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Former San Francisco 49er Bryant Young honors late son in moving Hall of Fame acceptance speech

SF Gate 8/6/2022 Gabe Lehman
Former San Francisco 49er Bryant Young speaks during the 2022 Pro Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Aug. 6, 2022 in Canton, Ohio.  © Nick Cammett/Getty Images

Former San Francisco 49er Bryant Young speaks during the 2022 Pro Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Aug. 6, 2022 in Canton, Ohio. 

On a day when former San Francisco 49er Bryant Young was honored for a career’s worth of achievements, the legendary defensive star didn't want to highlight himself. Instead, in a moving tribute, Young took time during his NFL Hall of Fame acceptance speech to tell the story of his son Colby, who passed away from brain cancer when he was just 15 years old.

After thanking his family, teammates, and coaches, Young told the crowd assembled in Canton, Ohio: “I’ve introduced five of our children, now I’d like to let you meet Colby.” 

Young spoke of his son as a joyful child with many interests, including football, and described how Colby fought bravely in the face of a cancer diagnosis even as his condition turned terminal.

Fighting through tears, Young addressed his late son directly. 


Video: NFL Hall of Fame: 49ers great Bryant Young given Hall of Fame jacket (CBS SF Bay Area)

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“Colby, you live on in our hearts. We will always speak your name,” said the elder Young, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd. 

In response to the tragedy, Young discussed how community, including his “brothers” from the 49ers, has come to mean so much to him. “In an isolated world, personal connections matter more than ever,” said Young. 

A number of NFL personalities chimed in to discuss Young’s passionate speech. With former Oakland Raiders beat reporter Jerry McDonald writing, “To call 49ers' Bryant Young a class act doesn't do him justice. His speech today was like a window into his soul, and the view was spectacular.”

Before the emotional speech, Eddie Debartolo, the famed former 49ers owner, presented Young with his customary golden jacket. Young’s old teammates, and fellow Niner Hall of Farmers, Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens were also in attendance for the ceremony. 

Young enjoyed a 14-year career from 1994-2007, all with the 49ers, in which he collected 89.5 sacks and was named to four Pro Bowl teams. He was part of the Niners' last Super Bowl winning team in 1995. 

Young finished his speech by mentioning how serendipitous it was that he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a member of the class of '22, because 22 was Colby’s favorite number.

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