Enshrinement weekend is a magical time. You can’t go 10 feet at the Pro Football Hall of Fame without stumbling across heroes of the recent and distant past.
It can bring grown men to tears — as it did 2017 inductee Morten Andersen, who went all blubbery on Friday.
And it can bring together cold warriors from days gone by.
Jimmy Johnson is here at the Hall for the first time, asked to introduce Dolphins pass rusher Jason Taylor on Saturday night.
It took about 10 minutes for his path to cross with that of his old foil, Jerry Jones.
Jones, the iconic Cowboys owner, will also be inducted Saturday, so it was inevitable he would run into Johnson. The two men had a much-publicized beef during Johnson’s last season as Dallas’ coach, and their relationship has never been the same since.
On Friday, the two football legends reconnected, if not reconciled — and they have Taylor to thank.
“I got to the Hall this morning and Jimmy was standing in the room where we had the luncheon in,” Taylor said. “We talked for a while. I gave him a hug and we started talking. He was a heckuva lot more popular in the room than I was. Everybody came in and was saying hi to Jimmy and coach. Then Jerry came in and they shared a moment. It was great to get him up here.”
Taylor continued: “Michael [Irvin] and Emmitt [Smith] had to pull me aside for a minute and have a talk about having Jimmy here and what it meant to them, too. It was a lot further reaching than just myself, and that was great to see.”
It makes sense that Taylor tapped Johnson to say a few words here Saturday; Johnson, as the coach of the Dolphins in 1997, took a chance on an undersized defensive end from a small school.
But when Taylor’s choice was announced a few months back, it left more than a few wondering why he didn’t pick Zach Thomas — his former brother-in-law, close friend and long-time teammate.
Turns out, that’s only half the surprise. Thomas won’t even be among the dozens of former teammates in the stands when Taylor is inducted.
Taylor was not asked about Thomas when he met with reporters Friday; Seth Levit, his spokesman, said that Thomas was “most certainly invited, as were a tremendous amount of teammates.”
Levit added: “Unfortunately, there were some guys that couldn’t make it, for whatever their reasons. There’s a lot of guys that Jason played with that are here. He’s very excited about the guys that are here.”
Taylor and Thomas’ sister, Katina, divorced in 2015 after 14 years of marriage. They have three children, who are in town for their dad’s induction.
Taylor, meanwhile, spent much of Friday in awe of the company he’s joining — and was downright stunned when legends Joe Greene and Charles Haley asked for his autograph.
He knows he’ll cry during his speech on Saturday — “I cried [Thursday night] making a toast at dinner, man; I’ve got no chance” — and also worried about his voice. He was hoarse Friday, an occupational hazard as an assistant coach at St. Thomas Aquinas.
And how did he feel, the night before realizing the greatest personal goal in pro football?
“Nervous as hell.”