Before last Saturday, I considered myself to be one of the most avid 23-year-old football fans in the world.
I was wrong.
I was fortunate enough to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame induction ceremony last Saturday, and it took my fanhood to a new level.
I always knew Jim Thorpe was the first notable athlete to play pro football, and also the first president of the American Professional Football Association.
I knew that Otto Graham led the Cleveland Browns to 10 consecutive championship games in the 1940s and '50s.
I did not know, however, the story behind the Canton Bulldogs/Massillon Tigers scandal, or the 1925 NFL Championship controversy.
Did you know that Joe Perry held the all-time rushing record before Jim Brown did? I didn’t.
If you ask me, every NFL fan should visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I mean, it should be a pre-requisite to calling yourself an NFL enthusiast.
Think about it. If you’re going to seriously commit yourself to something, it’d be wise to educate yourself on the history of that subject, right?
Doctors are submitted to the history of modern medicine, and lawyers study historical trials of significance.
Likewise, all NFL fans should take a trip to Canton, Ohio and be exposed to the incredible amount of history that is packed into the 83,000 square-foot shrine that is the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In my one day at the Hall of Fame, I came within hand-shaking distance of NFL legends such as Bart Starr, Len Dawson, Tony Dorsett, and Warren Moon.
I attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony that preceded the unveiling of the brand new Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery.
During the ceremony, I stood in a room with the likes of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodel, Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt (the son of the late Lamar Hunt), and Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, among others.
I watched Norma Hunt, the only woman to have attended all 43 Super Bowls, share stories about her late husband. She talked about Lamar’s love for the game, the Super Bowl in particular.
It was at this time that I realized the presence I was in, standing within 20 feet of the people that have helped mold the game into what it is today. It’s a feeling like no other, to be in the company of the NFL’s finest.
Later that day, I attended the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. As a lifelong Chiefs fan, I was there to honor the memory of Derrick Thomas.
Even though the crowd was dominated by Buffalo Bill blue, there were also seas of red that included hundreds of No. 58 jerseys.
The man who drafted Derrick Thomas in 1989, former Chiefs General Manager Carl Peterson, delivered the induction speech.
It was an incredibly emotional speech—not only for Chiefs fans, but for anyone who had watched Derrick Thomas play. The crowd that filled Fawcett Stadium sat in silence as Peterson honored not only one of the greatest pass-rushers, but the greatest humanitarian that the game has ever seen.
It was at that moment that I again realized how special this particular moment was. I was in the presence of NFL greatness, and it truly gave me a new appreciation for the game.
For this reason, I urge all NFL fans to visit Canton. Your football fanhood is not complete without it.
In that one special day, I learned more about the game that I am passionate for than I ever imagined possible.
Did you know that, back in the late 1800s, field goals were worth five points, and touchdowns were only worth four?
Seriously, you need to check it out! It’s the greatest experience a pro football fan can encounter.