Tom Jackson:** It's like a lifetime achievement award. I don't think that anybody goes into it necessarily with the idea of getting the Pete Rozelle Award 28 years later, but it is a validation for the work that you do. As I look back on it—and it certainly has flown by—yeah, there's a sense of pride taken into work and the fact that people appreciate it.
And I'll be very honest: When I first received the call from the Hall, and it's very official, they tell you 'You have been chosen as the recipient of the 2015 Pete Rozelle Award. Will you accept the award?' And of course I said 'Yes, absolutely, I'll accept the award.' I shared it with my wife and my daughters and then I went into my office. I was familiar with part of the list but I went into my office just to take a look at the entire list.
That's when you get humbled and that's when you get overwhelmed and that's when you wonder how the hell you got your name on the list. That's about the time that you look and you go 'Pat Summerall, Chris Schenkel, Ed Sabol—who started NFL Films—Dan Dierdorf, Ray Scott, Frank Gifford, John Madden.' That's when it gets a bit overwhelming, but I'm honored beyond belief.
Floyd Little, Jackson's teammate from 1973-75: Tom Jackson is not only a great teammate, a great leader of our football team, a great representative of football in general and the Denver Broncos, specifically, but just a great player with a heart of gold that has not been recognized [for] his talents as a football player but as a broadcaster.
As good a broadcaster as Tom Jackson is, he was a better football player. And that says a lot because I know the real Tom Jackson, I watched him as a player, I watched him develop as a player, I watched his skill levels continue to get better. He was a great player for the Denver Broncos. He played his entire career there and he, in my opinion—and that's my opinion—is a Hall of Famer, but that's not my call.
Tom has done well. We all knew he would. He was a very gregarious person, very outgoing, and he's always known that repetition is good pedagogy. He worked hard every day, and by working hard it taught him a valuable lesson to be not only a student of the game that he's become, but a guy who's analytical. Tommy was always analytical. He was always articulate and he's always found ways to make things happen.
Boy, I respect him. Every time I see him on TV, and when he articulates certain things about the game, the nuances, he speaks very well and he's very knowledgeable. So it's not surprising to me that he's getting the Pete Rozelle award for journalism because he is a crafty, well-gifted athlete that's done well in broadcasting.
Billy Thompson, Jackson's teammate from 1973-81: I wasn't surprised, first of all. I was really happy for him. He had done a great, great job. As far as football, he knows football. I mean, we talk football all the time. I was just proud of him. I really was, because I know he works very hard at it and he does a great job with it.
John Elway, Jackson's teammate from 1983-86:
Chris Berman, ESPN colleague since 1987: Well, nobody's more deserving of the Pete Rozelle Award than Tom. I mean, he was a Pro Bowl player for 14 years. He's a Pro Bowl announcer for now his 29th year. He didn't have to come as far as you think. He did a little TV work when he played with the Broncos. Remember, the players didn't make that much. They had to do something on the side, so he did some sports on TV. He's a natural because [he is as good a broadcaster] as good a player as he was—and Denver fans know he was really good.
So 10 minutes into our first day, watching games Week 1, he's played for 14 years. It's the first Sunday that he hasn't played and he looks up at the set of one of the eight games that we're watching and he goes 'Oh! Look at that hit!' I go 'Whoa, whoa, whoa. Tom, that's what you used to do.' He goes, 'I know, but it was such a good hit.' I knew we had a natural.
He and Randy Gradishar—he would always want me to mention Randy—were Hall of Fame players, that's for sure. It's hard. Maybe it reminds people that he was also a good player, but his record as a Bronco speaks for itself, the way he played for 14 years. The reason he wasn't in any more, and I believe it was three, Pro Bowls was names that may not mean much to a lot of youngers, but there were only three outside linebackers from the AFC that went. Jack Ham was one of them for Pittsburgh, so now you're down to two spots. So it was tough to break through. It wasn't that Tom had a bad year, it was only three going. Now there's like six outside linebackers from both. He really could have been an eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker and that could have changed it. Although… . He was a great player. Maybe it does change perception. I hope it does.
Trey Wingo, ESPN colleague: Just the idea of him getting the Pete Rozelle Award, there's not a guy more deserving out there. He's tremendous. Nobody takes the task more seriously than Tom and no one has more insightful things to say about the game than Tom. It's been a privilege to work alongside him and I hope to work alongside him for many, many more years.
Chris Mortenson, ESPN colleagues since 1991: I've been at ESPN 25 years, I think this is 28 for him. So I've known him primarily as a colleague. Getting the Rozelle Award is a prestigious broadcasting award. Only the best that make that transition into broadcasting are recognized for this.
But the thing about it is, I was at the Pro Football Hall of Fame museum the other day with Bobby Ross, the former Chargers coach, who was there for Junior Seau. Bobby and I know each other well. And we stopped at the plaque and Tommy had his name on the Rozelle Award. Bobby turns to me and says 'Where is Tommy's bust for the Hall of Fame?' And I said, 'Bobby, do you realize he's not in it?' He goes, 'He's got to be in it. I coached in Kansas City with Marv Levy. Him and Gradishar, they're in, right?' I said no. He said, 'You're pulling my leg, aren't you?' I said no.
So we're talking about a guy who was truly a revolutionary player. If they had the Pro Bowl balloting back then the way they do now, he would have made eight Pro Bowls. Tom, as I've said many times before, the preparation he did as a player, he brings it to TV. And not only that — he's a better husband, father and person and friend than he is anything else.
Magic Johnson, ESPN colleague from 2008-13: