On Saturday evening, former Indianapolis Colts all-time running back great Edgerrin James continued what’s been a weekend to remember for the Horseshoe in Canton, Ohio, as the first of two franchise cornerstones who was (or will be) enshrined into football immortality—with legendary quarterback Peyton Manning soon joining him:
Inspiring from Edgerrin James.— NFL (@NFL) August 7, 2021
: #PFHOF20 Enshrinement on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/4m8JfXwHAo
Rocking his iconic dreads, James thanked his coaches and teammates from Immokalee High School, the University of Miami (i.e., the ‘U’), and the Indianapolis Colts—specifically quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, tight end Marcus Pollard, and his offensive line—including Tarik Glenn, Jeff Saturday, Ryan Diem, and Adam Meadows among others.
He thanked head coach Tony Dungy for being a great leader of men.
He thanked former Colts general manager Bill Polian for selecting and believing in him by selecting him with the 4th overall pick of the 1999 NFL Draft—and shocking the world in the process (by passing over prized Heisman Trophy running back Ricky Williams).
The rest is history.
James rushed for 12,246 rushing yards on 3,028 rushes for 80 rushing touchdowns, as well as amassed 3,364 receiving yards on 433 receptions for 11 receiving touchdowns.
He’s currently the NFL’s 13th all-time career rushing yards leader and was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, 2x NFL First-Team All-Pro, 2x NFL 2nd-Team All-Pro, 4x Pro Bowler, 2x NFL Rushing Yards Leader, and a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.
But most importantly on Saturday night, like he always has, James stayed incredibly true to himself.
‘The Edge’ remains the real deal—both on and off the field.
As a complete workhorse NFL running back: rushing, passing and even blocking, James spoke about how he took great pride in protecting his Hall of Fame quarterbacks, including Manning, and that if everyone ‘protected their own and did their job’, this country would be a better place:
"Do your job. If everybody did their job, the world would be a better place." - @EdgerrinJames32 #PFHOF20 | @Colts pic.twitter.com/ObigQHkMbk— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) August 8, 2021
He addressed serious social issues, and specifically, how as a young black man with dreads and gold teeth first entering the league, that a lot of people were surprised to learn that he had neither been arrested nor spent time in jail previously:
Edgerrin James: “People looked at my gold teeth and dreads and were shocked and surprised that I had never been arrested or spent time in jail. So many people told me you couldn’t have dreads and gold teeth and be accepted in the NFL. I never listened.” (1/2)— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) August 7, 2021
Edgerrin James: “To all those who have been judged prematurely because of their appearance, the way they speak, where they come from, and in the minds of many, should be locked up in prison: I represent us. Forever immortalized, locked up in the Canton Correctional Institution.”— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) August 7, 2021
Closing with this:
Got chills listening back to the end of Edgerrin James' speech. Damn. pic.twitter.com/0Y8ATqppn6— Jim Ayello (@jimayello) August 8, 2021
The speech came from the heart and much like James’ hitting the hole hard during his playing days, he didn’t dance around critical issues still facing this country.
Taking them full on with vision and speed, while racing to ‘the edge’.
On Saturday night, a former Colts star once again shined bright—shimmering in gold.
"My career started with gold teeth, and ended with this Gold Jacket." - Edgerrin James— NFL (@NFL) August 7, 2021
: #PFHOF20 Enshrinement on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/f19VikWrKJ