Chicago Bears Traditions

Bears in The Hall

George Blanda

Pro football hall of fame enshrinement speech
August 1, 1981

Well actually I'm not nervous. I'm just waiting for the clock to wind down to two seconds and then I am going to start. First of all, I want to thank Al Davis (presenter) for those kind words and I think what is said here today will soon be forgotten but what is being done here will be remembered here forever in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I guess I will start my talk out by saying if I had one word to describe how I feel, it is proud. Being proud to be here and being enshrined with the other athletes who had the good fortune to make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I'm also proud of the fact that I grew up in a very, very small town with a great morn and dad who raised 11 kids and part of that tradition of playing football in Western Pennsylvania. Proud I grew up in a little town called Youngwood, which was in the heart of football in Western Pennsylvania. I was very proud of my heritage and I developed a lot of character in the early days and learned that hard work, dedication and discipline and tenacity and never giving up, you can succeed in proving your life.

I never aspired to being a professional football player. All I wanted to be was to go to college, get an education and better my life and I had the good fortune to attend the University of Kentucky and had the great pleasure of playing under the great legendary Coach Bear Bryant who was still coaching at the University of Alabama. And he reinforced my spirit of hard work, dedication and discipline and never giving up. I received my education and my degree and never really aspired to be a professional player but it happened and I was drafted by the great Chicago Bears and the great George Halas. George gave me the opportunity to play 10 years and gave me 10 good years of training in what I called the minor leagues at that time so I could stay out one year and get prepared for the great AFL that was coming into existence in the 1960s.

I am proud to be here and be the fourth AFL player to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Long time in coming the recognition that we the founders of the league, the players, the original players. Jim Otto and I who played in every game of the AFL in its 10 years. We were ridiculed, we were maligned. We weren't recognized. We tried hard and we played hard. We gave it 110%. I would never have fulfilled the honor of being here today if it hadn't been for Al Davis, who at my age of 39 thought that I could still kick and throw the football a little bit. And when Al called me up in July of 1967 to come back and try out my third season, my third career with the Oakland Raiders, I was supposed to jump at it. Without Al and without the Raiders, without that team spirit out there with the pride and poise the winning attitude and playing about 85% of the games in the nine years we won with the Raiders, certainly that attitude was very, very helpful to me. And without Al Davis and without this guidance at the top managing that club, I would not be here today. I want to thank two great coaches I had at Oakland, Johnny Rausch who was my coach in 1967 and 1968. He helped me, he also coached my brother at Army at quarterback coach. I also want to thank John Madden, who is here, who put on a great show yesterday and without John and his leadership, I might not have been there for the seven years I played for John.

I also want to say in closing that the way I feel today and that this is family. I am so proud that my family will always be remembered in that Hall when they come through and see my bust along with Willie, Red & Jim and the other greats there and they will take pride and say that their Dad played 26 years of football, gave it 110% effort every time he was out there and tried to win when it was against all odds and was trying to win every football game.

I am proud that my wife, Betty, married 31 years. She has put up with me for 31 years, can you believe that. Without her and my two lovely children, I could have been retired many, many years before I did, but they encouraged me to continue to play to do what I wanted to do. They sacrificed; I sacrificed an awful lot with the kids growing up because I was out playing that silly game, having fun, enjoying myself. In the last five years, I have tried to take the time to fulfill some of the things I didn't do in those days. With that I would say that I am certainly proud to be in the Hall of Fame. I am very fortunate that I got to play 26 years of professional football, more than any player that has ever played. And the thrill was competing week after week, year after year. I really feel proud and honored that the good Lord gave me the power and the strength, the upbringing to continue on with the game I sincerely loved and enjoyed playing. Thank you very much.