It’s that time of year again, and I’m not talking about “going back to school.” All the NFL training camps are open, NFL Betting is heating up, and the NFL preseason kicks off Saturday night in Canton, with the annual Hall of Fame game. The Cincinnati Bengals will take on the Dallas Cowboys at Fawcett Stadium across the street from Pro Football’s Hall of Fame.
I happened to take in the Hall of Fame last week, so I can give you a very fresh account of what’s included in their collection. Therefore, if you happen to be making the trek to Canton (a small town about an hour south of Cleveland) to honor this year’s class -Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Dick LeBeau, John Randle, Floyd Little, Rickey Jackson, and Russ Grimm- here’s what you should know about what artifacts they showcase.
By Paul M. Banks
The tour begins in the rotunda with a a spiraling ramp that takes you from the game’s 19th century origins to today. You learn why the Hall of Fame is located in Canton, and enjoy the awesome nicknames of some of the league’s founding franchises like the Watertown Red and Blacks, Columbus Panhandles and Providence Steamrollers. And there’s great individual names too like Crazy Legs Hirsch or Whizzer White, the famous star tailback who was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and later served as a Supreme Court Justice.
But my favorite name is Willie Thrower. The Michigan State and Chicago Bears product was the first black quarterback in NFL history. Don’t you love it when people have names perfectly matching their profession? Like Buffalo Bills DB Reggie Corner or the annoying and untalented Fox Chicago weather girl Amy Freeze. I guess I should have gone into financial planning, instead of media!
I also learned about statistics. Peyton Manning has thrown “three perfect games” in his career. The highest passer rating a QB can have in a single game is 158.3, and Manning has done that on three occasions.
Some other highlights
-Kurt Warner’s contribution includes scripture beside his autograph (Matthew 6:33). But given how overtly Jesus-loving he is, does that really surprise you?
-There’s an exhibit on the famous 1983 QB draft class. Hence the picture of Illini legend and former New England Patriots QB “Champagne” Tony Eason; if you were wondering why he’s in Canton
-Artifacts from every player (Sterling Sharpe, Cris Carter and of course later, Marvin Harrison) who has broken the single season, or single game receptions record in recent years. The way the game is evolving, this will have to be updated every year or so.
-Being a New England Patriots fan, I was focused on their memorabilia, including footballs and rings from all three Super Bowl wins, and two of Tom Brady’s game used jerseys. They have clothing that Head Coach Bill Belichick wore on the sidelines, but it’s not his trademark hoodie, sadly.
-The most special Patriots exhibit of all is at the end of the tour, and just outside the gift shop: a game used football from every game of their famous 21 game win streak (2003-04). The previous record was 19.
-My only complaint? I once read that someone I went to school with had made it to Canton. Former University of Illinois placekicker Neil Rackers lived in my apartment complex in Champaign, and he’s a member of my UI graduating class. A few years ago, while a member of the Arizona Cardinals, he became the first person to ever kick three 50+ yard field goals in the same game. And his spikes were immortalized in Canton.
But I could not find them anywhere!