CANTON — A Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement speech turned into a 23-minute thank-you note Saturday afternoon.
Dick Vermeil showed gratitude to just about everyone who has impacted him during his 85 years on Earth. He made many of those individuals who were in attendance at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium stand up and be recognized.
And, of course, he cried. But only a little.
“You noticed I didn’t get into a lot of other things that would make me cry, OK?” Vermeil said. “But when I talk about Carol Vermeil, it ain’t going to work.”
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Vermeil, a renowned crier who choked up a bit talking about his wife, was head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs during a football life that included a big chunk as a network broadcaster.
Each step of the way, he arrived at a team that was struggling and built that team into a winner.
He led the Eagles to an appearance in Super Bowl XV. He guided the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams to the Super Bowl XXXIV championship. He owned a 126-114 (.525) career coaching record.
Each step of the way, Carol was with him.
“The only thing I ever put on my body more important than this jacket was the wedding ring she gave me 66 years ago,” Vermeil said. “… She has no equal.”
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Vermeil is the 28th head coach to enter the Hall, and he seems a little wary of putting himself in the company of those men.
“Many people have said to me, ‘Coach, you impact players,'” Vermeil said. “It’s the other way around. The players impact me. Last night (at the Gold Jacket Dinner), sitting up behind me was Mike Jones.”
Jones was the Rams linebacker who tackled Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson one yard short of a potential game-tying touchdown to seal Super Bowl XXXIV for St. Louis.
“If Mike Jones doesn’t make the tackle on the last play of Super Bowl XXXIV, I’m not here today,” Vermeil said. “Players win games. It’s our job to prepare them and get them ready to win games.”
He later added, “You know how much smarter I got when (Hall of Fame running back) Marshall Faulk showed up in St. Louis?”
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Vermeil shared a story on how UCLA basketball coaching legend John Wooden impacted him. Vermeil was the young head coach of UCLA’s football team when Wooden dropped some wisdom on him.
“One time I was complaining about the players we lost in recruiting,” Vermeil said. “He said, ‘Sit down.’ I sat down. When John Wooden says sit down, you sit down.
“He said, ‘Now listen, coach, don’t worry about those players you don’t have. Just make sure you do a great job of making those that you have the best they can possibly be.’ You know, I’ve operated under that simple philosophy the rest of my coaching career.”
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