PHOENIX --- "Welcome to the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
It was a simple sentence that made Bill Polian instantly give an enormous sigh of relief, exhaling euphorically and smiling. That was the sentence he heard as he opened his hotel room door in Arizona the evening before Super Bowl XLIX, after waiting in agony for the news for hours in the standard sized room.
"It was a knock on the door, and it was really one of surprise, because we thought when it had gone so long that we thought we were just going to get a call saying that it's not happening," Polian told NFL Media later that evening, as the finalists each season for the Hall of Fame are gathered and wait for the voting to be finalized for who is to be enshrined. Some get good news at the door of their hotel room. Others do not. "It was quite a shock to be honest with you."
The first man to win the NFL's Executive of the Year Award six times would then speak to a room of other Hall of Famers at the hotel after receiving the news of his election to Canton.
"If you want to know how to be a good general manager, I can tell you," Polian told those gathered in one of the hotel meeting rooms. "Be lucky enough to have Jim Kelly, Kerry Collins, and Peyton Manning as your quarterbacks. That's easy."
Polian also had a fond memory of the Colts Super Bowl XLI victory that he told that room which included some of the greatest players, coaches, and executives in NFL history.
"When we won the Super Bowl, many, many people asked me, 'Is this vindication? Is this the end of the trail? Is this the Holy Grail?'," Polian recalled. "When we finally won the game, my thoughts had nothing to do with that, nothing at all. It had to do with the lady at the switchboard (inside the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center), who said to me the day we left to go to Miami for the Super Bowl, 'You're taking our dreams with you.' It's about the people who've helped me along the way, without whom I would not literally be standing here."
And one of the most exciting parts about being inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer for Polian? He said when he was 16-years-old at Yankee Stadium, he dreamed of maybe shaking Frank Gifford's hand.
"Now, I'm going to be in the same building as him. I can't believe it."
But nothing may match the moment when Polian opened the hotel room door the evening before Super Bowl XLIX.