Former San Francisco 49er Bryant Young’s moving tribute to his son highlights Hall of Fame induction

CANTON, Ohio – Being a part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2022 has a special — and painful — meaning for former San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Bryant Young. It’s a poignant reminder of his son Colby, who died of cancer on Oct. 11, 2016. Colby’s favorite number, his father said during her induction speech Saturday afternoon at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame. Stadium, it was 22.

“In this, my 10th year of eligibility, I walk into the Hall as a member of this ’22,” Young said, her voice breaking. “2022. Twenty two.”

Young’s voice cracked even more as she spoke about the courage with which her son, diagnosed at age 13 in 2014, handled the news after being told in 2016 that the cancer had spread and treatments were no longer available. running.

It was a powerful moment that caused the crowd to give Young a standing ovation.

“Colby felt where things were going,” Young said. “He didn’t fear death so much as the process of dying. Would he be painful? Would he be remembered?

“Colby… you live in our hearts… We will always speak your name.”

Young’s speech was the most emotional moment of the evening. Joining Young in the Hall are offensive tackle Tony Boselli, receiver Cliff Branch, safety LeRoy Butler, journeyman Art McNally, linebacker Sam Mills, defensive lineman Richard Seymour and coach Dick Vermeil.

Young was a four-time Pro Bowler, a two-time first-team All-Pro, and a member of the 1990s NFL All-Decade Team. He was also the 1999 NFL Comeback Player of the Year after leading the 49ers with 11 sacks along with 20 quarterback pressures in his return from a broken leg.

Boselli was a five-time Pro Bowler, a three-time All-Pro, and a member of the 1990s NFL Team of the Decade before his career was cut short by a shoulder injury. He was the first pick in Jacksonville Jaguars history in 1995 (second overall) and is the first player in franchise history to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

He summed up that honor with the first four words he uttered: “Well, this is amazing.

“…Being the first Jacksonville Jaguar to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a great honor.”

Branch, who died on August 3, 2019, won three Super Bowls in his 14-year career with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. He was a three-time first-team All-Pro and a four-time Pro Bowler. His sister, Elaine Anderson, spoke on his behalf and said she felt her brother was here in spirit along with two other Raiders Hall of Famers.

“Today is bittersweet because we miss our beloved Clifford and sweet because it is history now,” she said. “I want to tell you there’s a sweet spirit in this place today. Our No. 21 Clifford wouldn’t miss his enshrinement for anything. He’s longed for this day and the 21st is sitting front and center with Al Davis and John Madden.”

Butler played 12 seasons in Green Bay, won a Super Bowl and was a four-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro. A member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team, he is also credited with creating one of the most iconic touchdown celebrations in NFL history: the Lambeau Leap. He struggled with foot problems as a child (they were in braces or casts and was sometimes in a wheelchair) to play more games than any defensive back in Green Bay history.

“When you play for the Green Bay Packers, it opens a lot of doors,” Butler said. “You win a Super Bowl, all doors open. When you get into the Hall of Fame, football heaven opens up.”

McNally is the first official to be inducted into the Hall. He is considered the “father of instant replay” after introducing replay to the NFL in 1985, and the league’s command center in Manhattan is named after him.

“This is the biggest thing I need for an official: Do the job [and] Hopefully no one will know you were alive,” McNally said via video. “He makes calls the proper way, the way it should be: with a heavy dose of common sense.”

Mills began his professional football career in the USFL before signing with the New Orleans Saints in 1986. Despite standing just 5-foot-9, Mills quickly established himself as one of the best players in the league, making five Pro Bowls and he was named All-Pro. three times. Mills died of bowel cancer in 2005, two years after his diagnosis. His widow, Melanie Mills, said her husband’s motto of “Keep Hitting,” which was adopted by the Carolina Panthers after he signed as a free agent in 1995, was also something he lived by off the field. .

“He was more than just a great football player,” Melanie Mills said. “He was a father, a friend and a husband, and a leader who always kept fighting no matter the odds.

“Keep punching, everyone. That’s what Sam would want you to do.”

Seymour spent eight seasons with the New England Patriots and four with the Oakland Raiders. He made seven Pro Bowls and was voted to the All-Pro team three times. He won three Super Bowls and was a member of the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s.

“Today I am overwhelmed with humility, not because of what this moment says about me, but what this moment says about us and what we can do together,” Seymour said. “Today I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I didn’t get here alone. None of us did. None of us could have, class of 2022. They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps. There couldn’t be better company than your.

“It is a privilege to have my name forever linked to yours in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

Vermeil, who led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl and the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl title, was named NFL Coach of the Year twice by The Sporting News and once by The Associated Press. The man known for wearing his emotions up his sleeve had the longest speech of the day. He spoke for more than 20 minutes and thanked a long list of players, coaches, mentors, friends and family.

“I wish I had time to check everyone out,” he said.

Vermeil said the only thing that will make him feel better is the addition of coaches Mike Holmgren, Dan Reeves, Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Shanahan and Tom Coughlin.

“Believe me, if I deserve it, so do they,” he said.

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