life. He showed me I could be a man and walk right, the things my son talked about. I can have integrity. I can be honest. I can be faithful. I can be true.

And so I brought what my parents had taught me and what Jesus had said, and I put that to work in my NFL career. And God told me not to leave Washington, D.C., so I was there for 20 years. That was during free-agency time.

Yes, I was a part of that. I was a part of that free agency. But God had a plan for me. I stayed the course. Not only did I stay the course on the field, I stayed the course faithfully to this woman for almost 24 years. Faithfully to my community. Faithfully to my pastor, pastor Brett Fuller, and the Grace Covenant Church in Chantilly, Va., faithful to my community and the centers and the other works and faithful to the people.

And so I stand here today, and I'll say to you something that is somewhat unique. But before I do, I want to say as well I acknowledge Bobby Benson that turned me over to Joe Gibbs.

And he turned me over to Richie Petitbon. He turned me over to my Hall of Fame buddy, coach Emmitt Thomas, and later on coach Tom Hayes. And a real shout-out to my good friend who helped me even from the offense, Terry Robiskie.

And I continue to move forward. Continue to stand strong. But these are the men and women, the people who have given me the opportunity to stand up here. They've given me the support to stand up here. And so as I prepare to close, folks, there's two things that I know: Number one, no matter how gifted you are, or how hard you work, there's no one willing to give you an opportunity, it doesn't mean a thing.

Secondly, I believe that this day is a part of the continuation of God's sovereign purpose and righteous destiny for my life. And that being knowing Jesus, loving him and making him known. I did that even as a professional football player everywhere I went.

And that was done through the visibility, the influence, the access, all that God gives us, the Lord gives us, while we play a childhood game. Can I tell you today at the expense of sounding real self-righteous, I belong here. I belong here.

I belong here. I belong here because I know what to do with it. I know what to do with God's fame, with God's dollars, with God's visibility, God's influence and relationships. I know what to do with it.

To Jesus be the glory. Thank you. Bless you.

Transcript provided by the Pro Football Hall of Fame