Commissioner Rozelle, ladies and gentlemen. I am deeply honored to be inducted today into the NFL Hall of Fame. For anyone who has ever played football, this is the highest recognition that can be bestowed and I am both honored and grateful for this recognition.
Most people of my generation refuse to acknowledge or give credence to others that have helped them in life. I am being enshrined because of my physical ability and because of the teammates. But there is another side to a professional football player, and that is to stay mentally alert in a case of a physical injury that might shorten your career. By being mentally afloat, I meant to seek out all season job opportunities when I came to the game. I did from the start. In my first three years, I had job opportunities from two companies. It kept me mentally afloat and gave me the incentive to go back to school and finish my undergraduate degree and my master's degree. It brings to mind what I was all about in the first place. I went to college not as an athletic student, but a student athlete.
No one can get here alone, however. So I want to express my thanks to a few people who have made it possible for me to be here today. I want to say a special thanks to my high school coach, Frank Smagous. It was he who really got me started in football. He taught me the fundamentals and helped give direction to my life. I am now and always will be deeply indebted to him. I want to give thanks to my college coach, Jack Mitchell. Coach Mitchell recruited me to the University of Kansas and became not only my coach but a very personal friend.
And I want to give a special thanks to George Halas, a man who more than anyone else who has made professional football what it is today. There is not much you can say about someone who has become a legend in his own lifetime, but I want to try. Mr. Halas is one of those rare individuals who is not content with the things as they are, but sees the way they could be and works to make things better. I cannot thank him enough for all he as done for me and my family and many others of the National Football League players he has touched.
And finally, I want to thank the many people I played with in the NFL, teammates and opponents alike. They were great years for me. And I am very appreciative of having the opportunity of playing with such great athletes.
God gave me a great gift and I had a lot of help developing for this occasion. Reaching this point, however, is not as important as striving to get here. This is true in all professions and all of life's activities. There are doctors, lawyers, schoolteachers, plumbers all who strive to do their very best with their abilities. We hear a lot today about how the American people have lost their dedication to excellence. I don't believe that is true. Each of us excels at different things, sometimes in areas that are only a hobby, more often in our life vocation. The most important thing, however, is to strive to do our very best. Nothing is more of a waste than unrealized potential. Sometimes failure to use one's talents to the fullest is often the fault of the individual. Nothing could be more tragic. I am sure many of you have been to a Special Olympics and if you have, I am sure you have felt the same exhiliration I have felt in watching young people with disabilities strive as hard as they can in various events. The sense of satisfaction they get from striving is to them much more important than where they finish in the competition. As Robert Rawlings said, 'A man's reach should exceed his grasp'. It is describing to reach a goal that is important and if you should reach that goal, set new goals and strive for them.
A long-time basketball coach at the University of Kansas, Dr. Fog Allen was once asked what was your best team. He responded by saying 'ask me in 25 years and let me see what they have done in life'. It is not enough to rest on yesterdays triumphs, but to continually strive for new goals and accomplishments. Again, I am very deeply honored to be here today as I know the other inductees are. I hope when we look back 25 years from now, we can see this not as a zenith of our accomplishments but as a milestone in a life of striving for excellence, striving for even more distant goals.
This is a great day in the life of Gale Sayers. It is a great day for my family. It is a great day for Southern Illinois University, and I am very proud to be among the 1977 Class of Inductees. I just hope I can live up to this honor.
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