CANTON, Ohio — It was 2:30 Sunday morning inside the chic Canton Club and Joyce Reed-Ebling was still going strong.
"I can't believe how late it is," the mother of Andre Reed said. "It feels like it's earlier than this."
A long-awaited night for the entire Reed family, a night that most families could only dream of, was nearing its end.
However, it was a night that Joyce and all members of the family will never forget.
Not only was Andre Reed finally a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but his entrance came with the poise, grace, humility, and yes, passion, that he brought to the NFL for 16 seasons.
There is no official rating system for speeches, but in the eyes of many, Reed delivered the most poignant performance of the night during his 36 minutes at the microphone.
He is not Mr. Television like Michael Strahan. The former Giants' defensive lineman was as engaging and as entertaining as expected during his turn on the stage, which followed Reed's.
But Reed commanded the attention of the crowd inside Canton's Fawcett Stadium and a national television audience by telling his story of the kid who "didn't grow up with in the easiest of childhoods."
While expressing his love for his late father, Calvin, he told the rest of the story, saying: "For all the great things my dad did, he had his faults, just like we all do. And my dad's biggest fault — he was an alcoholic. I saw things growing up no child should see. So sports became my safe haven, my shield, my guard."
He mentioned his love for his mother, who "did everything she could to keep the family together."
He talked about the tight bonds shared with his brothers, Tyrone and Dion, and sister, Teshia.
He also mentioned all of the influential coaches of his youth, including Allentown A's coaches Roy Sekoch and Gene Legath and the guys who mentored him at Dieruff including Bruce Trotter, Ted Phillips, Bill Wood and Ted Steiner. He called his Huskies head coach Larry Lewis by the name of Larry Little, perhaps momentarily mixing him up with the former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman and Hall of Famer.
That little flub did nothing to diminish Reed's overall presentation.
"I love you guys all," Reed said of his coaches. "Thank you very much."
He didn't forget the Kutztown phase of his life either, mentioning coaches Gino Calcagni, Al Leonzi and George Baldwin and the All-American quarterback who threw him his first TD pass, Lehigh Valley resident Greg Gristick.
Of course, the national audience and certainly the large number of Buffalo Bills fans at the stadium couldn't wait for the NFL portion of his speech.
The crowd soaked up every minute of his stories about Bills legends like Bruce Smith, Darryl Talley, Thurman Thomas, and of course, Jim Kelly.
The sound bite that will be shown over and over again featured Reed telling Kelly: "I was known for my toughness, for going across the middle, making that catch, breaking tackles. But the toughest individual I've ever met in my life is Jim Kelly. You're the reason I'm standing here today."
Later, he said: "Jim, you have endured a lot in your life, the loss of a son, and most recently, your battle with cancer. You're an inspiration to all those you touch. I'm honored to call you my teammate, my friend, my family member and now a fellow Hall of Famer. I love you, man."
Reed's speech ended with him catching one more pass from Kelly, a completion every bit as special as the 663 connections they had as teammates, a combo that was No. 1 in NFL history until Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison came along.
Despite being weakened by his chemotherapy treatments, Kelly stayed at Reed's party long after most of the other 200 guests had left.
Thomas, Smith and Marv Levy, the Hall of Fame coach who served as Reed's presenter, was also at the party into the wee hours. Even well-respected GM Bill Polian stayed around late.
Levy's longevity was particularly impressive because Sunday was his 89th birthday, something Reed noted when he took the microphone again at his party.
It was clear that the Bills' Super Bowl teams of the early 1990s were all about family. So, too, is Reed, who clearly didn't forget where he came from on Saturday night. He made sure they were at the ceremony, and the party that followed.
Amid all of the NFL greats, including Dan Marino, Bobby Bell, James Lofton and Curley Culp, were Keith Newhard and John Molotzak, who coached Reed at Dieruff.
They were all smiles as they mingled with Trotter, Wood, Gene and his son Adam Legath, Lewis and longtime family friends like Mike Stahl who ran dozens of bus trips from Allentown to Buffalo during Reed's career.
Reed, who was cheered loudly earlier Saturday as he participated in a Hall of Fame parade through the streets of Canton, never got to experience a Super Bowl parade or Super Bowl victory party during his career.
But this extremely long day that began with a parade and ended with a party was probably as special as any Super Bowl win could have been for the little kid with the big dreams.
As tired as everyone felt, no one wanted it to end.
"He did it," Joyce Reed-Ebling beamed as she gave goodbye hugs. "I continue to be in awe of my son. That speech was just perfect. It was a home run. He included just about everyone and said all the right things. I was always proud of all my kids, but I've never been prouder than I am tonight."Copyright © 2015, CT Now