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Mike Haynes NFL Hall of Fame Acceptance Speech

Former Sun Devil Mike Haynes was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame on July 26, 1997. Below is his acceptance speech given on the steps of the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Good morning everybody. I'm sure you have some idea of how I'm feeling right now to be standing on these steps. I'm extremely happy and I'm extremely proud and I'm trying not to break down up here. I have a bet with these gentlemen over here. This is probably one of the most emotional experiences an athlete can ever have. To be here, surrounded by luminaries, coaches, owners, former players, people that have made this game really special. People that recognize great coaches like Coach Shula. Great owners like Wellington Mara. Great players like Mike (Webster) and several others that are here.

I want to extend my congratulations to my fellow inductees. Gentlemen, I am honored to be up here with you.

They have asked us to keep this to eight minutes. For your benefit and for the benefit of TV, I'm sure. I'm going to try my best to do that, but there are no guarantees.

Like everybody here, I also am blessed with a loving family. You have no idea, mom and dad, how much this means to me to have you to be here. My mother, Barbara, my dad, Hutson. My brother, Reggie. My three sisters - Monica, Gayle and Diana. My three children - Aaron, Jared and Vanessa and their mother Julie. And my sweetheart - Gigi Madonna. You have all given me strength, courage and passion. And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you, very much.

Although I live in San Diego now, my hometown is Los Angeles. I want to thank the few who came all that way. For me, it all started there. From the people in my neighborhood, who I've been spending a lot of time with here the last few days, reminiscing. I went to the public schools in Los Angeles. I grew up like a lot of people do in this country. Like all parents ... trying to get their kids to do good things, I was really no different. For me, sports was an opportunity to express myself. Los Angeles is an incredibly interesting city. All kinds of different people there. Different kinds of cultures there. I really think growing up in Los Angeles has really kind of prepared me for life around the world, really. I'm so glad that I have that as a place that it all started for me. Los Angeles, I want to say thank you to you as well.

I want to give special thanks to my coaches and teachers in high school. For there, it was where I learned about self-esteem - where I learned it was important to be a well-rounded individual. It was there that people encouraged me to have dreams and to seek those dreams. Thank you Marshall High School and all you teachers and coaches.

From there, I went to Arizona State. A lot of people might think that's where it really started for me because, really, growing up in L.A., there are so many good athletes it is easy to be overshadowed. College, is where I got a chance to excel and be really recognized. I was very fortunate, there, to run into a guy named Frank Kush who was my college coach. Frank was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame two years ago. He's here today and I would appreciate it if you would join me by clapping your hands.

Thank you, Coach.

When I went to Arizona State I wanted to be a wide receiver. Like a lot of kids playing football, you want to see your name in the lights and people reading about you in the papers. At wide receiver, running back, quarterback - you can get that. That can happen for you. Not at lineman, Mike will tell you about that. Not at defensive back, usually. Usually, defensive backs are getting beat in those news highlights and some wide receiver is looking pretty good. At Arizona State, they had injuries in the secondary. I was a freshman, the first year that freshmen could play varsity. They moved me up to the varsity squad. I was third-string free safety. Before you knew it, I was actually starting. They had some injuries there. I had a couple interceptions in the games. I had some nice run backs with those. Showed a little bit of what I could do. The next year, they made me a punt returner and I continued to play defensive back, but not because I wanted to. I still wanted to play wide receiver.

My junior year, a guy named John Jefferson, who starred in the National Football League for the San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers, he came to Arizona State and without a doubt was probably the best receiver I ever saw. He could catch the ball like no one else. He really had it over me as a receiver. It was then that I started this trek to be a defensive back. If I was going to be one, I wanted to be one of the all-time best.

It was with hard work there ... with a lot of work from a lot of coaches and a lot of players that were at Arizona State at that time. A lot of them have gone on to be stars in the National Football League. They were all-americans in college, all-conference players. I really don't have the time to mention them here. Except, I do want to say thank you, to them as well. It was practicing and playing with those athletes in college that really set the tempo and standard for me going into the National Football League.

Coach Kush taught all of us to be prepared to win. To be the best that we could be. To get the most out of our abilities.

In 1976, I was a first-round draft choice of the New England Patriots. The New England Patriots were not a great football team in 1975 and because of that I was the fifth player selected in the draft. I went very high. They had defensive needs on the team. I was real fortunate that I had a guy that was also drafted on that team from right here in Canton, Ohio. A guy named Tim Fox. I don't know if you know him, but he's well recognized right here in the city of Canton. But, we had three first-round draft choices. With three new players and a few good trades, the Patriots turned their season around. We got to the playoffs. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for us. We got beat in the first playoff game. Lost to the Raiders, in Oakland.

In those days, I used to hate the Raiders. I used to hate the Steelers, the Dolphins. But, that was then. Now, I'm a much wiser person. Know when I'm outnumbered. And I've also learned to appreciate other teams in the league. The Patriots, although they had great coaches with Chuck Fairbanks and Perkins and Parcells and Sumner and Red Miller - they always had great coaches and great players. But to win, you have to have commitment from the very top. I finally understood that, knew what that was all about in 1983 after I was traded to the Los Angeles Raiders. There I got a chance to understand what winning was all about. There, I got a chance to understand what it took to be a great team. It was there where I learned that, yes, you have to have great coaches and committed coaches and you have to have good players, committed players. But, you also have to have players that are leaders and an owner that will let them lead. Al Davis was one such owner. He had great players that wanted to be great leaders like Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Jim Otto, Fred Biletnikoff, Willie Brown, Ted Hendricks and George Blanda. All of these people are in the Hall of Fame.

I feel really fortunate to have played in Los Angeles and very thankful to have played for Al Davis. It gave me a chance to go back home and play in the Coliseum that I grew up watching the NFL greats. Got a chance to play in front of my family and friends. Al, thank you very much. You have a special place in my heart. You always will and so will the Raiders.

For those of you young people out there who want to play the game of football, I wanted you to know some of the things that it took for me and maybe you will learn from my experience. I love the game of football. I loved it. I reverenced it. And I really appreciated it. I knew to be a good player at that game, I had to work hard. I had to understand what 100 percent was all about. I had to understand that that goal kept moving higher because the better I got, the higher the standard became. That's why you hear people talk about, 'Give more than 100 percent.' Because it is possible. Because it keeps moving. So you young people, set your goals high. It can happen for you.

'Get the most out of your abilities.' That's what Frank Kush taught us in college and that's what young people who take anything seriously should try to do. Remember, there are no limits.

Now, I want to thank the National Football League. I want to thank the commissioner, his staff, the officials, the Patriots, the Raider organization and their staffs and I want to thank you folks out here - the fans. Because if it wasn't for you, there would not be a game.

I also want to thank the people who brought life action to our sport. Guys like the television crews, the announcers, the still photographers. Those special individuals who really work hard. Guys like Howard Cossell. Remember Howard Cossell? Howard Cossell loved my games. Howard Cossell featured me, it seemed like every Monday night if I jumped on a fumble, if I intercepted a pass, if I made a tackle that made a difference in the game. Howard Cossell, thank you buddy.

I also want to give a special thanks to Steve Sabol and all the talented people at NFL Films. You are the greatest film-makers in the world. You have documented this great game for all-time, for everyone to appreciate and enjoy. Thank you, Steve.

Now I want to give a special thanks to John Banker and the people here at the Hall of Fame. John, you and your staff - Tammy and all the others, the several thousand volunteers - you have made this special ceremony something very special for me, my family and the friends of mine that have come here. I want to thank you also from the bottom of my heart.

Now, I know I didn't go too much over eight minutes. I think I win on my bet. I actually was crying before I got up here to the podium. So, Decon Jones, he wins this bet.

Anyway, everybody, I want to thank you for making this the greatest day of my life and sharing this day with me. Thank you all. God bless you.

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