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For Dick Vermeil, Pro Football Hall of Fame induction was about thanking those who helped him along the way

Dick Vermeil didn't want to make it about himself.

As the former Rams head coach took the podium in Canton, Ohio to give his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech, the focus for the nearly 25 minutes he spoke on Saturday was instead on those who got him to where he is today.

"I've had the opportunity to coach against 12 head football coaches that are already in the Hall of Fame," Vermeil said. "Many of them kicked my many, many times. But I'm so gracious because they provided me an example, and an opportunity to learn from them. I learned from my players. Many people said to me, 'Coach, you impact players!' It's the other way around – players impact me."

Vermeil enters the Hall of Fame with the Class of 2022 as the 28th NFL head coach selected to the prestigious space, which he said was an expectation he "never, ever held high in my life at any time."

He said he began hearing rumors two years ago and thought it might happen someday, but didn't know.

"I just never put myself in the same category of those other 27 coaches, so I am deeply in debt to so many contributors to my career," Vermeil said. "In fact, I'm so in debt to so many people, in the time that they allotted me to speak, I won't be able to cover all the bases adequately."

After starting off with those coaches who served as examples, Vermeil shifted to the players, pointing to former Rams linebacker Mike Jones and his game-winning tackle against the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV.

"If Mike Jones doesn't make the tackle on the last play of Super Bowl 34, I'm not here today," Vermeil said. "Players win games. It's our job to prepare them to get ready to win games, and share relationships and work ethics and everything else with them. I will be forever in debt to all you people."

Vermeil also thanked several people across every level of football that encompassed his career, from his days at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo California to UCLA to the NFL. He gave a special thanks to John Gilmore, his lone assistant coach at Hillsdale High, who was in attendance. Vermeil's two starting guards, center, quarterback, running back and captain of the Hillsdale High team were also on hand.

"My one assistant, 90 years old, drove across the United States to be here," Vermeil said. "I love you buddy."

Vermeil didn't forget his early NFL days either, when he served as special teams coach for the Los Angeles Rams in 1969, and later quarterbacks coach (1971-72). He thanked former Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel, who could not attend due to health reasons but was represented by his son at the ceremony, and said Gabriel was someone he learned a lot from, as well as former Rams left guard Tom Mack. He also expressed gratitude to former Rams head coach Chuck Knox for keeping him on his staff when Knox was hired to the position.

"Chuck Knox had a great way of communicating with people," Vermeil said. "He really did."

Mentors also hailed from other unexpected sources like basketball, including legendary UCLA coach John Wooden. Vermeil recalled a time he was complaining about the players his program had lost in recruiting.

"Now listen coach, don't worry about the players you don't have," Wooden told him. "Just make sure you do a great job of the making those who you have the best they can possibly be."

It's a philosophy Vermeil said he operated under the rest of his coaching career.

Vermeil learned a lot from his time as a broadcaster for CBS and ABC, because of the free access it gave him to practices led by coaches like Don Shula, Tom Coughlin and Tom Osborne.

"Every week I learned something more for 14 years," Vermeil said.

Vermeil also thanked former Rams owner Georgia Frontiere, Jay Zigman, and former Rams president John Shaw for hiring him as head coach even though he hadn't held the role in 14 years. He also thanked his personnel department.

"Can you imagine a president of an NFL football team today hiring somebody that hadn't coached in 14 years?" Vermeil said. "You talk about guts! John Shaw, I will forever be in debt for the decisions you made. It was just unbelievable."

Like Shaw, former Rams head coach and offensive coordinator Mike Martz was also in attendance, and Martz also received a shoutout from Vermeil.

"There's the orchestrator of The Greatest Show on Turf," Vermeil said after imploring Martz to stand up.

After thanking additional coaches and fans of the teams he led, Vermeil gave an emotional thanks to his wife of 66 years, Carol, who received a standing ovation from Vermeil's former players in attendance.

"I hope people see this," Vermeil said of the reaction. "Carol Vermeil as a football coach has no equal. Never has, never will. Look at 'em. They know. These guys up here (on stage) know."

Appropriately, Vermeil closed his speech using his platform to stump for those who also deserve to join him in Canton – in other words, help others just like those who helped him arrive at his destination on Saturday.

"I will forever be appreciative and grateful for this honor," Vermeil said to close out his speech. "The only thing that will make me feel a little better about standing here as the 28th Hall of Fame football coach is when I see Mike Holmgren come in, when I see Dan Reeves come in, when I see Marty Schottenheimer come in, when I see Mike Shanahan come in, when I see Tom Coughlin come in, when I see George Seifert come in, when I see Don Coryell come in. Believe me, if I deserve it, so do they."

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