There are multiple ways of describing the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The plaque outside of the building says “The Cradle Of Professional Football” referring to a meeting on September 12th, 1920 when representatives from ten pro football team met in Canton to form a league that would eventually be called the National Football League.
Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker likes to call the building that houses the history of the game as “the most inspirational place on earth.”
I just like to call it “football heaven”.
This week, I was in Canton because my son Bradley was participating in the USA Football U.S. National Team Training Camp so we paid a visit to the Hall of Fame on Monday making it four times in five years that we have been inside of the “home office” for professional football. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a must-see for any football fan and even for those who have been there before, it just doesn’t get old.
You feel the goosebumps from the time you make the turn onto George Halas Drive and you see the building with Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium towering behind it. Later this summer, the Pro Football Hall of Fame classes of 2020 and 2021 will be inducted after last year’s enshrinement ceremony was postponed because of COVID-19. Outside of the building are photos of each individual from both classes including the late Giants General Manager George Young and Winston Hill, an offensive lineman on the Super Bowl III Jets who, along with some others, has already been inducted posthumously and his bust now resides in the Hall of Fame Gallery.
Once inside, you are truly transported on a trip through football history. Along the way, there are so many incredible pieces of memorabilia to see along as well as immersive and interactive exhibits including an area where you can design your own Super Bowl ring. Each time we’ve been there, my family and I have come up with designs on a new Super Bowl ring for the Jets. Hopefully, one of these days, there will be the need for real Jets Super Rings for the first time since the 1968 season. To that point, the Super Bowl III display at the Hall of Fame is great and it includes Don Maynard’s jersey and Joe Namath’s knee brace.
The Vince Lombardi Trophy is also on display in Canton and it is shipped to the site of the next Super Bowl just before the game. When that trophy is removed for shipping, it is replaced by the trophy for the following season’s game. On the subject of the Super Bowl, there is a Super Bowl Gallery with exhibits from all of the Super Bowls and there is a theatre that shows the NFL Films official video of the most recent Super Bowl.
To me, one of the highlights of a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the “Hall of Fame Locker Room” where fans are treated to a breathtaking hologram presentation from Joe Namath that features stories about select Hall of Famers including Curtis Martin, Steve Largent, and Alan Page who used the lessons taught in the game of football to become successful individuals in life. There are lockers inside that room/theatre with jerseys and memorabilia from other Hall of Fame players including Joe Montana, Howie Long, Roger Staubach, and Anthony Munoz.
Your trip to the Hall of Fame ends with a visit to the Hall of Fame store (what museum have you ever been to that doesn’t eventually lead you to a store or gift shop?) with an unbelievable selection of NFL and Hall of Fame apparel including shirts, jerseys, helmets, cards, footballs, and other souvenirs.
I’ve been to the Pro Football Hall of Fame five times in my life with the first one being many years ago before the massive expansion. Back then it was just the small building with the dome, but now it is a magnificent complex that houses not just football’s past but also the present and the future. In addition to the museum and the stadium, there is the Black College Football Hall of Fame, the National Youth Football and Sports Complex where young athletes have the opportunity to play games and participate in clinics and camps. Also, currently under construction, the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village will feature the Hall of Fame Waterpark, The Eleven Hilton Tapestry Hotel with 180 guest rooms, a Constellation Center for Excellence, a Center for Performance, and Retail Promenade.
As David Baker would describe it, it will be the “Disneyland of Football”.
Again, I just call the Pro Football Hall of Fame and everything currently around it as well as everything that lies ahead as “football heaven”.
And going back there again and again never gets old to me. I’m already looking forward to coming back next year!