Andre Tippett, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2008 addresses the media during his conference call on July 15, 2008.
Q: I know you were very emotional when you got the news of becoming a member of the Hall of Fame. How victorious was that feeling compared to the feeling of winning football games?
ANDRE TIPPETT: It's probably a little bit greater, but on the same path of winning that major game, that game that gets you to the next level. It was overwhelming.
I didn't think it would happen like that, but after I got the word and right then, one of the reporters wanted to talk about it, and it hit me all at once, and, wow, I'm glad it happened now versus August 2.
Q: When you think of how elite the group of Hall of Famers is and how your name is now among the greatest linebackers to ever play the game, that name, Andre Tippett is alongside those names; what a sense of fulfillment you must have.
ANDRE TIPPETT: I do. And you know, it's funny, you see the list and you pretty much have grown up watching a lot of those guys that are on that list play, some that I considered my contemporaries.
So it is awesome and it's a very exclusive list, and I am proud to be part of that list.
Q: That day in Phoenix, did you know that you were going to be inducted? Did you think you had a good chance or was it a complete shock to you?
ANDRE TIPPETT: Well, you know, nothing's ever promised and you know, I kind of went into it, I did the media room a few days before and ran into a few guys and everybody said: "You know what, you've got a 50/50 chance" or "you've got my vote," or some people, "well, you know, I don't know yet."
So I took the attitude that, you know what, if it happens this year, I'm excited. If it doesn't, then next year. The year before, I had gotten to the final and so it was getting closer. To say that I expected it; no, no way I could sit up here and say that today. But I was hoping, and I have my fingers crossed, and it happened.
Q: Were you waiting for a time that day that you would find out or figured that you would get the news when you got it?
ANDRE TIPPETT: Yeah, my family, we had all planned to go out, and have breakfast together and do some things that were close by. So we said, why don't we go back to the hotel and grab a quiet spot somewhere in the lobby and let's watch TV and see what happens. I had all my family with me, so it was easy to do.
Then as it started getting closer, it got a little crazy and I was nervous.
Q: Congratulations on your induction. I had a question. In this era of free agency, which began right after you retired, it seems rare that players no matter how good they are, stay with the same team. Can you talk a little bit about the significance or how much it means to you of not only getting into the Hall of Fame, but playing and spending your entire career with the same team?
ANDRE TIPPETT: Yeah, to me I wear it as a badge of honor.
Toward the end of my career, probably around '90, I talked to guys, and guys would say to me, you know, how do you stay there, all of the things that are going on, and why don't you do something to get out of there. And to me, it wasn't my manner. It wasn't my personality or my makeup to be that type of person.
I was committed to the organization. The organization had been committed to me throughout my time as a player. I had a contract, and I honored that contract. As a result of that, I finished up my career here with the Patriots and I couldn't see myself going anywhere else. I know some guys have walked around the league a few times and ended up in the right places and got on some Super Bowl teams, and I sort of had that idea in the back of my head; well, no one has a crystal ball, so you can't judge that.
But for me, I was committed to the organization and the organization stayed committed to me. So I was very honored and as you say, with free agency the way it is nowadays, it really is a rare opportunity now no matter how good you are that you'll get that opportunity to play with the team.
So for me, it definitely is a badge of honor.
Q: How tough was that for you towards the end of your career when you were still playing at a high level, but maybe the team results weren't following?
ANDRE TIPPETT: It was frustrating at times. You know, it was what it was, and it was nothing that I had any control over. All I had control over was how I prepared, how I contributed to the team.
And like I said, it was kind of frustrating, because you know, you become the laughing stock a little bit, and I kind of grew up in the league where you saw things like that happen. You know, I can remember back in the early 80s, you always threatened to get traded to Green Bay at the time; Green Bay was awful in the early 80s, and then look what happened to those guys.
So it was that evolution of the National Football League that franchises go through those type of things, and eventually, they get back on track. If you look at us, we are a prime example of that. We went from the outhouse to the penthouse, and it's been pretty cool. So you just have to be steadfast and hang in there.
Q: Did you ever think of being in this spot when you retired from the NFL?
ANDRE TIPPETT: You know, you think about it, it starts coming to you about that fifth year of being retired, the eligibility. You sort of know some of the requirements. You make some All-Pro teams and some Pro Bowls and you meet the criterias, and all of a sudden you get word that, you know what, you're part of the 300 or so names that are being considered for the Hall of Fame; and that happened.
All of a sudden you kind of get it and it's like, wow, I didn't realize that. And I think a lot of guys don't realize it, and it's not something that you come into the league saying, you know, I want to play so great that some day I'll end up in the Hall of Fame.
I think what you try to do is emulate the great guys that have played the game, the great ones and you try to emulate that level that they have played at and you try to emulate them as close as you can from a what you do on the field standpoint. That's all I can do. And before you know it, you've set the standard, you've set a new standard and you try to follow suit by what everybody else has done.
Q: Your career with Iowa and New England has been very well documented; did you play youth football as a youth in Birmingham and if you did, what were the type of things you learned as a youth?
ANDRE TIPPETT: It's funny, I didn't get an opportunity to play youth football or any of that. I didn't play until my first year in high school. And actually, I got cut my freshman year, so it really wasn't technically until my sophomore year in high school.
It was something that I tell everyone, the lessons that I've learned in football, I've been able to carry through my post-career as working in the front office. And when I have the opportunity to get out and speak to the youth of the New England area or wherever, you talk about discipline. You hear that all the time: Leadership, perseverance, all of those things are things that I learned, even at the high school level and being 14, 15 years old.
You know, it wasn't too late for me to get on the right track and understand the things that I needed to do to become a good person, and as well as being a good, disciplined football player.
So through the lessons from high school and a great high school coach in Frank Verducci who instilled all of those values in us; and we were not allowed to be on the team if we wasn't willing to be a team player, a disciplined player and a player that respected his teammates and contributed to the football squad.
Q: Have you started to write your speech yet? Do you know what you're going to say?
ANDRE TIPPETT: Yeah, I have something that's called a speech, but you know, as I get closer, I get nervous. I have something.
You know, I just want to make sure that I sort of mention the people that really helped me throughout high school, college, pros, and the friendships that I've been able to gather and the bond that I've had throughout my athletic career. That's going to be important to me, to not mention every name; but the fact that the each step, there were some people, there was something, there was honor that I had, that there was a pride to be part of Barringer High School, University of Iowa, the Patriots and the coaching staffs that were there, the specific position coaches that helped me. And there were so many people, and I'm just trying to make sure that I get it right, and not go over my time, also.
But yeah, I have a speech and I've been looking at it a lot, and as it's getting closer, I think we all get a little nervous about it. But it will be just like my last performance. It will be last time I get to put the uniform on before the public and play and I'll take that attitude.
Q: You spent a lot of your career being compared to Lawrence Taylor. Kind of a two-part question, how big of a driving force was that for you that you were kind of being stacked up next to him, and in the end, when you look back, how do you think your career stacked up with his?
ANDRE TIPPETT: Well, you know, I think that at every step that we all have gone through in high school football, college, we've all had somebody that you look to, as, okay, this is a guy that's considered to be the very best at the position; okay, well, what do I need to do to be considered or mentioned in the same breath.
It's a known fact that I've been referred to as the LT of the AFC -- or AT is the LT of the AFC; to me, it's all the same. I have so much respect for Lawrence Taylor. I think what he did, he opened a lot of doors for a lot of other guys to come into the league. Guys were measured up against him. We want to get us an LT, we want to get us an Andre Tippett; we want to run a 3-4 defense. I think it was just like any great running back; they look at the other great running backs, what running style have they done, how can I emulate that.
I think what he did, how he played, I think we all wanted to play and do the things that he did. I think for me, a lot of it came natural and the fact that the only real difference between he and I was he played the weak side and I played the strong side and it was a little bit more busier for me on that side because there was so many things that I was looking at, tight end, guard, box, and he made some things happen from his end and he did some amazing stuff out there.
He was an amazing athlete, and I have nothing but respect for Lawrence Taylor, and I think that when it's all said and done, I think it just goes down as Lawrence Taylor was one of the greatest and Andre Tippett was one of the greats and one of the greatest, so it really doesn't matter now because we are all in the same place.
Q: Have you ever been to Canton, and what is your very first recollection of the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
ANDRE TIPPETT: We played in Canton in 1986 after the year we went to the Super Bowl. We played in the Hall of Fame game.
Recently, we took our rookies there, and that was pretty much the second time I had been there, and comparing it from '86 to now, the place is amazing. And when you go through there, you talk about history and you have your history know your history and respect the history of the people that have come before you, you have nothing but respect as you walk through this place and see the evolution of this game and how it's changed.
It really truly is a great place. I kind of equate this place; I love golf, so I have seen the Masters and I recently just received my jacket and my wife was laughing at it; she said, "That looks like a Masters jacket."
I said, "It doesn't cost a lot of money to get it, but this thing is really priceless."
And I think going through the Hall of Fame for me as a new inductee; it's priceless, and I'm just honored to be part of this.