DeMarcus Ware, Darrelle Revis, Joe Thomas and more

Another great class officially took its place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

The class of 2023 consisted of Ronde Barber, Don Coryell, Chuck Howley, Joe Klecko, Darrelle Revis, Ken Riley, Joe Thomas, Zach Thomas and DeMarcus Ware. They got their moment in the sun on Saturday afternoon during an enshrinement ceremony at Canton, Ohio.

Here were the highlights from the speeches at the ceremony:

Zach Thomas gets the call

It took a while but Thomas, the standout Miami Dolphins middle linebacker, finally got into the Hall of Fame.

Thomas was presented by his old coach and fellow Hall of Famer Jimmy Johnson, and Thomas started his speech by saying it was 27 years to the day that Johnson named him starting middle linebacker.

“All you need is one chance, and Jimmy gave that to me,” Thomas said.

Thomas thanked coaches and teammates going back to high school. He talked about being the first player from Texas Tech to make the Hall of Fame.

Zach Thomas speaks during his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Thomas even thanked fans of the New York Jets, New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills, the Dolphins’ AFC East rivals.

“Despite all the things you screamed at me, threw at me, and did to me, don’t tell anybody this: I really enjoyed it,” Thomas said. “And I still do. The rivalries are what make the NFL so great.”

Thomas got emotional a few times, especially when he started talking about one of his former teammates, the late Junior Seau.

“He was my inspiration, and he became my teammate and friend,” Thomas said. “Though he’s not here physically, he’s here in spirit and in a bust in the building behind me. I’m truly honored to join him.”

Ken Riley gets his due

It took a long time for Riley, the Cincinnati Bengals cornerback, to get into the Hall. His last season was 1983. He was also an All-Pro his last season. Riley had eight interceptions that final season at age 36, finishing his career with 65 picks.

“Dad is just being inducted today, but his whole life he was a Hall of Famer on and off the field,” Ken Riley II said in his speech.

Riley died in 2020, but was honored posthumously. Barbara Riley, Ken’s wife, and his daughters, Kimberly Connor and Kenisha Avery, spoke in a video presenting him. Ken Riley II and Barbara Riley unveiled his bust, and then Ken Riley II gave a short speech.

“We’re so proud, we’re so proud of him,” Barbara Riley said in the video as she fought back tears. “I only wish he could have been here for himself, to complete his circle.”

DeMarcus Ware remembers his upbringing

Ware was one of the best pass rushers in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys. He was presented by Cowboys team owner and fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Jones.

Ware talked at length about his upbringing. Ware talked about the drive of his fellow Hall of Famers and brought it back to his childhood in Alabama.

“No matter what our circumstances, we made a choice and worked to be great,” Ware said. “I was blinded by my environment as a child: domestic violence, drugs, gangs. But my surroundings taught me how to be relentless, limitless and resilient.”

Ware talked about attending a party while he was in college. Ware said someone with a gun hit his uncle in the head, a knife fell and Ware picked it up. Ware said he had the knife, and a gun to his head.

“All I heard was my family say, ‘Don’t kill him,'” Ware said. “There was an eerie silence, after which I simply said, ‘This isn’t me.’ And I dropped the knife. At that moment, I knew God gave me a second chance and I had to do something with it. That was my turning point.”

Joe Klecko finally gets to make his speech

Klecko was a versatile defensive lineman for 11 seasons with the New York Jets, and one with the Indianapolis Colts. Klecko spoke about his football journey from Temple to being a sixth-round pick of the Jets, then being a four-time Pro Bowler for the Jets and their defensive line, known as the “New York Sack Exchange.”

Klecko gave a fun, lighthearted speech. When he got out his notes, he said he had them in his drawer for 30 years, waiting for his chance to make an induction speech.

“Honestly, I wish I could play today. Not so much for the competition, but for the money,” Klecko said. “In 1986, I was the highest-paid defensive lineman in the league. I made $700,000. Today, Aaron Donald is the highest-paid defensive lineman. He makes $31 million, ‘point seven.’ My entire salary was his ‘point seven.’ I asked him to send me some, but that didn’t work either.”

Chuck Howley makes it 50 years after his last game

Howley started his career playing for the Chicago Bears for two seasons, but he’s best known for his 13 fantastic seasons playing linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys. He has a unique place in NFL history, as the only player from a losing team to win Super Bowl MVP. He was the MVP of Super Bowl V. A year later he was part of a Super Bowl win. He played through the 1973 season.

Howley, who is 87 years old, couldn’t make it to the enshrinement ceremony due to health reasons, NFL Network’s Rich Eisen said on the broadcast. Howley’s son, Scott, gave a speech in his place.

“His legacy extends far beyond the records he set or the awards he earned,” Scott Howley said. “It lies in the hearts of all who have had the privilege of knowing him as a player, a father or a friend.”

Darrelle Revis was a Jets legend

“Revis Island” wasn’t just a great nickname, it was a defensive strategy for teams Revis played on. In his prime, Revis could take the opponent’s best receiver out of the game. Revis played for four teams, but is best known for his time with the Jets. When Chris Berman was introducing Revis and mentioned that he won a Super Bowl title his only season with the New England Patriots, the many Jets fans on hand booed.

“Man, it feels like MetLife Stadium in here,” Revis said, referring to the Jets’ home stadium.

Revis singled out the Jets fans, who started a chant of “Revis Island.”

“You expected great things out of me, and every single game I accepted the challenge,” Revis told Jets fans. “Thank you for believing in me and supporting me every step of the way.”

Revis thanked many people, including his mother, Diana Askew, who presented him at Saturday’s ceremony.

“Thank you for always knowing what path I needed to take to make it here to the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Revis said to his mother.

There was a solid contingent from Aliquippa, Pa., Revis’ hometown that has also produced Hall of Famers Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett and Ty Law.

“My hometown produces legends,” Revis said.

Don Coryell’s legacy lives on

Coryell didn’t win a Super Bowl, but he changed the NFL. His offenses with the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers, and in college at San Diego State before that, were far ahead of their time. His philosophies of pre-snap movement, spreading the field, using tight end Kellen Winslow in multiple positions and other innovations are still seen in the game today.

“Air Coryell” transformed the NFL for decades to come. Coryell died in 2010. His daughter Mindy Coryell Lewis gave a speech on his behalf, and gave Coryell’s bust a kiss after she and former Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts unveiled it.

“What I’m sure of is he’d be humbled, grateful and maybe a bit surprised that his legacy has lived on for all these years,” Mindy Coryell Lewis said.

Ronde Barber joins Bucs teammates

Barber became the fourth member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense of the late 1990s and early 2000s to make the Hall of Fame, joining Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch. He was a versatile cornerback who was the first in NFL history with at least 40 interceptions and 25 sacks. He played all 16 of his NFL seasons with the Buccaneers.

Barber was presented by his twin brother and former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber.

“I am here because of my brother,” Ronde Barber said. “The inherent competition, the easy motivation to match accomplishments and the unwavering, unconditional support that only a twin can know. You simply cannot tell my story without telling our story.”

Barber talked about working his way up from being a third-round pick that got off to a slow start in his career to making the Hall of Fame.

“I stand up here among these legends of the game, remembering a time when I never imagined being a Pro Football Hall of Famer,” Barber said. “My rookie year, hell, my second year in the league, I was literally just hoping [Buccaneers general manager] Rich McKay wasn’t going to cut me. Come a long way in 26 years. I was not Darrelle Revis. Trust me, I was not that guy. Not all of us are anointed or can’t-miss prospects, proclaimed to be future Hall of Famers on day ones of our career.”

Joe Thomas a shining light for the Browns

Thomas’ induction not far from Cleveland is one of the best moments for the Cleveland Browns franchise since the team returned to the NFL in 1999. Thomas was a standout left tackle for many losing Browns teams. He not only played but never came off the field. His 10,363 snaps in a row is believed to be an NFL record.

Thomas was presented by wife Annie. He was greeted by barking Browns fans who didn’t have to make a long drive to Canton.

“The first thing my wife said, ‘Yup, your ears are big enough on the bust,'” Thomas said to start his speech. “She was worried it wasn’t going to look like me if it had small and normal-sized ears.”

Thomas, who has worked in the media after his playing career ended, gave a relaxed and fun speech. He made references to his notable consecutive snaps streak and what it said about his career.

“That number 10,363 is special to me in a lot of ways, and not just because it’s an NFL record,” Thomas said. “Because it shows I was there for my brothers 10,363 times in a row. They could count on me.”

Thomas thanked his mom and dad, his college coaches at Wisconsin, and joked about how many head coaches (six), offensive coordinators (nine) and starting quarterbacks (20) he had with the Browns.

“And hey, if you had a good left tackle you might have survived more than one season or one game in some cases,” Thomas said. “Or you may have survived long enough for me to remember your name. Sorry, Josh Johnson.”

Thomas also said he was proud to be a member of the Browns. He thanked just about everyone in the organization and the fans as well.

“The success is right around the corner and I can’t wait to be the biggest fan when it comes,” Thomas said.

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