Former Kansas City Chiefs safety Johnny Robinson was formally enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on Saturday night — 39 years after he was first nominated.
Now 80 years old, Robinson was allowed to present his acceptance speech through a prerecorded video after unveiling his Hall of Fame bust alongside his presenter — his stepson Bob Thompson.
Like Robinson himself, his speech was a model of class and humility.
“It’s been 47 years since I played professional football,” he said. “After all this time, I thought I had been forgotten. I can’t tell you how pleased I was to notified that I had been selected as a senior finalist after all these years. But then to receive that knock on the door from David Baker seemed surreal to me. I think back to when I was a young boy — all I ever wanted to do was to play ball.”
Robinson spoke of what it meant to him to play on the undefeated LSU team in 1958, and the lifelong friendships he established with his teammates. Then he turned to his pro football career.
”I never dreamed that I would become a professional football player,” he recalled. “I thought that after college, I would join the Air Force and become a fighter pilot. But to my surprise, I was selected number three overall player in the 1960 draft.”
Then he spoke of his father — longtime Louisiana State University tennis coach W.T. “Dub” Robinson.
”When I left for my first training camp, I remembered some of my dad’s words of wisdom: ‘Be a gentleman when you win. Be a man when you lose. If you lose, hurt so bad that you’ll work harder so it won’t happen again. Prepare, sacrifice and give your best. Bring out the best in others. Have faith in the Lord, and always respect your mother.’”
Robinson then turned to the Chiefs — the team with which he spent his entire 12-year career.
”I was blessed to play with a great franchise and with great players during my career,” he said. “Kansas City owner Lamar Hunt and head coach Hank Stram were wonderful and very supportive, and they both showed great faith in me. I wouldn’t have wanted to play for any other team but the Kansas City Chiefs.”
But Robinson — as he has said many times since his playing days ended after the Christmas Day playoff loss to the Miami Dolphins in 1971 — considers what came after the NFL to be the most significant part of his life.
”I’ve been fortunate enough to play in some of the most significant games in professional football history,” he said. “The journey to the Pro Football Hall of Fame may have been long — and the road may have been hard at times — but I found that sometimes you must go through the valley in order to stand upon the mountain.
”I used to wonder why I had not been inducted into the Hall of Fame for all these years since I was first eligible. But I came to realize that God was in control of my life, and I believe that God wanted me to start my boys home. In 1980, I answered a call on my life and founded the Johnny Robinson Boys Home in Monroe, Louisiana. It is a place where boys can make positive life changes and get a fresh start on life. You will still find me there most every day.”
But even though he considers his Boys Home to to represent his crowning achievement, Robinson was clearly humbled by his induction into the Hall.
”For each gold jacket represented on this stage — and those who aren’t with us — and for each fan who supports the game called football, being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame stands for something that will endure well beyond a player’s lifetime. God gave me the ability to play, and I played it with all my heart.