Presenting Calvin Johnson for Hall of Fame ‘an Everest experience’ for Derrick Moore

Detroit Free Press

CANTON, Ohio — Derrick Moore saw how special Calvin Johnson was the first time they met, and it had nothing to do with football.

Moore, the former team chaplain at Georgia Tech, hosted a reception for players the summer before Johnson’s freshman season at the school. Johnson was the first player to arrive and immediately began helping Moore set up for the party.

When the party ended, Johnson stayed late and helped clean up. He put away chairs, picked up garbage, and before he left, asked Moore what else he could do to help.

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“It was very evident that he had qualities and characteristics that were just really unusual for a kid that’s that young,” Moore said. “Just mature beyond his years. And I thought that to be of great attention to me and man, it just jumped off the pages and it lit me up like a Christmas tree.”

Johnson and Moore have been close since that day 15 years ago, and on Sunday, Moore will have the “extraordinary” honor of presenting Johnson for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“You don’t really have the ability to capture it in words, because if you attempt it, you’re going to fail miserably,” Moore said. “There are a handful of people in the world that stood on the summit of Everest. This is an Everest experience for me. And Calvin, he’s admired and adored by so many family members, friends, owners and players, and boy he could have closed his eyes and picked a number of people to do this, and (in) his own heart and mind, I know what he means to me and I know what I mean to him. And I think the selection of my doing this has everything to do with our experiences together.”

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Johnson is fifth in order to give his enshrinement speech Sunday, after Drew Pearson, Tom Flores, Peyton Manning and John Lynch, and before Alan Faneca and Charles Woodson.

Johnson said he is not nervous to give the 8-minute speech he has been working to refine for months.

Moore spent several weeks working on his presentation, too, but he has limited duties Sunday: He taped his speech for ESPN cameras at his South Carolina home in early July.

“They got the final cut and edited version of it,” Moore said. “I’ve not seen it, so I’m not certain how long it’s going to air. … I would imagine the better part of 3 minutes probably. Two-and-a-half minutes, 3 minutes. You’re still dealing with television. Those guys are so good at doing sort of post-editing work and have the thing down to a science that they nailed it.

Moore said he wrote down a top 10 list of things he wanted to say about Johnson, and built those themes around one word that will be prevalent in his presentation, “megáleio,” the Greek word for greatness.

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“You hear the word mega in there,” Moore said, a nod to Johnson’s “Megatron” nickname.

Johnson has not heard Moore’s speech — which will play on the video board at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium before Johnson takes the stage — but the two were able to share several experiences already this week, including Friday, when Moore presented Johnson with his gold jacket.

“I’ve had a lot of great experiences in my now 53 years on this earth,” Moore said. “When you see me, come up and slap me two times. You think about Calvin, but you’ve got Peyton Manning and you’ve got Charles Woodson and all the other incredible previous Hall of Famers. Man, what in the world am I doing there?”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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