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.
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 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.