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Transcripts from the Chargers Hall of Fame Press Conference

Posted Jul 16, 2012

Chargers Executive Vice President - CEO A.G. Spanos:

“Aside from having their number retired, induction into the Chargers Hall of Fame is the highest recognition that the team can bestow on a player. It’s an honor that we take very seriously here at the Chargers, and I say that because we’re turning over the selection process to another group that’s very serious and passionate about this – our fans. This year, Charger fans everywhere will have the opportunity to cast their vote for the 36th member of the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will take place on Sunday, November 25th at the Chargers – Baltimore Ravens game. Together with AT&T, we’re excited to bring this opportunity to our fans. Through this process, we’re going to be able to highlight the accomplishments of three very deserving former players: punter Darren Bennett, running back Natrone Means and wide receiver Anthony Miller.”

On the introduction of a fan vote for the Chargers Hall of Fame:

“We felt we had three really worthy candidates, and we thought it was a great opportunity to do something totally different; something we’ve never done before. We know our fans are very passionate and very knowledgeable about Chargers history, and it seemed like a great opportunity for them to have a voice in this whole process.”

On the criteria for nomination:

“It’s achievement on the field and these three guys have all made an impact in the game. We have players of various positions and various lengths of tenure in our Hall of Fame, and it’s similar to the Canton Hall of Fame policies; it’s somewhat subjective. We’re excited to have three more recent players; players who played under the Spanos family ownership.

“You can look at Darren Bennett, and how he actually moved the game forward. He created his own punt, he made a few pro bowls, and he was selected to the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team as a punter, so his accolades speak for themselves. Anthony Miller, a first-round draft pick for the Chargers, a four-time Pro Bowler. At the time he retired was way up there on the record lists for Chargers’ wide receivers. And of course, Natrone Means, a fan favorite, a great running back, a multiple-time Pro Bowler, and probably the best offensive player on the 1994 Super Bowl team.”

On why was LaDainian Tomlinson not included on this list of Chargers Hall of Fame candidates:

“We have a criteria that players are supposed to be retired for four years before they are eligible to be elected to our Hall of Fame. So it is mainly just timing. LT retired recently, and we had already begun with the process of contacting these nominees. We all know LT is going to go into our Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and those are celebrations that we’re looking forward to in the future.”

On how he thinks the voting process will go:

“It will be interesting, we have highlight reels from each player, so I’m hoping the fans study each highlight reel, study the statistics, and really think about the overall impact that each of these players made to the Chargers.”

On if he has voted yet:

“I haven’t voted yet, but I’m going to vote anonymously.”

Former Wide Receiver Anthony Miller:

On being nominated to the Chargers Hall of Fame:

“I just want to thank the Spanos family for having me considered as one of the players being inducted.  I had such a fun time here in my six years and I enjoyed it. I want to thank the players that are nominated with me. I’m very excited. I didn’t really play football a lot in high school since I only played my senior year. It was just an honor to even make it to the pros. Then, when I got here I realized San Diego had such a tradition in the wide receiver position. When they told me I was number 83 and I realized John Jefferson had the jersey 83. I thought ‘I gotta live up to that expectation.’ Charlie Joiner helped me out so much. He is one of the guys that’s still here and I have so much respect for him. He taught me so much about this game because when I came here from Tennessee, I had only played there for two years. They took a shot on me because I was injured my senior year in college and only caught 15 balls and had one touchdown. The Chargers had faith in me. I always considered myself a Charger out of all the years I played because they gave me that shot.”

On the fans being part of the voting process:

“I appreciate the fans being part of the process. The fans are the reason we’re actually out there playing. We play for them. The San Diego fans have been so exciting and I know they enjoy the Chargers. It’s just the baseball team and the football team [in San Diego] so it’s different from other NFL cities that have other sports. It’s definitely exciting because we know these fans are avid about the Chargers and I’m just excited for this experience.”

On what he’s been doing:

“I’m just relaxing, I play a lot of golf. My little kids drive me crazy but I enjoy them and they keep me young. I try to stay in the weight room because I need to stay up with them.”

On how this nomination ranks among other accolades:

“To me, this is really my last stop after you’ve done well and you look back at your career and the goals you’ve achieved. I mean we would all love to play in the Super Bowl but in my case it didn’t happen and the next biggest honor is something big like this. It makes you feel like you did something for the game. It is exciting for me. I tease the Spanos’ about it all the time: ‘Hey when is my time?’ I’m just really excited. It’s just an honor for me to be around those guys and be considered a great player for this organization.”

On how much contact the three nominees will have:

“[Darren] Bennett actually coaches where my son coaches so we’ll stay in contact. With Natrone, he lives pretty far away so I don’t get to talk to him as much but there’s a phone and I do have his number.  I think it will draw us a little closer. We will be some of the first people to ever do something like this, so we have that in common.”

On his fondest memories of being a Charger:

“I guess when I was in Phoenix and I got drafted to the Chargers, that was one of my most exciting moments. I didn’t even think I was going to go in the first round to the Chargers because I got hurt, so during my whole senior year I didn’t know whether I was going to be drafted. That was an exciting draft day, having them pick me and coming out here. Another exciting moment was catching the touchdown to beat Cleveland. I think it was in 1990, so that was one of my exciting moments.”

On his favorite moment during a Chargers game:

“My favorite moment was during my second year in the NFL, running back the ball at kickoff against the Raiders. The last five minutes of the game I also ran it back and scored the game-winning touchdown.  That was very exciting, especially because it was against the Raiders.”

On how he will pitch fans for their vote:

“I hope they will consider a guy that left everything on the field. I played six years and only missed three games. I put up big numbers with four Pro Bowls in six years. I hope they look at my numbers and see what kind of player I was on and off the field. “

On his reaction upon receiving word of his nomination:

“I am not traditionally a flashy guy. I used to take out my excitement on the field.  When I received the call I was a little quiet but on the inside I was very excited. This is definitely a big honor. I spoke with a few guys who are already inducted. This process will be a little different but I was I definitely excited for the call.”

On whether he thought he would ever be inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame:

“Not when I first started. When I finished leaving my mark here, I felt that I had a chance. You play six years and earn four Pro Bowls for an organization, you are considered one of the better players. I was a captain and someone the other players looked up to. I’m just privileged to be here today.”

On whether he still plays football:

“A lot of guys ask me to play football with them and I say, ‘Dude, I don’t play football anymore.’ My body might look OK but inside, I am still hurting. I try to take care of myself and stay in the weight room.  I try to do the same things I did when I played football, but not nearly as hard.”

Former Chargers Punter Darren Bennett

On being nominated for the Chargers Hall of Fame:

“First of all, I would like to say thank you to the Spanos family and the Chargers for including me. I think it’s terrific and really humbling to even be mentioned with Natrone Means and Anthony Miller. When you’re a young guy coming over from Australia, the biggest thing I expected was to get a look at an NFL stadium and meet some NFL people. To be here in San Diego obviously was a great honor and something I tried to repay the Chargers family and the Spanos family and now my San Diego family. You know, it’s not like there is a winner and loser out of the three of us. I think it’s a great honor to be asked to be to be even put in the Hall of Fame at Qualcomm Stadium. There are a lot of real football players in the Hall of Fame, they don’t really call specialists real football players, but we do, so it’s a great honor, and I appreciate it.”

On being an innovator in the NFL:

“You know, I don’t really think of myself as an innovator, it’s just a skill I had with Australian Rules football. It was a privilege to try something that’s really changed the game, but it wasn’t the intention when we first started.”

On the way fan interaction has changed and how fans will choose the Hall of Fame inductee:

“It’s a lot of fun. You know, I said to Bill [Johnston], I feel like one of the American Idol guys. I should be putting my (phone) number up here (telling fans where to vote). It really has changed, it’s become an interactive thing where the fans can contact us on our Facebook pages or whatever, and be able to talk to you, not just vote for you, so they find out more about Anthony and Natrone and myself as people.”

On how being nominated for the Hall of Fame ranks among his other career honors and accolades:

“For me, when you start a journey like I had, you don’t really think of anything like this. The Hall of Fame for the team and also for the NFL is such a thing off in the future, and you’re just trying to hit every punt well. You don’t worry about that sort of stuff. For me as a personal accolade, this ranks very highly, but I rate watching guys that I’ve passed my knowledge on to, going ahead and doing what they do. I think that’s as high as well. I think those are the two obligations that you have as an NFL player: to be good at what you do and then to pass your knowledge to a younger person. So this ranks up as high at it can possibly be, I’m very appreciative and I’m very privileged.”

On what his fondest memories of playing in San Diego:

“I’ve got a couple of them. Obviously being out on the field at Qualcomm the other night was right where I had my first tryout. I had 10 punts on the field for Marty Hurney and Bobby Beathard and I sort of joked afterwards, that after five years of being in the NFL, I couldn’t hit 10 punts as well as I hit that day. Then to see Marty Hurney when he called me up to his office to announce that I had been selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time, and I could just see the genuine joy.  He’d seen my first punt just a year and a half earlier.

“Another thing that will really stick in my mind forever was the celebration at Qualcomm after we beat Pittsburgh in the 1994 AFC Championship game. I went down there three hours early with 75,000 other people and watched the whole celebration. It was incredible watching the surprise on the guys’ faces as they got off the bus because they thought it was going to be a couple thousand people, and it was 75,000 people. So that will forever stick in my mind, that spontaneous celebration. Having no plan and the people of San Diego coming out and doing that, it’s something you’ll never forget.”

On Bobby Ross and the drop punt:

“I did it once on a punt return drill at UCSD and instead of making up the punt return drill, I was hitting drop punts straight up the middle and he (Ross) came up to me and said, ‘are you meaning to do that?’  I said yes, and he said ‘stop messing things up and hit the corners’. That was the end of the evolution of the drop punt.”

On why the NFL is so reluctant to change:

“I don’t think that it’s a reluctance, the game is as it’s been for 90 years, and so there are engrained things that a lot of coaches will say ‘well, this is the way we do it, and this is way it’s been done for a long time.’  When you bring something in like this, with a sort of slow evolution, and they go ‘well, it’s sort of funky’. For couple of years, John Madden thought I was messing up the punt, finally he came to me and said, ‘are you meaning to do that?’ and I said yeah, and he said, ‘you should have told me and I would have talked about it years ago.’ So it’s one of those things where it’s a slow evolution. How I knew it benefitted us was Ruben Davis, Junior Seau, Leslie O’Neal used to meet me halfway to the bench and say, ‘Dude, that was a great punt. They won’t go 97 yards on us,’ and that’s when I knew that it was starting to work, when real football players understood there was something in the punting game that they could use to their advantage.”

On “Specialists vs. Punters”:

“I sort of say it tongue-in-cheek, I do that because a lot of real football players don’t see punters and kickers as real players. None of those guys could kick a 50 yard field goal with three seconds to go, so we all have our positions in the game and they appreciate you when you make that field goal. I also understand that they’re knocking heads for 60 plays a game and I go out there four or five times so I see that they don’t understand what I do, and I don’t understand what they do.  But that’s the great thing about American football. We can all have separate jobs and then we can all come together as a football team. That’s one of the great challenges of the game.”

On how he found out about his nomination:

“Bill [Johnston] called me a few weeks ago and said that I was being considered, and I just said it’s a terrific honor. There have been some great football players through my time who were also performing, so to have me considered along those guys was an extreme honor and something that, I really meant what I said that there are no winners or losers in this situation.”

On his favorite moments on the football field:

“I made a tackle in my first year in Pittsburgh that I was sort of well-known for, and a couple of years later I hit a defensive lineman, knocked him over, and stripped the ball and caused a fumble. I thought it was my best football play ever, because we saved the game, we ended up winning that day. I felt like a real football player that day.”

On his popularity in Australia:

“Australians have no idea what I do. In Australia a punter is a guy who bets on horses for a living, so when you say you’re a punter they sort of laugh at you. But’s it grown over time. There are now three Australians playing in the NFL, so they’ve got more of an understanding of it now.”

On his impact on Mike Scifres:

“Mike is a weapon. People talk about Shane Lechler up in Oakland, but Mike is probably the best punter in the NFL. He doesn’t get the recognition because he punts differently, to the way Lechler does. But the hang time, the direction, and those inside the twenty punts, he’s as complete a punter as I’ve ever seen. To watch him go and use the punt that I taught him as part of his repertoire, it’s great to watch.”

On Natrone Means:

“Natrone was one of my favorite guys when I played. He used to drop his shoulder like no running back I’ve ever seen. I think he was the complete package. He was the guy who could go around you, or if he saw a flaw in your tackling technique, he’d go straight over the top of you. So he was part of the most fun we ever had on the football field.”

On what it means to be a Charger:

“The other day I mentioned to someone that after playing 10 years in the NFL. If someone said, ‘okay name your perfect job - playing for any team in the NFL, where would you play?’ I’d play in San Diego. The weather here is fantastic. The fans really support their team. It’s a great place to raise kids. It’s a great place to live an outdoors sort of fun lifestyle, and you can do it 12 months of the year.”

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