After a week of Whisenhunt/Tomlin and questions that got staler by the day, today's Pro Football Hall of Fame selection press conference showed that a few meaningful things really can still happen at a press conference.
When it started, things felt almost as rehearsed as they have throughout Super Bowl week -- the NFL Network even took a commercial break mid-question. But there was no rehearsing the emotion displayed later by the inductees and their representatives.
Here's the Class of 'O9: WR Bob Hayes (seniors vote), OG Randall McDaniel, DE Bruce Smith, LB Derrick Thomas, Ralph Wilson Jr. (owner), DB Rod Woodson
And some of the more touching moments of the week ...
From DE Bruce Smith, who spent most of his career with the Buffalo Bills
-- "Bear with me as I gather myself," said Smith, who was near tears as he approached the microphone just minutes after the annoucement. "When I woke up this morning and went down to the weight room ... I just had a moment just thinking about my father and all the sacrifices he and my mother made when I was a child. He wanted me to have a better life ... I just wish ... He would be extremely proud this day."
-- It's tough to show the emotion in Smith's voice through a computer screen, but each word he said was heavy with feeling, and he spoke slowly as to hold himself together. Bear in mind that this is a guy who absolutely terrorized opposing offenses as the NFL's alltime sacks leader with 200. Opposing teams and even teammates didn't often see this vulnerability from Smith, and it's instructive to see in a professional athlete. They're usually taught to do everything they can to shield us, the media, from their true emotions.
-- "You had to add that exclamation point ... you had to finish it off," Smith said as he thanked the selection committee, later adding regarding his tears: "I realize that some folks may look at this as a sign of weakness, but I didn't cry because I'm less of a man. I cried because I am a man and this is a deep, deep honor."
From Randall McDaniel, who spoke by phone from his home in Minnesota. He works in the schools and couldn't leave home in time to get to Tampa.
-- "I'm still a little bit shocked about it," he said, stammering to find the right words. "I never thought it would happen ... just for some reason."
-- "I-I accept this knowing I couldn't have done it without all the other offensive linemen I played with."
On Bruce Smith: "He brought the best out of me ... I got nervous when I played against him."
From Ralph Wilson, 90, current owner and president of the Buffalo Bills and one of the founding owners of the original American Football League, which merged with the NFL in 1970.
-- Quick note on Wilson -- you want to see someone who's lived a full life but is still going strong at age 90, check out this man. Impressive. Still able to crack a few jokes.
-- "It's going to take a couple minutes for me to get over the shock. It's a tremendous shock," Wilson said. "On the way here, I was riding with a friend of mine and he said: 'Wilson, if you live long enough and are lucky and fortunate, all good things happen."
-- After a few more comments, Wilson was asked about Smith: "He won so many games for us ... " Then, Wilson leaned over to Smith: "Hey, lemme shake your hand," the Bills owner told one of his most profilic players.
Clark Hunt, son of former KC Chiefs owner and AFL founding owner Lamar Hunt, came to the podium to represent former Chief Derrick Thomas, who died from severe injuries sustained in a car accident, on Feb. 8, 2000.
-- "He was the cornerstone of the modern era of the Kansas City Chiefs," Clark Hunt said of Thomas, noting that the 11-year Chiefs linebacker started the annual Chiefs Thanksgiving food drive and was the only NFL player to be named one of then-President George W. Bush's 1,000 points of light in 2002.
One of the most heart-wrenching moments of the press conference came from Lucille Hester, sister of Bob Hayes, who read a note her brother had written in case he was elected to the Hall of Fame. Hayes died in 2002 of kidney failure in his native Jacksonville. Hayes' selection was a long time coming -- when he missed in the final round of elimination in 2004, Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman resigned from the committee in protest. But Hester, Hayes' sister, said the timing didn't matter.
-- From the statement written and signed by Hayes himself: "I would like to thank everyone who supported me to get into the Hall of Fame ... thank the fans from around the country ... thank (quarterback) Roger Staubach ... Tell all my teammates I love them ... Thank all the NFL teams and players ... Everyone at Florida A&M University, everyone at Matthew Gilbert High School in Jacksonville, Fla. ... especially everyone on the east side of Jacksonville where we were raised ... and just thank everyone in the whole world. I love you all. Signed, Bob Hayes.
-- "I'm so humbled," Hester said. "You have selected a little boy from the east side of Jacksonville who walked on dirt streets ... It didn't matter how long it took, and it didn't matter the wait because today is here."
-- "And since he was so fast (Hayes was a gold-medal sprinter before playing pro football) I can't stand here for long."
From DB Rod Woodson, longtime Pittsburgh Steeler
-- Bit of an uncomfortable moment here. When Woodson was announced, the comment from the moderator was: "He's not one of the alltime great players, but he's one of the alltime great people." Hopefully Woodson didn't let the gaffe ruin his moment -- because he's a Hall of Famer; he's obviously one of the alltime great players.
-- "This (the Pro Football Hall of Fame) is 253 guys ... ever ... that's amazing."
-- Woodson got emotional when he talked about his wife, Nikki: "I put you through a lot in my life ... you're my rock. Thanks for sticking with me."
-- "I'm gonna sit down now before I start boohooing."