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Opening statement: “Thank you to the Senior Committee. You guys have been tremendous. I really thank you for all of your support. The Ford (family), the Detroit Lions organization, (they) have been tremendous. There are very few people that can stand here in this position I’m in today and say that they’ve spent half of their life with the same organization and then be presented with such a great honor. That’s what the Ford (family) and that’s what the Detroit Lions organization means to me. I would like to express my tremendous thanks to the Ford family and the Detroit Lions organization. To the fans of Detroit, the greatest fans – in my opinion – in the NFL. We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there and just as you’ve supported me through all my years, my family, I know that you’re going to continue to support the Detroit Lions.“It’s been a journey. The last few days have been very nerve-racking. Not only for me, but for my family and I know for a lot of my friends – especially being in the business that involves the NFL. There are a lot of supporters that are close to the game, so you kind of carry that extra burden of hopefully not disappointing them. God knows this is a blessing, not only for me, but for my family (and) the city. I want to again thank everybody that had anything to do with me standing here today and to those who were not as fortunate as me, by no means does it have any implication on your ability or your desire to go out and compete in the greatest sport in the world. To you I say: hang in there. To you I say: be patient. To you I say: I’m pulling and I’m hoping for you. Again, thank you all.”

On being one of the best tight ends and if he could still go up against players today: “I think so (laughing). In my opinion, I think we’re talking about a difference in times, not necessarily a difference in talent, a difference in desire (and) a difference in love for the game. I take my hat off to them. There are a lot of players – that’s why they have the Hall of Fame. I think there are a lot of players that could compete in today’s game. No question.”

On if when he woke up this morning, did he think he was a Hall of Famer or did he wonder which way the process was going to take him: “I’ve always been one that wondered about my career, not necessarily in terms of how hard I may have participated in it, but really on how I got to where I am today. I feel that everything, and I know and I believe in my heart, that everything that has happened in my life up until now has already been written. It’s a special thing for me to look back on my career and know that all of the good, all of the bad feelings and all of the people that have touched me, smiled at me, helped me in this sport – all played a part in me standing up here today. When I got up this morning I felt that it’s written.”

On if he ever put the Hall of Fame out of his mind after waiting on it for so long: “Well, it has been a very long wait. But, to be very honest with you, prior to the last year it would be brought to my attention; it would pop into my mind and it would leave. I had the opportunity to attend the ceremonies last year and to look back, up close, at guys that I had played against in my career. With every guy that I looked at that was in the Hall of Fame, there was always a story that I could relate to him. The closeness, the feeling, the atmosphere that I left there with, made me really want to be a part of this unique, unique honor. Since that time, the intensity and the nervousness was a little more dramatic. It was long, but nothing that I really grasped onto until recently.”

On revolutionizing the tight end position, who he looked up to and who he thinks the top five all-time tight ends are: “To me that’s easy. When I came into the league, there was a guy playing tight end that I really wanted to emulate and really looked at and wanted to be like and that was John Mackey. He wore the same number, or I wore the same number as he did. That was a fortunate thing that happened. After one year, teammates referred to me as little Mackey. He was the one who revolutionized the tight end position and I basically tried to emulate him and I think I see a lot of that in tight ends today. As far as the top five, I’m not going to put myself in that position. I know mentally that you have to look at their production. You have the (Tony) Gonzales’, you have the (Antonio) Gates’, but it depends on how the team wants to use them. I’m not going to put myself in the position where I stand up and say who is best at what they do. They know and I think that’s the most important thing; (is) that they have to govern themselves by what they think of themselves.”

On who had the greatest impact on his career: “(In) my first organized sport, basketball, I had a coach in junior high by the name of Coach (John) McKee. He gave me a challenge coming out of the ninth grade. I’m just a country boy. My dad started out as a hog farmer and ended up as a professor of engineering. So, I didn’t have the opportunity to be around sports; chores came first. I did move out of the country into the big city of Greensboro (N.C) and that’s where I met Coach McKee and he gave me a challenge one day. I had just finished a season of basketball – my first organized sport – and I was on my way to senior high school the following year. He asked me, just looked me in the eye and said, ‘are you going to play football?’ I said, ‘yes.’ Then he candidly smiled and said, ‘I don’t think you’re tough enough.’ I took that on as a personal challenge. So, if you said there was an impact in my life, little did he know, it was that challenge that I took on and carried throughout my life – to take on any challenge and just believe in yourself and do as best you can.”

On how the seasons he spent with the Lions were not very successful and how getting into the Hall of Fame balances that for him personally: “Well, I’m hoping that that didn’t keep me out. I’m hoping that the committee just felt that there were other guys that deserved it more than I did. I’m happy that I’m here, don’t take me wrong, but I don’t think that the team, the Detroit Lions, had anything to do with me not making it prior to (today). I’ve been presented with the question numerous times and basically I say to people that it means that if Mean Joe Green had played for the Detroit Lions, he never would have made the Hall of Fame. I don’t think so. So, I don’t think that philosophy really applies to it. I’m here, it took a long time (and) that’s all good.”