McGINN: Susquehannock grad Wolf concise, eloquent during induction speech
Few general managers in National Football League history were better prepared than Ron Wolf when he took over the Green Bay Packers in 1991.
The same might also be said about Wolf and his preparation for enshrinement Saturday night as a "contributor" into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Wolf, the first of eight men to deliver his acceptance speech, was eloquent, at times humorous and, as always, reverential about the game of professional football that became his life's work.
He also was concise, taking his seat on the stage at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, just 6 minutes and 45 seconds after he began.
It was one of the briefest speeches in years.
"Because this night is long, with lots of other presentations ... those of you who know me well know my reputation for extraordinarily brief speeches," Wolf concluded. "As my dad would say, 'I love a good speaker, I really do. Not one who is polished but one who is through.'"
Two weeks ago, Wolf said he would read his remarks because he didn't want to be distracted by the thousands in attendance and the stress of the nationally televised event.
He worked on the address for months, practiced it many times at home in Green Bay and promised it would last no more than 6 1/2 minutes. He missed by 15 seconds.
Although Wolf didn't appear outwardly emotional, it was clear that he was beaming inside.
He thanked the selection committee of sportswriters and sportscasters that on Jan. 31 voted him in as the 23rd member of the Packers.
"To think that Ronnie Wolf from New Freedom, Pa., who graduated 101st in a class of 83 from Susquehannock High School, is being inducted into this fabled hall is remarkable," Wolf said as laughs and cheers emanated from the crowd that sat comfortably under overcast skies with temperatures in the upper 70s.
Opening with a curveball, Wolf cited verses from Kenny Chesney's 2010 hit, "This is Our Moment."
He introduced his wife, Edie, son Jonathan, three daughters and brother Guy. His youngest son, Eliot, served as presenter and helped him unveil his bronze bust on stage.
Wolf said he would be "forever in debt" to Al Davis, the iconic Raider who hired the serious, brainy University of Oklahoma student with a near-photographic memory as a want-to-be scout in 1963 and proceeded to teach him the game.
He saluted Dick Steinberg, the New York Jets GM who hired Wolf from the Raiders in 1990 and showed him another successful way of drafting and scouting.
In late November 1991, Wolf took over the moribund franchise in Green Bay that had produced five winning seasons and two playoff appearances in the previous 24 years.
"When I was hired I did not realize what a wonderful place I was moving to," said Wolf. "The history of this magnificent franchise is unparalleled in the annals of the National Football League.
"Those great names that surround Lambeau Field epitomizes excellence achieved on the gridiron."
Because of coach Mike Holmgren, quarterback Brett Favre, defensive end Reggie White and their strong supporting cast, Wolf said the Packers once again became a force.
"At that time there was always the threat to players of other teams that if they didn't shape up they would be traded to Green Bay," said Wolf. "We worked hard to eliminate that stigma.
"Suddenly, players wanted to come and be a part of football's most illustrious franchise and to play in pro football's most storied cathedral: Lambeau Field."
Rather than introducing his five disciples (John Dorsey, Scot McCloughan, Reggie McKenzie, John Schneider and Ted Thompson) who are current NFL GMs, Wolf thanked them as a group for helping resuscitate the Packers.
Two others acknowledged by Wolf were Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, "for his counsel and friendship," and marketing agent Mike Ornstein, a one-time Raider executive, "for his efforts on my behalf."
Citing the words of Michael Jordan, Wolf said it was necessary to love the game, respect the game and strive to make it better in order to have success in pro sports.
In his taped presentation remarks, Eliot Wolf said his father still watches pre-1950 NFL film clips at home because of his love for the game's history.
"I think football is the ultimate team game," Ron Wolf said. "It is a game of human will coupled with unbelievable athletic skill and grace. It is still, however, a contest of blocking, tackling and kicking.
"No matter how hard people attempt to change the rules to get more scoring, it still comes down to the three basic components. "To me, that is the uniqueness of the NFL ... it is the reason behind the tremendous appeal the game has achieved nationally."
Wolf, 76, retired in 2001 after 38 years of NFL personnel work.
In Wolf's nine regular seasons, the Packers forged the second-best record (92-52, .639) of any team. His clubs never had a losing season, made the playoffs six times and reached the Super Bowl twice, winning after the 1996 season.