“They would ask me all the time, ‘who was your sports hero growing up?’ ” Lewis bellowed. “My momma!”
He told a story of one of his final years of high school, when his mother moved their family from Lakeland to Tennessee. Lewis begged to move back to Lakeland, and his mother handed him a $39 Greyhound bus ticket and $20 worth of food stamps.
“Momma, we made it,” Lewis said. “The Hall of Fame.”
Lewis’s remarks took a political turn toward the end of his 33-minute monologue, when he called on Hall of Famers and other former football players to help tackle the nation’s challenges.
“It’s gotta be us and it’s gotta start right now,” he said. “Our country needs real leaders. We can go from being legends to building a legacy bigger than football, bigger than sports.”
Later in the speech, he asked, “How about stopping our kids from dying in schools? Can we please put prayer back in schools?” He also asked about solutions to sex trafficking and “medicine for our neighbors.”
“The answer is simple. The answer is love,” he said. “Think what we can do if we work together as a country.”
Lewis headlined a star-studded class that also included safety Brian Dawkins, wide receiver Randy Moss, linebacker Brian Urlacher, wide receiver Terrell Owens, offensive lineman Jerry Kramer, linebacker Robert Brazile and executive Bobby Beathard. Owens celebrated in a separate ceremony at his alma mater, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Here are other highlights from the rest of the night’s induction ceremonies:
One of the most imposing wide receiver’s ever, Moss had plenty of people and places to thank, including Patriots Coach Bill Belichick.
Moss didn’t forget where he came from.
The Eagles great had a heartfelt present for his wife: her own “gold jacket.”
He also nearly teared up thanking his former defensive coordinator, Emmitt Thomas.
Dawkins also made a pretty awesome entrance.
The Chicago legend’s speech was made with the same seriousness with which he treated game days.
And he admired his formerly shaved head.
The Packers legend had a great story to share about past teammates.
Country music star Tucker Beathard, Bobby’s grandson, wrote a special song to celebrate his grandfather’s enshrinement.
The Houston Oilers’ legendary linebacker’s 86 year-old father helped unveil his son’s bust.
Brazile also had some special words for his alma mater, Jackson State.
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