Edgerrin James: I started with gold teeth and ended with this gold jacket


Edgerrin James unveiled his bust Saturday night, revealing his signature dreadlocks. It doesn’t show his gold teeth, but James referred to both during his 10-minute Hall of Fame speech.

“Perception isn’t always reality. It definitely wasn’t my reality,” James said. “People looked at my gold teeth and dreads and were shocked and surprised I had never been arrested or spent time in jail. Some people told me that you can’t have gold teeth and dreads and be accepted in the NFL, but I never listened. I always knew who I was: A great football player, a great father, a proud Black man, a lion, and this was my mane, which many of those doubters later discovered once they got to know the real me. Times have changed. Look around the league, look at some of the young stars. As a matter of fact, look at my Pro Football Hall of Fame bust, rocking the same dreads they said I shouldn’t.

“My closing message: Try to represent the real you. Follow your dream, aim high and create the life you want to live. And to all those who have judged prematurely because of their appearance, the way they talk, where they come from and in the minds of many should be locked up in prison, I represent us. I’m forever immortalized, locked up in the Canton Correctional Institution.”

James then opened up his Hall of Fame gold jacket, which lists his Hall of Fame number. He was the 336th man inducted into Canton.

“Inmate number 336 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” James continued. “I started with gold teeth and ended with this gold jacket.”

A finalist four previous times, James finally has his rightful place in Canton. He was part of the Centennial 2020 Class that had to wait a year for their induction because of the pandemic.

James, 43, ended his career in Indianapolis as the franchise’s leader in rushing yards (9,226) and touchdowns (64).

Colts owner Jim Irsay served as James’ presenter.