Edgerrin James talks about how he dealt with perception throughout his NFL career, culminating in his induction into Pro Football Hall of Fame. (2:00)
CANTON, Ohio -- Some had waited for decades to receive a call from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had to wait an additional twelve months before the ceremony. Both the Centennial class and the Class of 2020 got their chance Saturday night.
In 2020's Centennial Class, fifteen were elected to The Pro Football Hall of Fame. This group was chosen to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NFL. The Class of 2020 featured Troy Polamalu (Pittsburg Steelers safety), Steve Atwater (Vikings and Seahawks safety), Isaac Bruce (Rams wide receiver) and Edgerrin James (Colts running back).
James was referred to as "the best teammate that I have ever played with" by Peyton Manning. He dominated the league's rush his first two seasons. After sustaining a serious knee injury, James continued to be a force in Indy. He finished his career in Seattle and Arizona with three seasons.
During his speech, James paid tribute to his mom immediately. He chuckled, "To my mama we're here," he said. "No blueprint, no manual, but most importantly, no man. "I'm your man."
He also gave a message to society: "Just do what you have to do." The world would be a better place if everyone did their jobs.
Atwater was a Denver staple for 10 seasons. He also won two Super Bowls and played a final season with the Jets. He had six tackles and a sack in the Broncos' Super Bowl win against Green Bay. Atwater, with 1,357 tackles was the NFL's All-Decade Team. Perhaps his most notable achievement is leveling Chiefs running back Christian Okoye who weighed in at 40 pounds more than Atwater.
Atwater stated, "I am humbled to wear this jacket," before looking around at other Hall of Famer on the stage. "What a group!"
Twelve inductees will be present at the ceremony. Polamalu, who has been home since last month, was unable to travel to Canton and had been unsure of his status for the enshrinement ceremony. He tested positive for COVID-19. He was medically cleared to travel to Canton, and he participated in Saturday's Hall of Fame parade.
Polamalu, who did not receive his gold jacket on Friday with the rest, was awarded a formal gold jacket to open ceremony.
Saturday night saw seven Centennial class members and five members of Class 2020. Eight other members of the Centennial Class were also honored at the ceremony.
The evening was opened by Cliff Harris and Harold Carmichael, both members of the Centennial Class. The last two speakers for the evening were both members of the Centennial Class -- Jimmy Johnson, Bill Cowher.
Carmichael was a Philadelphia Eagles receiver who played from 1971 to 1983. He finished his career in Dallas with three 1,000-yard seasons. This was in an era where the passing game wasn't as popular as it is today. He was a star receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1971-83 and was a member of the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team.
Carmichael won the league's Man-of-the Year award in 1980. When his bust was revealed, Carmichael exclaimed, "Whew! Baby!" "It is an honor to be part of this brotherhood and fraternity with love. It has been quite a journey.
Harris was an outstanding tackler and coverman for the Dallas Cowboys between 1970-1979.
"We were the Doomsday Defense." Harris was able to recall. Harris said, "The odds of me playing for the NFL, let alone me being here tonight, were extremely long." Although I might be the only person who can tell how slim this chance is, I know that anyone can make it. It is important to never give up.
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Donnie Shell, both former safety officers, were among the Centennial class enshrinees who spoke at Saturday's ceremony. Jimbo Covert was also present. Video tributes were held throughout the ceremony in honor of eight Centennial class members who were enshrined posthumously: Bobby Dillon (Winter Hill), Winston Hill, Alex Karras and Steve Sabol.
Tagliabue stated, "This is like a realization of a dream." "The centennial class covers pro football history."
Tagliabue said that Pete Rozelle advised him to "think league first."
Tagliabue stated, "I wanted to keep him bedrock principle in my mind."
Due to the large class and the tendency of some of the speeches of enshrinees exceeding 20-30 minutes in recent years, each of them was told by the Hall of Fame that their remarks should not exceed six minutes. An Academy Awards-style musical cue will be used at eight minutes.
This report was contributed by The Associated Press.