Chilly days in late July are a rarity. Yet, on July 29, 2017, the air in Foxboro was just that…unseasonably chilly. One might say that it was ‘one of a kind’-type of day. That theme of rareness could not have been a better metaphor for the nature of the man who was honored on this chilly day in July. He’s the newest member of the Patriots Hall of Fame, Raymond Clayborn.
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Clayborn is certainly rare, in the greatest sense of the word. Not only was he a unique talent on the field, but Clayborn remains a great example for today’s modern athlete. In an era when self-promotion seems to the top priority for so many, Clayborn’s induction speech reminded us to be thankful for that which we believe to be most important.
Amidst the thousands of fans in attendance in NRG Plaza, Clayborn stepped to the microphone and began his acceptance speech by being true to himself. He gave thanks and credit to those closest to him.
“Thank God… Without Him, none of this would be possible. To my mother, God rest her soul, who allowed me to play the game of football that ultimately changed my life.”
Clayborn also thanked his wife Kimberly, his two daughters, son, and grandson. He praised them as being “all who bring joy to my life.”
With nearly as much affection, Clayborn paid tribute to the fans of New England:
“To the fans who voted for me,” Clayborn added, “I’ve always said Patriots fans are the best fans in the world. Y’all were able to finally able to make this happen. The fourth time was a charm!”
He even showed off some comedic prowess by delivering a line that got more than a few smiles and laughs:
“To Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick, boy, I wish I could’ve played for the both of you. I would’ve won at least a couple of championship rings!”
Last, but certainly not least, Clayborn did reflect on his career. He spoke fondly of the 1985 AFC Championship Game against the Miami Dolphins, which he heralded as ‘one of his proudest moments as a Patriot.’ He especially acknowledged his former teammates that were in attendance, such as quarterback Steve Grogan, linebacker Steve Nelson, guard John Hannah, linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett, wide receiver Stanley Morgan, running back Sam Cunningham, and cornerback Mike Haynes, all of whom are also Patriots Hall of Fame inductees.
“It’s an honor to stand on this stage beside my fellow inductees. It means so much to me to enter the Hall of Fame with these particular men. No one gets here alone. It’s a team game. Thank you for making my dreams come true.”
Along with his induction, the Patriots were able to fulfill another dream for Clayborn. When team owner, Robert Kraft, called Clayborn earlier this year to inform him that he’d been elected as the 2017 inductee, Clayborn said that he would accept the honor, provided that he could officially retire from the NFL as a Patriot. He had spent his final two pro seasons as a member of the Cleveland Browns. Kraft obliged, by signing Clayborn to a ceremonial one-day contract and presenting him with a modern-day No. 26 jersey. Ironically, Clayborn (who had worn 26 during his playing days) was the 26th inductee into the Patriot Hall. While he still might look good in that jersey, Patriots Nation is proud to see Clayborn wearing his red Patriots Hall of Fame blazer. Congratulations Raymond Clayborn. Thank you for showing us what still matters, above all else.
–Mike D’Abate is the Managing Editor for cover32/Chargers and covers the Los Angeles Chargers and the New England Patriots for cover32.com. Like and follow on Twitter @mg973024 and Facebook.