I have been to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but never to an induction ceremony, and I worked in Cleveland for two years. I always wanted to go, but it just didn't work out.
Saturday night was a great night for me, personally and professionally.
I'm still of fan of pro football. I grew up a Cowboys fan and have been blessed to live my dream to be a sportscaster. My first trip to the Hall in 1995 was like taking a ten year old to Six Flags to ride roller coasters. I had a ball. I'm a die hard fan and love the game.
The Hall of Fame speeches by Floyd Little, Russ Grimm, Dick Lebeau, and Emmitt Smith were excellent. Jerry Rice was terrible. I talked to so many who felt like I did, Rice spoke like a man who just wrote his speech ten minutes before he stepped out.
Emmitt was one his game as he spoke like a true champion in front of a sold out crowd at Fawcett Stadium. I was moved as he shed tears to recognize the sacrifices his fullback Daryl Moose Johnston made in blocking for him for the Super Bowl titles and rushing championships as Cowboys. In a classy move, Smith called out each of the offensive lineman who blocked for him as a Cowboys running back.
We have become friends over the years and it consists of Emmitt constantly giving me grief on any and every subject. Here's an example, at his after-party, I spotted him from across the room. Despite several people around, he yells out to me, "I see you found the food," looking at my plate of freshly made lobster macaroni. All I could do is laugh. That's Emmitt, he sees all. The biggest night of his professional life with a room full of so many greats of pro football and business he calls me out.
"I'm gonna send you a bill," Smith said with a sarcastic smile.
Emmitt has an appeal that was on display all weekend at the Hall. Fans came from all across America in #22 jerseys. Old, young, black, white, they all wanted to pay homage to a gridiron hero. They told me their stories of why they could not miss his big moment as if they traveled the road from Escambia High school, the University of Florida, and the Dallas Cowboys with him. Sorry, I didn't see an Arizona Cardinals jersey in the crowd.
My NBC 5 crew tagged along with me for the Emmitt after-party and it was a party that rocked. Bell, Biv, Devoe performed live. Smith had an open bar, chefs, and a chocolate desert area I promptly took advantage of. He was gracious and it was fun to celebrate the final stop of his football journey. I was grateful to have covered Smith and been there for his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.