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NFL Women Shine at HOF enshrinement

By Cynthia Zordich, Player Engagement Insider

NFL Training Camp is in full swing and if you are an NFL spouse, you have just transitioned into a familiar phase of your football life – SOLO.

It comes up fast – the season. Those carefree, summer together weeks that you thought would last have left you soft and a bit delusional. Comfortable in preseason limbo, you forget that everything rests on your shoulders. You forget how to get everyone up and out the door. You forget that your route to and from everywhere - including work - includes several stops and drops and pickups along the way. You even forget how to take out the trash. Reality is kind - giving you a moment to adjust - and then she beckons with three letters, a variety of decibels and several hundred exclamation points.

M    O   M!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If August were a bicycle, you would be stuck between shifting gears.

When you are completely spent and take a moment to sit down, the buzzing of the cicadas along with the heavy August heat will play with your mood and emotions.  August causes you to pause and reflect – a dangerous pre-season combination. To shake off the melancholy, many league women will fill the void by packing up and visiting family, letting the kids see their cousins and get spoiled by their grandmas. It’s during those trips, when you rattle off “what’s new,” that you will feel your friends and family questioning your sanity - shaking their heads and saying, ‘she must be crazy.’

To further confirm their diagnoses, most league women will load up their SUVs to visit Daddy at training camp. Camp photos will be the most cherished images of your league days - you already know this.

A comfortably numb ride to camp will leave you standing like a noodle on the sideline with the player in your life doing regular checks to be sure you’re still functioning and to gesture for you to back the kids off the field.

Luckily, one or two days at training camp are like a shot in the arm for league women. The quick whistles and the distant calls reel you back into your reality. By the time you leave, you’re in ready set mode.

The ride home is a bit more reeling as you take mental inventory of everything you need to pack up for the season. The grip on the wheel is tight. Some will be heading to a new team city - that’s when it gets really fun. New schools, sitters, jobs, friends, doctors, dentists, and dare I say - yet another move?

If you ever thought you would look back and wonder – how did I do this? You will.

If you ever think you’ll regret it – you won’t. 

If you have ever felt that your work is thankless – it isn’t.

Front row at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement ceremony last Saturday, sat two beautiful league women: Deanna Favre (wife of Brett Favre) and Lisa DeBartolo (daughter of Eddie DeBartolo, Jr.). Both presenters of the highest honor bestowed on an NFL player, coach or contributor. Their presence was a testament to the place league women have in the lives of NFL players, coaches and administration. If you listen, each of the Hall of Fame speeches solidifies a well-kept secret in the league: NFL women are the backbone.

As Brett Favre shared in his acceptance speech, “Having my wife introduce me was an easy choice considering she was there long before my first touchdown pass, long after the last.”

For those of you in the midst of your NFL experience, here are the most telling quotes from this year’s Hall of Fame speeches - quotes where league women are thanked and praised and proven. Where they are celebrated for their grace, their strength and the impact their actions made on the player, his game and his life. Where they are credited for being a significant force in getting that Hall of Fame player to the podium.

Kevin Greene, HOF, on wife Tara Green:

“So now, let me thank my wonderful wife, Tara. Married 24 years. She was a blessing that put me on the path to greatness. I'm good. I'm good. Trust me. I clearly out punted my coverage when I married this young lady. She cleared my mind when my thoughts were cluttered and she steadied my legs when they began to shake, and she gave me shade when the sun was just a little bit too bright for me. She blessed me with two awesome babies, Gavin and Gabi, and she helped me realize that being a dad would be, by far, my biggest and best accomplishment. I love you. Thank you.”

Orlando Pace, HOF, on mother Joyce Pace Caffey:

“First, my mom, who is the most important person in my journey. She worked two jobs to support my sister and I. Mom, your selfless dedication to do whatever it took to raise my sister and I was a true blessing. I am thankful for your love and your countless hours of blessings. My life work has always been, and will continue to be, to make you proud.”

Orlando Pace on grandmother Idella Pace:

“Thank you to my grandmother, who is no longer with us, but I know she's smiling down today at this moment. She was the best person I knew. My family would agree. She only saw the best in everyone, which set an example for me. Now, I never required anybody to motivate me. I've always been a self-motivator. What drove me most was to help my family overcome the hardships they had to endure. That was always a fundamental force in my drive to achieve excellence and be at my best. Materially speaking, we didn't have a lot, but what my mother and grandparents provided were values and a strong work ethic that I live by today.”

Orlando Pace on wife Carla Pace:

“To the most important woman in my life, my wife, Carla Pace. Thank you for your sacrifice that allowed me to live my dream for 13 years in the NFL. And I know I wouldn't be standing here if it wasn't for the love and the support that you provided to us. Even though I'm on this stage by myself, I share it with you, all of it. Thank you, honey, I love you.”

Marvin Harrison, HOF, on grandmother Luanna Harrison:

“The single most important person here for me today, and I have to acknowledge it, my grandmother, Luanna Harrison. She's been around for a long time. Extremely hard-working woman, hard work and dedication had to come from somewhere, and it probably had to start from the top of the Harrison family. So I want to thank you that you're still here and you're able to come here and see your grandson into the Hall of Fame.”

Tony Dungy, HOF, on wife Lauren Dungy:

“Coming back to Pittsburgh was the beginning of my coaching journey, but there was another blessing in store for me - meeting my beautiful wife, Lauren. The love of my life, my biggest supporter, and my greatest blessing.

“Lauren spent the first 27 years of our marriage as a coach's wife making so many sacrifices, and there is no way I'd be here tonight without her. Marrying Lauren also gave me another family, the Harrises, who provided plenty of love and support over the years, and also plenty of arm-chair quarterbacking. Our first wave of children came soon after we got married. Tiara, Jamie and Eric's lives were typical of assistant coach's kids: moving every three years, leaving friends, making new friends. And they did it without complaining. Now our second wave of kids - Jordan, Jade, Justin, Jason, Jalen, Jaden, and Jaela - well, they had a little more stability. Jordan and Jade were able to experience some of the perks of being the head coach's kids, but they also had their disappointments, like when Dad couldn't come to a birthday party or school performance. But all ten of them know I love them, and I hope they know how much I appreciate their sacrifices.”

Tony Dungy on mother Cleomae Dungy:

“It started in Jackson, Michigan, and I couldn't have had a better upbringing. I'm just sorry that my parents, Wilbur and Cleomae Dungy, aren't alive to see this, because they'd be so proud. My dad always preached to us to set our goals high and not complain about negative circumstances - just look for a way to make things better. My mom taught us as a Christian, your character, your integrity and how you honor God were so much more important than your job title.”

“One of her favorite Bible verses was Matthew 16:26, ‘What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?’ And I know that she's happy to know that her son never forgot that verse.”

Brett Favre, HOF, on wife Deanna Favre:

“By far the strongest and most courageous person I know, she’s a wonderful mother of two daughters, an exceptional athlete - not only then but now, as she most recently is competing in an Iron Man in the next two months, which is incredible. Definitely a strong woman of faith. She fought cancer in the public eye and not only won, but she managed to inspire so many, including myself, along the way. In the process, she formed her own foundation that has helped countless women in their fight with breast cancer as well. And I’ll say this: she’s definitely the best-looking grandmother I have ever seen.”

Brett Favre on mother Bonita Favre:

“My mother, who just recently had her hip replaced, and by no means was she going to be put on waivers for this - she was going to be here. She is here. My mother taught me that being there for your children is absolutely important. I never, not one time, remember my parents ever not being there at a sporting event, at a school function, you name it. They were always there. We ate dinner together. We ate breakfast together. We rode to school together. We did everything together, and that’s something that has been lost in this generation. I watched my mother teach special education at Hancock North Central High School for many, many years. At that time, I didn’t appreciate the patience and the type of person it takes to do that kind of job. But I learned by watching her and being around her students that treating everyone as an equal and with respect is not only important but essential. So mom, I say thank you. I love you. Mom was always the one who told us that she loved us and was the caregiver. You had to know my father. He was the heavy-handed one. So it was a good blend, one-two punch. But mom, I love you, thank you so much.”

Brett Favre on mother-in-law Ann Tynes:

“My mother-in-law, who for 33, 34 years has been by far my biggest fan, I have never thrown an interception that has been my fault, according to my mother-in-law, Ann. We all know her as Mama. She helped raise our kids. She has lived with us in New York, in Minnesota, in Green Bay, and she’s helped raise grandkids, other people’s kids, you name it. She’s one of the most patient and loving women you’ll ever [meet] ... Anyway, my mother-in-law, who I love dearly, as well as the rest of my family.”

Eddie DeBartolo, Jr., HOF, on grandmother Rose DeBartolo and mother Marie DeBartolo:

“Ultimately, family is what my life and career have been all about. Truly, I have lived the American dream. I learned everything from my dad who lost his own father to pneumonia in 1909. My grandmother, suddenly widowed and pregnant with my dad and left to care for her two-year-old daughter, got in a boat and set out for America. She spoke no English and she had no money. She made her way to Youngstown and married a wonderful man by the name of Michael DeBartolo. He had a construction company and taught my dad his business. The best decision my father made was marrying my mother, Marie, who, like Candy, was the glue of our family. She doesn't get enough credit for my dad's success.”

Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. on wife Candy DeBartolo:

“Lastly, I feel blessed and thankful to be sharing this day with my beautiful wife of 48 years, Candy. True story: I was 16 years old the first time I saw her sitting in front of me at a high school football game, and I leaned over to a friend of mine and said, ‘I'm going to marry that girl.’ I never, never would have been here without her. She's the cornerstone of our family, an exceptional mother, grandmother and wife, who took care of our girls and went through all the ups and downs of our family owning the 49ers. She remains the light of our lives. I love you so much, Candy.”

Today, league women, as you go about your work of being solo-amazing, think of yourself not as the “significant other” of an NFL player or coach - think of yourself as the SIGNIFICANT FORCE that you are.


Cynthia Zordich is an NFL Engagement insider. She is the wife of former NFL Player/University of Michigan Coach Michael Zordich and the mother of free agent FB Michael Zordich (PSU '12), former UB Quarterback Alex Zordich ('13) and Penn State graduate Aidan Zordich (Advertising '14).

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