Thousands of NFL fans pack Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium. They cheer loudly when the names of their favorite players are introduced. The loud echoing voice of the ESPN’s Chris “Boom” Berman fills the air as he welcomes the fans and the Hall of Fame Class of 2016.
On August 6, I got to experience a once-in-a lifetime opportunity as I was able to attend the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio. Canton is where pro football first started and that is a big reason why football is so important to the state of Ohio, much like basketball is to the state of Indiana.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame consists of 295 members (not including the Class of 2016). Some are the NFL’s all-time greats such as Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, and Joe Nameth. But on Aug. 6, I got to watch eight new members finally earn their places in football immortality. I got to see players I remember watching on Sundays, such as Marvin Harrison, Tony Dungy and Brett Farve. Other member included former Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler, Lions offensive tackle Dick Stanfel, former 49ers owner Eddie Debartolo Jr., former linebacker Kevin Greene and former Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace.
The enshrinement ceremony was a great experience. The first to speak was former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison. He was not much of a talker during his playing days so I did not expect a lot of words during his speech. His speech consisted of mostly thanking his family, coaches and teammates.
Following Marvin was former St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace. He talked about how football kept him of the streets when he was growing up in Youngstown, Ohio which was not a great area (it is comparable to Gary, Indiana). He as well thanked everyone who helped him on his journey.
Next was the late Dick Stanfel. He was an offensive tackle for the Detroit Lions back in the 50s and helped them win back- to- back world championships in 1952 and 1953. He was named the MVP of the team in 1953. He also went on to have a great coaching career. Stanfel died in June of 2015.
Following Stanfel was the late great former Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler. During his tenure with the Raiders, he led them to five straight AFC championships, winning the Super Bowl in 1977 and two league MVPS. Stabler died in July of 2015.
After Stabler was former San Frisco 49ers owner Eddie Debartolo Jr. Under his ownership, the 49ers won 13 division titles, five Super Bowls, and consistently had 13- win season from 1981-1998. One of the things he talked about in his speech was family, and he made his organization one big family. The 49ers were family- friendly under Debartolo’s ownership which is why the 49ers had the success they had.
Next was former Colts coach Tony Dungy. He led the Colts to the Super Bowl title in 2006 over the Chicago Bears and became the first black coach to win a Super Bowl. His big thing that he preached as coach was in this order: faith, family and football, and because of that, the Colts were a great team.
Finally to end the night was fan favorite Brett Farve. His was the most emotional speech given that night. He talked about everything from football to his family. His advice to the youth was to never give up and always give anything you do your all.
This was a great experience for me. I am so glad I had the chance to go and I learned a lot. I would totally recommend going to anyone who gets the chance to go.