Former Florida State cornerback Deion Sanders was one of seven members inducted Saturday into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Lord, I thank you. Jesus, I love you. If it wasn't for God, I wouldn't be here today.
The Hall of Fame staff. Canton, Ohio. That was a wonderful parade, although I thought we was headed for Cleveland.
Oftentimes, when we have public success, we have private struggles.
Coach Ron Hoover for kicking me off my high school team, even though I was the starting quarterback. That taught me a lot, even though I wasn't being insubordinate in that cafeteria. I don't know what that lady was talking about.
Mickey and Diane Andrews, my DB coach at Florida State. You taught me everything. You taught me I could be two persons at the same time. You yelled at us, then, "How's the family?"
You made me the punt returner that I am. You had this drill where everybody had to lie out to try to block a punt. I don't even dive in pools. The guy before me dove, and the kicker kicked his jaw wide open. I said, "Coach, I'll go return the punt."
Jamie Dukes, my brother, Andre Rison. Corey Fuller, who allowed me to come back and play for the Ravens. Jason Phillips, who's an offensive coordinator now. We went at it when he was on the scout team in Atlanta. He went after my butt.
The Snoop D-O-Double G. Cube. I been loving you since the early-90s.
Sponsors. Under Armour. You see a bunch of kids out here with "Truth" on.
My family. Auntie Scootie. That carphone that you got me when I was in college.
Atlanta Falcons. Taylor and Rankin Smith. Coaches. Glanville, June Jones. The new regime. I had a wonderful meeting today with one of the most beautiful owners that I wish I'd played for: Thank you, Arthur Blank.
Washington Redskins. Daniel Snyder.
I love me some Rex Ryan.
Do you understand this is the Hall of Fame? I grew up on some of you guys. I couldn't wait to get a glimpse of that TV. To play against the Marinos and Montanas. Troy Aikman. Emmitt Smith, Mike Irvin -- are you kidding me? Jerry Rice? Steve Young? Andre Rison, Jamie Dukes, Scott Case. The best secondary ever assembled, Merton Hanks.
This game taught me there's some things in life you can't do prematurely. In football, they call it offsides. In life, it's just life.
Through this game, I've lost some people. But I've gained five beautiful kids. My beautiful wife, Pilar, who's sacrificed and put her dreams on hold to make sure I achieve mine. Thank you for all you put up with. I know I'm not easy to deal with.
This game. I appreciate it so much because I thuoght about it as a child. They told me we would get paid for a game that I always love? I hear so many people say they'd do it for free. I would too as long as you're doing it for free.
This game means so much to me. I would never love nothing that couldn't love me back. I like this game. It taught me how to live with pain. Taught me so much about people, about timing, about focus and dedication. Submitting oneself and sacrifices.
I attacked this game because I made a promise that I needed this game to fulfill, when I was seven years old to this young woman aged 27. She was working two jobs to make ends meet. She was slaving over pots and pans. It was a little high chair right by this stove.
I said, "Mama," cause I was tired of seeing her come home all tired. I said, "Mama, I'm gonna make a lot of money, and you're never gonna work another day of your life."
She said, "That's fine, but get that lawnmower and cut that grass."
14 years later, you can't give up on that dream and that promise. 14 years later, this dream came. I was able to allow my mama to say, "I'm not doing it anymore."
I never told you, Mama. I played for a youth team called the Fort Myers Rebels. Everybody on that team, their parents were doctors of chiefs of police. Me and my friend were the only African-American kids on that team. I was ashamed of my Mama. My Mama worked in a hospital. She pushed a cart in a hospital. I was ashamed of my Mama, who sacrificed everything for me to make sure I was best-dressed in school.
One of my friends in high school saw her pushing a cart and clowned me because of my Mama. So I made a pledge to myself that I don't care what it takes, I'm not gonna do anything illegal, but my Mama would never have to work another day of her life.
And I recognized defensive backs, at that time, didn't get paid a lot. QBs, RBs, LBs did. In my dorm at Florida State, I created this image. This thing you could imagine.
You could love him or hate him, but he was Prime Time. I would rehearse quotes and sayings. I knew I had the substance, the goods, the work ethic, but I needed to secure myself enough that my Mama would never have to work another day of her life.
The problem is with some dreams, the dreams are only about you. If you're dream ain't bigger than you, there's a problem with your dream.
Throughout my career, I understood there were gonna be stones. When you making a difference, it's gonna be haters. When you provoke change, it's gonna be naysayers. Some of the stuff I tried to do, they'd never seen. When you talked about me, media, guess what? Behind you, I saw my Mama. When you criticized me, I saw right through your papers and I saw my Mama. You told me what I couldn't do, didn't do, would never be. I saw my Mama pushing that cart. When you told me I was too small, wasn't educated enough, I saw my Mama because I made a promise. You have to maintain that responsibility to that promise. That's why I love this game.
You had to make that throw, Troy, when Mike came off that cut. Emmitt, you had to made that block. Jerry Rice, you had to catch that ball.
You think these guys sitting here flanked on my right and left didn't have the intelligence? I'm talking about the knowledge of life. I had a promise, a responsibility, somewhat of an intelligence. I had to manage all these things.
There's no class that told us how to manage ourselves, millions and our time. Ultimately, people around us are on a payroll. They tell you what you want to hear. Thank you, Eugene, for being you.
Now I'm managing things. The last thing that I have is expectation. What separates us from some of you kids is that we expect to be great. I heard some Hall of Famers say I never dreamt of this. I'm sorry. I did. I expect to be great, to do what hadn't been done, to provoke change, to walk into a room and it's 72 degrees, to make it 70.
Thank God I went to five teams, because I had to prove myself over and over again. People start expecting. On my shoes, it says You Gotta Believe. I have a problem if you don't believe in yourself. How will somebody else believe in you?
Let me back up a minute. I gave you a promise, the responsibility, the intellect, the management, the expectation. I don't know if you figured it out, but I just gave you PRIME. I just gave you the formula in who is really standing before you.
I was trick-or-treating, and it wasn't even Halloween. All the things you really thought I was, some of the things you didn't like, didn't want to accept, I was doing it for my Mama.
I leave you with this. Many of my naysayers said Prime didn't tackle. I want to respond to that because it bothers me, insinuating that I'm soft. I got kids. Since 1989, I've tackled every bill my Mama has ever given me. Hadn't missed one. Next time they say Prime didn't tackle, make sure you let 'em know: Yes, he did.
Hall of Famers, I am so privileged and thankful to be among you. You don't understand how... I didn't understand until I got here, until I heard you articulate yourselves. I heard the struggles and trials. I made a new friend. His name is Chris Hanburger. Chris, I love you man. You're a good dude.
NFL Network, thank you for letting me be me. Ladies and gentlemen, I came here with seven buses full of kids, all ethnicities and social statuses. I trick these kids by using sports to educate them. I'm trying to open a charter school.
What are we doing with this platform? Are we just walking around with these gold jackets? Let's provoke change.
Truth family, I love you. We are raising your kids to be CEOs, not employees. Leaders, not followers.
Thank you for your love and passion that you have for me. Because I love it. I don't know what's going on in other tents, but Snoop, Cube, Nelly, we 'bout to go tear this thing up.
I got one final thing. I like him, but something's missing.
[Places 'do rag on his bronze bust.]
Thank you, and God bless.
John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.