The schedule for the Hall of Fame inductees is worked out down to the minute. They do, however, sit down with the media for a lengthy interview the day after they receive their gold jackets. San Francisco 49ers former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. spoke for more than a half an hour about a variety of topics ranging from work ethic to if he would ever return to the NFL, which he wouldn’t. I may transcribe the whole interview at some point but for now, I’ll share some of the highlights.
DeBartolo first spoke about what a whirlwind the whole weekend has been and how he has come full circle, back in Ohio, just 40 miles from where he grew up, receiving the most prestigious award anyone can receive in the NFL. He didn’t think the likelihood of being inducted was very high, until the contributor category was added and the reality of it still has yet to set in.
“I’ve been more nervous, just like I’m having my kids again. I think I’m more nervous now than I was before any of our Super Bowls. I’m sort of a wreck.” DeBartolo is no stranger to the Hall of Fame but it will be the first time he will be talking about himself instead of someone else.
One main point of DeBartolo’s acceptance speech will revolve around his family and the culture that it grew, based on the core values of the hardworking people from Youngstown. “It’s a never say die attitude.” That attitude had a trickle down effect on the franchise, creating a family environment that not only included star players but the equipment managers and secretaries who will all be watching him at the podium as he accepts his enshrinement. DeBartolo says the desire to care for everyone down to the janitor came from his father.
His childhood shaped who he became as a man and that may be the biggest difference between himself and his nephew. When comparing himself to Jed he made very interesting points:
I was 30 and I think it took me a while but I’m a little bit different than Jed. Jed’s come, and you know he’s gone through some good times obviously and came very close a couple of times to really having the brass ring. I was a little bit different though, back in 1977. I grew up a little bit different. I was more of a street sense type of a guy and you know, that’s the way my father raised me. He came from Smokey Hollow and Youngstown, an area down by Youngstown State, and I was just raised different but, Jed’s going to do fine. He’s had his knocks and they are starting all over with Chip Kelly and I think they’re going to do just fine. It’s going to take a while, it’s going to take a year or so, but they’ll be back.
DeBartolo also admits he made some mistakes as an owner. His biggest regret was letting the team trade away one of last year’s HOF inductees, Charles Haley. He is almost certain that the team would have another Super Bowl win, had they retained the Hall of Famer.
Does he wish he still owned the 49ers or another team? No, but it’s not for the lack of opportunities. The former owner says there have been several opportunities throughout the 16 years since he was involved. The difference is that now, football is year round job, much more than it was when he owned he 49ers. If he was younger, however, he would seriously consider it. For now, he will enjoy his wife, children and three grandsons.
He does have one piece of advice for his nephew as the franchise goes through its current growing pains:
Follow your heart and don’t let anybody change your mind, and don’t let anybody control your emotions or what you think is best. He’s been in football long enough, that he knows what to do.
One thing is certain: there is a lot to be read between the lines in most of his comments regarding Jed.