The Associated Press CANTON, Ohio (AP) — As he so often did on the field, LaDainian Tomlinson stole the show.
With a powerful speech calling for “Team America” to be a place for inclusion and opportunity, the great running back of the San Diego Chargers was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
The 2017 roster of entrants into the shrine was deeply impressive: fellow running back Terrell Davis; quarterback Kurt Warner; defensive end Jason Taylor; safety Kenny Easley; placekicker Morten Andersen; and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
All spoke eloquently, with bursts of humor and heartwarming stories. But Tomlinson’s words resonated so strongly that he drew several standing ovations not only from the crowd of 13,400, but from his now-fellow Gold Jackets.
“Football is a microcosm of America,” Tomlinson said. “All races, religions and creeds, living, playing, competing side by side. When you’re part of a team, you understand your teammates — their strengths and weaknesses — and work together toward the same goal, to win a championship.
“Let’s not choose to be against one another. Let’s choose to be for one another ... I pray we dedicate ourselves to being the best team we can be, working and living together, representing the highest ideals of mankind. Leading the way for all nations to follow.”
Tomlinson and Taylor were elected in their first year of eligibility. Taylor's 139½ career sacks helped him make the All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
Andersen, the league’s career scoring leader, joined Jan Stenerud as the only placekickers in Canton.
A native of Denmark who knew nothing of American football when he came to this country as a teenager, Andersen played an incredible 25 pro seasons, a league record. A member of the NFL’s 1980s and ’90s All-Decade Teams, he played 382 total games, scored 2,544 points (565 field goals, 849 extra points) and is the all-time scoring leader for both New Orleans and Atlanta.
“Good evening, Canton, Ohio,” he began. “Good morning Denmark.
“My story isn’t only about my love for my country of Denmark and its people, but also my deep appreciation and respect for what I discovered here in the United States of America.”