* (opening statements)* "First of all, I want to thank everybody that's here today this afternoon. What a great day for me and my family and all of my fans and friends. To be inducted my first year of eligibility is mind-boggling. I'll tell you that. Not too many guys have had that happen. Congratulations to all of the rest of the guys inducted: Rayfield Wright, John Madden, Troy Aikman, Harry Carson, (Reggie White). Congratulations to all you guys. The 15 guys that were up as finalists I heard were one of the strongest groups. All those guys I know personally. I played against a lot of them. I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. So many of them could have been inducted today. I'm just so honored and so fortunate to be standing here today.
"I want to thank the Hall of Fame committee for the job that they did in selecting us as a group. I'm sure they had a very tough task. I want to thank John McClain, who actually presented my case for induction. I understand he did a very good job. He must have if I'm standing here. Also John Clayton and Jarrett Bell, for the jobs that they did.
"There are so many people that you want to acknowledge on a day like today, but I'd first like to thank my family—both my extended family and my immediate family for the support and love they've given me throughout all of the years that I've played this game. All the heartaches, the pitfalls and all of the good times that they had to go through with me. That's why I was so relieved today so much more about making this because of what they felt about this whole thing. They would've been the ones more devastated than me if it wouldn't have happened. I didn't want to have to face them, because I've done that before other times throughout my career with other disappointments. So this would've been another huge disappointment. I am so happy for them also, because they've been with me the whole step of the way. They're going to celebrate this right along with me like everybody else.
"I also want to thank all of my coaches and teammates that I've played with. Troy (Aikman) knows that no quarterback could ever do whatever he does without good people around him. And I've been fortunate to have great players surround me wherever I played the game, which made my job a lot easier. That support is very important.
"This means so many things in so many ways to me. Rich (Eisen) talked about me being the first African-American quarterback to go to the Hall of Fame. Well, I think all of the guys that played the game before me as African-Americans have to share in this a little bit, because we've made tremendous strides over the years. I really don't want to make this a racial thing, because it shouldn't be, but it is significant because it is the first, and I think whenever there is a first it is significant. When Doug Williams was the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl, I think that helped a lot of things as far as young black quarterbacks getting more opportunities. I think this could also show that we have arrived at the pinnacle of our sport.
"So for me to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with this great fraternity of players is the crowning jewel of my career. I am very, very deeply honored to be here today and be involved with these guys in this great fraternity. I'm a little emotional right now. I'm not a real emotional person, by nature. But it's been that type of day. It's been a roller coaster day. I'm just happy to be here and thank you all for being out here to support all of us.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the selection committee for inducting me. It's an extreme honor. Thank you very much."
(on if he was surprised to be inducted) "I am and I'm not. I knew I had a guy that really knew my case very well—certainly as well as anybody could—in John McClain. But again, not too many guys get in on their first time. To have that happen to me is quite an honor. But I also tried to relegate myself to the fact that I've always had to wait pretty much every step of the way in my career. I had to wait in order to go to a major college. I had to wait in order to get into the NFL. So I figured I'd have to wait before this happens. But fortunately the voters thought enough of me to say I don't have to wait this time. I'm happy about that."
(on if he ever expected to reach the Hall of Fame) "I don't think any player sets a goal to be in the Hall of Fame. I think most players think about trying to get to the NFL and trying to play as long as they possibly can and trying to have the best career that they possibly can. I went a different route. But I ended up playing a lot longer than I ever thought I could or would. And I was able to be very productive throughout that time. The (thought of making it into the) Hall of Fame is something that comes pretty much after you're done playing football if you feel like you've got a pretty strong body of work over the course of your career. Back in 1984, I never thought anything about the Hall of Fame at all. I was just trying to make a name for myself in the National Football League. Fortunately, I was able to do that."
(on what it means to have accomplished so much in both the CFL and NFL) "People ask me all the time about my career in Canada and would I do it again. I wouldn't take that experience away from myself for anything in the world. I think it was a great experience for me up there for the six years that I played. It gave me the opportunity to play with a great bunch of guys. I have some great memories from up there. My first son was born in Canada, and I was able to ply my craft up there also. They gave me an opportunity to play a position where I wasn't assured of being able to play it down here. I was able to do good enough to be honored in their Hall of Fame, too.
"You never think you'd be able to play long enough up here in the NFL just to
qualify to be in the Hall of Fame in this league, because you're talking about
six years already out of my career that I played up in Canada. But I was able
to play another 17 years down here by the grace of God. And I'm fortunate enough
to be in the Hall of Fame in this country, too. So it is something that I'm very
proud of. I'm more proud of the longevity and the production more than anything
else because this is a tough game to play for a long time. Not a lot of guys play
it for very long. Injuries are a big part of it. Diminished play is a big part
of it, but for some reason I was able to play a lot longer than most other guys
did. It's a testament to a lot of different things, but I think basically it's
just being blessed by the Lord above to have the abilities and to be able to keep
those abilities for a long period of time."