"Hearing LaVell say that really kinda hit home," McMahon said in a pregame news conference before his name was unveiled at halftime on the press box at the stadium that bears the coach's name.
Wearing his trademark sun glasses to protect an eye injury suffered as a child, McMahon spoke graciously and humbly by his standards before the jersey retirement, saying BYU "went above and beyond what they had to do to get this done for me. … They bent over backwards."
Leading the charge was BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, who said he made it a goal when he became A.D. in 2005 to get his former teammate eligible to be inducted into the Hall.
"I've told a couple people this week that he's my favorite teammate that I've ever had, from Pop Warner through the NFL," Holmoe said. "He was just so much fun to be around, but he was a serious dude, a field general."
At the Hall of Fame ceremony on Thursday night at the Marriott Center, McMahon spoke for about six minutes while wearing a suit coat adorned with colorful flowers.
He opened by joking that he shouldn't "screw this up" because one of the classes he needed to pass to get his degree was public speaking.
"I studied more the last eight months than I did in five years of college when I was here," McMahon said. "I never would have guessed 32 years ago when I left here that I would be standing here today."
Did he have that thing in his closet, or buy it special?
"I had it," he said. "I had my regular tux ready to go, too, but that isn't me."
McMahon's four children and parents attended the ceremony, but the woman he credited with helping get through his five years at BYU, his ex-wife Nancy, was not able to make it, Holmoe said.
McMahon broke 70 NCAA passing records at BYU, but he said Friday his favorite accomplishment was helping BYU get its first two bowl wins.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said he met McMahon for the first time three years ago when BYU honored its All-America quarterbacks during a game against Utah.
Having heard stories about McMahon from his brother, Mat Mendenhall, who played with McMahon, Mendenhall said he was familiar with the star's reputation.
"But I was really impressed when Jim came back," Mendenhall said. "He spoke with our team. I had a chance to meet him. … A lot of times, what you hear and what you see just from afar is one thing, and what you experience up close is somewhat different. I would have loved him to be our quarterback. He's competitive and a natural leader, I think."
Of course, BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae played with McMahon. Anae beamed when he was asked about the legendary quarterback finally getting his jersey retired.
"When we played here it was a really phenomenal time and experience at least it was for me," Anae said. "Boy, I am really thrilled to have his deal this weekend for the game. .. I am more than just a coach. I am a fan as well, and am really pleased to see that transpire."