Shaw inspires Montana to change induction speech

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2000

Mark Thornton’s sports column appears every Tuesday in The Vicksburg Post.

Back in his days with the Buffalo Bills, pulling guard Billy Shaw made plenty of defenses scrap their conventional schemes. On July 29, he made one of the greatest quarterbacks in history scrap his gameplan at the last second.

Joe Montana, the most prolific of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2000, changed his induction speech the night before the ceremony. He did it after hearing Shaw give the keynote address at the Hall-of-Famers-only luncheon that day.

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Shaw, who was raised in Vicksburg, was inducted last year. At the time, he said the luncheon was the most memorable part of his time in Canton, Ohio. That’s where it hit him, the sense of what an elite fraternity he was part of.

Montana was similarly inspired by Shaw, almost as gifted an orator as he was a blocker. The four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback rewrote his speech after the luncheon.

“He got the meaning of what it was all about,” Shaw said without revealing the content of his speech what is said in that annual get-together has always been private. “When it’s just us, you can really bare your soul. You have to make everybody understand the responsibilities … what an elite group they’re a part of.”

Montana reiterated Shaw’s words for what became the weekend’s most used soundbite : “This is the beginning of the rest of my life with a new team.

“Take a look at these guys,” he said, motioning to the 111 Hall-of-Famers seated behind him. “What a team it is.”

Shaw was in awe, too, at the largest-ever gathering of Hall-of-Famers. He sat with George Blanda and Raymond Berry and listened to war stories. “That was worth the trip,” Shaw said. He also spent time with, among others, Leo Nomellini, Doug Atkins, Lou Groza, Joe Namath, Frank Gifford and Art Donovan, who “kept everyone in stitches.” Since they were placed together alphabetically at every official function, Shaw was shoulder-to-shoulder with Don Shula and near Bill Walsh, which provided more “Super” tales.

Plenty happened in the year since Shaw was inducted. He “limited” his speaking engagements and still had 37, while the business he works for added two plants, pushing the number he oversees to eight.

The Toccoa, Ga., resident has been back to Mississippi twice. His mother, who was at the ceremony in 1999, passed away in December. She was buried in Natchez. In February, he spoke at Immanuel Baptist Church, where he was saved as a young boy.

He said a new Hall of Fame golf circuit, which will have a tournament every month, may bring him back soon.

“Mississippi will probably get one because of all the Hall-of-Famers from there,” he said.

A call 2 arms for WC

Warren Central was running out of pitching after battling its way through the losers’ bracket and beating Oxford to set up a game against the mighty Bryan Packers in the American Legion state tournament.

So coach Sam Temple made a call for two arms. Dusty Keen was at Pemberton Square mall with girlfriend Rebekah Williams about 6 Saturday night when his cell phone rang.

“She was frustrated, but she let me go,” Keen, a Hinds signee, said with a chuckle. “I didn’t figure I’d make it.”

He and Delta State signee Bo Newton left almost immediately to make the 31/2-hour drive to West Point. They made it about the third inning, just in time to dress in the dugout, go to the bullpen for a few tosses, then be part of a classic performance.

Taylor Tankersley struck out 11 in four innings, then Newton came in, followed by Keen and closer Brian Pettway. Keen got the 3-2 win in the combined one-hitter, the lone hit over nine innings being a bunt.

“Since I’ve been coaching, I’ve never had a team completely man-handle us like that,” said Frank Portera, who has coached the West Point-based Packers to two state titles and two regional runner-up finishes in the last five years. “They were unhittable … absolutely awesome.”