For Pete's Sake

By: Pete Fierle

Pete Fierle, Manager - Digital Media/Communications
Pete's familiarity with the game's history is a result of spending two decades surrounded by the world's largest collection of pro football information. His many duties include overseeing the Hall's website as well as the day-to-day operation of the Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center.

Throwback Thursday: 1980s

Jun 12, 2014
As part of our 40 GREAT Days of Summer promotion, we’re celebrating Throwback Thursday as we look back at the 1980s. While, I’m not dressed in a jersey from that era I will recount one of my favorite personal football memories.

Kickoff weekend 1980 in Orchard Park, N.Y. Well, first of all, the term Kickoff Weekend wasn’t around but hearing “Week 1” or “Home Opener” sufficed for all football fans excited for a new season. I grew up in Buffalo and was an ardent Bills fan. The team had never really experienced much winning during most of my childhood but like every year, there was hope in the air!

Buffalo opened the 1980 season against their arch rival Miami Dolphins. To make matters worse, the Bills went 0-for-the-1970s versus Miami. Yes, twice a year for 10 straight years, Miami beat Buffalo. It remains the biggest consecutive winning streak of one team over another in NFL history.

That day – Sept. 7, 1980 – was an exhilarating and thrilling day for me and the other 79,597 fans on hand at Rich Stadium (#TBT #TheRalph). The decade of near misses and utter frustration finally came to an end. When the final gun sounded, the scoreboard glowed BILLS 17, DOLPHINS 7. The 20-game losing streak to the Dolphins was over! Bills fans stormed the field. I stood at my seat 11 rows above the Miami bench and watched the bedlam. The mob made its way to each end zone and tore down the goal posts.

In case you might want to see a bit of what I’m recounting or if you’re a big Pat Benatar fan, here’s a low-quality YouTube video of the highlights.

Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson rejoiced in the aftermath by declaring, ““It’s the biggest win this club’s ever had,” he commented. “Bigger than the AFL championships. I’ll be happy to buy new goal posts.”

So, that’s my 1980s Throwback Thursday memory. Now, it’s your turn to share your favorite NFL memory for the 1980s. Post a comment hear or on social media. Be sure to use our handle @ProFootballHOF and hash tag it #TBT.


Feb 01, 2013

I write this from the Super Bowl Media Center in New Orleans. I’m here, not for the game but for our annual election of a new class on Saturday! You can watch the announcement live on NFL Network starting at 5:30 ET (4:30 local time) and then jump back to our site for all the details on the newest inductees.

A buzz is building here with conversation regarding who will comprise the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.

Here are three things I know for sure about Saturday.

1. Our Selection Committee will lock themselves in a room for the better part of eight hours on Saturday to debate the merits of the 17 finalists. From that meeting will come the new class of enshrinees – no less than four and no more than seven.

2. Much focus by the media and fans will be placed immediately on the new class of football legends who will be permanently honored in Canton with a bronze bust. Their enshrinement on August 3 will be the marquee event of our Golden Anniversary Reunion which will attract upwards of 130 Hall of Famers to the Hall of Fame to honor the new class and celebrate our 50th Anniversary.

3. Almost as instant as the praise starts flowing for the new class will be the intense scrutiny about who didn’t make it!

We often say about those who aren’t elected each year that it’s not a case of “if” but “when.” In fact, numbers support that claim. The procedure of cutting down to finalists was added to our selection process in 1970. Since that time, a total of 83 percent of finalists have ultimately been elected to the Hall of Fame. That number jumps to 89 percent when an individual is a finalist more than once.

So, just how hard is it to elect a class of enshrinees? Our Selection Committee has a daunting task on Saturday. To a person, each member of that committee takes great pride in being a part of such an important panel. They clearly are honored to have the responsibility bestowed upon them and they treat the process with the utmost seriousness and diligence. That stated, they indeed have a very difficult task before them.

We wanted to put this in perspective. So we went to our longtime Researcher Saleem Choudhry, kind of. Actually we relied on his younger brother Aleem Choudhry who received his undergraduate degree from Stanford before earning his Master’s from the Harvard Business School and is now a partner at Crane Street Capital.

Saleem described our selection process to his brother. From there, Aleem went to work and determined all of the combinations and permutations that can result from a class numbering anywhere from four to seven members pulled from 17 finalists with the caveat that the class can only consist of six or seven individuals if one of both of the seniors are elected.

The answer to our riddle is that the class elected by the Selection Committee on Saturday will be one of a possible 18,942 different combinations that can come from this list of finalists.

Ace in the hole

May 17, 2012
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears most Thursdays.

Today is Hall of Famer Ace Parker’s 100th birthday. He is the first member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to reach 100 and just the fourth former NFL player to celebrate this incredible milestone birthday. I would have to say it’s one of the unique aspects of my job to say that I’ve personally met two of the NFL’s four centenarians.

We’ve splashed lots of stories, photos, and some video about this great star of the 1930s and ’40s on our website. But, unfortunately, we aren’t able to add an interview of Ace on his special day. While he still lives in his home thanks to some terrific 24/7 care from two women who are like family to him, he’s not able to carry on much of a conversation.

Fortunately though I had a really great phone conversation yesterday with one of his long-time friends who serves as Ace’s health Power of Attorney. Buddy Lex, who himself was a fine athlete and is a fellow member of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame along with Ace. He provided me with an update on Ace and also told some great stories about his friend. Buddy, who is 86, told me how Ace was his hero when he was growing up. Later the two would cross paths which led to a great friendship that continues today.

Lex educated me on how Parker’s nickname came about. Apparently, sometime around Parker’s sophomore year at Duke, a sports reporter by the name of Bill Cox wrote that whenever Duke needed five yards, or eight yards, or twelve yards, or whatever they needed; they had an “Ace in the hole” in Clarence Parker. From that day forward, it was “Ace” Parker. Buddy shared other stories like when Ace beat some golfer by the name of Sam Snead in a driving contest during high school; and how Parker hit a home run in his first at bat in the majors.

But, he mostly talked with pride about his great friend. It’s really quite recent that Ace isn’t able to get around very well but Lex reports that Parker still possesses a good grip. He also enjoys going for a car ride every day to get out. It wasn’t until but 10 months ago that Ace was still golfing a few holes with Buddy. Imagine that … we should all be so fortunate to still be hitting a golf ball at 99. Lex even shared how Ace could still putt rather well. And, occasionally he would connect on a nice fairway shot and would instantly turnaround and flash his big smile back at Buddy.

All of us at the Hall of Fame remember that smile fondly. Ace and his wife Thelma, who passed away just two years ago, were regulars every summer when they would return to Canton to participate in the annual Enshrinement Festival.

I imagine Buddy and other friends will see that great big smile this afternoon when they gather to celebrate Ace’s 100th birthday with some cake and balloons.

Draft day tales

Apr 26, 2012

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

Well, it’s finally here. Happy Draft Day to all!

Tonight’s first round means that the season must be just around the corner. Before you know it, we’ll be tuned into NFL Network as they air the New Orleans Saints vs. Arizona Cardinals in our game played in classic Fawcett Stadium across the street from the Hall (Get your tickets). That night, many NFL hopefuls will begin their journey to land a spot on a roster.

But, first we get to enjoy the draft and the great event that it has become for fans. The other day I was doing an interview with a member of the media and they asked if I watch the draft as a fan. The fact is that, in my job, I really don’t. In fact, I probably get less caught up in the pre-draft coverage than most and rarely spend much time studying mock drafts.

I’ve been conditioned to look at football from a historical perspective. So, tomorrow I’ll look BACK at the first round and absorb all of the storylines. I’m always fascinated by the wheeling-and-dealing that takes place and how it potentially changes history.

For instance, had the Dallas Cowboys not worked a trade in 1977 to move up and grab the player they wanted, would Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett had a Hall of Fame career as a Seattle Seahawk? Back in the days of the AFL vs. NFL draft wars, how would football history have changed if Alabama quarterback Joe Namath signed with the St. Louis Cardinals who drafted him in the first round of the NFL draft in 1965 instead of the New York Jets of the rival AFL?

I could go on and on and I imagine much of the talk tomorrow will focus on trades that occur today and tonight as teams strategically plot their futures.

Last year, I shared some tidbits on draft day in my blog. Among them was an interesting nugget I uncovered that went back to the league’s first draft. The owners and league President Joe Carr gathered for the inaugural draft and apparently really enjoyed it. It went so well that they unilaterally agreed on the spot to add four more rounds. Imagine what would happen to the NFL Network and ESPN’s coverage if Roger Goodell shared with them on Saturday that we’re going to throw in a few more rounds of picks because everyone is having so much fun!

If you jump around our website you’d see lots of facts and interesting side notes from past drafts.

I’ve shared many of them with you also through my blog. I’ll end my annual draft day blog by stealing a note from’s Gil Brandt who shared this little known fact with us the other day. There has only been one player who has been drafted three times! This intrigued me enough to dig through the files to find out more on this story.

University of Houston fullback/linebacker Donnie Caraway was drafted in three successive years in the 1950s. He was the 7th round pick of the Washington Redskins (83rd overall) in 1956; picked as a future choice in 1957 by the Chicago Bears in the 29th round (348th overall); and one final time in 1958 when he was drafted in the fourth round by the New York Giants (47th overall).

Interestingly, between being drafted by the Bears and Giants, he played one season in Canada with the Calgary Stampeders.

Eligibility rules of the day weren’t as clear as today for sure. Teams often grabbed a player only to find later they really weren’t eligible for the draft. Caraway never suited up in the NFL. Although signed in January 1958 by the Giants, he was among the final cuts the team made prior to the start of the ’58 regular season. He, however, was around the team enough to get a bio in that year’s media guide which also sheds details on how he could have been drafted three times!

I’m looking forward to some of the “oddball” side stories that will be created during the next three days.

Happy Draft Day(s) to all!

Jersey winner

Apr 20, 2012
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

For more than two weeks this month we encouraged fans to cast their vote in our jersey showdown. The reaction was outstanding as we received tens of thousands of votes for 16 interesting jerseys we pulled from our collection. The winner was the 1993 Buffalo Bills jersey.

I must admit that I was a bit surprised some of the NFL’s older jersey didn’t fare very well.  I really thought football fans would be drawn to the jerseys from the 1920s that we featured from teams like the Canton Bulldogs and Duluth Eskimos. I was wrong. Way wrong! The 1922 version of the Bulldogs threads downed the 1965-66 Broncos but then was eliminated from the bracket by the Bills jersey. The 1926 Duluth jersey was pounded by the ’87 Seahawks.

The results of our bracket reaffirm something we already knew. Fans are devoted and passionate about their team. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised that some of the Bills fans who voted for Jim Kelly’s jersey might actually think that the ’36 Giants or the ’51 Packers jerseys are actually a cooler looking jersey. But, how does a fan vote against their team no matter what the issue might be?

Thanks to the help of some team websites and Facebook pages, these fans came out in droves and had some fun with our bracket. We even received some less than flattering posts about our jersey selection.

To set the record straight, the jerseys were randomly picked from our collection and spanned each of the NFL’s decades and had 16 different teams featured. Nevertheless, Cowboys and Steelers fans asked why they weren’t included. Some others were miffed that the Chargers’ powder blue jersey from the ‘60s weren’t featured either. Again, the jerseys in the bracket were picked in a completely random fashion.

But, now we want to hear from you. Add a comment to this story and let us know which ONE jersey is the most obvious to have been excluded from the showdown!

Interest in the Draft?

Apr 12, 2012

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s website can be as addicting to a football fan as the new craze of Pinterest is to many individuals who are spending hours of their day browsing, pinning, and repining. For the record, we’ve launched our Pinterest page (@ProFootballHOF) so go ahead and start following us.

Back to the topic of our website. Each day if you stop by you will be treated to your fill of entertaining content (stories, polls, photos, videos, and more) about pro football and what makes it so great.

But, perhaps you’re not quite aware of just how in-depth our site is when it comes to the history of the NFL. No doubt, you could spend hours a day bouncing from page to page among our thousands and thousands of stories about the history of the game. Assuming that you’re a bit busy, I’ve decided to devote this week’s blog to some quick links to some interesting draft related stories found deep inside our site.

Every pick, every year. This is the easiest to read and most comprehensive listing of every draft from the NFL’s inaugural draft in 1936 through last April’s draft. 1936-2011>>>

Heisman Hall of Famers. Impress your friends with a little draft trivia like, “how many Heisman Trophy winners have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?” Answer>>>

As luck would have it? Assuming Andrew Luck is the first overall pick by the Colts later this month is one thing, assuming he’ll make it to Canton someday is another thing. Only 13 Hall of Famers were first overall picks. See the list>>>

Four future Hall of Famers were picked in the NFL’s first draft. See 1936 NFL Draft>>>

One of my favorite quotes came from comedian W.C. Fields who advised, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, ty again. Then, quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it!” Which is the perfect segue to an interesting side note about the perils of the Redskins’ draft success in the 1940s.

Long before scouting became sophisticated, teams would often scour national magazines to evaluate draft picks. Sometimes, this resulted in mistakes. For example, Washington used the 9th pick of the 1946 NFL Draft on UCLA back Cal Rossi. What they didn’t realize, Rossi was only a junior and not eligible to be selected. Not to worry. The Redskins waited a year and then used their first pick in 1947 on Rossi again. But, what they didn’t know was that Rossi had no intention of playing pro football!

You’ll find these types of tidbits on each of the draft decade landing pages of our draft coverage.
1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s

As the draft has grown into more of an event over the years, our curatorial staff has collected items from the draft. Most notable are the cards that are delivered to the podium with each team’s pick. Here’s one from the Patriots’ sixth round in 2000.

I’m going to stop my blog now but that doesn’t mean you need to stop exploring Enjoy!

Future HOFers?

Apr 05, 2012

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

I don’t regard myself as a draftnik but I do recognize the NFL’s annual player draft as somewhat of a national holiday. You can be assured that I’ll be armed and ready on April 26 (and again on the 27th and 28th) with any combination of my television, iPhone, and laptop as I follow the pick-by-pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Draft experts have for the most part told us all that the top two picks of this year’s draft will be Andrew Luck going to the Indianapolis Colts and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III landing with the Washington Redskins.

Assuming that plays out as planned, it would mark just the fifth time since in modern draft history (since 1967) that quarterbacks have been the top two selections of the draft. The last time this occurred came in 1999. Here’s a look at the four drafts in which a passer has gone 1 and 2. I think you’ll agree that the crop from 1971 combined for the finest collective careers.

1. Cleveland Browns – Tim Couch, Kentucky
2. Philadelphia Eagles – Donovan McNabb, Syracuse
3. Cincinnati Bengals – Akili Smith, QB, Oregon

1. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning, Tennessee
2. San Diego Chargers – Ryan Leaf, Washington State

1. New England Patriots – Drew Bledsoe, Washington State
2. Seattle Seahawks – Rick Mirer, Notre Dame

1. Boston Patriots – Jim Plunkett, Stanford
2. New Orleans Saints – Archie Manning, Mississippi
3. Houston Oilers – Dan Pastorini, Santa Clara

And, of course, I have to put a Hall of Fame angle to this blog. There are 23 modern-era quarterbacks enshrined in Canton. Eleven of those passers were selected in the first round (not including Steve Young who went first overall in the 1984 supplemental draft). Only three (Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, and Troy Aikman) of the 11 were picked among the top two slots of the draft. In fact, the three were among the select group of just 13 enshrinees who were first overall picks.

But, before we talk about a Hall of Fame career, I suppose we should wait and let Luck and Griffin get drafted into the NFL first. Enjoy the “holiday” season.

Hail to the Redskins?

Mar 15, 2012
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on Look for his next blog on April 5.
Last week’s blockbuster trade of draft picks by the Washington Redskins, which was officially finalized yesterday, was reminiscent of the team’s dealings in the 1970s. It appears that current team GM Bruce Allen shared his Hall of Fame father’s ideals of trading away draft picks to get what he thought was best for the team. Bruce’s Redskins will get the No. 2 overall pick and presumably their quarterback of the future in Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. 
Bruce’s father George Allen (photo below) lived by the motto of “the future is now” during his tenure with the Redskins. George arrived in Washington in 1971 and immediately sent shockwaves. First he sent a mid-round pick to New Orleans to get quarterback Billy Kilmer to bolster a position that already included future Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen. Then, days later he engaged in a blockbuster trade with his former team, the Los Angeles Rams. Washington dealt linebacker Marlin McKeever and seven draft picks to the Rams in exchange for veteran linebackers Maxie Baughan, Jack Pardee and Myron Pottios plus defensive tackle Diron Talbert, guard John Wilburer, running back Jeff Jordan, and a fifth-round pick.


Allen joked that he had hoped the trade would meet the approval of President Richard Nixon, an ardent Redskins fan, who had engaged in a discussion with Allen during a dinner that week. Allen had nothing to worry about as the President sent a telegram the next day calling it a “great trade.”
That deal was just the start. Interestingly, the Redskins went the entire 1970s, the majority of which was under Allen’s guidance (through ‘77) without ever using their first-round pick. The Redskins not only traded away every first-round pick they owned during the 1970s decade but never drafted higher than the fourth round from 1971 through the end of the ‘70s. 
And, while Washington ridded themselves of draft picks George Allen did so not to get higher picks but veteran players. The philosophy landed established players like the group listed above and others such as Verlon Biggs, Coy Bacon, Duane Thomas, and Lemar Parish onto the Redskins roster. Meanwhile, the number one picks that were dealt away by Washington produced, for the most part, average players such as defensive backs Bruce Taylor (49ers), linebacker Larry Gordon (Dolphins) and running back Charles Alexander (Bengals).  The most marquee player from the crop of draft picks was six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Isiah Robertson (photo below) who the Los Angeles Rams landed with the No. 1 pick obtained in the 15-player deal mentioned above.


In 1980, the Redskins opted to hang on to their first pick and used it on a wide receiver out of Syracuse by the name of Art Monk. Of course, as you know he went on to be the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions and was enshrined in Canton.
Looking back, George Allen's philosophy produced a consistently winning team and quickly earned the franchise its first Super Bowl berth. Time will only tell how last week’s trade will work out.

Throw the flag on this grammatical mistake

Mar 08, 2012

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

Today’s blog is about preserving the game’s great moments with a sprinkle of a grammar lesson. Throughout the year on a fairly regular basis we receive new mementos, not momentos, to add to our collection, the world’s largest such assortment of pro football memorabilia.

Last week we were pleased to receive the complete uniform worn by Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens during the 2011 season. Suggs won the AP’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award after a spectacular season.

We posted a story on our website (here it is) and also pushed it out through our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and forwarded to the Ravens to use. The story was picked up by various media outlets, one in particular caught my eye.

In honor of my late mother I carry on her tradition of paying astute attention to grammar. So, much to the dismay of my teenagers, their friends, and even a few co-workers, I’m never hesitant to correct one’s misuse of our language.

I call it a bit of a “sickness” but generally I find myself proofreading rather than just reading when I am scanning any item with the written word. That stated a story that reported on the Suggs donation popped out at me right away. In the article, the reporter used a quote from our curator Jason Aikens. First of all, I always thought a quote is a quote and must be used as is without changing it. But, this particular writer took it upon himself (or maybe it was his editor) to correct what he thought was a typo. The word, “mementos” was changed to “momentos.”

Well, the quick grammar lesson is that the correct and preferred spelling is how we had it, “mementos.” The purpose of this blog is to emphasize why the word is spelled that way. After all, we have a spectacular gallery that utilizes the word. Our Moments, Memories, & Mementos Gallery features artifacts from our Hall of Fame members.

Well, now to the point of this week’s blog. If you love football, then you definitely need to plan a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here’s a quick link to help you plan that trip. It is our mission to help preserve the history of this great game. We do so by freezing moments in time with mementos. Obviously, the spelling of the word suggests that these physical objects are more about the memory one has of the moment than the moment itself.


noun, plural -tos, -toes.
1. an object or item that serves to remind one of a person,past event, etc.; keepsake; souvenir.

It is misused as “momento” frequently enough that it’s almost become accepted as an alternative spelling. But, not by me; I’m throwing the penalty flag on this one!

One of the great thrills for us here in Canton is when we see visitors have an emotional experience when they tour our museum. There’s little doubt that an item on display is intricately connected to a great player, game, and/or play in NFL history that becomes most meaningful only after it sparks a fan’s memory of that moment.

So, if you haven’t been to the Hall of Fame lately, then now is a great time to plan your visit. Keep in mind, even if you’ve been to the Hall of Fame before, we’re always adding to our exhibits like when we place Terrell Suggs mementos to a display in the next few days.

Slingin’ Sammy’s car

Mar 01, 2012

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

Last week Jack Butler visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame to prepare for his enshrinement in August. The former great cornerback from the 1950s Pittsburgh Steelers took time to visit our archives. We sat around with Jack and listened to some great stories from his days in the NFL.

One particular one, I had him share when I sat down to interview him. It was about the day that the Steelers honored him during the 1959 season. As part of the pomp and circumstance, he was not only featured on the game program cover but was “given” a car. Funny thing, as he recalls, he’s still wondering what happened to the vehicle awarded to him some six decades ago!

Here’s the game program cover.

Here is Jack’s interview with me as he tells the story about the car.

It got me thinking that we have several images in our photo collection of players from that era who were honored in a similar fashion. There are great shots of these stars standing next to a brand new car. It was always my assumption that the players drove home in the car. That was until last week when Butler told us his story.

Here’s another car story for you. The famed Slingin’ Sammy Baugh revolutionized the NFL’s passing game during his career with the Washington Redskins from 1937 to 1952. So, it came as no surprise that he would be the focal point of one of these celebrations. His time came on Nov. 23, 1947 when the Redskins hosted the Chicago Cardinals.

Before the game, Baugh stood at the center of Griffith Stadium next to a brand new wood-paneled Packard station wagon, reportedly worth $3,000. The car, presented to him by the Washington Touchdown Club, had the inscription “Slingin’ Sam” on one side and a big “33” on the other side.

Obviously, Baugh was affected by the tribute. All he did was go out and have one of the finest days of his entire 15-year career. He completed 25 of 33 passes for 355 yards and tossed six TD passes to lead Washington to a stunning 45-21 upset of that season’s eventual league champion Cardinals.

Now, back to the car. Unlike Butler’s experience, Sammy actually received the car and drove it home. But by midweek his prized new vehicle was the subject of headlines. The Washington Post’s big headline read “Baugh’s Station Wagon Thrown for Loss.”

Baugh, just days after getting the keys, was hurrying back from Philadelphia to take part in a Thanksgiving Day high school game in Alexandria, Va. in which he was to crown the queen. While traveling through Maryland an oncoming car swerved into Baugh’s lane forcing him to drive the Packard into a ditch on the side of the road. The driver of the other vehicle never stopped.

Fortunately for Baugh, and the Redskins, he suffered minor injuries and was able to play the following weekend. As for his ride, that took the hardest hit with its passenger side doors and rear fender badly damaged. But, just hours after the accident, Sammy was contacted by a fan who offered to cover the hundreds of dollars in repairs.

Maybe Butler should be happy he never got his car!

Getting to know Jack Butler

Feb 23, 2012

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

One of the great parts of working at the Hall of Fame is that we get to know our enshrinees, not only as football players, but as people. There’s one player in the Class of 2012 that we're still learning more about as a football player. That’s because Jack Butler last stepped onto a football field in 1959 in a game in which he suffered a horrible leg injury that ended his career.

Even though I, like many, never saw Butler play in person I have seen film and read quite a bit about his career. So, as familiar as I’ve become of his playing career, we keep digging deeper to present stories about his nine-year career as we countdown to the Aug. 4 enshrinement in Canton.

This week, I discovered a new fact about Butler’s career and thought it would be perfect for my blog. Jack retired as the NFL’s second all-time leading interceptor. There’s no doubt he had a unique talent in getting the football in his hands on defense.

His NFL career began in a storybook fashion with a bit of foreshadowing. Butler signed as an undrafted free agent with the Steelers in 1951 out of St. Bonaventure. He is the first alum of that university and just the 15th undrafted free agent to earn a bronze bust in Canton.

Butler wasted no time in proving that he could play at the pro level. He played some at end (aka wide receiver) on offense but was being groomed at cornerback. The Steelers won just four games during Butler’s rookie year but something happened in each of those contests … Jack Butler intercepted a pass. In all, he recorded five picks that year but none was more spectacular than his first career interception. That came in a game at Chicago’s Comiskey Park as the Steelers faced the Cardinals. Trailing 14-7 entering the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh rallied to tie the game and then scored two touchdowns in the final one minute, 23 seconds. It started when the Steelers connected on a 33-yard pass play to take the late lead.

The Cardinals’ veteran quarterback Jim Hardy was playing in his first game since being lured out of retirement. He must surely have doubted his decision after trying to engineer a game-tying drive. Butler made his first career snag when he picked off Hardy near midfield and then astutely followed his blockers and made his way 52 yards for a touchdown!

Not only was this a spectacular way to record his first interception, the yardage of the return eventually had some symbolic importance. That’s because Butler’s interception that day was the first of 52 he would record in his career. Only fellow Hall of Famer Emlen Tunnell had more steals than Butler at the time. And it took another Hall of Famer, Mel Blount, to surpass Butler in the Steelers’ record book.

While we don’t have a film collection like our friends at NFL Films, we were able to find this footage (click on image below) which we believe is of Butler’s fifth and final pick of his rookie season. He intercepted a Sammy Baugh pass intended for Bill Dudley. The play came in the Steelers’ 20-10 win on the road over the Washington Redskins in the season finale on Dec. 16, 1951.

Where’s my football?

Feb 16, 2012
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

Personally, this is a tough time of year for me now that the NFL season is over. I’m not much of a basketball or baseball fan and I’m a hockey fan living in Ohio (which has its challenges). So, I’m really quite deprived of my sports “fix.” I wandered aimlessly through last weekend and was just happy as can be to start my work week so I could again engulf myself in football again!

One of the tasks accomplished this week was a piece for our website that recounts some of the great moments from the 2011 NFL Season. Give it a read and then leave a comment with what you thought was the most historic footnote to the NFL’s history that occurred in 2011.
Calvin Johnson accomplished something that hadn’t been done in the NFL since 1968. Find out by reading our “A Thriller!” story.

Disappointment softened by the facts

Feb 09, 2012

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

I start this week’s blog by stating, like I have done many times before, that the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selection process is one of the best, if not the best, among sports halls of fame. The main reason is that it’s nearly year-round and has several stages in the vetting process to get to the new class of enshrinees. The final step, of course, is the face-to-face meeting that our Selection Committee engages in on the day before the Super Bowl.

This is the time of year that the process is under heavy scrutiny. That’s mostly due to the fact that there are many unhappy fans and dissatisfied members of the media who are disappointed that “their” candidate didn’t get elected. Not surprisingly, our Selection Committee comes under attack. I can assure you, being much closer to the process than most, that our committee is comprised of some of the most dedicated individuals in the industry. In addition, our selectors represent a tremendous amount of knowledge gained from years and years of covering the NFL. The amount of preparation that is put into selecting a new class of Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinees would probably surprise many of you. Our selectors study each candidate thoroughly. It is also very common for most of them to solicit evaluations and opinions from a wide cross-section of the football world ranging from personnel people, scouts, other players, coaches and so on.

Now on to the real topic of this week’s blog. No one can argue that the six-man Class of 2012 – Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, and Willie Roaf – are not deserving of the honor bestowed them last Saturday. I offer my congratulations to a great new class of enshrinees. Furthermore, no one can argue that the great players, coach, and owner who did not make the cut, do not deserve it either. All 17 finalists for this year’s class have left their mark on the NFL. Unfortunately, this is the tough part of the process as we see finalists not elected.

Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts was one of the hosts of our Announcement Show on NFL Network from the Super Bowl Media Center in Indianapolis. He made a very poignant remark about those who did not make the cutdown.

© Ben Liebenberg/NFL

“Do not get disappointed. Do not give up,” is the advice he gave to Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Kevin Greene, Charles Haley, Bill Parcells, Andre Reed, Will Shields, Dick Stanfel, and Aeneas Williams.

Fouts is right. The fact is that once someone “gets in the room” (i.e. – becomes a finalist and therefore is openly and thoroughly discussed and evaluated during the annual meeting), the odds of making the Hall of Fame are heavily in their favor.

Here are the hard, cold facts. Since 1970, when the Hall of Fame selection process began cutting down to a group of finalists, there are been a total of 258 players, coaches, and contributors who have been finalists. The vast majority, 214, ultimately were elected to the Hall of Fame.

That means 83% of all finalists eventually are enshrined into the Hall. There’s even better news for most of this year’s finalists who didn’t make it. The percentage jumps to 89% for those who are finalists more than once.

So, yes, there’s much disappointment for many after last Saturday’s vote but the truth is that it really becomes an issue of “when” not “if.”

Pulse from Indy

Feb 02, 2012

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

This time of year is like a national (even global) holiday season for football fans. The countdown is on for Sunday night’s kickoff of Super Bowl XLVI between the New England Patriots and New York Giants. For us at the Hall of Fame, our kickoff is Saturday night at 5:30 p.m. ET.

That’s when you can tune into NFL Network to see The Road to Canton: Pro Football Hall of Fame: Class of 2012 presented by Allstate. The show is hosted by Fran Charles who will be joined on the set by a pair of Hall of Fame QBs, Dan Fouts and Warren Moon. The moment we are all waiting for is when a representative from the accounting firm Deloitte will hand the envelope to Hall of Fame President/Executive Director Steve Perry. And, moments later the football world finds out who from our list of 17 finalists has earned a permanent place in Canton.

Computer generated image of stage for Saturday’s show.

People continually are surprised when they learn that no one knows the class before Perry opens the envelope. That’s one of the great aspects of our selection process. The results are tallied by Deloitte accountants and we don’t ever find out the final vote totals.

If you work close to the process, it seems rather simple. Yet, most fans think the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s process is confusing. It really isn’t unless, of course, you’re a selector. Our 44-member Selection Committee has their work cut out for them. Our bylaws only permit a maximum of five of the 15 modern-era candidates to be elected. The class size can be as large as six of seven only if one or both of the senior candidates are elected.

To make it easy for you, here is a simple explanation of how the process works on Saturday.

1. The committee meets behind closed doors with security on the outside. The selectors, who represent some of the most knowledgeable individuals in the football industry, speak openly and candidly. What is said in the room stays in the room.

2. The two seniors, in this case Jack Butler and Dick Stanfel, are discussed in great detail. Then ballots are distributed and each selector can vote for none, one, or both. Deloitte employees come in and gather the ballots and go to a private room to count the results. Butler and Stanfel need 80 percent of the vote to be elected. The outcome won’t be known until Perry heads to the podium some eight hours later.

3. Next, the group begins the long deliberation on the 15 modern-era candidates. The committee then has to vote for 10 of the 15 modern-era candidates. Again, Deloitte employees come in and gather the ballots and calculate the top 10 vote getters.

4. The Selection Committee resumes the meeting by focusing solely on the remaining 10 candidates. After more deliberation, the selectors must vote for five of the 10 remaining nominees. Deloitte tallies the votes and presents the remaining five finalists.

5. At that point, the Selection Committee members vote either “yes” or “no.” In order for any of those five individuals to be elected, they must garner 80 percent of the room’s support.

This year’s meeting will be intriguing. The buzz around the media center in Indianapolis all week is that for the first time in several years, there is no “slam dunk” (not sure why we don’t use a football analogy) among the group. A few other observations I can make is the top debate seems to be on the three wide receivers. There seems to be little doubt that Tim Brown, Cris Carter, and Andre Reed are deserving of a place in Canton. Will this be their year? Will one make it? What about two or even all three? If one considers that then you also have to address the idea that there are three offensive linemen among the modern-era finalists up for consideration. There are also three pass rushers. Will the committee focus on a position? Do they simply take the five best regardless of position? If that’s the case, how do you determine who the five best are as there is no debate all 15 finalists are worthy candidates.

All I can say is that it is going to be a long, long day for our dedicated Selection Committee.

Once their work ends, ours begins in full swing. We’ll get busy getting any of the new class who is Indy over the show. We also get busy dialing numbers to get those not on hand to join by phone. On Sunday, in a relatively new tradition, the new class of enshrinees will be flown into Indianapolis and be on hand for the pre-game coin toss for the Super Bowl. They’ll stay an extra day and meet with some of our staff who briefs them on what life will be like for the next six months.

The road from Indianapolis to Canton will be fast and furious as hundreds upon hundreds of community volunteers in Canton help us put on one of sport’s greatest celebrations, the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival. It all revolves around the Enshrinement ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 4. But, before we can worry about that, we need to find out who gets elected.

Tune in Saturday!

It’s a social world out there

Jan 19, 2012

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

Yesterday, we added another outlet to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s social media arsenal when we joined Instagram. As with our presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube you can find us at ProFootballHOF. We’ve been using social media for the past couple of years to connect with fans of the NFL as one other way to achieve our mission (see our mission statement).

We are home to the world’s largest collection of football memorabilia and information. We use our social media outlets as a way to share far more than what you can see by touring our museum. So, we picked one of my personal favorite items to be the first shot to share through Instagram.

It was the well-worn helmet of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene. Give it a closer look and you’ll see the scrapes and dents from many years of his battles in the trenches during the 1970s.

Now, this helmet just didn’t happen to be lying around. Rather, our curatorial staff has been working hard to prepare for a great exhibit we have at the Super Bowl Experience each year. Fans who flock to Indianapolis will get a chance to see a nice cross-section of our artifacts that will be part of this exhibit. And, speaking of social, we’ll add a human touch to it all as several of our staff will be on hand to talk some football with all who come visit our exhibit.

If you’re not lucky enough to find yourself in Indianapolis in a couple of weeks, you might just want to follow us, like us, and be on the lookout on Instagram for behind-the-scenes from the Super Bowl.

More Super Bowl…

Oh, and one more item to share with you this week in case you missed it. I’m somewhat surprised by the reaction of fans on our social media sites who weren’t aware that the actual Vince Lombardi Trophy that will be awarded on Feb. 5 has been here in Canton since the start of the season. It’s a really great tradition we started a couple of years ago, where fans who visited the Hall of Fame can see the trophy. Of course, it’s that time of year where we have the Brinks truck show up to take it and deliver to the Super Bowl site. Check out this video (especially the part after the interview) about the trophy being removed. Video>>>

Just the facts

Jan 12, 2012

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

Last weekend we announced the list of 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012. Add in the two senior nominees and that’s the group that will be heavily debated on the day before Super Bowl XLVI when our Selection Committee is locked into a conference room for their annual selection meeting.

The fact is that only five of the 15 modern-era finalists can be elected. There will be more debate about who didn’t get in than who did. Two things are for certain. All of the finalists are deserving of election to the Hall of Fame. And two, our Selection Committee has their work cut out for them.

So much information is available regarding the merits of the finalists. I thought I would devote this week’s blog to sharing the ONE fact per finalist that stands out most to me. Here goes.

Jerome Bettis – Eight times he rushed for 1,000 yards in a season.

Jack Butler – talk about what playing on a bad team does for your notoriety. He picked off 25 passes in his first four seasons and was never voted to a Pro Bowl (back when they meant something) or named All-Pro. Thank goodness, he eventually received his just due by the time he retired as the game’s second all-time leading interceptor.

Tim Brown – Tough to pick between either 1,000+ catches or 100 touchdowns. I’m going with the TDs.

Cris Carter – Sure, he’s noted for his touchdowns and 130 is nothing to sneeze at but I love firsts. So, I’ll go with his 1994 season when he set the NFL record by hauling in an unbelievable 122 catches. The record didn’t last long but what a super season.

Dermontti Dawson – he no doubt will end up in Canton whether it’s this year or in the future. How cool is it when a Hall of Famer follows a Hall of Famer. Dawson stepped in for Mike Webster at center for the Steelers.

Chris Doleman – eight seasons with 10 or more sacks says pretty much everything.

Ed DeBartolo, Jr. – his 49ers had the most wins in the NFL in not only the 1980s but the 1990s also.

Kevin Greene – Career-best 16.5 sacks in back-to-back seasons.

Charles Haley – Only player to win five Super Bowls.

Curtis Martin – quietly went about things during his NFL career and recorded 10 straight 1,000-yard seasons. But, the fact he earned his only NFL rushing title and set a career-high in his second-to-last season is the fact that wows me.

Cortez Kennedy – won Defensive Most Valuable Player honors on a 2-14 team in 1992.

Bill Parcells – I’m a big fan of “firsts” and “onlys” so I’ll go with the fact Parcells is the first and only coach to take four different teams to the playoffs.

Andre Reed – he made YAC (yards after catch) famous but let’s not ignore his big time play in the postseason. He added another season’s worth of stats in the playoffs as he racked up 85 catches for 1,229 yards and had five 100-yard games in the playoffs.

Willie Roaf – As great as he was with the Saints, his level of play never diminished in later years as he was named All-Pro three out of four seasons at the end of his career with the Chiefs.

Will Shields – Stepped on the field in his first game and never missed one from that point forward. His 224 games and 223 starts are Chiefs records.

Dick Stanfel – in a day when offensive linemen received far less fanfare than today, his Lions teammates named him team MVP in their 1953 championship season.

Aeneas Williams – The other three CBs who made the All-Decade Team of the 1990s are already in Canton (Darrell Green, Deion Sanders, and Rod Woodson). Aeneas’ nine career pick-sixes may just help him join them in the Hall.


Jan 06, 2012

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

This time of year is a busy time for us in Canton as we prepare for the upcoming election of the Class of 2012 in Indianapolis on the eve of Super Bowl XLVI.

We take a huge step toward that this Saturday with the announcements of our finalists. They will be revealed on NFL Network’s pre-game show sometime around 1:30 p.m. ET and we’ll have extensive coverage right here on

There will be 17 in all. Two of them we know already as they are the senior nominees – former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback from the 1950s Jack Butler, and guard Dick Stanfel who starred for the championship Detroit Lions teams of the early ‘50s and finished his career with the Washington Redskins.

The other 15 will come from the list of 26 semifinalists we announced in November. Take a look at the list and add your comments with who you would include as the 15.

Couch sitting

Dec 29, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

If you were like millions of other Americans last Sunday night, you capped your Christmas day by watching the Green Bay Packers take care of the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football. Even if you happened to miss the game, you surely by now have seen what is being called the “sign of the year.”

Just before halftime, a NBC camera got a shot of a Packers fan who held up a sign that read, “MY CHEATING EX BOYFRIEND IS WATCHING FROM COUCH INSTEAD.” She got to enjoy the game live at Lambeau while her “ex” missed out on the opportunity.

Well, this Sunday I will be relegated to the couch also. And, no I didn’t cheat on my wife to get this chance. Rather, it comes with the territory of working at the Hall of Fame. I often tell people that one of the greatest perks of my job is sitting in the living room and watching football on Sunday and telling my family, “ssshhhh, I’m working!”

As is the case every year, it seems like Kickoff Weekend was just last week. Yet, another unbelievably exciting NFL season is nearing an end. It’s been a great year with so many memorable moments. And to cap off the regular season, it comes down to a great slate of games filled with playoff implications.

It’s going to be a great Sunday in my house. I’ll be glued to the couch watching all of the action. And, who knows my wife might just grab a seat next to her faithful husband.

Enjoy Week 17.

'Tis the season

Dec 22, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

In the spirit of the holidays, this week’s blog is a play on the “12 Days of Christmas” but with a football twist. So here are 12 memorable moments from the 2011 NFL Season.

12 – Veteran Ed Reed had a pair of picks in the Baltimore Ravens’ Week 1 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the 12th time of his career that he had at least two interceptions in the same game.

11 – Devin Hester ran back a 69-yard punt return for a TD in the Bears’ Week 4 win over the Carolina Panthers. It was his 11th punt return taken back for a score which allowed him to gain sole possession of the record for punt return touchdowns in a career that he had shared with Eric Metcalf.

10 – The start of the 2011 season was wild and unpredictable. One such example was when the 49ers rallied to beat the Lions in Week 6. It marked 19th time, and the most ever through the first six weeks of a season, that a team rallied from a 10-point deficit to win the game.

9 – Drew Brees became the first player to throw for 3,000 yards through the first nine games of a season. He broke his own mark of 2,985 yards through 9 games in 2008 when he became the second player in history to have 5,000 yards passing in a season.

8 – As in 108 yards. Kickoff Weekend is like a holiday for football fans. And, there was no better way to bring in the season with a bang than having Green Bay Packers’ rookie Randall Cobb run back a kickoff 108 yards for a TD. His return was just one of three kickoff returns of more than 100 yards during Kickoff Weekend (49ers Ted Ginn and the Vikings Percy Harvin were the others).

7 – After seven seasons with the Cardinals, Anquan Boldin made history when he faced his former team in Week 8. The Ravens WR had seven catches for 145 yards which is the most yardage by any receiver in his first game against a team in which he racked up 7,500 receiving yards.

6 – Tebow mania has struck in Denver and around the country. When QB Tim Tebow and the Broncos came back to beat Chicago two weeks ago it marked the Broncos’ sixth straight win and seventh in eight games since he took over as the starter. That includes a remarkable six wins they had after trailing in the second half.

5 – or should I say 500. Tom Brady has a great start to yet another season when he became the 11th player in NFL history to pass for 500 yards in a game. He followed that performance with 423 yards in Week 2 to make him the only player to follow a 500-yard game with a 400-yard effort.

4 – The Steelers Ben Roethlisberger earned his 70th win as a starting QB during a Week 2 shutout of the Seattle Seahawks. It was his 100th career start which made it the fourth fewest games needed to reach the milestone. The only other QBs to reach 70 wins faster were Roger Staubach, Tom Brady, and Ken Stabler.

3 – Week 15 marked just the third time in league history that an undefeated team was handed their first loss of the season on the same day (at least 11 games into the season) that a winless team earned its first victory. That came last Sunday when the Chiefs upset the Packers and the Colts beat the Titans.

2 – It took until the NFL’s 92nd season before two rookie quarterbacks threw for 3,000 yards. The Panthers Cam Newton and the Bengals Andy Dalton now hold that distinction.

1 – There’s nothing like the first time. The Houston Texans earned their first playoff berth in style by clinching the AFC South with three weeks remaining in the season when third-string rookie QB T.J. Yates passed for 300 yards and threw the game-winning TD pass with two seconds to play in Houston’s 20-19 win over the Bengals in Week 14.

Of course, I expect some of these to be trumped in the remaining couple of weeks of the regular season along with the typically exciting NFL playoffs.

And in the spirit of the holidays let me take time to thank the staffs of the NFL, Elias Sports, and our very own research team in Canton who spend countless hours compiling and charting facts about this great game we all love.

I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season.

Dan Marino’s 1984

Dec 16, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

Not even George Orwell could have predicted a 1984 like the one experienced in the National Football League.

This season there is a buzz about the potential of not one, not two, but possibly three quarterbacks surpassing the record-breaking aerial yardage by Dan Marino in 1984.

Let's flash back to Marino's memorable season. Marino, in just his second year with the Miami Dolphins, became the first player in league history to throw for 5,000 yards. The big story was Don Shula and Marino had Miami off to a hot start as the team ripped off 11 straight wins to begin the season before an overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers ended their winning streak of 16 straight regular season victories. A week later Marino made history when he threw four TDs in a win over the New York Jets on Monday Night Football to tie the NFL mark of 36 TDs in a season shared at that time by Y.A. Tittle and George Blanda.

He continued to fire touchdown passes (he finished with a then-record 48) but much of the focus turned to whether he set the record for passing yards in a season. He took aim at Dan Fouts' 1981 total of 4,802 but then it became apparent that he might just keep going. Could Marino become the first player in history to throw an unfathomable 5,000 yards? He finished the season with a flurry. Not only did he throw 4 TDs in each of the Dolphins' last three games but he eclipsed the 400-yard mark twice in that span including a season-high 470 yards against the Raiders in Week 14. He closed out the year by throwing for 340 yards in the finale against the Dallas Cowboys that allowed him to eclipse the 5k-mark.

There wasn't another 5,000-yard passer until 2008 when Drew Brees came within 16 yards of Marino's long-standing record. It'll be interesting to see if can withstand the threat again in 2011. While much of the discussion today is about how the game is built for passing, that wasn't necessarily the case a quarter century ago. Despite Marino's hefty total, no one could argue that the league had catered to the passing game. That's because another second-year player and future Hall of Famer was busy with his assault on the single-season rushing record. Eric Dickerson set the record by totaling 2,105 yards on the ground that season. And, unlike Marino's staggering number, his record remains safe in 2011.

Dolphins doing it right

Dec 08, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, according to our mission statement, exists for four reasons:

To honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to professional football 
To preserve professional football’s historic documents and artifacts 
To educate the public regarding the origin, development and growth of professional football as an important part of American culture
To promote the positive values of the sport

All of us here at the Hall put our energy toward upholding this responsibility. In fact, I have the Mission Statement prominently hanging next to my desk so I’m sure to glance at it many times during the day.

I’ll share a quick fact that surprises most fans. The Hall of Fame is an independent, not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) educational institution. What does that mean? Well, you can support our efforts with a donation, large or small, and because of our non-profit status, use it as a tax deduction. More importantly, if you love football as much as we do, then your financial support will help us during a time in which we are undergoing the largest expansion & renovation in our history. Here’s more on our expansion project and also a quick link to our donation form.

“Future 50” Project  |  Support our efforts with a tax-deductible donation

Just last week we received a surprise visit from Hall of Famer Larry Csonka. He was passing through Canton and wanted to show off the Hall of Fame to some friends. I had a chance to catch up with him and among the few questions I posed to him was what he thought of the growth that’s happening here. Watch the interview.

Csonka was en route to Miami to take part in a special ceremony in which his late teammate Jim Mandich was being added to the Dolphins’ Honor Roll. Since it’s right up the same alley of what we do in Canton, I applaud all of the NFL teams that pay tribute to their heritage and honor their distinguished alumni. The Dolphins took it one step further on Sunday when they unveiled the Walk of Fame at Sun Life Stadium. The team’s late owner Joe Robbie and nine members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame were honored in the new tribute. Aside from Csonka, the others include Don ShulaDan MarinoBob GrieseNick BuonicontiJim LangerLarry LittleDwight Stephenson and Paul Warfield.

No doubt we’re all caught up in the present as another NFL season hits its climax with the playoff race tight as ever. But, it’s nice to see teams take a moment to reflect on the greats who made this game what it is today.

The game is doomed

Dec 01, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

Perhaps you’ve enjoyed your Sunday pre-game cup of coffee by visiting our website and reading our weekly edition of “Changing the Rules.” The series has been running throughout the 2011 NFL Season and examines how some rules of football have changed over the years. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the archived page of the stories.>>>

For the record, pro football followed the college rule book up until 1933 when the NFL devised its own rule book and implemented many variations in an attempt to open up the game. So when we study the rules, we have to reference our collection of Spalding Guides that date back to the late 1800s. Recently, some of us here at the Hall of Fame have been researching the specifics about the restrictions regarding the introduction of the forward pass to football in 1906.

I came across a number of articles that were describing the “radical” rule changes that were introduced in the spring of ‘06. Among them were changes in how lineman could line up as well as changes in blocking techniques. In addition, the allowing of a forward pass was approved. All of the changes received mixed reviews. One particular reaction really caught my attention.

Benjamin Ide Wheeler was the president of the University of California and a big proponent of college athletics. But, he had a scathing prediction about how the new rules for football would damage the game.

“I do not believe the present experiment in American college football can survive. In my opinion, the whole country will within five years be playing the Rugby game.”

The big concern was the forward pass would kill “mass plays” (i.e. – big scrums from running plays) by allowing long, open runs in the game.

Wow! Thank goodness for the evolution of the game. The forward pass was debated for several seasons and almost eliminated in 1910 but fortunately it survived. Considering much of the talk in 2011 is about the incredible seasons being recorded by Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, I’m fairly certain that the NFL would not be enjoying its record television ratings this year without the entertainment of the “long, open” plays that are resulting from the aerial attack in the NFL today.

Happy Thanksgiving

Nov 17, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

I grew up in a large, sports crazed family that most definitely had its priorities straight. Nothing was better proof of this than the fact that our Thanksgiving dinner typically wasn’t served until halftime of the second game and that’s only if the game wasn’t close. If the Dallas Cowboys and whoever they faced were embattled in a tight game, invariably a widespread plea to my mother would result in a delay in serving the turkey.

We all have our fond memories of the NFL and Thanksgiving. Here are my Top 5 personal memories.

5. Randy Moss making a name for himself with three long TDs catches as a rookie in 1998 to help the Vikings to a win over the Cowboys.

4. In 1976, the Buffalo Bills’ O.J. Simpson set the single-game rushing record with 273 yards against the Detroit Lions.

3. I remember the 1980 game between the Bears and Lions almost as if it was yesterday. Everybody likes overtime unless it comes in preseason or on Thanksgiving (there’s dinner to be eaten). So, I remember feeling the relief after Dave Williams of the Bears ran back the opening kickoff of overtime to beat the Lions. The play took just 21 seconds and at the time was the fastest overtime win ever.

2. I always enjoy seeing the Lions win on Thanksgiving. As such,  their 1995 game, a wild one against the Vikings, really stands out. Quarterback Scott Mitchell broke Bobby Layne’s team record when he aired it out for 410 yards and threw 4 TDs to lead the Lions to a 44-38 win. Three Lions receivers had 100 yards that day – Brett Perriman (153), Herman Moore (127), and Johnnie Morton (102). Aside from that, Barry Sanders had a second half to remember. He only had 1 yard in the first half but finished his holiday with 138 yards that included a critical 50-yard TD run with just over five minutes to play that ultimately was the game-winner.

1. It’s strange sometimes what resonates for a football fan. But, for me it was in 1975 when the Bills faced the St. Louis Cardinals. Being a native of Buffalo, N.Y. I grew up in a time when the Bills rarely played in front of a national TV audience. So, it was thrill to huddle in our family room and spend that Thanksgiving watching the Bills. For the record, one of my favorite players at the time, Jim Braxton, had a career day. The late fullback normally had the role of helping to open holes for Simpson. But on that day he was the featured runner and pounded St. Louis for 160 yards and scored 3 TDs as the Bills beat the Cardinals 32-14.

I’ll be enjoying Thanksgiving with my family and I’ll return to this space in two weeks.

On that note, I wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving! Enjoy the games.

Fielding a question

Nov 10, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on



Recently I fielded (pun intended) a football question from my teenage son. I began to answer it when I stopped and said, “I don’t know but I know where I can find the answer.”

I possess an inordinate amount of football knowledge based on where I work. However, my real value to the Hall of Fame (at least that’s what I tell my superiors) is that if I don’t know the answer I can quickly find it. That’s because my desk is situated inside the Hall of Fame’s archives that is home to world’s largest collection of information on the NFL.

Back to my son’s question. We were watching the NFL highlights and he inquisitively asked, “how many of the teams have grass?” I started with the AFC East and began naming off the teams. I soon abandoned my thought process as I find it far easier to quickly grab some reference materials at work to come up with the answer. It also provides me with a topic for this week’s blog.

Surely, there are lots of NFL fans who could take some time and come up with this answer. But, to save you the hassle, here’s the compilation of the NFL stadiums surfaces. It used to be rather simple to categorize fields. They were for the better part of a few decades in the NFL starting in the late 1960s, either natural grass or Astroturf. Today, the artificial fields are manufactured by numerous different companies. In fact three teams – Packers, Broncos, Steelers – all play on hybrid natural grass surface that’s injected with artificial grass fibers. It should also be noted that Miami, one of two stadiums that still host both NFL and MLB games (Oakland’s the other) has natural grass but has a sophisticated drainage system that helps dry the grass called Prescription Athletic Turf.

How ironic that just this morning I was talking with Bernard McRae, one of our Board members, who was wearing a hat with the inscription “Keep it Simple.” I actually thought today’s topic would be just that! I guess some answers just aren’t as black-and-white as they appear. One wonders if my son will keep reading this blog to find the answer.

With the above caveats noted and not counting the fields in Green Bay, Denver or Pittsburgh (I’m sure some could debate that), the answer to my son’s question is that 15 of the 32 NFL teams still have natural grass (eight in the AFC and seven in the NFC).

Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, Oakland, San Diego, Tennessee.

Arizona, Carolina, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Washington

The Legend of Jack Youngblood

Nov 03, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

This week I offer a special edition of my blog that I present in audio fashion. I spent more than 20 minutes talking with Hall of Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood. Aside from being one of the toughest players ever to play this game, he’s just a terrific guy and a great supporter of all we do in Canton. He also has a new book out about his life.

We chatted about the book and he shared some great stories from his life and a most memorable NFL career. You’ll hear everything from a traumatic moment that occurred on his 10th birthday to what it feels like to play in a championship game and the Super Bowl with a broken leg.

So, go ahead and hit the play button, put the window in the background, and give it a listen as you continue on with your day.


Some highlights from my interview with Jack.

2:55 … I explain why I keep offering a dollar to him throughout the interview
4:10 … I ask Jack about the tragedy that occurred on his 10th birthday.
9:45 … Players today don’t have draft stories like this.
19:05 … He learned he had been elected to the Hall on the day after his 51st birthday

Hall of Fame Store – “Because It was Sunday. The Legend of Jack Younglood.” >>>>

Do you want more of this?

Let me know if you enjoyed this interview. Who knows, we may just start adding podcasts for you to download and take with you! But, first we need some feedback. So, go ahead and add your comment.

Hitchhiking & Football

Oct 27, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

If you’ve called yourself a NFL fan for most of your life, undoubtedly you remember some great moments. And, if you’re like me and have been going to NFL games since your early childhood, you probably connect many of the memories to events that surrounded you attending the game. However, sometimes the facts get a bit murky as the years pass.

If you read our weekly Throwback Game of the Week, you’ll see a note about the Washington Redskins vs. Buffalo Bills preseason game that opened Rich Stadium (now Ralph Wilson Stadium) in Orchard Park.

I was there. But, considering I was only nine years old at the time, there are only a few memories I still have of the game. Here are my three (and now four) “vivid” recollections:

1. A cheap looking “gold” plastic coin was given to each fan as we entered the stadium for its inaugural game. Of course, at age 9, it was one of my most valuable possessions for years to come. Perhaps there’s an outside chance it’s tucked away in a box in my basement but I’m not banking on that!

2. The opening kickoff was returned by the Redskins for a touchdown. I always remember the play and thought what a bad omen for the Bills. I was right that indeed the opening kickoff in Rich was run back by the Redskins. But, I incorrectly recalled the player being Mike Bass. It was actually Washington’s Herb Mul-Key who took the football 2 yards deep in his own end zone and returned it 102 yards.

3. The most vivid memory from the night for me was a “non-football” moment from that game. The traffic was absolutely at a standstill as I think back to that Saturday night some 38+ years ago. In reading accounts of the game the other day, the articles refer to the traffic before the game that kept thousands of fans from getting into their seats until late in the first quarter. I recall getting to the game early but it was afterwards that the traffic jam provided me with the memory. I went to the game with my dad, uncle, cousin and two brothers. Considering my father was incredibly inpatient (in case you care, he still is today at age 89), he sent my oldest brother and my cousin to get the car. The remaining four of us set out by foot to start our trek home. We covered nearly two miles (and what I remember as being hours!) along 20A in Orchard Park where my father introduced me to hitchhiking. Most cars that came by were filled with Bills fans and had no more room for more passengers. But, finally a car pulled over and just as I entered the back seat, my brother and cousin drove up behind the car and picked us up. I had to wait a bit longer in life to begin hitchhiking!

4. Here’s the one memory that I recall but had not associated it with this game. We had (and some family members still do) Bills season tickets located behind the visitors’ bench. I always enjoyed seeing the interaction on the sidelines by different teams. One particular moment I remember is when troubled running back Duane Thomas engaged in a scuffle with fans. After reading the articles this week about the ’73 preseason game at Rich, I learned the incident had also occurred that night.

Well, there you have it. Football memories still burn bright. Now, I'm going to go home this weekend and hunt down that coin.

Do you remember correctly?

We all have memories of the NFL games we attended. Sometimes, however, time causes the moments to get somewhat embellished. Go ahead and post a comment about a NFL game you attended early in your life and see if the facts are right. Our Research staff will pick some out and I’ll post the real facts in next week’s blog.

It’s always “Sonny” in Wilmington

Oct 20, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

This past Tuesday Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen returned to where it all began for him. As part a terrific new program established by us and Allstate Insurance, many of our Hall of Famers are being honored permanently in their childhood communities. It's called Hometown Hall of Famers™ and Jurgensen was the most recent honoree when a plaque was unveiled at his high school in Wilmington, N.C.

George Veras, the president and CEO of Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises observed a touching moment on Tuesday during the ceremony at New Hanover High School in Wilmington. He saw the impact of the program first hand. As expected, Jurgensen was truly touched as many of his high school teammates joined in the celebration. But, what really struck home for Veras and pretty much anyone else on hand was how young teenagers, today's New Hanover Wildcats, mobbed Sonny after the unveiling.

It was a reminder of how the passion for this great game we all love carries on from one generation to another and another. It's what connects us all to football. We at the Hall of Fame see it every day as visitors travel from all over the world to take a three-hour stroll down memory lane.

And, on Tuesday, it happened in Wilmington, N.C. as Jurgensen put his permanent mark on the high school where his path to football greatness started. The moment was not lost on the young high school players as they clearly understood who that was standing at the podium. Nearly 60 years ago, there was a young redheaded quarterback who took the very same field they do each week. Today, he is one of only 23 quarterbacks from the NFL's modern era to have been enshrined into the Pro Football Hallo Fame.

No doubt, his bronzed Hometown Hall of Famer™ plaque will forever serve as inspiration.

Here's the recap of Sonny's presentation on Tuesday. Read>>>

If you'd like to find out more about the Hometown Hall of Famer™ Program, see this story and accompanying videos>>>


Oct 13, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

Al Davis, one of the legends of professional football, passed away on Saturday. The tributes and stories about him have been innumerable since we heard the news.

I can't really say that I knew Al Davis personally but I have met him in passing during his many visits to Canton over the years. And, I more than know the contribution that he has made to this great sport that we preserve here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Among all that I know about him there's one story I read long, long ago that has forever stayed with me that I thought best defines the character he had. I've shared the story often including several times since last weekend.

It's usually in defense to someone who has an unfavorable opinion of the Raiders owner. There is no argument that he did things his own way. As he said in his own words during his enshrinement speech from our front steps in 1992:

I learned early on in life that if you are going to lead, if you're going to dominate, the golden rule, 'do onto others as you would have others do onto you' is not necessarily right. You must treat people in a paramilitary situation the way they want to be treated, not the way you want to be treated. To do that, you must learn about them, learn their cultures and allow for their individual differences. We never wanted our players or even our friends to fit into ridged personality molds. There's a place in this world for mavericks, stand up for principal. Defy custom at times, be right do not hurt others. That individualism encouraged me to go forward and my heroes, my heroes when I was a young boy, dared me to dream."

If you haven't heard the speech, it's well worth giving a listen. Here's the audio>>>

Al Davis did things his way and he achieved great success in taking that route. There are endless accounts of how loyal he was to his friends. The stories of his often anonymous acts of kindness have surfaced throughout the past several days since his passing.

Here's mine.

A book titled "The Gray-Flannel Pigskin" by William Henry Paul was published in 1974. Paul was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and his book told stories about a variety of people involved in the game at a time when pro football was gaining great popularity in this country. Each chapter profiled a different individual. Chapter 5 focused on a man named Jack Horrigan. I didn't know Jack but I've spent the past two-plus decades working for his son, Joe, who is our Vice President-Communications/Exhibits

Joe's father was the longtime Vice President of Publication Relations for the Buffalo Bills. Jack Horrigan also spent a brief stint as the AFL PR man where he worked for Davis. Jack died in 1973 at the age of 47 following a long and courageous battle with cancer.

In this chapter of "The Gray-Flannel Pigskin" a story was shared by long-time Buffalo sportswriter Larry Felser. Here's the excerpt from the book (©1974 by J.B. Lippincott Company)

Felser characterized Horrigan as having been Davis's "no man." "The two battled often," Felser says, "But there was deep respect. The day Horrigan underwent surgery for the first time in the Mayo, Davis, a Jew, bought a votive candle and kept it lit in his office. Late that night, when Davis was preparing to leave, a charlady told him she would have to douse the candle since it was against building regulations to leave a flame unattended. Davis took off his coat and stayed the night."

I've always thought this was a story that really defined Al Davis. Deep down he was a kind and loyal man.

Quarterback debate

Oct 06, 2011

The position of quarterback has nearly always been the most glamorous in football. It also triggers an intriguing argument as to who is the best. This blog won’t offer an answer to such a debate but I will throw (pun intended) out some interesting discussion points.

The first question to ponder focuses on today. Who is the best quarterback in the NFL? Is it Tom Brady who at age 34 seemingly is at his best? If he keeps on pace with what he’s done in the first quarter of 2011, he’ll throw for more than 6,200 yards this season. What about Peyton Manning? Despite being sidelined, has the legacy he has built since entering the NFL in 1998 still give him the nod as the NFL’s finest? How about Aaron Rodgers? After all, he quietly has risen from the shadows of Brett Favre although his Super Bowl victory last February has made some noise for his case. If you missed our Top 20 update from Tuesday, you might be interested to learn that he is the NFL’s all-time top rated passer and has the rare distinction of having a career rating of more than 100.

I’ll leave it at that. Now, let’s move on to a more convoluted debate. Are we witness to the greatest era of quarterbacks ever? Before you weigh in, I’ll offer this quick review of history for you.

The passing era really began in the late 1920s into the early ‘30s with Benny Friedman becoming the first real great bona fide passer.

“Slingin’” Sammy Baugh made his debut on the NFL scene in 1937 with the Washington Redskins and for the next 16 seasons revolutionized the passing game on the pro level. Of course, the game also benefited during that era from such greats as the Chicago Bears Sid Luckman and the Packers Arnie Herber.

Legendary quarterbacks like Otto Graham of the Cleveland Browns and Bobby Layne who reached stardom with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions bridged that era to the years that featured Johnny Unitas and Norm Van Brocklin.

The 1960s and ‘70s gave us greats like Terry Bradshaw, Len Dawson, and Roger Staubach to name a few.

Then, we moved in the 1980s and ‘90s where we, as football fans, got to enjoy the exploits of Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon among many others.

Now, I’ll circle back and ask one more time, are we experiencing the greatest era ever for quarterbacks?

First and only

Sep 29, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

It’s Thursday and that means NFL football is just three days away. If Week 4 provides anything like we’ve seen in the first three weeks, then Sunday is going to be absolutely exciting. After all the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and Detroit Lions are a combined 8-1. In these parts, that’s reason for great celebration. How about this fact? Twelve of the 16 games in last weekend’s action were decided by six points or less. Fun stuff.

I imagine we’ll see some history rewritten again in Week 4 just like we’ve seen countless times thus far this season which brings me to the subject of this week’s blog.

I used to often recite this line, “we stay away from using the words ‘first’ and ‘only’” when I referenced what we do inside the Hall of Fame’s archives. That’s because we invariably uncover some instance of a history-making moment that had actually already occurred at some point in the long history of the NFL.

But, this week’s blog will focus on many “firsts” and “onlys” all of which have taken place in the first three weeks of the 2011 NFL Season. I always find “firsts” and “onlys” really incredible considering that the NFL has been around for 91 seasons. I have a hard time grasping that these types of first-time occurrences keep happening at the pace they do. Yet, somehow they do.

So here’s a quick rundown of some of what I think are the most amazing “firsts” and “onlys” that have taken place in the first three weeks of the season.

• Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson has become the first player ever to have two or more TD catches in each of his team’s first three games to start a season.
• Ted Ginn led the San Francisco 49ers to a win in Week 1 when he ran back a punt and a kickoff return for touchdowns. He is the first and only player ever to do that in the same game during Kickoff Weekend.
• New England Patriots Tom Brady threw for a career-high 517 yards in the season opener and then followed that by throwing for 423 yards in Week 2. He became the first and only player ever to follow a 500-yard game by throwing for 400 or more yards.
• Rookie Cam Newton set a record, albeit for just a few hours, when he became the first player to throw for more than 850 yards in the first two weeks of the season. Brady surpassed that total by the completion of the Patriots game later that day.
• The Baltimore Ravens Torrey Smith is the first rookie to have three TD catches in the first quarter of the game. His scoring frenzy helped the Ravens down the Rams 37-7 last week.
• The Buffalo Bills’ stunning comeback against Patriots in Buffalo last Sunday made them the first team ever to win back-to-back games after trailing by at least 18 points in each game. Buffalo came back against the Raiders in Week 2.

Now, I invite you to be the “first” but please not the “only” person to comment on this blog by sharing your favorite moment from the NFL’s first three weeks.

Rushing to blog

Sep 22, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

You may call it “water cooler” talk, I call it work! That’s right, I get paid to discuss football.

On any given day the research staff at the Pro Football Hall of Fame talk more football than one can imagine. A typical day’s casual conversation is sprinkled with the occasional challenge on football knowledge.  We’ll fire off a football history question at one another to test how well we’ve retained all of the info we’ve digested as a result of years of scouring through the world’s largest football library.

So, the other day while I was busy working away, one of our researchers, Saleem Choudhry, ran this one by me because of my Buffalo, NY roots. He observed how Fred Jackson is currently the NFL’s leading rusher.

Saleem asked me, ‘who was the last Bills’ player to lead the league in rushing, O.J. Simpson?’

I quickly ran through some of whom may have done it. I knew that Thurman Thomas won an AFC rushing title but never the NFL crown. Did Joe Cribbs do it? No. Hmmm…what about Terry Miller in the late ‘70s? No. So, my answer was yes, it was O.J. For the record, I was correct.

Now, that wasn’t too terribly difficult to figure out. But, we got to thinking about other teams and which players have led the NFL rushing.  We quickly scanned through the NFL’s Record & Fact Book and its list of the annual stat leaders. As I looked at the list, it struck me that there are some surprises about this rather glamorous honor which has led to my topic for this week’s blog.

The NFL began keeping official stats in the early 1930s. So, here’s a few notes about the annual rushing leaders.

• Starting in 1932, there have been 79 rushing titles awarded.  

• Only 47 different players have won the league rushing title.

  • • 13 players have won multiple rushing crowns. Seven of those players have three or more titles to their name.
  • • Just two players have ever won the rushing crown with multiple teams. Byron “Whizzer” White did so with the Pittsburgh Pirates (a.k.a. Steelers) and the Detroit Lions. Eric Dickerson won three titles with the Los Angeles Rams and one while playing with the Indianapolis Colts.

    Jim Brown is the all-time record holder with eight titles. His consecutive string was interrupted in 1962 when Jim Taylor led the NFL in rushing. Taylor is the only Packers player to be the league’s top rusher.

    Tony Dorsett, Marshall Faulk, and Franco Harris never won the NFL rushing title; Bill Paschal, Doug Russell and Dan Towler have!
  • •  There have been 13 rookies who were the NFL’s leading ground gainer. The last first-year player to do so was Edgerrin James for the Colts in 1999.
  • •  Eighteen Hall of Famers have accounted for 45 rushing crowns.
  • •  Of the current NFL teams, only five clubs have never had a runner lead the NFL in rushing. That includes three of the four teams in the NFC South – Atlanta, Carolina, and Tampa Bay – along with Cincinnati and Jacksonville.
  • •  A dozen franchises have boasted multiple players how've won the league rushing title. Leading the way is the Chicago Bears who’ve had five different runners do so. Next in line with three RBs with rushing crowns are the Browns, Broncos, Colts, Giants, Rams, and Redskins.

•  The Browns have accounted for the most rushing title with 10 overall, eight by Jim Brown plus one each by Leroy Kelly and Marion Motley.
  • •  Only one defunct team is represented on the list. Clarence “Pug” Manders led the NFL in 1941 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
  • •  The statistics from the AFL (1960-69) were absorbed into the NFL record book with the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. The only runner from the AFL to led pro football in rushing during the 1960s was the Boston Patriots’ Jim Nance (1966-67). He bested NFL runners Gale Sayers in 1966 and Leroy Kelly in 1967.

Hopefully, I’ve poked your curiosity enough that you’ll peruse these two new pages on our website.



Security for the Hall

Sep 15, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

“Wow!” I’m going to say it again, “wow!”

Football fans, me included, are in heaven this week as the NFL season got underway. Every year as the new season approaches a feeling of doubt hits me. I wonder how the NFL can just keep outdoing itself year in and year out. What would happen if history didn’t rewrite itself? How would we add to the world’s largest collection of football “artifacts” and how would we keep our exhibits inside the Pro Football Today Gallery fresh with recent acquisitions?

But then any insecurity is wiped away when something like Kickoff Weekend 2011 happens. One would think that at some point, especially as the NFL enters its 92nd season, that records can’t be broken at the pace they regularly fall. Right?


Sixty-one years after Otto Graham made his NFL debut (after four seasons in the All-America Football Conference) by throwing for 346 yards, the Carolina Panthers Cam Newton stepped onto the NFL stage by airing it out by the way of 422 yards on Sunday. It marked the most yards ever by a quarterback making his NFL debut and tied the single-game rookie mark set by the Lions Matthew Stafford two years ago.

Have you ever heard of Cobb Rooney of the Duluth Kelleys? How about A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals?

Rooney’s 22-yard score in a NFL game in 1924 was the longest game-winning TD catch in a fourth quarter by a rookie in his team’s first game. That was until Green shocked the Browns defense and raced 41 yards on a quick pass play for the winning TD on Sunday in Cleveland.

Kickoff Weekend’s Monday Night was the perfect exclamation point on a thrilling weekend. Tom Brady threw for 517 yards, the second most ever on kickoff weekend, and hooked up with Wes Welker for a 99-yarder that made the Patriots duo just the 12th tandem ever to have a TD pass of that record-tying length. Chad Henne was also busy on his side of the ball as the Patriots and Dolphins shattered the NFL record for net passing yards in a game (908). Altogether in Week 1 there was 7,842 net passing yards which is the most in a single week in NFL history.

The final game of the Week 1 included Sebastian Janikowski nailing a 63-yard field goal at the end of the first half to tie that long-standing NFL mark.

Are you among those doubters who were complaining about the new kickoff rule? Complain no more. The NFL witnessed over Kickoff Weekend the most combined kick returns for scores in a single week ever! The three kickoff returns for touchdowns also tied an opening week record. The three kickoffs for six points all covered distances of more than 100 yards (Packers Randall Cobb’s record-tying 108-yarder on Thursday; Percy Harvin’s 103 for the Vikings, and San Francisco’s Ted Ginn with a 102-yard return against Seattle). You have to go back to Week 5 of the 1958 season for the last and only other time the NFL had three 100+ yard kickoff returns in the same week.

That’s not all … I could go on and on about even more milestones and records that were set during the NFL’s first week of action. But, let it suffice to say with a weekend like we just experienced, the Hall of Fame’s mission is secure. We look forward to adding memorabilia to commemorate one great weekend of NFL football.

On to Week 2!


Sep 08, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

“Baseball is America’s pastime, but football is truly America’s passion.”

Howie Long used that line in his enshrinement speech on our front steps in the summer of the 2000. It remains one of my favorite statements from any speech. It rings so true especially on a night like tonight.

Listen to Howie's Enshrinement speech>>>

The NFL kicks off its 92nd season in Green Bay as the defending Super Bowl champion Packers host the New Orleans Saints. Lambeau Field will be packed full and a huge national television audience will tune in as we are “Back to Football.”

It’s always an exciting day when the new season starts. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. While there were a few bumps along the road during the months since last Super Bowl, the NFL is back.

The popularity of the NFL cannot be questioned. The league enjoyed incredible television ratings last year and we expect that to continue in the 2011 NFL season.

Back to Howie’s line. I speak to a lot of groups, visitors, and media in the normal course of my job. One fact that I often point out that surprises people when I share it is just how long the NFL has been "king." Most think that the NFL’s rise to the top of the sports heap is relatively recent, like in the past 20 years.

But, the reality is that The Harris Poll in 1965 determined that the NFL was this country’s most popular sport and it has remained so ever since – that’s nearly a half century! No slam on the other sports like baseball, basketball, and hockey (after all I’m going to watch tonight’s kickoff with my colleagues from the Hockey Hall of Fame who are passing through town) but those sports don’t come even close to the type of audience that the NFL draws.

Here are just some of the statistics to support my argument. According to The Harris Poll, their most recent research as of January 2011 showed that pro football is the favorite sport of 31% of the people in the U.S. That is more than the total of the next three most popular pro sports.

The TV ratings I talked about include the three main networks drawing an average audience of 20 million people which is 144% higher than the average primetime audience of the major networks. Marketing data also shows that the NFL is top among video game sales and licensing.

And on that note, I wish all my fellow football fans a “Happy Kickoff to the Season.” Enjoy!

Road to Canton started in Canton

Sep 01, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

Next Thursday we’re holding our popular Football 101: Ladies Night at the Hall of Fame. Legendary Los Angeles Rams Hall of Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood and his wife Barb will be on hand. The Youngbloods will talk some football, share stories, and even give a “X&O’s” tutorial to share their knowledge for those football “beginners” in attendance. They’ll also take the field next door at Fawcett Stadium for football drills. For those looking for a unique experience, it’s worth checking out. Last year, the event received rave reviews after Joe DeLamielluere and his wife Gerri thoroughly entertained all who came to the event.

Now, if you’re not a football “novice,” you know perfectly well that Thursday night also marks the long anticipated kickoff to the NFL’s 92nd season as the Green Bay Packers look to defend their Super Bowl championship. It all starts with the Packers hosting the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field. As the league’s slogan states, “Back to Football!” And, after the off-season we just experienced, never has that sounded so good. There’s no need to worry for those of you wanting to come hang out with Jack & Barb AND watch the game. Just put your DVR to work and we’ll do our best not to share any of the scoring updates from the game during our event!

Something struck me as interesting so much so that I decided it will be the topic of my weekly blog. I thought how perfect is it that Jack will be on the Fawcett Stadium field as the NFL season kicks off. After all, he began his great Hall of Fame career on the very same field!

Jack’s pro debut came in the 1971 Hall of Fame Game as the Rams started the season with a 17-6 win over the Houston Oilers in our preseason classic. Now, I think I’m safe in saying that Jack’s appearance next Thursday will be in far more glamorous conditions than his venture here as a rookie. First, the stadium isn’t the decrepit high school stadium it was 40 years ago. Today, Fawcett Stadium has field turf, nice locker rooms, and a state-of-the-art new press box. Also, Jack and Barb won’t have to drive here, we’re going to fly them in for the event (you’ll know what I’m talking about if you keep reading).

Back in ’71, Jack who was the Rams’ first-round draft pick came to Canton after being driven through the night from Chicago. He, and the Rams’ other first-rounder that year linebacker Isiah Robertson, had played in the Chicago College All-Star Game the day before. So the two prized rookies crammed into a car driven by a Rams staffer and made their way to Canton to begin their NFL careers.

You can imagine their surprise when they pulled up to Fawcett Stadium as they were excited to make their NFL debut.

“Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice high school stadium, but this was our first game in the NFL,” shared Youngblood. It wasn’t quite the glitz and glamour he was expecting of the NFL!

As the story goes, he played well in the game and before long he had earned himself a starting position on one of the most dominant defensive front lines in the NFL. He played in a team record 201 straight games, earned All-Pro honors five times, and voted to seven straight Pro Bowls before he retired following the 1984 season. He finally earned his due with another trip to Canton for his enshrinement in 2001.

I can’t remember the last time, if ever, that he’s missed coming back for our annual Enshrinement Festival and he is also a regular at our yearly Golf Classic. And next Thursday he’ll be back again on the field where it all began.

Nice catch

Aug 25, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on

Over the years I’ve spent more time than the average human perusing the NFL’s Record Books. It’s especially interesting when you take a look at some of the earlier versions of the league’s official milestones and see records that are no longer kept.

One such unusual mark that jumps to front of mind as my all-time favorite NFL records is the shortest pass reception for a touchdown. According the league records, the Green Bay Packers Don Hutson held the mark with a 4-inch TD grab against the Cleveland Browns Rams* on October 18, 1942. That’s right, the score was measured in inches! Eighteen years later Hutson’s rather indistinguishable record was snapped by Dick Bielski of the Dallas Cowboys when he hauled in a 2-inch pass from Eddie LeBaron. I sure wish we had replay back in those days to confirm these distances.

Yesterday, while doing some quick research on 2012 senior nominee Jack Butler, I came across another one of these weird records that are no longer recorded. As I thumbed through an old record book, I learned that there used to be a category for Miscellaneous Scoring. And, under that there was the subcategory of “Passer Catching Own Pass.” At first glance that didn’t really catch (no pun intended) my attention. Thanks to my nephew Joseph, a Pro Football Hall of Fame Insider Club member from New York, I know that Brett Favre’s first completion was to Brett Favre. Joe, a huge football fan, once shared that interesting fact with me and I keep it as one of those really interesting trivia questions.

But, as I reviewed the record holders of this offbeat NFL mark, something really jumped out. Three players were listed at the time as having caught their own pass. A pair of Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Johnny Unitas and Y.A. Tittle, had completed passes to themselves. Johnny U. had a 1-yard completion in a game in 1956 while YAT’s 4-yarder came three seasons later.

The third player listed was Milt Plum, the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.

Plum completed a 20-yarder to himself in a game against the Chicago Cardinals exactly 17 years to the day that Hutson’s miniscule touchdown reception occurred. My curiosity took over and so I put aside my search on Butler and went looking to find out exactly how Plum accomplished such a long pass to himself on October 18, 1959.

So, here it is. The freak play came during the Browns’ 17-7 win at home.  One of Plum’s 22 pass attempts was batted away by the Cardinals’ rookie defensive tackle Frank Fuller in the second quarter. The ball fluttered in the air when Plum alertly snatched and ran around right end for a 20-yard gain. Equally alert was a wire photographer who caught Plum’s catch and ran with his camera. The image and caption in newspapers across the country became the side note on a game dominated by Cleveland much due to Jim Brown’s 123 yards rushing.

* Shame on me! In my initial post I inadvertently listed Cleveland Browns not the Rams. An alert reader by the name Jack corrected my mistake by posting a comment. I appreciate the feedback. And, I (and my proofreaders) should have caught that before it was published. We're going to send a Hall of Fame pin to Jack in reward for him paying attention.

In case other readers aren't aware, the Cleveland franchise in '42 was the Rams. They relocated to Los Angeles in 1946. The Browns were formed in 1944, began play in '46 in the rival All-America Football Conference. In 1950, the Browns jumped to the NFL. More on the history of the Browns, Rams, and other NFL franchises can be found under our team history section.

An inspiring night with the Lions

Aug 19, 2011

Anyone who says today’s NFL players don’t have an appreciation for those who came before them should have witnessed the Detroit Lions visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night. Coach Jim Schwartz secretly arranged for the team to visit the Hall Thursday. The team busses took an hour detour en route to Cleveland for tonight’s preseason game to visit us.

Not only was it a great experience for the players, coaches, and team personnel, but it was a rewarding time for those Hall of Fame staff members who were around to show the Lions the Hall of Fame. The Lions’ genuine interest, awe, and inspiration in walking through the Pro Football Hall of Fame validated all that we stand for here in Canton.

From the start, I was so impressed by how the trip impacted the team. I was talking with Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders, now the Lions Assistant Director of Pro Personnel, when second-year defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh walked up and asked when he could see Charlie’s bronze bust. With the dinner line looking fairly lengthy, I offered to take them right then. So, up we walked to the Hall of Fame Gallery. Along the way, Suh rattled off the names of legends like Bob Lilly and Alan Page. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw something and wandered away in another direction. He had caught a glimpse of the uniform worn by Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer Joe Greene. Suh just had to take a look. No doubt, this phenomenal young player appreciates the contributions by those legends who share his position.

We then made our way in the Hall of Fame Gallery and walked up to Charlie’s bust. Suh asked him what it feels like to look at it. Sanders shared that he gets emotional every time he sees his bust. It’s not because it’s him but that it’s in a room with all of these great people. Wow. It was a great moment for anyone who loves football.

About an hour later, after dinner and some hooting and hollering while watching Lions highlights of the franchise’s Hall of Famers (the biggest applause came for running back Barry Sanders’ unbelievable running style), a good portion of the team congregated inside the Hall of Fame Gallery. Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham was overwhelmed by the room. That’s because he’s lived so much football in his lifetime. He brought the bronze busts to life. First, he stared into the eyes of Class of 2009 linebacker Derrick Thomas who was like a son to him during their days together in Kansas City. Cunningham shook his head and just muttered what a shame it was that Thomas’ life ended so prematurely.

He then made his way to the Class of 1970 and lit up when looking at the bust of the Lions’ Jack Christiansen. Cunningham shared personal stories about the man. Gunther spent time on Christiansen’s staff at Stanford in the mid-1970s.

I then turned and saw my favorite “snapshot” of the night. Lions Senior Vice President of Communications Bill Keenist directed quarterback Matthew Stafford to pose with the bust of Lions great quarterback Bobby Layne.

And there it was – the past connecting with the present. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Fantasy stories

Aug 10, 2011

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival is behind us and we now look forward to the 2011 NFL season. Of course, that means for many fans around the country, it’s crunch time for scouting for this year’s Fantasy Football.

In case you missed it, Louisiana Hot Sauce, one of our partners, is going to fly an entire fantasy league to Canton for a football-filled weekend capped by holding its draft inside the Hall of Fame. It’s really a cool concept. The one thing I like most about it is that to enter to win, you have to share some description about your league.

I claim there is no more passionate fan than Fantasy players as they take their love of the game to a different level than the typical NFL fan. Their stories about their leagues remind me why the NFL remains the country’s favorite sport.

Last summer, we hosted a Fantasy Football League that paid their way to hold their draft here. It was a unique concept. They were guys from the east coast who grew up together and today use Fantasy Football as a method to stay in touch with one another. Every year, on a rotating basis, one of the league members is given the task of planning and coordinating the entire trip for the fantasy draft. They handle booking the hotel, the travel itinerary, and any special other parts of the trip (last year, a private tour of the Hall’s archives was thrown in). The only restriction is that the destination has to be east of the Mississippi.

They were a great group of guys and I enjoyed conversing with them during the tour of the archives. But, when it came time for them to step into our board room to have lunch and conduct their draft, it was apparent they were ready for business. After all, there’s a lot of bragging rights (and maybe some cash) that goes with a Fantasy championship.

So, do you have a story about your league? Well, all it takes is a quick photo and brief description and you could be on your way to see us for your league’s draft.

Enter the Louisiana Hot Sauce Sweepstakes today!

No doubt about my No. 1

Aug 01, 2011

I’ve witnessed every Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement since joining the Hall’s staff in 1988. That equates to 120 speeches from the some of the greatest NFL legends. Obviously there are countless memorable moments that as a football fan I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. One common theme I’ve observed in this time is the passion that comes through the words that are delivered.

I never grow tired at seeing how humbled every person is when they’re bestowed their sport’s highest honor. A question posed to me so many times is “what is your most memorable one?” At first I used to struggle to come up with that answer but having had time to really think about it, there’s no question what ranks as the most compelling moment in a Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement.

There was Jack Lambert’s “if I could start my life all over again, I would be a professional football player, and you damn well better believe I would be a Pittsburgh Steeler.”

There was 2002, the first year that the induction was moved from the front steps back to Fawcett Stadium. The place was packed with Buffalo Bills fans who for hours chanted “Let’s Go Buff-a-lo” as they waited for Jim Kelly to be enshrined.

Two years later, Fawcett was jammed with Orange as fans travelled from the Rocky Mountains to see John Elway become the first long-time Bronco inducted.

I could go on and on but over the past several days I’ve shared my personal favorites. Remember, my list is favorite “moments” not favorite “speeches.” Of all that I have seen in the previous 23 years, there is nothing in my mind that compares to what happened in 2008.

Art Monk finally received his due as one of the game’s greatest after having come close to election so many times. Perhaps it was the worth the wait.

Monk stepped to the podium as the last enshrinee that night. I was standing in the stage right green room just about 20 feet from him. A thunderous ovation greeted Monk after he was introduced. As the crowd, nearly all clad in burgundy and gold, quieted, Monk stepped to the microphone to begin his speech. Within an instant the crowd exploded again.

It wasn’t long before the tingling feeling that struck me told me that something special was happening. Monk tried and tried again to start his speech but each time the Washington Redskins fans drowned him out. After about two minutes, there was a buzz all around the stage as everyone was inquiring had something like this ever happened before. The phone from the press box rang as my staff was being bombarded by media wondering the same thing.

For a sports fan, I can’t think of anything more dramatic or exciting than a lengthy standing ovation. So, the more than five-minute ovation that Monk received that evening ranks as the most memorable moment of any Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement I’ve witnessed.

Check out this video that starts about a minute after he is announced to the fans in attendance.

Click here to watch>>>

No. 2: Hi Mom>>>
No. 3: Not taking it for "Grant"ed>>>
No. 4: Bradshaw delivers>>>
No. 5: Marino's final pass in '05>>>

No. 2: Hi Mom

Jul 31, 2011

There have been so many great moments in Enshrinements that it’s really difficult to single out just five of my favorites. But, that’s what I have been doing for the past several days.

Today, I share my No. 2 all-time moment. I go back four years when long-time Detroit Lions tight end Charlie Sanders delivered his speech. It was a day filled with dramatic moments from Thurman Thomas who “re-proposed” to his wife to Michael Irvin’s tear-filled delivery.

But, it was Sanders’ closing comments about his mom that tugged at me personally. I was especially moved by Charlie’s remarks as I listened from the green room on stage that day. It made me so thankful to have had my mother well into my adult years before losing her to cancer.

Click here to watch>>>

No. 3: Not taking it for "Grant"ed>>>

No. 4: Bradshaw delivers>>>
No. 5: Marino's final pass in '05>>>

No. 3: Not taking it for "Grant"ed

Jul 30, 2011

One week from today the Class of 2011 joins the most elite fraternity when they’re officially enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With their induction, our total membership grows to 267. Included in that number are 22 coaches who’ve earned bronze busts.

One of them is long-time Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant. One of the first things that come to mind when I think of Grant is how he wouldn’t let his players have heated benches during those frigid games in Metropolitan Stadium. He did so because the rules stipulated whatever is provided to the home team must also be furnished to the visiting sideline. So, as it if wasn’t bad enough facing a tough Vikings team, opponents also had to battle the elements.

Grant is a tough, stoic man who pushed his players to great success. After all, he led them to 11 division titles and four Super Bowls. So, this clip below ranks among the most touching moments I’ve seen during an Enshrinement speech when the emotion of the moment even overtook someone like Bud Grant.

Of course, he had the wherewithal to regain his composure and wrap up his delivery with some of his trademarked dry wit. It remains one of my favorite closing lines to an enshrinement speech.

Click here to watch>>>

No. 4: Bradshaw delivers>>>

No. 5: Marino's final pass in '05>>>

No. 4: Bradshaw delivers

Jul 29, 2011

Walking into work this morning it’s really hard not to feel energized. The Hall of Fame grounds are buzzing and there are workers everywhere transforming every inch of our parking lot and lawns into a huge “tent city.” A week from today, fans from across the country will be filling our campus to enjoy a huge midway that includes food, beer, shopping, games, and parties.

Then the focus turns to what puts Canton, Ohio on the map – our annual Enshrinement. Seven new greats will be cast in bronze on Saturday, Aug. 6 at 7 p.m.

While the “party” wasn’t nearly as big in 1989, the front of our building was packed with chants of “Here we go Steel-ers, here we go!” Back in those days, the enshrinement was free and seating (or standing) was on a first-come, first-serve basis. So, Pittsburgh Steelers fans made the two-hour drive to Canton and perched themselves on the side lawn of Fawcett overlooking the front steps. When we all showed up for work, they were already there with many arriving before dawn to get the best view. About six or seven hours later their efforts were rewarded when two of their players from the Super Bowl dynasty years were enshrined (Mel Blount and Terry Bradshaw).

In one of the most heart-felt and genuine speeches I’ve seen, Bradshaw lit up the crowd. Watch my favorite segment of the quarterback’s speech and notice how he doesn’t look down at any notes, it was all from the heart. If you want to see what it means to a player to be enshrined in Canton, click on this highlight, my No. 4 all-time favorite Enshrinement moment!

Click here to watch>>>

No. 5: Marino's final pass in '05>>>

No. 5

Jul 29, 2011

I’ve been at the Hall since the late 1980s. And, during that time I have seen our annual Enshrinement ceremony grow from a quaint ceremony held on the front steps to a spectacular, nationally-televised event in Fawcett Stadium.

While the induction now draws thousands of fans who travel from across the country and hundreds of media members who converge on Canton, the one aspect that has never changed is that the day is filled with emotion.

I have often been asked over the years what was the most memorable moment from an enshrinement that I can remember. I’ve had that question posed to me so many times I can quickly give the answer. But, not here right now. You’ll have to bear with me as I count down my top five moments. A Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement speech always includes a wide variety of reactions that range from tears to laughter and nearly every emotion in between.

So, over the next five days, I’ll count down the moments that I found to stand out among them all.

My No. 5 came in ’05 when a crowd of aqua and orange filled Fawcett’s stands as the NFL’s all-time leading passer in yards, touchdowns, completions, and attempts (at the time) was inducted. The enshrinement was drawing to a close when Dan Marino pulled a football out and fired one more “frozen rope” spiral to his receiver Mark Clayton. While Roger Staubach did a similar stunt at halftime of the Hall of Fame Game twenty years earlier, Marino’s was the first and only pass completion made in Hall of Fame Enshrinement history. I think making the pass even more impressive is he was unencumbered by his new Hall of Fame Gold Jacket. I’d be remiss not to give kudos to Clayton. Marino’s long-time receiver was caught totally off guard when his QB called him out in front of 22,000 fans and a national television audience as he sat in a seat 30 yards from the stage. Just like when they were on the football field, the Marino to Clayton connection was flawless.

Click here to watch>>>


Football season

Jul 21, 2011
Each Thursday I use this space to try to entertain you with something unique about the history of pro football.  Well, today is a little different. And, for the record, that’s not only because of the news we’re all waiting on from the NFL.

It’s more the case, for me and the rest of the staff here in Canton, that our calendar says it’s July 21. Despite the fact that most of us are, and have been, working seven days a week; and despite the fact we have hundreds of volunteers who help us, putting on the annual Enshrinement Festival is a huge undertaking.

I’m down the home stretch as just 16 days remain until the Class of 2011 Enshrinement Ceremony takes place. So, from now until then, I will provide multiple blog entrys, shorter than normal, and keep the focus on our great upcoming celebration of football. My regular weekly blogs will resume in mid-August.

Be sure to check back daily to see what I have to share.

I’ll close by reminding all football fans, that our Enshrinement Ceremony is truly a spectacular show. Our stage will be filled with the greatest names from the past like Sayers, Butkus, Allen, Aikman, Warfield, and Long as they help welcome the newest Class of enshrinees. So, game or no game, we’ll be ready to go!

Is a picture really worth a 1,000 words?

Jul 14, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.


Last Sunday we posted this photo on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Facebook page. We asked all of those football fans who like us to provide a clever caption. That they did. This image, one of about two million photos in our collection, drew many interesting comments within a matter of minutes after we posted it on our wall.

You can check them out for yourself.

It really is an interesting photo if you examine it for a while. It got me thinking about what really happened? So, since I’m surrounded by the world’s largest collection of football information I thought I’d seek the answer. After a little bit of digging I found out that this picture really isn’t worth a 1,000 words (but pretty close, my blog is around 650 words)! So, here’s the story. No doubt it is one that the guy “out cold” in the photo surely didn’t remember.

Umpire Jim Beiersdorfer is the main subject of this photo. He didn’t last long into this game as he was knocked unconscious during a first quarter interception return. He suffered a “slight concussion” and was taken to a local hospital where he was kept overnight according to newspaper accounts.

The Los Angeles Rams traveled to Baltimore to take on the Colts on November 25, 1956. Depending on which source you read, the hometown team ranged from a slight favorite to a touchdown underdog in the game. The uncertainty of the prediction was much the result of the fact that Baltimore’s starting quarterback George Shaw was still on the mend for a knee injury. Although it was rumored the veteran QB may possibly see action for the first time in more than a month, the more likely case was the Colts were going to be led by some rookie named Johnny Unitas. Although a newspaper account described the first-year passer’s performance in previous weeks as not bad “for a rookie,” he still was an unknown free agent rookie starter.

The 40,000 plus fans who braved the rain and cold that day may have been slightly unnerved when the Rams’ Tom Wilson ran a kickoff back 103 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. He broke his wrist and injured his ribs on the play and was taken to the hospital. Wilson soon had company.

Shortly, thereafter the Rams were on the march again when the Colts’ Bert Rechichar stepped in front of a Norm Van Brocklin pass and during his 41-yard interception return Rechichar plowed through the umpire Beiersdorfer. A scuffle among players followed the play, the official was carted off the field, and the game resumed.

It was all Colts from that moment forward in what turned out to be the first of many thrilling performances by the team’s quarterback. Unitas’ pinpoint accuracy resulted in him completing 18 of 24 passes for 293 yards and 3 touchdowns (43 yards to Royce Womble; and 12- and 43-yarders to end Jim Mutscheller). The young Johnny U also added one rushing touchdown for good measure. The Colts entered the locker room as halftime with a commanding 42-7 lead thanks to three touchdowns in a 75-second span.

By the time the final gun had sounded the Colts walked off the field with a 56-21 win over the Rams. It marked the most points in franchise history for Baltimore and today still ranks tied for second most ever in a game by a Colts team. The game for L.A. marked, at the time, the worst loss ever handed to a Sid Gillman coached team. Making matters worse were that Wilson was one of four Rams injured in the game. It also dropped the Rams to 2-7 and assured them the top pick (after Green Bay’s bonus selection) in the NFL draft that was to take place the next day.

Unitas, who began his “unbreakable” 47-game TD streak two weeks later in a rematch against the Rams, wasn’t the only Colts’ player with a big day. Halfback Billy Vessels saw his first major action on offense. He responded with 9 carries for 70 yards and scored 3 TDs (2 rushing and 1 receiving). Those were the only touchdowns of the former Heisman Trophy winner’s pro career as he played just one season in the NFL. His backfield mate, fullback Alan Ameche, gained 162 yards on 20 carries and scored 1 TD.

There you have it. That’s the story on the game behind the photo. As for Beiersdorfer, he didn’t suffer any long-terms affects from his injury and was back out on the field soon thereafter. The native of Cincinnati held a rare distinction of being one of very few league officials who didn’t go to college. He served as NFL umpire for nearly 20 seasons from 1946-1964.

Another sad day in Canton

Jul 07, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

I had other ideas for this blog today. That was before I woke to the news that John Mackey passed away. Sadly, his death marks the sixth member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who has died since last year’s Enshrinement Festival.

The legendary Baltimore Colts tight end was preceded in death by George Blanda on Sept. 17, Ollie Matson on Feb. 19, Joe Perry on April 25, Andy Robustelli on May 31, and John Henry Johnson on June 3.

John passed away peacefully late last night surrounded by his family. Now, you’ll read a lot about John’s accomplishments on the football field including the story we posted on our site. You’ll read and watch tributes that talk about how he changed the game of pro football, and how he led the NFL Players Association, and how at the end he suffered from dementia. You’ll be reminded that the NFL’s last labor agreement included an “88 Plan” named for his football jersey number. It provides care for ex-NFL players with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

I don’t need to rehash that news. Rather, I’d like to share an observation from behind the scenes. One of the great pleasures that the Hall of Fame’s staff and Board members receive is the chance to get to know these football greats who are bronzed in Canton. It sounds like a cliché and perhaps mildly corny, but the truth is that the Hall of Famers are like family to us.

No doubt today, I have visions of the NFL Films clips of Mackey’s career and many great photos that captured his play as he revolutionized the position of tight end. But, most strikingly to me are the more recent memories of John’s visits to Canton. Always at his side was his devoted wife Sylvia.

Despite the fact that John’s condition worsened, he managed to be able to make many return visits “home” to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. He took part in festivities from autograph sessions to joining the many returning Hall of Famers during each Enshrinement Festival weekend. And wherever John went, not far away was Sylvia making sure things were alright.

Sylvia also had the help of many Hall of Famers who were also an important part of his life, more or less John’s “extended” family. The Hall of Fame is a special fraternity and while I observe only from outside the circle, I can tell you it is special to see how these football legends looked after John when he came back to Hall of Fame weekends.

Sylvia and the rest of the Mackey family will remain in the thoughts of their entire Hall of Fame “family” as they deal with this great loss.

Is it a football?

Jun 30, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

We’re knee deep in planning for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s largest ever expansion & renovation titled The Future 50 Project. The name came from the fact that this $27 million project will be completed in 2013 as we celebrate our 50th Anniversary and sets us on our course for the next 50 years. We’re having a ground-breaking ceremony during Hall of Fame weekend. I recommend that you mark your calendars for this event as a huge group of Hall of Famers will be on hand for the special occasion.

Construction starts shortly thereafter. The Future 50 Project marks the fourth major expansion to the museum since it opened as a 19,000 square-foot building on September 17, 1963. Famous sportscaster Chris Schenkel gave an inside glimpse to football fans in the days after we opened.

Click on image above to play video.

Since that time, we added on in 1971, 1978, and 1995. When the Future 50 Project is completed, the Hall of Fame will be 117,000 square feet of football paradise! If you haven’t seen the artist’s rendering of what we’ll look like in 2013, take a look.

Perhaps the most noticeable change is that our entrance will no longer be under “the dome.” We’ll be moving our entrance to the middle of the building. But, the dome will stay and hover over brand new exhibit space (our long and winding ramp will also be gone!).

No disrespect to our fellow sports heritage institutions but I can’t think of a more iconic building than ours in Canton, Ohio when it comes to sports halls of fame. So many fans identify with that familiar dome. If you’re under the age of 10, you think it’s a giant orange juice squeezer! Despite that clip above and Chris Schenkel’s implication that the dome is suggestive of a football, is it really a football? Many fans ask us.

Who better to answer that burning question than one of the men who created it? Two young Canton architects, Bob Forsythe and Jay Morgan Cox, designed the building in the early 1960s. Forsysthe (side note: he grew up in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio and counted Hall of Fame tackle/placekicker Lou Groza as one his friends), stopped by for a visit last week. I hadn’t seen Bob in many, many years as he has retired to Florida.

Bob, who is just shy of his 87th birthday, took me up on my offer to sit down and chat about the Hall of Fame. He was quite complimentary about The Future 50 plans. In my mind it was somewhat surprising that he wasn’t the least bit sensitive about us changing the “face” of the building. In fact, he sent kudos to the design team and how everything is being adapted for the future growth of the Hall.

Bob and I chatted for a bit. Then, for posterity sake, I had to pose the question to him. Was the dome really supposed to be a football? Here’s the answer in Bob’s own words.

Give it a listen!

The best No. 23’s

Jun 23, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

Well, it’s that time of year … mid-June and no football. So what can I write about while also keeping in mind most people are enjoying a summer vacation and are probably opting to golf, camp, or go boating than visit

I thought I’d play off of today’s date and focus on the No. 23.

It’s apparently not a uniform number destined for greatness. Only one member of the Hall of Fame has worn the number 23 during his career. That was Guy Chamberlin who wore it for just two seasons with the Chicago Bears in the early 1920s. His primary number during his career was the No. 13.

Number 23 also remains a jersey number that has never been retired by any NFL team. So, the question begs who was the greatest player ever to wear No. 23 (as their main number). Here’s seven (got to stay with a football theme) who should at least receive consideration.

PAUL LOWE was the main ball carrier for the Chargers during the 1960s. He is the first player in franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season when he gained 1,010 yards in 1963. Lowe played for the Chargers from the team’s inception in Los Angeles in 1960 through 1968 before finishing his career in Kansas City. He wore No. 26 with the Chiefs.

Another star of the AFL was the Denver Broncos GOOSE GONSOULIN who had 46 interceptions in his career that spanned from 1960-67 including one last year in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.

Safety TROY VINCENT spent 15 seasons in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins. He wore No. 23 in each of those stops during a 305-game career in which he accumulated 50 career interceptions for 711 yards including three pick-sixes.

The Redskins had a pair of players I’d add to the list in long-time DB BRIG OWENS who intercepted 36 passes during his career in Washington from 1966-1977; and current cornerback DeANGELO HALL who had a memorable day last year with 4 interceptions returned for scores in one game.

Don McCauley Devin Hester Sammy Winder

was a productive running back for the Baltimore Colts from 1971 to 1981. While he only gained 2,627 career rushing yards (he actually had more receiving yards), the short-yardage specialist did find the end zone 57 times during his career (40 rushing, 17 receiving).

We can’t forget the electrifying DEVIN HESTER who ranks as one of the all-time great punt and kickoff returners who now also complements that with his play at receiver.

Some other notable No. 23’s include Blaine Bishop, Ronnie Brown, Ted Brown, Kenneth Davis, Shaun Gayle, Mel Gray, Travis Williams, Sammy Winder, and Barry Word.

Of course, I’m always looking for comments to my blog so go ahead and add to my list of great No. 23’s. Or better yet, cast your vote for the best No. 23 of all-time.

Father's Day and Football

Jun 17, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

There’s something magical about Father’s Day and football. Maybe it’s because the sport has a way of connecting dads with their sons or better yet, sons with their dads!

Years ago I spent countless hours of research taking hand-scribbled notes from our files and developing them into a thorough and comprehensive list of fathers and sons who’ve played pro football. The list of 189 sets of dad/son gridiron combos can be found on history section of Here’s the link.

I’m cutting this week’s blog short so I can finish the rest of my work for the week and hit the road to go see my 89-year-old dad on Father’s Day. But, before I do that, allow me to “rerun” my Father’s Day blog from a year ago. It’s obviously special to me and the one blog entry I enjoyed writing the most.

After reading it, I invite you to share some football memories you have of your dad!


FOR PETE’S SAKE (June 18, 2010)

Football and fathers, what a great combination! As we celebrate Father's Day, I'd like to share some memorable stories of fathers and sons using football as a way to bond.

First, allow me to use this blog to say Happy Father's Day to my 88-year-old dad. He and I spent many Sundays during my childhood in Western New York either huddled around a TV or going to Rich Stadium (aka Ralph Wilson Stadium) to watch the Buffalo Bills. In fact, I fondly recall going with him to the first-ever game at Rich Stadium in 1973. I'm sure somewhere in my basement is the collectible coin handed out that night.

It was my father who also gave me an opportunity to start working in football when he arranged to get me on the stat crew for Bills games when I was only a senior in high school. It put me on the path that ultimately landed me a career in sports that has included the past 20-plus years working here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But, there is one particular memory that really connected me to the game's past. My father went to Northwestern in the 1940s when the school had a quarterback by the name of Otto Graham. Later in life the two became casual friends and when I was a teenager, Otto came to Buffalo to play in a golf tournament with my dad. And so, I got my Bobby Brady moment!

Here's a promotional photo that resides in the Hall's photo collection. You can also search YouTube for a "far out" clip from that particular Brady Bunch episode.

Similar to how Joe Namath showed up at the Brady household, Otto stayed at our house. He was nice enough to go out in the yard and toss a couple of passes to my friend Joe and me. So, like Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie, I too caught passes from Otto Graham.

Football and dads. I see it all the time as I walk through the Hall of Fame. There's nothing like seeing a proud dad sharing a story with his son as they look at a jersey or a helmet or watch a video of great moments from the NFL's past.

Then, there are those memorable occasions involving our Hall of Famers. I think of the stoic Bud Grant choking up when he made reference to his dad during his enshrinement speech. In fact, Grant's entire enshrinement speech is basically homage to his father.

In 1991, John Hannah became the first enshrinee to pick his dad as his presenter.

"With a tremendous amount of pride and happiness, it is my distinct pleasure to present to you, one of the newest candidates for induction into Pro Football Hall of Fame, my son, John Hannah," Herb Hannah, a former NFL player himself, proudly exclaimed on the front steps of the Hall.

Then, there's the story of Steve Young. As a kid, the future Hall of Fame quarterback convinced his dad to take a detour during a family vacation to stop in Canton. The Young family took this photo on the front steps:

Many years later, in 2005, Steve and his family returned to Canton when he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Appropriately, his dad served as his presenter.

But, there's one moment that will always stand out to me during my days here at the Hall of Fame. In 1993, the great Walter Payton was being enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He became the first inductee to select his son as his presenter. At the time, Jarrett, a future NFL running back with the Tennessee Titans, was only 12.

On the day before Walter's enshrinement, he had agreed to tape a commercial with his young son for the Hall of Fame. NFL Films' elaborate equipment and lighting was set up throughout the museum. This obviously drew the attention of the many fans who filled the Hall of Fame that day. Although we kept it somewhat under wraps, word spread that Walter was going to be in the building. Before we knew it, fans flocked to outside a room where Walter was set to arrive. We arranged to have Walter along with Jarrett come through a back door to avoid having to make their way through the crowd.

As Walter was having his make-up applied and being briefed on the commercial shoot , I along with several other staff members were ready to assist with crowd control. As the make-up person worked on Walter, we could all hear that there was a huge crowd outside the room and, in fact, many were pushing on the door. Jarrett, a curious pre-teen, decided to take a peek at what was on the other side. As soon as he cracked the door ajar, his eyes shot wide open as hundreds of fans were just inches away and appeared ready to charge. He quickly, and wisely, shut the door.

I think it was probably right about then that Jarrett became aware how famous of a dad he had. Moments later, with our staff "parting the seas" Walter and Jarrett walked through the crowd to get to the area where the commercial was being shot. The fans cheered wildly as Walter and Jarrett made their way through the Hall.

Here's the commercial:

Another father and son moment happened shortly after the Paytons finished taping the commercial. Walter asked us if we could show him where his uniform from when he became the NFL's all-time rushing leader was on exhibit. By this time, most of the visitors had cleared out of the Hall of Fame and only a small gathering of fans were in our rotunda where Walter's display was located.

We walked Walter to the exhibit. When we arrived, there was man standing in front of the display describing "Sweetness" to his wife and son. The man looked to his left and saw Payton standing there in real life. He glanced again and realized who it was standing next to him. He was absolutely speechless. Within seconds, he gathered his composure and grabbed at his wife's sleeve to the get camera ready for this once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

It was a day that is forever imprinted in my memory. And, the following day, more memories were made when a nervous Jarrett stepped to the podium to present his dad for induction into the Hall of Fame. He did a great job and not surprisingly, Walter was the first of the Class of 1993 to be brought to tears.

I'm not entirely sure what my family has in store for me this Father's Day but I'm fairly certain I'll be throwing a football around with my daughter and son; and talking some football with my dad.

Happy Father's Day!

Gold mine

Jun 09, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

There are some football stories that over time grow in stature. In fact I could list a number of accounts that have been embellished into famous tales. There's fact and then there's folklore.

So I started to wonder if that was the case with the San Francisco 49ers' backfield of the 1950s. It's the only complete backfield in history that all of its members were eventually enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It has the nickname. They were called the "Million Dollar Backfield." It has the star power. The players included quarterback Y.A. Tittle, and running backs John Henry Johnson, Hugh McElhenny, and Joe Perry.

Sadly, half of the quartet died in recent weeks. Perry passed away on April 25 and Johnson died last Friday.

I thought I'd jump back to the era in which they made their mark. Were they really that highly touted when they were playing or has the legend grown over the years?

The answer is yes, the "Million Dollar Backfield" was really that spectacular especially during the first season the four greats were together. And, no their story isn't a tale. I'd actually claim that today's football fans don't really know the story. So, here it is.

The 49ers were born in the mid-1940s and competed in the rival All-America Football Conference during the four years it existed from 1946-49. San Fran, along with the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Colts, jumped to the NFL in 1950. The Browns who dominated the AAFC continued with success in the NFL and won the league title that first year. The Colts posted a woeful 1-11-0 record and disbanded after just one NFL season (FYI…the current day Colts were formed in 1953.)

Meanwhile, the 49ers were on the rise in the early 1950s and mired in a battle with the Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions for supremacy in the NFL's Western Conference. The bread and butter to their attack was the running game. Perry, a holdover from the AAFC days, was firmly entrenched as the leader of the offensive backfield. Tittle was added in 1951 after his Colts folded. In 1952, McElhenny joined Perry to give the 49ers' the league's most potent rushing duo.

Not surprisingly, the San Francisco 49ers led the NFL in rushing in 1952 and 1953. So, you can imagine the excitement when they signed Johnson to join "The Jet" and the "The King" (aka Perry and McElhenny) in 1954. Johnson, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers one year earlier, had played a season north of the border after he was lured to the Canadian Football League by the Calgary Stampeders.

It took virtually no time for the already dominant 49ers backfield to gain even greater fame. Johnson's explosion onto the NFL scene included this description from a L.A. Times columnist prior to a 1954 exhibition game.

"Come Friday night in the Coliseum the Rams may be chasing the best offensive back in the National Football League … and I don't mean Hugh McElhenny or Joe Perry. Expert testimony to the greatness of the 49er rookie John Henry Johnson is overwhelming. He is guilty, on all counts, of being a holy terror on the gridiron."

Other newspapers used terms like "rip-snorting terror." Long-time Hall of Fame coach Curly Lambeau, then coach of the Washington Redskins, called Johnson's 51-yard TD run against his team "one of the greatest I've ever seen." Reports indicate that Johnson eluded, or more than likely bowled over, seven Washington tacklers on the run.

John Henry and Perry combined for an impressive one-two punch that first season as the 49ers led the NFL in rushing for a third straight time by racking up 2,498 total rushing yards. Perry made history by becoming the first runner to record consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Johnson posted a healthy 618 yards and 9 TDs in his first NFL campaign to finish second. Not far behind was McElhenny, who despite missing the last six games of the season with injuries, finished eighth overall with 515 yards. Perhaps the real story of the "Million Dollar Backfield" was their rich yards per carry average. McElhenny led the league in that category as he had just 64 carries which equated to 8 yards every time he rushed the football. Perry posted a strong 6.1 yards per rush while Johnson averaged 5.3 yards a carry. Tittle was starting to come into his own at the time and quickly made his way to the upper echelon of quarterbacks.

As one can imagine, it was difficult to keep that much talent together as there are only so many plays in a game. In all, the "Million Dollar Backfield" was together for three seasons. Johnson, who only played exclusively on offense that first year and battled injuries in 1955, eventually was dealt to the Detroit Lions in May 1957. He led Detroit to their last NFL title that year. He moved on to Pittsburgh shortly thereafter and enjoyed his finest years with the Steelers.

Certainly time gained the "Million Dollar Backfield" more fame but that only makes sense. Regarded as potent at the time, the true understanding of how extraordinary the 49er backfield was could only be measured after looking at each individual's total body of work on the football field. That is what earned each of them bronze busts in Canton (Perry in 1969, McElhenny in 1970, Tittle in 1971, and Johnson finally in 1987). Today, the literal meaning of a "Million Dollar Backfield" is commonplace for all NFL teams. But, even in the age of free agency, it's hard to imagine any team ever having a backfield like the 49ers had for that brief moment in time.

The "Million Dollar Backfield" reunited for their first ever autograph session as a group during an appearance at the Hall of Fame on May 8, 1999. Here's a shot from that day.


A loaf of bread and a dream

Jun 02, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

Those enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame are family. And so, I write this week’s blog in memory of one of our family members who passed away earlier this week in a Stamford, CT hospital. Andy Robustelli died on Tuesday at the age of 85.

If you’re a Giants fan you need no introduction to who he was. That’s because he had iconic stature in New York for decades. Today’s Giants fans surely still know the name Andy Robustelli. He was the right defensive end of a Giants team that shared the limelight with baseball’s Yankees during a time where football was on the verge of exploding across the country. If you’re an ardent football fan, you too know that Robustelli was one of the finest defensive ends ever to step on a NFL field.

Andy’s life was filled with great success that included raising a large family. After his playing days, Robustelli worked in the Giants’ front office before he embarked on a successful career in the business world. But, is about football. So, I’d like to share the memory of Robustelli’s contribution to this game.

If you’ve ever heard his enshrinement speech from our front steps in Canton, Ohio, you’d remember his moving intro as he talked about going to the store for his mother. Like so many other boys around the country, it didn’t take much imagination to dream of running to the end zone. 

This is a long way from that little kid that used to love to go to the store for his mother because when she needed Italian bread it looked like a football. And he could take it and toss it up in the air and then run from the store to his home yelling, ‘Robustelli’s on the 50, he’s on the 40, he’s on the 30, and when he got to down to the goal line he’d be home.

Listen to his entire 1971 enshrinement speech>>> 

Andy “found the end zone” when he received the sport’s most significant honor with his election to the Hall of Fame. It was a long, long way from his childhood in Stamford, Connecticut where he raced down the sidewalk with a loaf of bread.

He played his college football at tiny Arnold College (which is now part of the University of Bridgeport). Robustelli was a two-way player but fairly noted as an offensive end (i.e. receiver). He was elected as Little All-American. That led him down the path to the NFL through the 1951 draft when the Los Angeles Rams selected him as a 19th round draft pick.

There was just one problem, well really two.  His hopes of making the squad at receiver were slim at best as a pair of revolutionary, big-play future Hall of Famers Tom Fears and Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch were firmly entrenched on the team’s depth chart.

Rams coach Joe Stydahar labeled Robustelli as a long shot at best. Stydahar figured Andy’s only chance at making the team was on defense. A disappointed Robustelli realized then that his hopes of carrying the loaf of bread to the end zone wasn’t going to happen.

He could have walked away. In fact, he and his wife Jeanne, who passed away in April, actually contemplated having Andy pursue a career in coaching at the high school level back in Connecticut. 

Fortunately for all of us, he decided to take his new assignment and do the best he could. He made an impression from his very first scrimmage and for the remainder of his outstanding career he exemplified the very type of character and perseverance it takes to earn a bronze bust in Canton. His dedication to playing the sport of football became his trademark. It not only helped him reach great heights but guided his teams to the top. In 14 seasons in the NFL, Andy played on 13 winners. It wasn’t until his final year as a player-coach with the Giants that he suffered a losing record. Along the way, he appeared in eight NFL championship games. He and the Rams won the NFL title during his rookie season. Not surprisingly, Andy’s finest season resulted in the Giants best record during the Robustelli-era. In 1962, the Giants finished 12-2-0 and Andy became the first defensive player to be recognized as the NFL’s Player of the Year by the prestigious Maxwell Club.

Although his dream of carrying that loaf of bread to the end zone never came to fruition like he thought it would in the NFL (he did have one TD catch and returned two interceptions for scores), he was able to enjoy much of his spectacular career near home. Despite his and the Rams success, L.A. was a long way from Stamford. Just as training camp began in 1956, the Rams traded Andy to his “hometown” team, the New York Giants.

That season, he earned his second NFL championship as the Giants secured their first world title since 1938. It also marked the franchise’s last NFL championship until New York won Super Bowl XXI.

Over nine years in New York, Robustelli was “living the dream” in one of the country’s biggest markets just as the NFL was entering the TV era and exposure to the game was growing exponentially across the nation. He and teammates like Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, and Y.A. Tittle were the toast of the town on level that pro football players hadn’t previously experienced.

Robustelli was one of the Kings of New York for sure. So, in a way, things turned out not much differently than how that young boy imagined as he sprinted down the sidewalk with a loaf of bread tucked under his arm.

Kissing your sister

May 26, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

If you’re an old enough fan, you remember the days when you could invest an entire day at an NFL stadium and drive home without your team winning or losing. Up until an NFL owners meeting in New York that occurred 39 years ago from this past Tuesday, a tie game in the NFL didn’t even count! From the league’s start in 1920 through the ’71 season, a tie game simply was ignored in the winning percentages of teams.

As a historian of the game, I’m not forgetting the other issues on the agenda at that May 1972 meeting such as a proposal on sudden death, a suggested penalty for a quarterback grounding the ball, and the fact that Commissioner Pete Rozelle and the NFL were being sued by the players regarding free agency and compensation.

“We would have hoped that issues relative to employment would be resolved through the process of collection bargaining,” commented Rozelle.

My, how things change (or not)! I think we all agree that we can use a reprieve from the news about the current labor situation in the NFL. So, rather than focus on those issues, let’s return to the subject of the tie.

What’s the big deal about a tie? We all know the phrase about ties that compare them to kissing your sister. Obviously, fans’ complete dislike of tie games was finally addressed by the NFL in 1974 when overtime was instituted for regular season games.

Now, back to the topic at hand which is the change regarding how a tie counts in the standings. There were at least three instances in NFL history where the tie bared its ugly head and ultimately affected the outcome of the league’s champion.

In 1932, the Green Bay Packers quest for their fourth straight league championship was tripped up by the tie. In those years, the NFL title was granted to the team with the best regular season record. The ’32 Packers finished with an impressive 10-3-1 record. In today’s method of counting the tie that winning percentage would have been a healthy .750 but in 1932 it was an even better .769. It didn’t matter.

That’s because the Chicago Bears finished their regularly scheduled games with a 6-1-6 record and the Portsmouth Spartans (now the Detroit Lions) had a record of 6-1-4. In today’s standards that would have placed both teams well behind the Packers in the standings (.692 for the Bears and .727 for the Spartans). But in 1932 the ties were thrown out. So, the Bears and Spartans skyrocketed to 6-1 records for.857 winning percentages. And, with that, the NFL was changed forever. As a result of both teams tying, the NFL decided to schedule a one-game playoff to determine the champion. The historic game resulted in major changes to pro football including significant rule changes, a playoff system, and more. See the story here>>>

It makes one wonder what would have happened had the tie been given some respect!

Three years later the tie again helped the Lions (who by that time had relocated from Portsmouth, Ohio) and once again burned the Packers. Detroit finished with a 7-3-2 mark while Green Bay was 8-4-0. In today’s method of computing win/loss records, the two clubs would have been tied with identical .667 winning percentages and would have faced each other in a one-game playoff to determine the NFL’s Western Division champion. But, throw away the Lions ties and their 7-3-0 record gave them a .700 percentage and a spot in the 1935 NFL Championship Game. Detroit beat the New York Giants in that contest to win their first championship.

A very similar situation occurred in 1949 with the Los Angeles Rams benefiting from the tie not counting as a half-win/half-loss. L.A. went 8-2-2 that season while the Bears finished 9-3-0. Today that means they would have finished with .750 winning percentages. By ignoring the two ties, the Rams won the division crown with a .800 winning percentage. In the end, it may not have mattered as the Philadelphia Eagles shutout the Rams on a muddy L.A. Coliseum field in the title game.

The tie stuck around for many seasons to follow. Other than being an annoyance it really didn’t change the course of NFL history like the scenarios described above. But, it could not be ignored that the tie had to be dealt with by the NFL.

So, the owners convened on May 24, 1972 for the second day of meetings and addressed the issue of the tie’s affect on standings.

“The idea is to make a team play to win, rather than not to lose,” explained a league official.

The Competition Committee proposed Amendment No. 9 to the NFL’s Constitution & Bylaws that changed the wording from “Tie games shall not be considered in calculating percentages,” to “Tie games shall be calculated as one-half game won and one-half game lost.”

Representatives from the Denver Broncos made the motion and were seconded by the Vikings ownership group. The proposal passed unanimously.

Strangely, now four decades later, I actually kind of miss the tie. Maybe it’s just because the tie is such an oddity these days. It’s becomes interesting when on the rare occasion two teams spend an entire week creating a game-plan, practice so hard, and then battle for 75 minutes and yet a winner still can’t be determined!

For the record, the last NFL tie came in 2008 when the Cincinnati Bengals and Eagles played to a 13-13 draw.

Changing history

May 19, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

I’ve spent more than two decades working in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s archives. In fact, no one in our institution’s history has called the archives home for longer. That’s my pat on the back since holding that distinction also means that I’ve never had a window in my office (direct sunlight isn’t conducive to protecting football’s largest collection of rare documents.)

Over that time I’ve read, studied, compiled, written, and enjoyed a hefty amount of material about the NFL and its past. Despite that fact, I’ve really only touched the surface on the nearly 20 million pages of documents we house in Canton.

Because of the sheer vastness of information, there has to be a fair amount of trust in the sources for this material. But, occasionally our work in the archives uncovers inaccuracies and it’s our duty to “change” history. Strangely, it’s happened twice to me in the last week!

Sometimes altering historical facts can be significant and other times they’re just minor revisions. Regardless, we treat the process with the utmost importance and do our due diligence in trying to provide accuracy.

One of the first times I was exposed to this process came fairly early in my tenure at the Hall of Fame. I was working on a painstakingly tedious research project revolving around win-loss records for coaches. In that research, I found a discrepancy regarding George Halas’ win total. I mentioned the nugget to my direct supervisor Joe Horrigan (then curator and today still my boss as the Vice President – Communications/Exhibits … he got an office window in the mid-1990s!).

Joe then spent several weeks probing the win total. This was a particularly important fact at the time considering Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula was moving in on the mark. Joe finally verified through multiple sources that Halas was credited with one too many wins in 1942. Halas had entered into military service part way through the year and it was clear he was away from the Bears sideline for the sixth game of the season in which he was given the win.

So, the work we do at the Pro Football Hall of Fame is not only to preserve the game’s history but occasionally change it. That’s what happed in 1992 when the NFL altered Halas’ win total based on our research. In the end, it meant one less win that Shula needed to become the league’s all-time winningest coach.


Last week on a much smaller scale, I corrected a bit of history by happenstance.  I wrote a blog about the Kansas City Cowboys, an NFL team in the mid-1920s. While scouring some of our files, I found a slight conflict in the actual date that the team was admitted to the NFL. So my assignment of writing the blog was given a detour as I was forced to spend some time in our files to verify the date. Without boring you with the details, it ends up that the proposal to admit the KC franchise to the league occurred on the first day of an NFL Owners meeting (which was we had as the official date) but the motion was voted on and accepted the following day. So, if you check out this list on our website, we now have the correct date as we quietly updated the page.

On any given day, our research team fields multiple inquiries from fans, members of the media, the NFL teams themselves, and the NFL office in New York.

So, while enjoying my son’s lacrosse game on Tuesday night I glanced at my Blackberry. It was a request from the NFL office inquiring about the date of when the NFC aligned as part of the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. I quickly replied saying I’d follow up in the morning as I was well aware our files contained many articles about the process. It’s a memorable moment in NFL history mostly because the unusual manner in which the roadblock in negotiations was resolved. After countless meetings could not satisfy the owners, Commissioner Pete Rozelle placed five proposals in a vase and had his assistant draw one out! That entire story I’ll save for another time (perhaps a future blog?).

In any event, I came into the office yesterday morning and handed the assignment to pull the articles from our files to our new summer intern Darian Thomas from Kent State. I anticipated that it would be a fairly easy task and we’d get back to the league with a prompt answer. But, soon Darian’s research involved our Researcher Jon Kendle and later me as we uncovered a mistake to the NFL’s history!

As it turns out, there’s no mistake that the NFL owners finally agreed on an alignment for the new NFC on Jan. 16, 1970. But as we found that info, we noticed that the date of the AFC layout was not matching in various sources. Most of the NFL’s publications listed the date of that meeting as May 17, 1969. In fact, that was the date immediately reported in the 1970 NFL Record Manual. But other sources listed May 10 as the date. Because we take our mission so seriously we had to dive deeper to see why there was a discrepancy.

Perhaps, the owners met on May 10 but didn’t ratify the realignment until the 17th seemed like a logical answer to the mistake. As it turns out, the error apparently was just a typographical one that was picked up and repeated for 40 years! Tens of articles and other sources verified that the meeting took place on May 10. Further scrutiny by us confirmed the date after we studied the official meeting minutes of the AFL from that day.

So, I reported the findings that Jon, Darian, and I uncovered to the NFL. And with that, we have “changed” history. We didn’t “steal” a win from “Papa Bear” Halas but  we do feel good in that we continue to make sure the NFL’s history is as accurate as it can be, no matter how small the fact!

Meet the Cowboys

May 12, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

If you've taken the time to check out my blog, I'm assuming it's safe to say you're a fan of the NFL. This makes me fairly certain you've heard of the Dallas Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs. I'm also confident you know the names and stories about certain Hall of Famers named Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Len Dawson, and Derrick Thomas.

I pride For Pete's Sake on each week providing some aspect of the NFL that you may not know. After all, it's my job to educate the public regarding the origin, development and growth of professional football as an important part of American culture.

So today, I introduce you to the Kansas City Cowboys and a couple of Hall of Famers by the name of Joe Guyon (below left) and Steve Owen (below right). Yes, there were Cowboys in the NFL before Dallas had them and Kansas City's first team in the NFL was not the Chiefs. Legends like those listed in the first paragraph made their contributions to the game during the modern era. But, now lesser known names who also have busts in the Hall of Fame helped the sport survive and grow during its early years.

On Jan. 26, 1924 the NFL owners met at the Sherman Hotel in Chicago. Among the orders of business was a motion to add a Kansas City franchise to the league. An initial motion by Chicago Bears owner George Halas to admit the KC franchise was tabled pending the schedule committee report. The following day, the motion was again set forth to the owners to accept the Kansas City bid for a team. This time, the proposal was passed and hence the birth of the Kansas City Blues.

The team won its first game in '24 but then went winless until the season finale. The following season, the franchise renamed itself the Cowboys and hit the road. The Cowboys played all of its 1925 season and all but the final two games of 1926 on the road. In all, the Cowboys played 17 straight away from Kansas City.

Really, from a from a football standpoint, the Kansas City story revolves around two better known players, Owen and Guyon. New York Giants fans know Owen as their all-time winningest coach (his 153 victories are 68 more than the next in line, Bill Parcells).

But, before Owen got coaching, he was one of the NFL's best defensive stars in the 1920s. He started his playing career with Kansas City before moving on to the Cleveland Bulldogs for the latter part of the '25 season and then landing in New York with the Giants, first as a player then a player-coach, and finally the team's head coach.

Meanwhile, Guyon was a terrific player who at times took a backseat to his famous teammate and friend, the legendary Jim Thorpe. Unlike Owen, Guyon's days with Kansas City came toward the end of his Hall of Fame career. He had already made a name for himself with the Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, a two-year stint with the NFL's Oorang Indians (a team comprised totally of American Indians including Thorpe) and the Rock Island Independents before joining Kansas City. A two-sport athlete, Guyon played one last year in 1927 with the Giants and was pivotal in helping the team to its first NFL championship. A baseball injury a year later ended his NFL career.

As we look back at this defunct NFL franchise, I think some of the off-the-field stunts overshadowed the team's performance on the football field. After switching its nickname, the team took to marketing their brand. For instance, reports depict how Owen and Guyon rode horseback down Broadway in New York City when the Cowboys were in town to face the Giants in 1925.

So, while they didn't muster much in the way of football success, you have to give an "A" for effort to Lee Andrews. Not only was Andrews a backup emergency tackle for the Cowboys but served as the team's secretary-treasurer and general manager. In 1926, he had a unique method for promoting his team. Just prior to their arrival in Hartford, Connecticut for a showdown on Halloween Day against the Hartford Blues, he shipped by train a carload of "costumes." Andrews had ten-gallon cowboy hats and ornamental boots sent to Hartford. His team adorned the hats and boots and marched from their team headquarters at a downtown hotel to a nearby Armory where they practiced in the days leading up to the game.

Maybe the publicity stunt helped draw a crowd to the NFL game played at the Velodrome, a roofless cycle track. Despite a hard driving rain that flooded the field with ankle-deep water that washed away the yard lines and saw the football floating above the muddy surface, about 500 curious fans watched as the Cowboys defeated the hometown Blues, 7-2. Not surprisingly, all of the scoring on the day came as the result of fumbles.

After managing just four wins and a tie in the first two seasons of operation, Kansas City went 8-3-0 in 1926. But, unfortunately for the franchise, the NFL reorganized after the '26 season and the Cowboys were one of the many teams cut from the league.

Indians, Yanks, Dodgers, Kardex, Yellowjackets and more. A list of all-time NFL franchises>>>

Packers prized catch!

May 05, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

It was the last year before the National Football League adopted the annual college player draft.  The circumstances surrounding the signing of the “Alabama Antelope” actually helped fuel the idea of a draft. University of Alabama’s Don Hutson was a phenomenal end for the Crimson Tide who earned his nickname because of his speed and quickness which he combined with previously unseen pass-catching abilities. Needless to say his talents made him a highly desirable recruit for the pro circuit. As was the norm at the time, any NFL team could go after the best college players in hopes of signing them to a deal.

Immediately after Hutson thrilled 85,000 fans with his receiving performance in the Crimson Tide’s 29-13 win over Stanford in the 1935 Rose Bowl, he was approached by two NFL teams, the Green Bay Packers and the Brooklyn Dodgers. He signed with both!

Curly Lambeau of the Packers inked Hutson to a deal. Then, the Dodgers coach John “Shipwreck” Kelly seemed undeterred by Hutson’s deal with Green Bay and convinced the young receiver to sign with the Dodgers. Kelly promised him an extra $500 and told Hutson that would null and void the contract with the Packers.

Once received from Hutson, the Packers and Dodgers added their signatures to the contracts and shipped them off via U.S. mail to the league headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. As fate would have it, the Packers envelope was postmarked 17 minutes sooner than when Kelly’s mailing was processed. Both envelopes arrived to the attention of NFL President Joe Carr on the same day. At first confused, Carr investigated the situation and ultimately decided that Hutson’s rights would be granted to Green Bay since the contract mailed from the Packers was postmarked at 8:30 a.m. and the Brooklyn correspondence was stamped at 8:47 a.m.

From the very start of his pro career, it was clear that the Packers were perhaps more fortunate than even they were aware to get Hutson. Lambeau decided to sit the rookie end in the ‘35 season opener to make sure he was ready to go for the next game, a much anticipated matchup against the rival Chicago Bears. Green Bay entered the game having not beaten the Bears in the past six games between the two clubs.

A young Hutson voiced his nervousness to fellow future Hall of Famer Cal Hubbard in the locker room prior to kickoff.

“I’m scared to death. I did alright in college but these fellows are so much bigger and better. I’m not even sure I belong,” Hutson confided to Hubbard who assured the rookie he’d be fine.

It didn’t take long, in fact just one play, for Hutson to prove he belonged in the NFL. On the very first play of the game, Hutson ran a slow deliberate route, drew the defender on to him, and then introduced the Bears and the rest of the NFL to just why he was nicknamed after a speedy animal. Hutson suddenly shot into another gear and raced past a surprised Bears defensive back. The play, which was drawn up by Lambeau the night before, worked to perfection. Packers quarterback Arnie Herber who owned a rocket of an arm, fired a long pass downfield into the open hands of Hutson for an 83-yard touchdown play. Now that’s the way to start an NFL career!

In his later years Hutson reflected on his first NFL catch and TD. “I say that was my greatest thrill despite all these other things that happened because it got me off to such a good start when I went to Green Bay.”

Here’s a diagram of the play. You should note that Hall of Famer Johnny “Blood” McNally was the NFL’s top receiver at the time. So naturally the Bears may have had their focus on him rather than some rookie named Hutson. FYI, the touchdown was the only scoring that occurred that day as Green Bay’s 7-0 win snapped the losing streak

As you may know, Hutson spent the next 11 years leading the Packers to great success while revolutionizing the way players caught passes in the NFL. He racked up staggering numbers that not only annihilated all previous highs in the league to that point but withstood the test of time. He retired as the owner of virtually every NFL receiving record all which remained for decades and took a multitude of different receivers to topple them.

Making his accomplishments all that more amazing is that Hutson put up his numbers in an era that didn’t favor the passing game. During an interview in the late 1980s, he was asked by a reporter about how many catches he would have had if he played in the league at that time.

“I could catch 50 passes,” he shared with the writer.

The interviewer was caught off guard considering that Hutson caught 50 or more passes three times during his career including the unimaginable 72 receptions in 1942. He questioned the Packers legend.

“Well, I’d be catching those 50 passes during the year of my 75th birthday,” Hutson deadpanned.

Happy Draft Day!

Apr 28, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

Today is like a holiday for any football fan. You don't have to be a crazed (and I say that in a complimentary way) draftnik to be excited about today. Parties are abundant as we prepare for the NFL's 76th Annual Draft. As you know tonight's first round is being televised live in primetime and then rounds 2 and 3 will go tomorrow night. The draft wraps up with the final four rounds on Saturday.

The 2011 NFL Draft takes place among the glitz and glamor of Manhattan with the proceedings located inside Radio City Music Hall. This year, for the first time, a former player will step to the podium to make the selection for their former team's second round pick. Among the NFL alum taking part in the announcement are 11 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame including three of the newest enshrinees – Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, and Shannon Sharpe.

The Hall of Fame is also joining in the fun as we'll be on hand for team draft parties in Cleveland and Dallas tonight; Chicago on Friday and Saturday, and at FedEx Field in Washington all day Saturday.

The scene over the next few days is in stark contrast to what occurred inside a banquet room at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia on the second weekend of February in 1936. Nine months earlier during a NFL owners meeting in Pittsburgh, the team owners accepted the provision, as presented by Bert Bell, whereby each NFL team was able to select a college player. The order was determined in inverse order of finish the prior season.

So after the meeting was called to order at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8, 1936 and after a report presented by President Joe F. Carr, and after a review of the Treasurer's report was accepted, filed, and passed unanimously, the representatives from the nine NFL teams turned and faced a chalkboard.

Written on the board were the names of an estimated 90 college players. The process apparently was well received by those in the room. After all of the teams picked their five players, Bell made a motion to have each club pick an additional four players. His idea was approved unanimously and the draft continued.

In examining the meeting minutes from that day, I can't really estimate how long it took to complete the NFL's first draft. But, I can tell you that there was no podium, there was no clock, there weren't hordes of media and there definitely wasn't a fan around to cheer or jeer. I can further tell you that after the ending of the drafting process, the owners turned their attention to a number of other matters before adjourning for the day. My best guess is that the entire nine rounds were completed in less than two hours.

Newspaper accounts reported that the draft process was approved but did not learn just who was picked by which team until a later date. Carr explained to reporters that the draft was adopted to stop the "promiscuous scrambling" that occurred for star college players each year.

I'm sure that Carr (above, left) or Bell (above, right) could never have imagined that 76 years later the draft would include a red carpet entrance into a grand theater all to satiate the demand of millions of fans across the country.

Before you enjoy tonight's first round, here's a "potpourri" of what I consider some of the more interesting notes about past drafts.

• Stories surfaced quickly about the NFL's top pick in its inaugural draft. Jay Berwanger holds the distinction of being the first player ever drafted. Selected by the Philadelphia Eagles, his rights were soon traded to the Bears. Rumors surfaced that he was demanding an astonishing $1,000 a game. I think it's safe to say that the Carolina Panthers would gladly agree to those terms on the spot tonight with whomever they select first overall.

• The Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2004 is the only class of enshrinees that included only first-round draft picks. Bob Brown and Carl Eller went 2nd and 6th overall in 1964, John Elway was the first overall pick in 1983, and Barry Sanders was drafted by the Detroit Lions third overall in 1989.

• We know we're getting older when players drafted in the 1990s have completed their careers and are now getting enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Marshall Faulk is the most recent draftee to find his way to Canton. He was taken 2nd overall in 1994.

• The Washington Redskins strategy under George Allen was labeled "the future is now." As a result, the team never hung onto to a single first-round draft pick in the 1970s. Amazingly, the team didn't make its first selection before the fourth round from 1972 to 1979.

• Thirteen players selected first overall have had Hall of Fame careers. The last to do so was quarterback Troy Aikman who was picked by the Dallas Cowboys in 1989.

• Only eight Heisman Trophy winners had NFL careers that earned them a bronze bust in Canton. The last Heisman winner to be elected to the Hall of Fame was Barry Sanders who was the top college player in 1988 and then enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 2004.

• Perhaps the best single first round by any team in the past 75 years has to belong to the Bears. In 1965, they drafted Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus with the 3rd and 4th picks of the first round.

• If we had the scrutiny we do today of how teams draft, could you imagine what the "talking heads" would be saying about the '37 Draft. Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Chicago Cardinals, New York Giants, and Pittsburgh all picked ahead of the Redskins that year. Yet, at number six, the Redskins landed TCU quarterback "Slingin'" Sammy Baugh who almost single-handedly revolutionized the NFL with his extraordinary passing.

• Rich Eisen and Chris Berman would have had a field day broadcasting the 1950 NFL Draft in the heyday of nicknames in sports. Here's a sampling of some of the names of players taken that year: Curly, Muscles, Snakey, Tank, Dopey, and Choo Choo.

• It took me one week into the 1995 NFL season before I added running back Terrell Davis to my fantasy team. The Denver Broncos obviously scouted better than me as they drafted him in the 6th round as the 196th player in that year's draft.

• Actor Ed Marinaro of "Hill Street Blues" fame was drafted in the second round of the 1972 Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He ended up playing six seasons in the league with the Vikings, Jets, and Seahawks.

• I love reflecting on what would have been had trades not taken place. Tony Dorsett winded up in Dallas after the Cowboys obtained the second pick of the '77 draft from Seattle. Would Tony have made it to Canton had he been a Seahawk?

• How about all of the legends drafted by two teams during the "war" years of the AFL and NFL. Would we be referring to Paul Warfield and Carl Eller as Hall of Famers had they chosen to play for the Bills? I know for sure that Denver wouldn't have had to wait so long for a winner if anyone of these future Hall of Famers had joined the team rather than picking the NFL teams that also drafted them: Dick Butkus, Bob Hayes, Bob Brown, Paul Krause, and Merlin Olsen.

• Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie was passed over by most teams in 1985. He finally was picked in the 11th round by the Los Angeles Rams.

• Who says that offensive linemen never get respect? Seven tackles were drafted in the first round in 2008 including Jake Long who went first overall to Miami.


I could keep this blog going all day but I have to finish some other work before heading home and perching myself on the couch to watch with anticipation as Commissioner Goodell get things going with these simple words, "With the first pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers select….."


Bracing myself for the future

Apr 21, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

Sometimes you have to step out of the forest to see the trees. Or, as I did last week, a quick trip out of the country did the trick.

I was reminded, during a jaunt north to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s 19-month-old Resource Center in Toronto, just how important our roles are as institutions that preserve history. Sport has long been an integral part of culture. So, here I was taking a day away from football to go see how our counterparts in hockey preserve their game. As I was driving along, I was listening to the radio and a story came on that offered yet another reminder of sports significant role. There was story about a family devastated by the violence in Libya. A brief line in the piece talked about how, amidst all the strife, a group of young boys started a sandlot soccer game.

It hit me again. Yes, sports are indeed an important part of life!

It validates all we do at the Pro Football Hall of Fame and how Phil Pritchard and his staff in Toronto preserve the game of hockey. (If you’re hockey fan, you probably know Phil as the “Stanley Cup guy.” His fame earned him the starring role in a couple of commercials).

As an avid and lifetime fan of hockey, I was excited to see what was behind the closed doors of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s archives. I was like a kid in a candy story when Phil showed me the knee brace of Buffalo Sabres great, Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault.

I’m guessing I had the same reaction when I saw Joe Namath’s knee brace for the first time after starting my job here many, many years ago. But, I suppose it was my “trip out of the forest” that made me reflect on it in such a manner.

Now, I know what it’s it like for visitors who we give some behind-the-scenes access in Canton. On a few occasions during my visit in Toronto, I had to remind myself that I was there to observe how they do things. This August, we break ground on our new Preservation & Research Center as part of our Future 50 Project. And, 15 months from now, we’ll be moving into the state-of-the-art facility so we can take even better care of professional football’s historic documents. It will also allow us to continue to use those documents to further educate the public on the values and importance of our subject matter.

Here’s what our new Archives will look like a year from this summer.

Well, it’s back to the forest for me.

It’s all in the name

Apr 14, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

Despite the countless months of scouting in preparation for the annual college draft, the picking of future pros is not an exact science.

The fact of the matter is that the draft has never been black-and-white. Sometimes it's a crap shoot. It always amazes me how we spend so much time glued to the debate on the top picks of the draft when prospects from lower rounds often times end making it further into the pros.

Last week I asked Hall of Famer Steve Largent why some of the top picks end up not making it while some like him taken in the fourth round end up in Canton. Here's his response.

The draft began in 1936 as a method to make the NFL a more competitively balanced league. Obviously, this was long before organized scouting, convenient travel, and technology. The top college players were fairly well-known and teams gained much of their knowledge of a player from newspapers or magazines. Then, there's the case of how George Halas drafted future Hall of Famer Dan Fortmann.

"I like that name. I'll take him!"

That's how "Papa Bear" Halas grabbed the 19-year-old guard from Colgate in the ninth and final round of the first NFL draft. Personally, I think Halas had some options here. You be the judge on what are better names. Here are the remaining picks of the 9th round after the Bears picked Fortmann with the 78th overall selection.

• J.C. Wetsel, G, SMU (Packers)
• Bob "Choo-Choo" Train, E, Yale (Lions)
• Phil Flanagan, G, Holy Cross (Giants)

Lucky for Halas, Fortmann made him look brilliant in his choice. Neither Wetsel, Train, or Flanagan went on to play in the NFL. Meanwhile, Fortmann balanced his medical school studies with his commitment to the Bears. He was an integral part of Chicago's famed "Monsters of the Midway" teams that dominated the NFL during that era. Fortmann earned All-NFL honors six straight seasons from 1938 to 1943 while helping the Bears to five division crowns and three NFL titles before embarking a career in medicine. He was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.

For the record, Fortmann is one of five Hall of Famers taken in the 9th round of the draft.

Year Ensrhinee Position College Team No. of Draft Rounds Pick Overall
1936 Dan Fortmann G Colgate Chicago Bears 9 78
1941 Tony Canadeo HB Gonzaga Green Bay Packers 22 77
1955 Johnny Unitas QB Louisville Pittsburgh Steelers 30 102
1957 Don Maynard WR Texas Western New York Giants 30 109
1967 Ken Houston S Prairie View A&M Houston Oilers 17 214

Do you remember 1983?

Apr 08, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday. That is except for last Thursday when I took a day off!

Maybe it’s my age. Or perhaps it’s my job. More than likely, it’s a combination of both.

Last week we posted this on our Facebook page (@ProFootballHOF):

Off the top of your head (without the help of Google, Wikipedia, or anywhere else) ... can you name the
7 HOFers drafted in 1983? Really impress us if you can list them
in the order they were drafted!

One particular comment to our wall post caught my eye.

Can't expect anyone to remember no matter how big of a fan
you are! I came up w/... Elway, Marino, Kelly, Dickerson... But I
couldn't remember the order! I think it's safe to say it's impossible to
remember unless you really are obsessed w/ football!

Hmmm…obsessed with football. I suppose that would be a good characterization of the staff bunkered down in the Hall of Fame’s Archives. On a typical day, we spend between 8-10 hours immersed in the history of this great game. So, posing a question like the order of the seven Hall of Famers taken in 1983 seemed like a fair challenge. After reading the Facebook reaction, I guess that’s when I have to step back and gander at our Mission statement that is prominently displayed on my office credenza.

“Educating the public” is one of the chief responsibilities of my position. So, I will use the rest of this space to flash back to the 1983 NFL Draft.

The buzz around the ’83 draft when it occurred on April 26-27, 1983 was the fact that six quarterbacks were taken in the first round (interestingly, all five teams of the AFC East at the time used their first round picks on a quarterback)! So famous was this “Class of 1983” – John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O’Brien, and Dan Marino that the group was profiled in an exhibit that chronicles the important moments of the game’s first 100 years.

All of these QBs went on to varied success at the pro level. Three – Elway, Kelly, and Marino – led their teams to the Super Bowl during playing careers that landed them in Canton. Elway was the headline of the class not solely because of his stellar career at Stanford that earned him the honor of being selected first overall but more for his decision not to play football for the Baltimore Colts, the team that drafted him.

Rumors heading into that year’s draft focused on Elway’s desire to play pro baseball. By the time the NFL Draft took place, Elway had already signed a contract with the New York Yankees and played six weeks of Class A ball in Oneonta, NY in 1982. The Colts tried to deal the No. 1 pick but had no takers. So, they did what any other team would have done in that position and selected Elway.

He threatened to take the baseball route but the Colts eventually worked a deal that sent him to the Denver Broncos in exchange for QB Mark Hermann, the rights to offensive lineman Chris Hinton and a first round pick in 1984 (which turned into guard Ron Solt).

As they say, the rest was history!

Speaking of history, time can reshape events. That’s exactly what has happened to the “Class of 1983.” For so many years, the focus was on the group of quarterbacks taken in the first round. Over time, all of the players who made it to the NFL from that year’s draft crop have now completed their careers. So we can reflect and accurately measure their success.

That has resulted in the draft class of ’83 now being more noted for producing Hall of Famers than first-round quarterbacks.

And, for the record and the answer to our Facebook post, here they are (in order). All of them were taken in the first round except for Richard Dent who waited until the 8th round before the Bears picked him.

1.    John Elway, QB-Stanford, Baltimore Colts (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2004)
2.     Eric Dickerson, RB-Southern Methodist, Los Angeles Rams (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1999)
9.     Bruce Matthews, OL-Southern California, Houston Oilers (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2007)
14.   Jim Kelly, QB-Miami (FL), Buffalo Bills (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2002)
27.   Dan Marino, QB-Pitt, Miami Dolphins (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2005)
28.   Darrell Green, CB-Texas A&I, Washington Redskins (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2008)
203. Richard Dent, DE-Tennessee State, Chicago Bears (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011)

Maybe it’s my age. Or perhaps it’s that I was destined for my job. But, the 1983 NFL Draft remains vivid in my mind and was one I watched live from my college dorm room. Check out this video of ESPN, in its infancy, covering the '83 draft.

Putting a dent in the Silver & Black

Mar 25, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

While working on some information about Class of 2011 Enshrinee Richard Dent, something jumped out at me. Dent must have really enjoyed playing the Raiders. That’s because the most sacks he ever recorded in a single game were 4.5 and it came against the Raiders. Twice.

The first occasion was during the Chicago Bears’ win over L.A. in Week 10 of the 1984 season. The Bears defense was on a roll as they held their opponent to fewer than 10 points for the sixth time in 10 games. Chicago’s D forced five Raiders turnovers and registered 9 sacks, half credited to Dent. The onslaught came fast and furious as the Bears defense, for the second straight week, sent the opponent’s starting QB to the sideline. The victim the week before was the Minnesota Vikings Archie Manning while in this game Dent and linebacker Otis Wilson converged on L.A.’s Marc Wilson and sent him to the locker room with an injured throwing hand. His replacement passer David Humm took over but didn’t last long. He too was taken out by the Bears as he suffered a knee injury. Although the Raiders punter Ray Guy was warming up his arm, Marc Wilson left the locker room and returned to finish the game.

Three seasons later, Dent’s big day came in the 1987 season finale. The game marked the last of legendary Walter Payton’s career and was crucial for Chicago who limped into the game coming off of two lopsided losses. Dent’s 4.5 sacks again accounted for half of his team’s sacks that day as the Bears added 9 sacks to finish the year with a league-best 70 sacks. Chicago won 6-3 courtesy of a Kevin Butler field goal with just over 4 minutes to play. Originally the score sheet had Dent with 3.5 sacks but after a review of the game video, a sack that had originally been credited to the Bears Steve McMichael was giving to Dent.

For the record, division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers topped the list of sacks by team for the Hall’s newest defensive end. He registered six multi-sack games and amassed a total of 19.5 sacks against the Bucs.

Immortality, sooner or later

Mar 17, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

The National Football League was founded in Canton, Ohio on Sept. 17, 1920. Since that time there have been nearly 22,000 men who've competed in the league. My guess is minimally ten times that number have tried to make it to the NFL and who knows how many young boys have dreamed of making it to the NFL. Add to that figure of the league's alumni the countless number of coaches and administrators who've been involved with the game.

The ultimate quest for anyone who has dedicated themselves to this sport is to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Perhaps it sounds a bit like a cliché, but the Hall of Fame represents immortality. The contributions of the legends bronzed in Canton are here forever. For some that moment comes sooner than later. For others, it takes years if not decades!

Seven new greats will be added this August with the formal enshrinement of the Class of 2011Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders, and Shannon Sharpe. When Faulk and Sabol step to the podium on the grand stage inside Fawcett Stadium on Saturday, August 6, they will represent opposite ends of the spectrum. Sabol is the oldest individual ever elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Faulk will be the 10th youngest person to be enshrined in Canton.

Sabol is just the second nonagenarian (a person in his 90s) to be enshrined. Buffalo Bills founder and owner Ralph Wilson was the first when two years ago at age 90 he was honored. Sabol will be just shy of his 95th birthday at this summer's enshrinement ceremony.

There are two other individuals in addition to Sabol and Wilson who were enshrined in their 80s. They are Wellington Mara in 1997 and Hank Stram in 2003 both of whom were 80.

Enshrinee Date of Birth Date of Enshrinement Age at Enshrinement
Ed Sabol September 11, 1916 August 6, 2011 94 Years, 10 Months, 26 Days
Ralph Wilson, Jr. October 17, 1918 August 8, 2009 90 Years, 9 Months, 22 Days
Wellington Mara August 14, 1916 July 26, 1997 80 Years, 11 Months, 12 Days
Hank Stram January 3, 1923 August 3, 2003 80 Years, 7 Months, 0 Days

It's worth giving an "honorable mention" to Morris (Red) Badgro who was 78 years, 8 months old in 1981 when he was enshrined into the Hall of Fame. A star of the 1930s, Badgro held the distinction of scoring the first touchdown in NFL championship game history. He waited 45 years from the time he stepped off the football field for the last time to when he stepped to the podium on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's front steps. At the time, he was the oldest person ever enshrined into the Hall. He remains the oldest former player to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Click on the image above to listen to Badgro's enshrinement speech
One memory that always stands out to me is the effort Badgro made to attend the 10th anniversary of his induction. In 1991, at the age of 88, he and his wife Dode drove cross-country from their home in the state of Washington to attend the Enshrinement Weekend.

On the flip side, Faulk is one of 19 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who will be enshrined before his 40th birthday. To be specific Marshall will be 38 years, 5 months, and 11 days old when he walks to the microphone on August 6.

The youngest person ever enshrined was Gale Sayers who was two months removed from his 34th birthday when he was inducted in the summer of the 1977.

Enshrinee Date of Birth Date of Enshrinement Age at Enshrinement
Gale Sayers May 30, 1943 July 30, 1977 34 Years, 2 Months, 0 Days
Jim Brown February 17, 1936 July 31, 1971 35 Years, 5 Months, 14 Days
Barry Sanders July 16, 1968 August 8, 2004 36 Years, 0 Months, 23 Days
Earl Campbell March 29, 1955 July 27, 1991 36 Years, 3 Months, 28 Days
Dick Butkus December 9, 1942 July 28, 1979 36 Years, 7 Months, 19 Days
Kellen Winslow November 5, 1957 July 29, 1995 37 Years, 8 Months, 24 Days
Lance Alworth August 3, 1940 July 29, 1978 37 Years, 11 Months, 26 Days
O.J. Simpson July 9, 1947 August 3, 1985 38 Years, 0 Months, 25 Days
Jack Lambert July 8, 1952 August 4, 1990 38 Years, 0 Months, 27 Days
Marshall Faulk February 26, 1973 August 6, 2011 38 Years, 5 Months, 11 Days
Eric Dickerson September 2, 1960 August 7, 1999 38 Years, 11 Months, 5 Days
Walter Payton July 25, 1954 July 31, 1993 39 Years, 0 Months, 6 Days
Jim Langer May 16, 1948 August 8, 1987 39 Years, 2 Months, 23 Days
Jim Parker April 3, 1934 July 28, 1973 39 Years, 3 Months, 25 Days
Jack Ham December 23, 1948 July 30, 1988 39 Years, 7 Months, 7 Days
Troy Aikman November 21, 1966 August 5, 2006 39 Years, 8 Months, 15 Days
Mike Singletary October 9, 1958 August 1, 1998 39 Years, 9 Months, 23 Days
Anthony Muñoz August 19, 1958 August 1, 1998 39 Years, 11 Months, 13 Days
Lamar Hunt August 2, 1932 July 29, 1972 39 Years, 11 Months, 27 Days


What would 18 games do to the record book?

Mar 10, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

On March 29, 1977, the National Football League owners voted to change from a six-game preseason to four games and increase the number of regular season games from 14 to 16 starting in 1978. Unlike the current situation and the debate that surrounds the potential change to 18 regular season games, there was virtually no argument when the vote came at the 1977 owners meeting.  By the time the league owners met at a resort in Scottsdale, Ariz. for the league meeting, the players had already agreed to the change. | HISTORY:  Regular season games played>>>

However, it’s a bit hard to grasp exactly how popular the change was among the owners. That’s because the proposal of a 16-game season was packaged together with a new scheduling format. So, the overall vote according to then Commissioner Pete Rozelle was “about 21-7,” which was the minimum voted needed to pass. My take on the matter is that most were hesitant of a new scheduling format rather than expressing any real resistance to an expanded regular season and reduced preseason.

I understand both sides of the argument regarding an 18-game regular season. For the record, I remain undecided on the issue. But, that’s mostly because as a football historian, I have mixed emotions about what an 18-game schedule would do to the NFL’s record book.

Granted, most single-season marks would fall with the addition of two more games. That thought led me to review what records have withstood the test of time and the increase in games. Most records as they relate to an entire season of play have been established since 1978 when the NFL went to a 16-game season.

But, there are a couple of really significant marks that were established back in the days of 12-game seasons that still stand. One that jumps to front of mind is the 1952 season recorded by Hall of Famer Dick “Night Train” Lane. He intercepted 14 passes during his rookie year with the Los Angeles Rams to set the NFL record. Interestingly, the second most interceptions in a season (13) is shared by three players, two of whom accomplished the feat  during the 12-game era -- Dan Sandifer of the Washington Redskins (1948) and Spec Sanders of the New York Yanks (1950). The Oakland Raiders Lester Hayes added his name in 1980 when he matched that total of 13 interceptions.

Two other more noteworthy marks from the 12-game schedules is the record by Don Doll who had 301 yards on interceptions for the Detroit Lions in 1949. It remains a single-season record for a rookie. Another Lions player, Hall of Famer Jack Christansen’s rookie record of returning four punts for touchdowns also remains intact.

The American Football League instituted a 14-game season in its inaugural year of 1960, one year before the NFL went to 14 games. A record set during that first season of the AFL was Bill Groman’s rookie record of 1,473 yards receiving for the Houston Oilers. Although challenged most recently by Anquan Boldin for the Arizona Cardinals in 2003, that yardage total by a rookie has not yet been eclipsed.

A 16-game season has not resulted in any other rookie scoring more than the 22 touchdowns that Gale Sayers (see photo below) tallied in 14 games for the Chicago Bears in 1965. The same goes for the record of four kickoff returns for scores in a season shared by Travis Williams (Packers, 1967) and Cecil Turner (Bears, 1970).

The 18-game season will most assuredly result in most of the coveted records falling but it’ll be interesting to see if the aforementioned marks will last.

No asterisks needed

Of course, when some of the NFL’s most notable records fall, there’ll be an outcry for asterisks. In the spirit of progress, that can’t happen. But, it won’t stop us from making some comparisons. Here’s a look at the one single-season record that will probably come under the most scrutiny – rushing yards in a season.

2,105 – Eric Dickerson (16 games) = 131.6 yards per game – BREAKDOWN BY GAME
2,003 – O.J. Simpson (14 games) = 143.1 yards per game -- BREAKDOWN BY GAME

Now, it's your turn

Don't be shy. Add a comment to this blog and let me know what NFL records you think will last if the NFL expands to an 18-game regular season.

Football and feathers

Mar 03, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

Okay, I thought I’d keep it light this week. So I’m going to write about feathers. You’ll be so entertained that you’ll send the link of this blog to a friend of yours who will then forward to another friend who emails that to yet another friend. Before you know it, we’ll have more fans come to and my bosses will be so pleased with the traffic that they’ll give me a raise. That, in turn, will make my wife happy and then that makes me pleasant so I can keep sharing interesting stories from pro football’s past! At least that’s how I see it.

Assuming you’re still with me, this week’s blog is about a player by the name of Beattie Feathers. Why Beattie Feathers? Because part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s mission is “to educate the pubic regarding the origin, development and growth of professional football …”

It’s my hope as I not so eloquently pointed out in the lead paragraph that we can attract more fans to the Hall of Fame website. After all, if you call yourself a football fan then you ought to have bookmarked so you can learn something new about the game every day.

Now back to the story of Beattie Feathers. The other day on our home page we had a trivia question which asked which player was the NFL’s first 1,000-yard rusher. The choices were Cliff Battles, Feathers, Red Grange or Steve Van Buren. Of course, you can probably figure out that the answer was Feathers. Yet the results to our trivia question had most fans picking Van Buren as the answer.

But, in 1934 the National Football League was moving into a new era. With that came the advent of official statistics being compiled and shared by the NFL and its clubs. Prior to that time, the numbers are bit sketchy. As it turns out, the stats from Feathers’ history-making season stood for some time before inaccuracy set it and incorrect figures were published for years. Finally, in the mid-1980s, Feathers accomplishment was once again recorded accurately.

The number in question was not about whether Feathers reached the 1,000-yard mark but centered on the number of times he carried the football and for exactly how many yards. An All-American halfback from the University of Tennessee, Feathers joined the “Monsters of the Midway” in 1934. Fortunate for him, he had a terrific supporting cast that helped him pave his way to history that rookie season. The Bears roster was stacked with future Hall of Famers like Bronko Nagurski, Grange, Link Lyman, Bill Hewitt, and monstrous lineman George Musso. They were coached by some guy named George Halas.

Not appearing as large of a player as reported, Feathers once admitted after being pressured that he was just 5’10 1/2” and 185 pounds. Newspaper reporters questioned how he could bang his way through opponents to amass such astonishing rushing yardage.

Quoted in his soft-spoken southern drawl obtained from growing up in Bristol, Virigina he simply surmised, “They just give me the ball and Ah get goin’. Guess the blockin’ is pretty good ahead of me.”

That it was as evidenced by the size of his lead blocker Nagurski (No. 3) in this photo from our archives.

Feathers reached the milestone mark despite the fact that he missed the final two games of the regular season, both against the Detroit Lions, with a shoulder injury.

Now, back to the discrepancy. The numbers fluctuated depending on the report. At season’s end there were accounts that had him credited with 107 carries for 1052 yards and touted his nearly 10-yard per rushing attempt average. But then the official count settled on 1,004 yards via 119 rushes. Sometime in the early ‘50s, the number of carries was changed to 101. That erroneous total was carried in the NFL record book for many, many years. Finally, an in-depth study on Feathers’ 1934 season deduced that the official count is 119 carries for 1,004 yards and 8 TDs. While his average wasn’t 10.0 it was a healthy 8.44 yards per carry. How has that rushing average stood up against the test of time? Well, no running back has ever had a single-season rushing average higher. In fact, the only NFL player ever to eclipse the season rushing average was quarterback Michael Vick who bested Feathers record by a mere 1/100th of a yard per rush when he gained 1,039 yards on 123 rushes in 2006 for the Atlanta Falcons.

Feathers claim to fame on the football field was reserved to that first season. Although he continued to play in the NFL for six more seasons with the Bears, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Green Bay Packers, he never came remotely close to the 1,000-yard mark. In fact, no one did.

The league had to wait 13 seasons before Van Buren became history’s second player to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark in 1947 for the Philadelphia Eagles. By the way, he recorded 1,146 yards in 1949 to become the first player to have multiple 1,000-yard seasons. Another Hall of Famer, Joe “The Jet” Perry is the first player to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons when he reached the milestone mark for the San Francisco 49ers in 1953 and again in 1954.

Starting in 1958, a 1,000-yard rusher became the norm. Since that season, except for the strike-shortened 1982 season, there has been at least one 1,000-yard rusher every year.

NFL’s First 1,000-Yard Rushers

1934 – Beattie Feathers, Bears
1947 – Steve Van Buren, Eagles
1949 – Steve Van Buren, Eagles; Tony Canadeo, Packers
1953 – Joe Perry, 49ers
1954 – Joe Perry, 49ers
1956 – Rick Casares, Bears
1958 – Jim Brown, Browns
1959 – Jim Brown, Browns; J.D. Smith, 49ers

Who was George Buksar?

Feb 24, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

George Buksar passed away on Tuesday morning at the age of 84. Who was George? He was a man who walked into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the late 1980s. At first we thought he was just an enthusiastic fan who loved to research football.

Over the years he became a good friend of the Hall. He attended nearly every special event we held and he rarely came alone. George arranged and paid for trips to the events for all sorts of groups ranging from disadvantaged youths to veterans from V.A. hospitals. He would buy bunches of tickets to the Hall of Fame, to our Enshrinement, and to the annual NFL/Hall of Fame Game. He’d sometimes stop by and drop off food for the staff as a way of thanking us for what we do. Each Christmas, he’d be sure to visit and give special collector ornaments to several of us at the Hall of Fame.

Here's a shot of George (fourth from left) with former Dallas Cowboy Chad Hennings and veterans during our 2007 Veteran's Day Celebration.

George served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, attended Purdue, and then graduated from the University of San Francisco. From there he embarked on a successful career in business much of it spent working for IBM. He also served later in life as the sales manager for Industrial Valves in Cleveland. But this blog is about a job that George moonlighted at during the late 1940s and early 1950s after graduating from the University of San Francisco.

That job?  A pro football player. Yes, George was a pro football player. He competed during a time when the NFL didn’t provide a salary that could fully support a man and his family. He was a decent sized fullback/linebacker at 6’0” and just over 200 pounds. He got his first chance at pro ball with the Chicago Hornets of the rival All-America Football Conference in 1949. When that league folded, George signed on with the Baltimore Colts in 1950 before playing two final seasons with the Washington Redskins in 1951-52. In fact, during part of his time with Washington he roomed with the team’s star, quarterback Sammy Baugh. In all, George registered 7 interceptions which he returned for 99 yards. Six of those picks came in his one season with the Colts.

George is one of the more than 21,000 men who’ve played in the NFL. It was a fraternity that he was proud to be a part. And, he never lost his connection to the sport.  Over the years, George shared so many stories from his playing days with us. He provided a flavorful account of a truly unique time in pro football history. His stories were seldom about him rather they described the many colorful characters from a bygone era.

And, in his travels for work, George always went out of his way to reach out to any NFL alum who might be in the area where he was passing through. George also spent countless hours calling former NFL players who were ailing in their later years. He figured a phone call and some conversation would cheer them up.

George loved football and he loved the Hall of Fame. He will be missed.

Our condolences go out to his wife Marilyn and his entire family.

Football’s impact on society

Feb 17, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

The thought of any stoppage of play in the NFL has football fans everywhere on edge. It’s not hard to understand why. As Howie Long stated in his 2000 enshrinement speech from the front steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, “baseball may be this country’s pastime but football is its passion.”

It’s the passion for the NFL that has made pro football this country’s most popular sport. People are often surprised to learn that, in fact, the NFL has been the most popular sport in the U.S. since the mid-1960s!

Today and tomorrow, Hall of Famer Art Shell is at the Pro Football Hall of Fame taking part in our annual Black History Month seminar as part of our ongoing and award-winning Educational Program. Shell will talk about the trials and tribulations of growing up as an African American in the 1960s. He’ll surely touch upon what pride he took in becoming the NFL’s first black head coach of the modern era when the Raiders hired him in 1989. Here's a shot of Art speaking with the students on hand in our NFL Films Theater. Hundreds of other high school students across the country are engaging with Shell through our videconferencing technology.

But, Shell’s visit to Canton reminds me of another moment that proves just how important the NFL is to the social fabric of this country. The Raiders were truly one of the great dynasty teams of all-time. The team had a roster filled with  many star players and future Hall of Famers including Shell who spanned the long-tenured success the Silver & Black enjoyed from the late ‘60s through the 1980s.

But, it was the 1980 Raiders team that showed just how intertwined football is with life in this country. That season Oakland qualified for the playoffs as a wildcard team which meant their road to the Super Bowl was a challenging one to say the least. Symbolic it was as this country was amidst one of its most challenging and tumultuous times.  Americans were faced with the tension of the growing Cold War, a struggling economy, and the fact that 52 of its citizens were being held hostage in Iran.

Then, there was hope. Five days before Oakland faced the Philadelphia Eagles in the Louisiana Superdome with the NFL title on the line, the entire country rejoiced. That’s because the American hostages were safely released after 444 days in captivity.

The solidarity of the country had been symbolized by a yellow ribbon that was displayed throughout the hostage crisis. It was ever so evident at the Super Bowl from the large 80’x30’ ribbon on the side of the Superdome to the yellow stripes on the back of the players’ helmets, to the 80,000 mini ribbons handed out to the fans who attended the game.

The Super Bowl was the perfect outlet for celebration in this country. For Shell and the Raiders, it was the finishing touches on an amazing season that included fighting as underdogs to bring home the Vince Lombardi Trophy. They did so in spectacular fashion with a 27-10 win over their NFC counterparts. The loss stung for Philly and also produced one of my favorite all-time quotes. Eagles coach Dick Vermeil stated with emotion, “anyone who says one game cannot ruin a season has never lost a Super Bowl.”

For the Raiders, it was history in the making. Oakland became the first wildcard team to win a Super Bowl.  Not only did Raiders fans celebrate but an entire nation reveled in the game that was the perfect cap to an exhilarating week of news off the football field.

The game of pro football most undoubtedly is an important part of our American culture. And like our society, it will endure and grow regardless of what this offseason brings.

The stars aren’t aligned

Feb 11, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

If you’re like me, you have that empty feeling.

The Green Bay Packers win last Sunday put an official end to the National Football League season. Per usual, it was a spectacular season with so many great moments. But, now it’s that time of year in which there's no more football. I won’t even get into the CBA negotiations but will share I’m confident an agreement will be worked out sooner than later. In the meantime, you’ll always have the Pro Football Hall of Fame to give you a full dose of football. Like this blog that I publish each Thursday.

Today’s topic is a fact I uncovered that can possibly further explain the reason why we’re in this February funk. Bear with me on this.

We’ll be talking about the combine and draft soon. In the meantime, all of us in Canton are dissecting the new group of legends – Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders, and Shannon Sharpe – who were elected to the Hall of Fame last Saturday. Similar to how stats nuts examine every aspect of every game and how draftniks share facts ad nauseam about every college prospect, we break down Hall of Famers every which way.

We can tell you that USC boasts the most Hall of Famers of any college. The state of Texas is the birthplace of more Hall of Famers than any other state. The Chicago Bears have the most Hall of Famers of any NFL team. The lists go on and on.

But, now I’m going to throw a new angle at you that you won’t find anywhere else. Perhaps it’s because my late mother dabbled in astrology but I got to thinking about whether there is any correlation to when someone is born and how likely they are to eventually find themselves enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I started with the new class. Two of our newest enshrinees share birthdays with other football legends who already have bronze busts in Canton. Ed Sabol’s birthday on September 11 is the same day that Cowboys legendary coach Tom Landry was born.

Newly-elected defensive end Richard Dent shares his birthday with Hall of Fame tackle Gary Zimmerman. Both were born on December 13th.

So, just how unusual is it to have Hall of Famers share birthdays? Well, there are 184 days on the calendar on which a Hall of Famer was born. Sixty-one of those dates are shared my two or more Hall of Famers. The most common birthdate for a Hall of Famer is November 26. There are five all-time greats who were born on that day: Joe Guyon (1892), Jan Stenerud (1942), Art Shell (1946), Roger Wehrli (1947), and Harry Carson (1953).

As I sipped my morning coffee and charted the birthdates of the Hall of Famers, I discovered one other fact that can perhaps explain why we’re suffering the doldrums this time of year. We are in the middle of an eight-day span from Feb. 6-13 that is the longest stretch of the entire year in which no Hall of Famer was born. Clearly, the stars are not aligned this week for football!

I’m looking forward to Monday when Jim Kelly snaps this stretch as he celebrates his 51st birthday.

Oh, and one last trivial fact in case you’re scoring at home or want to win an office bet, the month of December produced the most future Hall of Famers (32).

So there you have it. With blogs like this, how can you miss football? Stay connected to us this off-season through and on most social mediums like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by looking us up @ProFootbaHOF.


Feb 05, 2011

After a week of a hectic Super Bowl media center at the Sheraton in downtown Dallas, today is like a ghost town. The hustle and bustle of television and radio stations broadcasting that echoed through the lower level of the hotel all week long has now been replaced by the dull clank of the booths being dismantled. The scene now moves out to Cowboys Stadium in preparation for tomorrow’s 45th Super Bowl.

The quietness will be short lived as later today, a deluge of media will return to the media headquarters to cover the announcement of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011.

Right now, just one floor above me, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Meeting is taking place. Earlier this morning, the 44 members of the Hall’s Selection Committee entered into a meeting room with a tough task ahead. It’s this group that will be behind locked doors all day.

What is said in that room stays in that room. But, when the selectors emerge and the accountants from Deloitte & Touche tally the votes, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will have between four and seven new members to join the 260 enshrinees with bronzed busts in the Hall of Fame Gallery in Canton.

Shortly after the conclusion of today's meeting, Hall of Fame President Steve Perry will open the sealed envelope that contains the names of the Class of 2011 and will share with everyone for the first time, just who will comprise the new class.

Join us at for all the details starting at 7 p.m. ET. You can also tune and watch the announcement live on NFL Network and much of it will be streamed live on

Empty this morning but this ballroom will be jammed packed later today when we announce the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011.





Heating up in North Texas

Feb 04, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

Well, I made it to the "frozen tundra" of Dallas, Texas.

The forecast indicates that the cold and ice will give way to more seasonable weather. But, it's not only the weather that will heat up over the next couple of days in North Texas. The year-long Pro Football Hall of Fame selection process comes to a head this Saturday. That's when our 44-member Selection Committee meets early that morning to debate the merits of each of the finalists. From this group, they will elect no fewer than four and no more than seven (a class of six or seven can only happen if one or both of the senior nominees, Chris Hanburger and Les Richter, are voted in).

For more on how our selection process works, here it is from the mouth of the man who facilitates the process.

The debate about who should get in is increasingly becoming the focus of the chatter around the NFL's Super Bowl media headquarters at the Sheraton in downtown Dallas. There's a maximum of five modern-era finalists who can be elected. The buzz is that two of those spots are locks … you can guess who.

It's always most interesting to me each year when I spend the Super Bowl week at the media headquarters. I get a feeling about which finalists are gaining support among the media. With that stated, it really doesn't help me to offer any more insight as to who will comprise the Class of 2011. People often ask me who I think will get elected (remember the Hall of Fame has no vote itself!). My answer is quite simply that I don't know. I can guess but that's about the best I can offer. I don't think I've nailed a class prediction perfectly yet and I've been at the Hall of Fame for more than 20 years.

This now brings me to my point of this blog. I say it often and this is definitely the time of the year to repeat it over and over. I believe, without any doubt, that our selection process is the most thorough of any sports hall of fame.

First, the cut-downs from such a lengthy list of preliminary nominees prove that the level of scrutiny is intense. The first trimming comes at Thanksgiving when our selectors reduce the list of more than 100 candidates (it was 114 this year) to 25 semifinalists (or 26 as was the case this year due to a tie). Then, the New Year kicked off with the reduction to 15 finalists in early January. They joined two senior nominees who were determined (from a long list of players who finished their careers more than 25 years ago) by a sub-committee last August.

Now, here's a shout out to our selectors. They are incredibly dedicated individuals who treat their role on our selection committee as a great honor. Their passion and respect for the process is ever so evident. Despite the long, long hours of covering every aspect of Super Bowl week, these 44 members of the media will spend this Saturday determining who will earn election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's a responsibility that quite seriously can be life changing for the person who is bestowed pro football's highest honor. What does it mean to someone? See this reaction from last year's announcement.

Another bit of information I share often and is especially appropriate to close this blog is this. Since the National Football League was founded in downtown Canton, Ohio on Sept. 17, 1920, there have been more than 21,000 men who've played in the league. Hundreds of others have coached. Countless others have contributed to the game in roles outside of playing or coaching. From that massive number, there are only 260 who've been enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame of which 229 were players.

On Saturday, we will all learn together just how much room and for whom we need to make it for in the Hall of Fame Gallery in Canton.

Until then, I'll just continue to observe the debate heating up down in Texas. Oh, and I surely won't mind if the same thing happens to the temperatures around town.

Morning coffee with Kim & Betsy

Jan 31, 2011
"For Pete's Sake" normally appears each Thursday. Pete will be updating his blog throughout Super Bowl week leading up to the announcement of the Class of 2011 on Saturday.

I know it’s Super Bowl week after having my morning coffee with Kim Fernandez & Betsy Karetnick. The two are hosts of “Morning Living” on Martha Stewart Living Radio on Sirius Radio.

They were kind enough to ask me to join them on the air this morning at 7:30 ET to talk about the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This is a great week for football and especially those of us at the Hall of Fame as the focus is all about football. We do a lot of different interviews this time of year with a wide variety of outlets.

Fortunately our class election that takes place on Saturday has worked into a Super Bowl tradition. We enjoy being the center of attention as we pay tribute to the greatest individuals who've been involved with the sport. 

Well, I’m off to North Texas and will post my next blog from there.

Enjoy Super Bowl week.

My look back at the Super Bowl

Jan 27, 2011
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

I write a blog for each Thursday. I’m using this space this week to devote to the Super Bowl. That’s because next week when you won’t be at a loss for Super Bowl talk, I’ll be writing about something from Dallas that’s not related to the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

I’ll be at the media headquarters preparing for our big announcement that comes a week from Saturday. Early on Feb. 5, the 44 members of our Selection Committee get locked into a room and for the better part of the day will deliberate on the merits of 17 finalists. No less than four and no more than seven individuals will comprise the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011. Join us at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT) on that day for a live special on NFL Network when representatives from the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche hand the envelope to Steve Perry, our President/Executive Director. That’s when we all find out who has been elected to the Hall of Fame.

It’s really a thrilling week for me. Each day, the buzz builds as the debate heats up on who should make it to the Hall of Fame. I’ll give you updates throughout the next week as we count down to the election of the Class of 2011.

Now, here’s my special Super Bowl XLV blog.

F – First. Max McGee of the Packers scored the first TD in Super Bowl history. It came on a 37-yard pass from QB Bart Starr on Green Bay’s second possession of the game.

O – “O” as in zero. Not once in 44 Super Bowls has a punt been returned for a touchdown. The longest punt return in Super Bowl history belongs to the 49ers’ John Taylor who had a 45-yard return against the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

R – Repeat. The Packers and Steelers both repeated as Super Bowl champs. Green Bay, of course won Super Bowls I and II while the Steelers repeated twice, first with Super Bowls IX and X and then Pittsburgh won back-to-back again with Super Bowls XIII and XIV.

Just how much does repeating as a Super Bowl champion mean? In our Behind the Bronze series this season, Steeelers great Jack Ham called Pittsburgh's back-to-back titles as the most rewarding part of his entire career. See his entire interview here>>>>

T – Twelve. That’s the total number of championships won by Green Bay. No team in NFL history has captured more league titles. Among the dozen championships are two “three-peats” for the Packers. They are also the only NFL team to accomplish the feat of winning three straight titles, something they accomplished twice.

For the record, here’s the rundown of what earned Green Bay the nickname “Titletown, U.S.A.” Their first three came in the days before playoffs were introduced so it was their regular record that earned them the crown.

1929 … 12-0-1 record for 1.000 winning percentage since ties didn’t count in the standings until 1972. For the record, their lone non-win came in a 0-0 tie against the Frankford Yellowjackets on Thanksgiving Day)
1930 … 10-3-1 mark. The Packers were unbeaten at home but suffered their three losses and a tie while on the road that season.
1931 … 12-2-0. Green Bay was only narrowly defeated by Chicago, first the Cardinals and then the Bears.
1936 … 10-1-1 as they won the Western Division and then downed the Boston Redskins 21-6 in a game relocated to the Polo Grounds in New York. The following season, the Redskins found a city that would back them when they moved to Washington.
1939 … 9-2-0 to capture another Western Division title and then shut out the New York Giants 27-0 in the championship game in New York.
1944 … Finished with an 8-2-0 record to face the Giants in the title game. Apparently, the Packers weren't as frightened as the program cover (below) implies. They traveled to New York and won the championship with a 14-7 win.

1961 … Vince Lombardi restored the winning ways as the Packers went 11-3-0 and again faced the Giants in the title game. They shut out the Giants 37-0 at Lambeau Field.
1962 … The Packers posted a league-best 13-1-0 to earn a rematch against the Giants. This time the Packers went to New York but the result was the same. Green Bay beat the Giants, 16-7.
1965 … The road to the title included a one-game playoff against the Baltimore Colts. Green Bay won 13-10 in a controversial overtime game to earn the right to face the Cleveland Browns in the championship game. If you’re a Colts fan, you’ll still claim that Don Chandler’s field goal was outside the plane of the left upright and the game should never gone to OT. But, it did and Chandler kicked the Packers into the title game with a field goal in overtime. Once in the championship game, Green Bay beat Cleveland 23-12.
1966 … Green Bay had an NFL best 12-2-0 mark and beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-27 in the NFL championship game. Then, the team made history by winning Super Bowl I.
1967 … The Packers won their second straight Super Bowl title after finishing with a 9-4-1 record to win the Central Division. They followed that with a 28-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams in the conference championship and a second straight victory over the Dallas Cowboys, 21-17, in the NFL championship. Green Bay beat the AFL’s Oakland Raiders 33-14 in the Super Bowl.
1996 … A magical season marked the Packers return to the top of the NFL. They finished as the NFC’s top seed with a 13-3-0 record, knocked off the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers in the playoffs to earn a spot in Super Bowl XXXI. Then, the Packers beat the New England Patriots, 35-21.

Y – Youngest. The Steelers’ Mike Tomlin is the youngest coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory. Tomlin was 36 years, 323 days old when Pittsburgh beat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Another Steelers coach had held that title many, many Super Bowls ago. Hall of Famer Chuck Noll was 43 years, 7 days old when Pittsburgh won Super Bowl IX.

F – Franco Harris. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Hall of Fame running back had many memorable games in his career. Ranking among the top was his MVP performance in Super Bowl IX, the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl title. No. 32 took it to the Minnesota Vikings defense in the game played in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium on Jan. 12, 1975. He carried the football 34 times and racked up what was then a Super Bowl record 158 yards and scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a 9-yard run in the third quarter. Before his TD run, the only scoring in the game came on a safety by the vaunted "Steel Curtain" defense.

I –  Roman numeral one
. As hard as it may be to imagine, the first Super Bowl, then simply called the NFL-AFL World Championship Game was hastily thrown together in a couple of weeks. It was the result of the recently agreed upon merger between the American Football League and the National Football League. The Packers put the NFL up 1-0 in the series with a 35-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The game remains the only Super Bowl not to sell out. But, the 61,946 who showed up at L.A’s Memorial Coliseum did receive some halftime entertainment.

Also, of note, check out the bottom of the photo. The words "Super Bowl" are spelled out which destroys the myth that the name wasn't used until Super Bowl III. Although not officially named yet, the game was described as the Super Bowl from the start.

V – Roman numeral five. Dallas Cowboys Chuck Howley was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl V. He became the first defensive player to earn the award and today remains the only player from a losing team to be named the Super Bowl MVP.

E – Eleven. The record number of career TD passes thrown in the Super Bowl by Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana. His stat line in his four Super Bowl victories reads 83 completions on 122 attempts for 1,142 yards, 11 touchdowns, and no interceptions for a record 127.8 passer rating.  The three-time Super Bowl MVP had one TD pass in Super Bowl XVI, followed by 3, 2, and 5 in Super Bowls XIX, XXIII, and XXIV respectively.

Having a ball with history

Jan 21, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

The Green Bay Packers were formed in 1919 and joined the National Football League (first known as the American Professional Football Association) two years later. The Chicago Bears franchise began as the Decatur Staleys in 1920 and was a charter member of the NFL. Now, that's a lot of history.

The two storied franchises meet Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The Bears vs. Packers is the biggest rivalry in league history as the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field will mark the 182nd meeting between the division rivals.

And, this is a great week for football history. That's because perhaps the most astonishing fact about the Bears-Packers series is that they've met in the playoffs just once in all those seasons! So, needless to say, our research team in the Hall of Fame's archives got busy on Monday morning combing through our files for information on the 1941 playoff game. This one game has spurred so many sidebar stories that we simply don't have enough time to tell them all. Stay with this blog and I'll treat you to a nice anecdote about a game in 1938.

Now, let's jump back to 1941 for a moment. That season, the Bears and Packers posted identical 10-1-0 records with their only losses coming against each other. Chicago won the first contest at Green Bay and the Packers returned the favor five weeks later in Chicago. The one-game playoff was a first in NFL history as the winner earned the right to advance to the NFL's Championship Game. For the record, the Bears beat Green Bay and then took care of the New York Giants in the title game to become league champions. There's more on that historic game and the many sidebar tidbits that surrounded the Bears and Packers during the '41 season in this interesting story by our Researcher Jon Kendle.

Calls this week from fans and media alike prove that there's some really interesting history in Sunday's matchup. There seems to be a buzz about the '41 playoff bout. One such example is when our curator walked into my office after receiving a call from the Bears. The team fielded an inquiry from a woman by the name of Laura Janota whose father Raymond Janota donated a football to us in the mid-1960s. She thought it was a football signed by the teams in 1941 and it might be nice to be on hand on Sunday at the coin toss.

Well, as it turns out, it wasn't from 1941. Rather the ball was from a game played on Sept. 18, 1938. So we turned our attention from the three games in 1941 to this particular contest a few seasons earlier. As one might expect there was an interesting historical perspective to this ball. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised as the Bears vs. Packers rivalry has been filled with interesting and memorable moments.

The first thing that caught our eye, aside from the very legible autographs of some of the game's all-time greats (be sure to click through the gallery below to see the authentic signatures of legends like Red Grange, George Halas, and Curly Lambeau), was that the line score drawn on the ball. The Bears won, 2-0. That got me to thinking that was a rare score indeed. With some help from Elias Sports Bureau, I can tell you that our football is from the last time an NFL game ended in 2-0 score. So, off to the files our research team went to pull a game account of this matchup.

{GALLERY}The Packers hosted the Bears at Packer Stadium in Green Bay in a torrential downpour that resulted in less than ideal field conditions. The rain, mud, and wind kept both teams off the scoreboard. Green Bay had the best chance for pay dirt but two field goal attempts by the normally reliable Clarke Hinkle sailed wide, first from the 16-yard-line and then from 36 yards away.

The goat of this game was center Darrell Lester who had two errant snaps in a row that sealed the Packers fate on this day. He hurled the slippery ball over the head of Arnie Herber who was in punt formation (typical of the day, teams attempted quick kicks on third down to surprise their opponent). The miscue resulted in a 29-yard loss for Green Bay and put the ball on the four-yard-line. On the next play, Lester again fired the snap wildly at Herber and the ball rolled loose in the end zone. Green Bay guard Tom Jones recovered the ball but was downed by the Bears for a safety that turned out to be the only points scored in the game.

Elias also shared that a 2-0 score has only occurred five times ever! That got me digging in our files to see when the others occurred. When you have a rivalry that stretches for 90 years, it shouldn't be surprising that the Bears and Packers were the teams facing each other in the last two 2-0 games.

Nov. 29, 1923 AKRON INDIANS 2, Buffalo All-Americans 0
Nov. 21, 1926 Kansas City Cowboys 2, BUFFALO RANGERS 0
Nov. 29, 1928 FRANKFORD YELLOWJACKETS 2, Green Bay Packers 0
Oct. 16, 1932 Green Bay Packers 2, CHICAGO BEARS 0
Sept. 18, 1938 Chicago Bears 2, GREEN BAY PACKERS 0

Something tells me that Monday morning we'll be talking about Sunday's NFC Championship Game as another memorable showdown in the Bears vs. Packers rivalry. I highly doubt it will end in a 2-0 score. Who knows, maybe the teams will send us a football filled with players autographs.

Running debate

Jan 13, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

I've said it before and I'll repeat it again. I strongly feel that the Pro Football Hall of Fame has the best selection process of any sports hall of fame. The reason for this is the scrutiny that each nominee receives in the long process that results in a new class.

Last Sunday, the list of nominees for our Class of 2011 was trimmed to 17 finalists that include 15 modern-era nominees plus the two senior candidates who were announced last August. Our 44-member Selection Committee has its work cut out for sure. Bylaws state that no more than five of the 15 modern-era nominees can be elected. That means there will be many great and deserving candidates who will have to wait for another year. A line I use often about the finalists is that it's not a case of "if" but "when."

The debate among media and fans has begun and will continue even after the class is elected on the day before Super Bowl XLV. One of the hot topics with the Class of 2011 will be running backs. I've been preparing for this one for several years knowing that this is the year that three great running backs became eligible for the first time.

The reality is that the odds of Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, and Curtis Martin taking up three of the five spots are a long shot for sure. Not counting our inaugural Class of 1963 that included 17 enshrinees, only one class has included three running backs. That was in 1968 when Cliff Battles, Marion Motley, and Charley Trippi (who also spent a couple of seasons at quarterback) all earned election at the same time.

So, the burning question is which of these three are most deserving of election this year? I won't even begin to answer that one. That'll be left to our selectors.

But, I do offer a rundown of some fascinating (from many) facts about these three finalists.

Jerome Bettis
In 1993 he became just the eighth rookie to rush for 200 yards in a game. He accomplished the feat when he gained a career-high 212 yards against the New Orleans Saints (he had his first career 100-yard game against the Saints earlier in the year) on Dec. 12. He carried the ball four straight times to begin the game but was stripped of the ball and the Saints returned the fumble for a TD. He made up for the miscue as he took control of the game and racked up 125 yards in the first half. That total included a 71-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter that was the longest run of his 13-season career. Los Angeles won the game, 23-20.

The rookie backs with 200-yard games before Bettis include: Tom Wilson (Los Angeles Rams, 1956), Jim Brown (Cleveland Browns, 1957), Tony Dorsett (Dallas Cowboys, 1977), Terry Miller (Buffalo Bills, 1978), Curt Warner (Seattle Seahawks, 1983), Greg Bell (Buffalo Bills, 1984), and Bo Jackson (Los Angeles Raiders, 1987).

Marshall Faulk
After rushing for 1,000 yards four times in five seasons and setting the Indianapolis Colts record with 2,227 total yards from scrimmage in 1998, the team dealt him to the St. Louis Rams. How fortunate for the Rams it was.

He recorded the first of many memorable seasons for the Rams that first year in St. Louis. He was a huge part of the Rams' high-powered offense that helped lead them to their first-ever Super Bowl championship. Faulk set the NFL record for most total yards from scrimmage (2,429) in a season that year when he became just the second player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same year (Roger Craig was the first with San Francisco in 1985). For the record, Faulk's single-season mark for yards from scrimmage lasted until 2009 when Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans racked up 2,509 yards

Curtis Martin
When I hear the name Curtis Martin, I think of a player who quietly went about his business. But the fact is that only three men in history – Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders – gained more rushing yards in a career than Martin. And it was Sanders who Martin joined to become the only players to begin a career with 10 straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

It was the last of those ten seasons that seems most remarkable to me. That's because he had the very best season of his career after nine great ones. In 2004, Martin claimed his lone rushing title when he ran for a career-high 1,697 yards. He started and ended that season with a bang when he rushed for 196 yards against the Bengals in Kickoff Weekend and 153 in the season finale versus the Rams. In between he added seven other 100-yard games that year.

Whether or not they make it to Canton this year as a member of the Class of 2011, one thing is for certain and that is Bettis, Faulk, and Martin have left their imprint on this game.

Wild Card Weekend

Jan 06, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

It never ceases to amaze me how every NFL season provides incredible moments, week-in and week-out during the regular season. Then, it's time for the playoffs! Yes, playoffs!

It wouldn't be the postseason if we didn't watch a video clip of Jim Mora's famous "playoffs?" rant. So, here it is.

Well, it's Wild Card Weekend and if history repeats itself, we can look forward to a wild, wild weekend of games. Here's my look back at a few great moments in Wild Card history.

W Reggie WAYNE. The Indianapolis Colts receiver is the last player, and one of only two, to have 200 yards receiving in a Wild Card game. He was on the receiving end of 221 of Peyton Manning's 457 yards in the Colts' 49-24 rout of the Denver Broncos in the 2004 AFC Wild Card Game. Wayne had 10 catches and scored a pair of TDs (35 and 43 yards) in the win. Eric Moulds of the Buffalo Bills holds the Wild Card record with 240 yards receiving against the Miami Dolphins in the 1998 AFC Wild Card Game.

I INTERCEPTION return. Green Bay Packers rookie safety George Teague holds the record for the longest interception return in Wild Card Game history. He picked off Detroit Lions quarterback Erik Kramer in the 1993 NFC Wild Card Game and returned it 101 yards for the score. The play came with 1:40 to play in the third quarter and put the Packers ahead 21-17 in the team's first playoff appearance in 11 years. Green Bay won the game 28-24.

L LAMAR Smith. The Miami Dolphins rode their running back to victory. Smith holds the record for the most rushing yards ever in a single Wild Card game. He gained 209 yards on the ground as the Dolphins knocked off the Indianapolis Colts 23-17 in the 2000 AFC Wild Card Game. Appropriately, he scored the game-winner on a 17-yard TD run to the right side after 11:26 of sudden death. Smith's rushing total remains the second most in ANY playoff game. His 40 carries are still a playoff record.

DDARROL Ray's pick. The New York Jets were in a close battle with the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1982 AFC Wild Card Game until they blew the game wide open in the fourth quarter. On the very next possession after running back Freeman McNeil scored on a 20-yard TD, Darrol Ray intercepted a Ken Anderson pass at the two-yard-line and raced 98 yards for a touchdown. It was playoff record at the time and today remains the longest interception return in an AFC Wild Card Game. New York won, 44-17.

CCOMEBACK. Rich Stadium (now known as Ralph Wilson Stadium or as the hometown faithful call it, "The Ralph") started to empty out early in the third quarter of the 1992 AFC Wild Card Game between the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Oilers. The Oilers added to a lopsided first half lead 1:41 into the third quarter when Bubba McDowell returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown to give Houston a comfortable 35-3 advantage. But, that was before quarterback Frank Reich engineered the greatest comeback in NFL history (interestingly he was at the helm of what was then the greatest comeback in college football when he led the Maryland Terrapins back from a 31-0 deficit against the University of Miami). The backup to Hall of Famer Jim Kelly guided the Bills to an unthinkable win when he threw four TDs (three to Class of 2011 semifinalist Andre Reed) in the second half. In all, the Bills scored five TDs in the third and fourth quarters including four in a span of 6 minutes, 54 seconds. Houston tagged on another field goal and at the end of regulation the score was tied 38-38. Then Steve Christie kicked the overtime winner to give Buffalo an incredible 41-38 win. The shoe he used on the play is now on display in our exhibition rotunda.

AATLANTA Falcons. The Falcons were trailing the Philadelphia Eagles 13-0 in the 1978 NFC Wild Card Game when quarterback Steve Bartowski drove his team on two efficient drives and threw a pair of TDs in the final eight minutes to give the Falcons' their first-ever playoff win. He completed 4 of 6 throws on an 88-yard drive capped by a 20-yard TD pass to tight end Jim Mitchell. The Falcons got the football back and Bartkowski moved them quickly downfield again as he connected on 3 of 4 passes that included the 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Wallace Francis. The Falcons had to hold their breath up until the end, however, and did have the game clinched until the Eagles missed on a 34-yard field goal attempt with 13 seconds left.

RRAY RICE. The running back for the Baltimore Ravens ran 83 yards for a touchdown on the first play of last year's AFC Wild Card Game to stun the New England Patriots. The play, which is the longest run from scrimmage in a Wild Card game, set the stage for a Ravens rout. Baltimore built a 24-0 first quarter lead and polished off the Patriots 33-14 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Rice finished with 22 carries for 159 yards.

D DALLAS advances to Super Bowl. The 1975 Cowboys were the first Wild Card team ever to advance to the Super Bowl. Dallas finished second in the NFC Eastern Division with a 10-4-0 mark. With the help of the famous "Hail Mary" play from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson, the Cowboys downed the Minnesota Vikings 17-14. Next in line was the Los Angeles Rams who Dallas dropped 37-7 thanks to four touchdown strikes by Staubach and Pearson's 7 catches for 123 yards and 3 TDs. The long road to a title came up just short in one of the all-time classic Super Bowls which saw the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat Dallas, 21-17, in Super Bowl X.

I can only assume I might be able to easily replace some of the moments above on Sunday night after the completion of the four Wild Card games this weekend. Enjoy the playoffs!

Happy New Year!

Dec 31, 2010
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is open every day of the year except Christmas Day. But, that doesn’t mean I am! I’m taking the day off to enjoy it with my wife and children. Here’s wishing you all a Happy and safe New Year!

A Christmas to remember

Dec 23, 2010

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

There was a time when Christmas Day was "off-limits" to the National Football League. In fact, the pro circuit hadn't scheduled a game on the holiday from 1920 to 1970. Then, in 1971, it was on Dec. 25 that that a pair of divisional playoff games were played. The AFC showdown in Kansas City was an all-time classic and today remains the longest game ever played.

In the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys knocked off the host Minnesota Vikings, 20-12 en route to a victory in Super Bowl VI that postseason.

It was nearly two decades later before another Christmas included NFL games. Since that time, they have become a fairly regular holiday tradition when Christmas Day aligns with the NFL schedule.

This year is one of those years as NFL Network will broadcast the Cowboys vs. the Arizona Cardinals on Christmas night. This is the second time the two clubs have faced each other on Christmas. The last time was in 1995 on Monday night football. The matchup in Tempe was the finale to the '95 regular season. And, unlike this year, the game had important playoff ramifications at least for the Cowboys.

The holiday started off on a good note when the Cowboys were en route to Arizona for the game. The pilot of the chartered Christmas Eve flight reported over the speaker system that the 49ers had lost. The players, coaches, and other Cowboys personnel immediately understood that they now controlled their fate from that point on. A victory for Dallas meant that they would clinch home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

It took only 11 minutes of the game to get the idea Dallas was on a mission. They built a quick 17-0 lead and then were up 24-3 by halftime and finished with a convincing 37-13 win. Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones informed one of the stadium ushers that he'd see him again in a month as Sun Devil Stadium was the site for Super Bowl XXX. (As we remember, Jones was true to his word when Dallas advanced to the Super Bowl and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 to win it all.)

Quarterback Troy Aikman led the offense on this Christmas day victory over the Cardinals with Kevin Williams reaping the benefits of the QB's passing. Aikman finished with 351 yards, which at the time, was the second most he'd ever thrown in a game. (It must be something about playing on holidays for Aikman…his single-best day for passing yardage came on Thanksgiving 1998 when he threw for 455 yards vs. the Vikings).

But, perhaps more than any other player, this was a Christmas to remember for Williams. He had spent most of his time in Dallas returning punts and kicks rather than playing at wide receiver. His quarterback had scouted the Cardinals defense and alerted Williams that he may be coming his way that evening. Williams dropped the first pass Aikman threw to him but from there on out, the night belonged to Williams.

He not only recorded his finest day of his seven-season career but had one of the more memorable performances by a NFL player. He had nine catches for 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns (25 and 48 yards) on the night. The total marked not only his lone 200-yard game of his career but the only time he eclipsed the 100-yard mark in a game.

Williams added an additional 21 yards on three carries and returned four kickoffs for 83 yards to rack up 307 all-purpose yards. At the time, he was just the 24th player in NFL history to record 300 or more all-purpose yards in a game. Here's the 23 who preceded him.

First things first

Dec 16, 2010

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

It's my nature because of what we do at the Pro Football Hall of Fame to look at the past before we can move onto the future. With that stated and before I can even think about the great schedule of games in the NFL in Week 15, I have to take one more look into the "ancient" history that was Week 14.

One performance last week caught my eye because the word "first" was used to describe the achievement. Anytime I hear the word "first" it usually indicates some type of significant moment in the history of the game.

Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark when he gained 96 yards against the New Orleans Saints last weekend. The footnote in that is he is the first runner in the storied franchise's history to rush for 1,000 yards in six straight seasons.

When I think of the Rams, I think of 1,000-yard rushers. Perhaps it's because they've featured great offensive lines for a good part of the past few decades that allowed a plethora of runners to reach the 1,000-yard mark.

The Rams have a litany of fine runners over the franchise's existence that began in 1937. Johnny Drake was the featured back in the early days when the team called Cleveland, Ohio its home. When the Rams first moved to L.A., there were well-known runners like Dick Hoerner, Dan Towler, and Tank Younger. None of those players, however, ever reached the 1,000-yard mark in a season.

It wasn't until 1962 that Dick Bass became the first 1,000-yard runner in the team's history. He reached the milestone again four seasons later. Willie Ellison ran for an even 1,000 yards in 1971. Included in his rushing total that year was a then-record 247 yards in a game against the Saints on Dec. 5. This is the jersey from that record-setting day that's a part of our collection.

In the mid-1970s as the Rams were winning division title after division title, it was Lawrence McCutcheon who was carrying the load. He rushed for a 1,000 yards four times over a five-season span from 1973 to 1977.

Wendell Tyler was next in line with 1,000 yards in 1979 and 1981.

Then, some guy by the name of Eric Dickerson came along. He set the rookie record with 1,808 yards in 1983 and followed that by gaining a single-season record 2,105 yards in his second year. He had 1,200 yards in year three and rushed for another 1,800 yards in his fourth season. But, he unlike Jackson, never strung together six straight 1,000-yard seasons with the Rams. That, of course, was because he was shipped to the Indianapolis Colts in a three-team trade on Halloween Day 1987.

Here's a nice look at how unstoppable Eric Dickerson was in '84.

More 1,000-yard Rams followed: Charles White, Greg Bell (twice), Cleveland Gary, Jerome Bettis (back-to-back) and Marshall Faulk who ran for 1,000 yards three seasons straight from 1999 to 2001.

Three seasons passed before another 1,000-yard rusher and that was Jackson. By reaching the mark last Sunday, he has now rushed for 1,000 yards in every season since 2005.

Perhaps his sights are now on the NFL mark but he'd need to double his string to surpass Emmitt Smith's record of eleven seasons rushing for 1,000 or more yards.

Okay, now that I have that out of my system, it's on to Week 15. I'm generally not much of a prognosticator but in my blog last Thursday I gave my picks for the week. I was correct on 13 of the 16 games (so much for my upset picks of Bears over Patriots and Vikings over Giants). So now I'll give it another try. Here goes: Chargers, Ravens, Cardinals, Bengals, Cowboys, Jaguars, Bills, Giants, Chiefs, Bucs, Texans, Falcons, Raiders, Steelers, Patriots, and Bears.

14 things about 14

Dec 09, 2010
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

It’s hard to imagine that we’re already into Week 14 of the 2010 NFL Season. So, as we prepare for the action around the league this weekend, here’s my look at 14 points about the No. 14 as it relates to the NFL.

14 – Number of teams in the NFL during most of the 1960s. The league grew from 12 to 14 teams with the addition of the Dallas Cowboys in 1960 and the Minnesota Vikings a year later. The league didn’t expand beyond that until late in the decade.

14 – Barry Sanders owns the NFL record for most 100-yard games in a season when he hit the century mark 14 times in 1997. Not surprisingly the run of 100-yard games came during a season that saw him gain a career-high 2,053 yards. The string began with a 161-yard effort in a 32-7 win over the Chicago Bears in Week 3 and continued through the end of the season capped by a 184-yard effort against the New York Jets in the season finale on Dec. 21.  More on the streak>>>

14 – Legendary Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham wore this number after rule changes in the early 1950s required a quarterback to wear a numeral between 1 and 19. So, the team tore off the familiar #60 and replaced it with this number. By the way, there was a clause in the rule book at the time that stated “All nationally known players who have been in the National Football League and or the A.A. Conference for a period of three years may use their old numbers….”  The humble Graham waived that out and adhered to the new numbering policy. Check out Graham’s jersey that is in our collection. You’ll notice the outline of his old number with the new “14” stitched over it.

14 – Perhaps no player in NFL history dominated an era like Packers end Don Hutson.  He established nearly every possible NFL receiving record during his 11-season career from 1935 to 1945 with Green Bay. He did so, of course, all while wearing No. 14. He also held a unique record at the time of his retirement for “most records held.”

14 – Keeping with the theme of uniform numbers, San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts also wore the number 14 during his high-flying career. In 1979, he became just the second player in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards in a season. He followed that up by improving on that total in each of the next two seasons to become the first player with multiple 4,000-yard seasons (he had three straight). For the record his totals from 1979-1981 were: 4082, 4715, and 4,802 respectively.

14 – Y.A. Tittle is another Hall of Fame legend who adorned the No. 14 during his career. Yelberton Abraham wore it in San Francisco with the 49ers and in New York when he ended his career with the Giants. Here are Tittle’s well-worn shoulder pads with the number “14” in ink for identification purposes. He used the same set of pads throughout a storied career that climaxed with him earning NFL MVP honors twice in a three-season period toward the end of his playing days.

14 – Lynn Swann was a Hall of Fame finalist 14 times before he was elected in 2001. In his enshrinement speech that summer, he shed light on the long span of years it took for him to earn his place in Canton, “…If 14 years had not passed, then I would not be here today with the great patience, and support, and love of my wife Charena. Of being able to stand here in front of you and having my two sons Shafer and Braxton, who are five and three years old to be here and be a part of this afternoon. I’m glad 14 years passed so I could have this love and this family share in this moment with me.”

14 – One NFL record that appears be safe for many, many years is the 14 seasons with 1,000 or more yards receiving held by Jerry Rice. The Class of 2010 enshrinee eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark while with the San Francisco 49ers in every season from 1986 to 1996 and again in 1998. For good measure he added back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the Oakland Raiders in 2001-02.

14 – The Los Angeles Rams picked a little-known defensive end by the name of Deacon Jones in the 14th round of the 1961 NFL Draft. (On a side note, he’s the only 14th round draft pick in the Hall of Fame.) All he did was revolutionize the way DE’s harassed quarterbacks. He excelled so well at wreaking havoc in the backfield that he coined the term “sack” for the play that he refined. However, you won’t find his name in the record book because the quarterback sack did not become an official NFL stat until 1982. Researcher John Turney spend many years dedicated to retroactively compiling sack numbers for those who came before ’82. The “unofficial” total for Jones is 169.5 sacks which would have put him atop the list for many years after his retirement.

14 – The record number of interceptions recorded by Dick (Night Train) Lane during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Rams in 1952, a mark that has remained essentially unchallenged ever since. It didn’t take long for opposing quarterbacks to smarten up and stop throwing in the direction of the future Hall of Famer.

14 – Buffalo Bills took Miami quarterback Jim Kelly with the 14th overall pick in the memorable 1983 Draft. He was just one of the astonishing number of future Hall of Famers (six) taken in the first round that year. The others included: 1. John Elway, 2. Eric Dickerson, 9. Bruce Matthews, 27. Dan Marino, 28, Darrell Green. Kelly opted to play in the USFL for a couple of years before signing with the Bills in 1986 and eventually leading the team to an unprecedented four straight AFC championships.

14 – With all the talk of the 18-game NFL season on the horizon, one might remember that the league had 14-game seasons from 1961 through 1977. Most of season records set during this period were broken by those who had the advantage of two extra games. However, one impressive record still stands from 1965 when Hall of Famer Gale Sayers set the rookie record for touchdowns with 22 (oh, and speaking of 14….Sayers had 14 rushing scores his first year). Of course, six of Sayers TDs came in this memorable game against the 49ers.

14 – Number of long-time members of the Detroit Lions franchise (that started as the Portsmouth Spartans in 1930 before moving to Detroit in ’34) who’ve been enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Only six franchises – Bears, Packers, Giants, Redskins, Steelers, Browns – have more long-time alum with bronze busts in Canton.

14 – If you’ve read this far into my blog, then I’ll have you indulge me by reading my picks for Week 14 (it’s actually a cheap ploy to get some comments rolling on my blog): Colts, Bills, Falcons, Bears, Packers, Jaguars, Vikings, Steelers, Buccaneers, Saints, 49ers, Cardinals, Jets, Chargers, Eagles, and Ravens.

Loving what you do

Dec 02, 2010

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

I'd like to take a moment today to write about Jim Kelley from Buffalo. No, that's not a typo in his last name. That's because I'm not referring to the Bills' quarterback with a bronze bust in the gallery located two floors above my office.

Kelley, the long-time hockey writer from Buffalo passed away from pancreatic cancer on Tuesday afternoon. I did not know Jim personally; I was only familiar with his writing on a sport that he and I loved. His impact on the hockey world was recognized by the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004 when he was bestowed the prestigious Elmer Ferguson Award. On top of that, he and I shared a high regard for our hometown.

I am incredibly moved by a story about his death that I've read in the vast number of tributes circulating the hockey world yesterday and today like Kevin Allen's remembrance in USA Today or Jerry Sullivan's column in the Buffalo News.

What has left a lasting impression with me is that Kelley amazingly filed his last column with at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday. He lost his struggle with cancer later that afternoon. Kelley did what loved right up to the day he died! How great is that?

Last week my family and I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my brother and his family. During the visit, a friend of my brother by the name of Alex was marveling at the job I have at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He, like so many others, commented that I must absolutely love my job. He then shared an interesting tidbit about something he recently read. It stated that if you enjoy your job more than 50 percent of the time that you should consider yourself lucky.

I thought about that for a while. Like all jobs, there are plusses and minuses to it. But, all-in-all, I am lucky to come to work and be involved in sports and work day-in and day-out around something that I'm passionate about and enjoy so much.

Today, I think about how Jim Kelley continued to do what he loved right up until the last hours of his life.

That's a lesson that should be shared with all.

A real kick out of this footnote

Nov 08, 2010

As someone who spends his work days surrounded by the history of the game, I absolutely savor every week of play in the National Football League. I spend my Sunday nights and Monday mornings digesting the steady stream of notes and stats that are created from the action around the NFL each week.

This morning there was one particular footnote (pun intended) that caught my attention and I got a reach kick out of it (again, pun intended).

Yesterday, for the first time since 1979, two position players attempted kicks on the same day. The New England Patriots Wes Welker and the Detroit Lions Ndamukong Suh were called into action after injuries sidelined their kickers. Suh’s extra point attempt in relief of Jason Hanson, missed when he hit the upright. Meanwhile in Cleveland, Welker connected on a PAT when he had to relieve the injured Stephen Gostowski. Unlike Suh, Welker had prior practice as he had kicked an extra point and field goal when he was with the Miami Dolphins. Welker converted the PAT in yesterday’s game.

Since I have the most comprehensive library of NFL football just about 20 feet from my office, I thought I’d go back to 1979 and see exactly what the deal was when this unusual occurrence happened the last time.

It was the San Diego Chargers backup quarterback Cliff Olander (below left) and New Orleans Saints running back Tony Galbreath (below right) who attempted kicks in Week 2 of the ’79 season. Galbreath was the busier of the two as he replaced kicker Russell Erxleben who suffered a pulled hamstring. Tony nailed a pair of field goals (23 and 27 yards) and an extra point. But, he also had a missed PAT and missed field goal as the Saints fell to the Green Bay Packers, 28-19, on Sept. 9, 1979.

Olander, who the Chargers drafted as a punter, kicked an extra point in place of Rolf Benirschke in the Chargers 30-10 win over the Oakland Raiders. His conversion came following San Diego’s final score of the day, a 5-yard Dan Fouts to Kellen Winslow touchdown pass.

Confusion abroad

Oct 28, 2010

The Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers will play their Week 8 game in London’s Wembley Stadium. While NFL fans these days are pretty much used to games being played outside the U.S., most may be surprised that the league’s first venture onto foreign soil occurred 60 years ago.

While it wasn’t played overseas, the game marked the first of many games that were played in the 1950s and ‘60s in Canada. The New York Giants traveled to Canada’s capital to face the Ottawa Roughriders in an exhibition game.

Unlike Sunday’s 49ers-Broncos game, the players in 1950 had a bit of trouble adjusting to the game played on Aug. 12, 1950 in Ottawa’s Landsdowne Park. That’s because the first half was played using Canadian rules before switching to NFL rules in the second half.

The difference in rules stymied the Giants a bit in the game but they used their superior size and speed to defeat their northern counterparts, 27-6.  Perhaps the biggest adjustment for the Giants was the Canadian rule of no interference past ten yards. That stripped away a strength of the Giants' defense that excelled in the days before bump-and-run. Add to the fact, the New York Football Giants only had three downs to move the ball on offense and they escaped the first half with a narrow 13-6 lead.

At halftime, the field was narrowed to NFL standards with makeshift lines and the game switched to being played under NFL rules.

But, before the switch, there were some interesting scoring plays including a pair of rouges, one for each team. A rouge is a one-point score as the result of punting the football into or out of the end zone. The Giants punter Tom Landry (yes that Tom Landry, the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys) picked up what has to be the lone rouge of his pro football career! The only other scoring for the Rough Riders was a touchdown scored early in the contest. The TD was worth five points but their conversion failed (thank goodness they picked up a rouge shortly thereafter).

The game could have been far more lopsided had a penalty not voided a nice 60-yard TD run by the Giants that was called back because New York’s end Al Schmid forgot the Canadian rules and threw a block downfield. Speaking of penalties, the Giants also were flagged 15 yards for “high tackling” which was in violation of the Canadian rules.

I'm sure that Mike Singletary and Josh McDaniels will be pleased that their players won’t have to remember two sets of playing rules on Sunday in London.

Here’s the four-page lineup leaflet from that historic game that sold for a $.10 Canadian.


Football and Father’s Day

Jun 18, 2010

Football and fathers, what a great combination! As we celebrate Father's Day, I'd like to share some memorable stories of fathers and sons using football as a way to bond.

First, allow me to use this blog to say Happy Father's Day to my 88-year-old dad. He and I spent many Sundays during my childhood in Western New York either huddled around a TV or going to Rich Stadium (aka Ralph Wilson Stadium) to watch the Buffalo Bills. In fact, I fondly recall going with him to the first-ever game at Rich Stadium in 1973. I'm sure somewhere in my basement is the collectible coin handed out that night.

It was my father who also gave me an opportunity to start working in football when he arranged to get me on the stat crew for Bills games when I was only a senior in high school. It put me on the path that ultimately landed me a career in sports that has included the past 20-plus years working here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But, there is one particular memory that really connected me to the game's past. My father went to Northwestern in the 1940s when the school had a quarterback by the name of Otto Graham. Later in life the two became casual friends and when I was a teenager, Otto came to Buffalo to play in a golf tournament with my dad. And so, I got my Bobby Brady moment!

Here's a promotional photo that resides in the Hall's photo collection. You can also search YouTube for a "far out" clip from that particular Brady Bunch episode.

Similar to how Joe Namath showed up at the Brady household, Otto stayed at our house. He was nice enough to go out in the yard and toss a couple of passes to my friend Joe and me. So, like Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie, I too caught passes from Otto Graham.

Football and dads. I see it all the time as I walk through the Hall of Fame. There's nothing like seeing a proud dad sharing a story with his son as they look at a jersey or a helmet or watch a video of great moments from the NFL's past.

Then, there are those memorable occasions involving our Hall of Famers. I think of the stoic Bud Grant choking up when he made reference to his dad during his enshrinement speech. In fact, Grant's entire enshrinement speech is basically homage to his father.

In 1991, John Hannah became the first enshrinee to pick his dad as his presenter.

"With a tremendous amount of pride and happiness, it is my distinct pleasure to present to you, one of the newest candidates for induction into Pro Football Hall of Fame, my son, John Hannah," Herb Hannah, a former NFL player himself, proudly exclaimed on the front steps of the Hall.

Then, there's the story of Steve Young. As a kid, the future Hall of Fame quarterback convinced his dad to take a detour during a family vacation to stop in Canton. The Young family took this photo on the front steps:

Many years later, in 2005, Steve and his family returned to Canton when he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Appropriately, his dad served as his presenter.

But, there's one moment that will always stand out to me during my days here at the Hall of Fame. In 1993, the great Walter Payton was being enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He became the first inductee to select his son as his presenter. At the time, Jarrett, a future NFL running back with the Tennessee Titans, was only 12.

On the day before Walter's enshrinement, he had agreed to tape a commercial with his young son for the Hall of Fame. NFL Films' elaborate equipment and lighting was set up throughout the museum. This obviously drew the attention of the many fans who filled the Hall of Fame that day. Although we kept it somewhat under wraps, word spread that Walter was going to be in the building. Before we knew it, fans flocked to outside a room where Walter was set to arrive. We arranged to have Walter along with Jarrett come through a back door to avoid having to make their way through the crowd.

As Walter was having his make-up applied and being briefed on the commercial shoot , I along with several other staff members were ready to assist with crowd control. As the make-up person worked on Walter, we could all hear that there was a huge crowd outside the room and, in fact, many were pushing on the door. Jarrett, a curious pre-teen, decided to take a peek at what was on the other side. As soon as he cracked the door ajar, his eyes shot wide open as hundreds of fans were just inches away and appeared ready to charge. He quickly, and wisely, shut the door.

I think it was probably right about then that Jarrett became aware how famous of a dad he had. Moments later, with our staff "parting the seas" Walter and Jarrett walked through the crowd to get to the area where the commercial was being shot. The fans cheered wildly as Walter and Jarrett made their way through the Hall.

Here's the commercial:

Another father and son moment happened shortly after the Paytons finished taping the commercial. Walter asked us if we could show him where his uniform from when he became the NFL's all-time rushing leader was on exhibit. By this time, most of the visitors had cleared out of the Hall of Fame and only a small gathering of fans were in our rotunda where Walter's display was located.

We walked Walter to the exhibit. When we arrived, there was man standing in front of the display describing "Sweetness" to his wife and son. The man looked to his left and saw Payton standing there in real life. He glanced again and realized who it was standing next to him. He was absolutely speechless. Within seconds, he gathered his composure and grabbed at his wife's sleeve to the get camera ready for this once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

It was a day that is forever imprinted in my memory. And, the following day, more memories were made when a nervous Jarrett stepped to the podium to present his dad for induction into the Hall of Fame. He did a great job and not surprisingly, Walter was the first of the Class of 1993 to be brought to tears.

I'm not entirely sure what my family has in store for me this Father's Day but I'm fairly certain I'll be throwing a football around with my daughter and son; and talking some football with my dad.

Happy Father's Day!

We’re really just fans of the NFL!

Jun 08, 2010

They came from such places like Asheville, North Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; Las Vegas, Miami and Lakeland, Florida.

Oh, and one more thing to remember, they were all born in the late 1980s.

So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that no one in the group came up with the answer to my question, "who was the NFL's dynasty team of the 1970s."

"They" were 17 rookies from the Pittsburgh Steelers who visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame last Friday. I gave the group a private tour of the Hall of Fame as a history lesson on the NFL.  The answer to my question of course is the Pittsburgh Steelers. I'd be willing to guess all 17 of the players know that answer and a whole lot more after their quick but thorough visit to the Hall.

In fact, first-round draft pick Maurkice Pouncey won a Hall of Fame hat for remembering that the first pro player was paid $500 to play in a game in 1892.

Check out a video of Pouncey doing an interview while he proudly wears his new Hall of Fame hat.

Speaking of Pouncey, I think the Steelers found a keeper in him. He seemed to really show an appreciation for the game's past during his two-hour tour. But, what struck me most was his understanding of today's game. He gets the big picture in that this game really belongs to the fans. His engagement with Hall of Fame visitors was terrific. He delighted an older Green Bay Packers fan when he took time to stop and talk with him and sign an autograph. Later, as Maurkice made his way through the Hall, he was wished a sincere "good luck" from a Browns fan.

Yes, that's correct. A Browns fan wished a Steelers player "good luck." It should be noted the fan added a little caveat that the good luck was only intended for games OTHER than against Cleveland.

The experience of witnessing grown adults' exuberant adulation of these young players reminded me of Art Shell's enshrinement speech in 1989. (By the way, the Steelers rookies were just infants or toddlers then). A crowd clad mostly in Pittsburgh's familiar black-and-gold showed up to see the Steelers' Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount get enshrined. They continuously broke into choruses of "Here we go Steel-ers, here we go!"

Shell and Packers' great Willie Wood also shared the stage with the Steelers greats that day. Shell followed Bradshaw and Blount to the podium and put everything into perspective. He began his speech by turning and facing the Steelers faithful and declared, "I want to thank all of you fans for coming, even you Steeler fans. You boo us, but you still love us. You don't realize it but you still love us, because you respect the way we play and how hard we play."

And, with that the Steelers fans applauded an Oakland Raider.

So, what it comes down to, despite our allegiances to our favorite teams, in the end it's really all about how much we love the National Football League.

Name of the play

May 17, 2010

The National Football League has staged 90 seasons of play since the league was founded as the American Professional Football Association in downtown Canton, Ohio on September 17, 1920. In that time, there have been an endless number of fantastic games, memorable moments, and incredible individual efforts produced by the more than 20,000 players who’ve competed in the league.

As someone who spends his day surrounded by football history, I sometimes lose touch with what the average fan remembers. I often say that the typical NFL fan knows names of some of the greatest players but probably couldn’t tell you a whole lot about them. It would be safe to say the names of Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski, and Sammy Baugh resonates with anyone following the NFL. But, I wouldn’t expect the average fan to be able to go into great length about those legends’ accomplishments.

In the same way, there are those signature moments that fans relate to when they hear about them even if specific details have a faded a bit. Mention “The Drive” and you instantly think of John Elway. “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and you think of the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants.

And, of course, talk about a moment frozen in time…how about this famous shot of Alan Ameche scoring on a one-yard TD run in OT to give Baltimore the title.

It’s interesting to me how famous plays or games instantly get nicknames. “Immaculate Reception” and who do you think of? Franco Harris, of course.

Last week I wrote a story about Hall of Fame tight end Dave Casper. If you give it a read, you’ll learn that football really doesn’t define his life. I found that particularly ironic because if you say his name to any football fan, they will respond by saying “Ghost to the Post” and “Holy Roller.”

You might say he helped define football.

I can’t really think of another player who is synonymous with TWO of the most famous plays in NFL history. Yet, in a period of less than a year in the late ‘70s, a pair of signature moments took place that centered on Casper.

On Christmas Eve 1977, Casper’s famous “Ghost to the Post” play helped lead the Raiders to a comeback playoff win over the Colts in Baltimore. Normally when plays become legend they usually involve some spectacular scoring play. Not the “Ghost to the Post,” it was a 42-yard reception to the 14-yard-line that was critical to setting up the game-tying field goal late in the game. Overshadowed by the play is the fact that Casper scored three touchdowns in the game, including the game-winner in double overtime.

Of course, you have to know that a play as famous as this can be found somewhere on Read it>>>

Two weeks into the next season, Casper again played a part in one of the most unforgettable plays in league history. He recovered a controversial fumble and fell on it in the end zone to give the Raiders a stunning win over the San Diego Chargers. The play became known as “The Holy Roller” and also was the cause for a rule change implemented the following year.

Again, it goes without saying that a recap of the game can be found on our website. The Holy Roller>>>

If you have a few more minutes to spare, you can also relive it on YouTube.

And, if you really have some time on your hand enjoy this great NFL Films piece on "Ghost to Post" from Hulu.

Now, go ahead a feel free to post your thoughts on great moments in the NFL by commenting on this blog.

Alisa says hi!

Mar 03, 2010

Jerry Csaki, who is in charge of our Educational Programs, has developed a videoconferencing series whereby classrooms across the country can connect with us to talk about careers. Jerry has invited a number of the Hall of Fame staff to partake in the sessions so students can learn about the various jobs in sports.

This morning I connected with a class of 11th graders in Bloomingdale, Ohio. I talked about my educational background, what I did to get a job at the Hall of Fame, and how I continue to educate myself to keep up with the technological advances and trends in my field.

My position here at the Hall is deeply aligned with the four bullet points of our mission statement – to honor, preserve, educate, and promote! Much of this is achieved in the way we disseminate information about the NFL’s history and the Hall’s role in preserving it.

The students were very engaging and asked lots of good questions. But, it was when we started talking about social media that a real connect came. I mentioned that this time last year, we weren’t a part of Facebook or Twitter but we are now, and we have a devoted following that share our passion for this great game.

I showed the students our Twitter and Facebook pages. It was quickly apparent that this is a medium that works especially well to engage this group. As we spoke, I tweeted that we were videoconferencing with them. I then started to post a comment on our Facebook page when one of the girls in the front row told me to type, “Alisa says hi.” I complied.

With that, I have a feeling that the Pro Football Hall of Fame just got one more Facebook fan.

This brings me to the point of this blog. The Pro Football Hall of Fame exists simply because there’s such passion and interest in our subject matter.  A big part of our strategy in 2009 was to engage fans who share that passion. So, we entered the world of Twitter and Facebook .

We also opened up our website to offer a more interactive experience which was a big part of our redesigned website that debuted last July. As we move forward in 2010 and beyond, you’ll notice that we’ll increasingly offer platforms for fans to engage with us and each other.

We continue to hope that fans will add their comments on our website. I, at least, expect Alisa to start some banter about her favorite team, the Cleveland Browns!

Big news in Canton spreads quickly

Feb 26, 2010

I’m a huge hockey fan and not only of my son’s PeeWee ’98 Wooster (OH) Oilers travel team.  I grew up loving two sports, football and hockey. So, I’m really enjoying the Olympic hockey that’s been on over the past week or so. Next week the National Hockey League resumes play and skates right into the best time of the year for NHL fans. First, it’s the trade deadline that leads into the final push for the playoffs. And, of course the run to the Stanley Cup is as good as it gets for a hockey fan (that is unless the Oilers win the Ohio state tournament next month).

Now, if you’re like most (well, really all) of my co-workers and a good portion of my friends, you’d ridicule my love of hockey. You’d be quick to point out just how low television ratings are for the sport in the U.S. If you really wanted to offend me, you’d only refer to sports “big three” leaving the NHL out in the cold (pun intended).

Wait, don’t stop reading this blog.

It really is about football. Yesterday, something happened that reminds me just how popular my “other” sport really is compared to all the rest. Fortunate for me and my team members at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, our business is centered on the most popular sport in this country, hands down.

Late Wednesday afternoon, in conjunction with the NFL, we announced that the Cincinnati Bengals will be facing the Dallas Cowboys in the 2010 Hall of Fame Game on Sunday, August 8. The news spread in minutes. #NFLPRGuy (who incidentally also happens to be a hockey fan) twittered that there’s only 175 days (now 174) until next season kicks off in Fawcett Stadium.

Of course, we all say we’re excited for the combine and can hardly sleep until the draft comes our way in April. Then, there’s mini-camp to give us a little football to hold us over until training camp.

But, what we really love are the games. So, even though the Hall of Fame Game is only a preseason game, the fans’ collective passion came out in a huge way following the news of our game. Almost instantly, fans started posting comments on and on They offered opinions on the Hall of Fame Game matchup by posting to our Facebook page and the Twitter world was flush with tweets that included @ProFootballHOF.

Yes, the NFL is certainly king of the sports world and enjoyed some of the best television ratings in decades during the past season. Showing just how attractive the NFL is compared to other sports, think about the type of ratings our game receives.

NBC’s broadcast from Canton of the Bills-Titans game last August was the most watched telecast of that week.  The ratings for our game last year was 113% higher than NBA regular season games in the previous season and nearly double that of the NBA playoffs. The overnight rating for our game was 157 percent higher than Major League Baseball’s ratings for Saturday games on FOX during the 2009 season.

As you may have probably guessed, I won’t even compare our ratings to an NHL game!

Best selection process in sports!

Feb 12, 2010

I may be biased but I don’t think so. I strongly feel that my organization has the finest selection process of any sports Hall of Fame.

The reason I write this is because of the extensive vetting process that takes place with our election. It’s nearly a year-round process and culminates with our 44-member Selection Committee being locked in a room for seven-plus hours. The commitment of these individuals is quite incredible. The amount of time spent in reviewing, studying, and preparing for the selection of our new class may be unprecedented when compared to other Halls of Fame. I’m not aware of too many sports Halls of Fame that have a large committee work throughout the year and then meet in person to argue the cases of each candidate.

PHOTO: Here's a photo I posted on Twitter just moments after the doors closed and our Selection Committee got to work on Saturday, Feb. 6 in the Ft. Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center. >>>

Nearly a week has passed from the meeting in South Florida that elected the Class of 2010 – Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, Dick LeBeau, Floyd Little, John Randle, Jerry Rice, and Emmitt Smith. Much of the media coverage and fan reaction just goes to prove how difficult of a process it is to elect someone to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

A good portion of the initial discussion after a new class is made focuses more on who didn’t make it than who did. This year was no different. Perhaps, the best thing about our process is that an individual never loses eligibility. Included in our bylaws is the inclusion of two senior nominees, players who finished their career more than 25 years ago. It really works in that there are those players who, for one reason or another, fell through the cracks over the years. This year, one of the NFL’s all-time great cornerbacks Dick LeBeau and one of finest all-around backs who also was a lethal return man, Floyd Little will enter the Hall thanks to the process that made sure their contributions to the game were not ignored.

The remainder of the class came from an initial list of 131 modern-era candidates. Our selection process did two prior cut downs to get to a list of finalists that were brought into the Super Bowl Media Center meeting room last weekend.

The Selection Committee thoroughly evaluated the merits of all of these great candidates. The committee reduced the 15 modern-era finalists to a list of 10 and then further trimmed it to five. From there, each of them had to receive 80% support of that room to be elected. As we learned when the Hall of Fame’s President/Executive Director Steve Perry opened the sealed envelope and announced on NFL Network and, all five received that vote and will have their bronze busts added to the Hall this summer.

The focus now turns to the great honor these seven greats of the Class of 2010 will receive in Canton in August.

For all of those fans and members of the media who are still talking about who didn’t make it , keep in mind that there’s been little argument that any of the 15 finalists in 2010 were not worthy of the Hall of Fame. Furthermore, history tells us that most of them will eventually earn a spot in the Hall one day.

Simple and to the point in 140 characters or less, a Twitter exchange this week sums it up. The NFL’s Senior Vice President Greg Aiello ( fired off a number tweets talking about who will become eligible in the upcoming years.

That drew this reaction from Dave Goldberg, a veteran member of our selection committee and long-time NFL writer for Associated Press who is now with AOL Fanhouse.

“@gregaiello Putting pressure on us already? we've already got a backlog and stirred-up fans ,” replied Goldberg via his Twitter page (davegoldberg84).

There’s no argument here that there’s great passion which NFL fans have for their teams and players. The same can be said for the dedicated members of our Selection Committee who also combine years of vast experience covering the game along with that passion.

Here in Canton, we’re all preparing for the 2010 Enshrinement Festival. Then, just a couple weeks later, we’ll get the process underway for electing the Class of 2011.

FYI, here is a list of some notable players who will become eligible for the first time next year: Jerome Bettis, Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, and Willie Roaf.

Let the debate continue!

A Hall of Fame Super Bowl

Feb 08, 2010

There’s no doubt that the National Football League has deep appreciation for the history of the game and especially the players who’ve paved the way for those on the rosters of the Saints and Colts on Sunday night.

For the first time ever, the NFL involved our newest class in the pre-game coin toss. Just over 24 hours after they were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Class of 2010 – Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, Dick LeBeau, Floyd Little, John Randle, Jerry Rice, and Emmitt Smith – stepped to midfield and were introduced to the Sun Life Stadium crowd and the world-wide television audience. Smith did the honors as he flipped the coin. Incidentally, that coin will find its way to Canton over the next few days.

Following the Saints exciting win in the game, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback and Super Bowl IV hero Len Dawson walked the Vince Lombardi Trophy through a mob of Saints players to the stage for its official presentation to the team.

I thought it was real nice touch to link the past with the excitement of this year’s Super Bowl.

Hall of Fame Day in South Florida

Feb 06, 2010

10:08 a.m.

Slightly more than an hour ago, I walked out of the meeting room where the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee is holding its annual election meeting to pick the Class of 2010. The doors were closed and a security officer was posted on duty to assure that no one (that includes me) enters the area.

Down the hallway are a group of accountants from Deloitte & Touche who will patiently wait to tally the votes from today’s meeting. First, the 44-member selection committee will debate the merits of our two senior candidates, Dick LeBeau and Floyd Little. After the in-depth discussion, our selectors will vote. The accountants will enter the room and collect the ballots and return to their meeting room to tally the results. LeBeau and Little must receive 80% of the vote to be elected to the Hall of Fame. The results will be sealed and we won’t know until later today at our press conference whether the long-time Detroit Lions cornerback and former Denver Broncos running back will join pro football’s most elite fraternity.

From there, the group of selectors will turn their attention to the 15 modern-era finalists. I can’t imagine much time will be spent talking about Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith but there are 13 other greats that will get plenty of debate. Since it appears that Rice and Smith are obvious choices, that leaves just three more spots available as bylaws stipulate no more than five modern-era nominees can be elected per year.  After what traditionally is a lengthy period, the selectors will trim that 15 down to 10. Then, we let them have a break! When they return to the room, discussion heats up as they now tasked with further reducing the list from 10 to five. From that point, the final five must get 80% of the selectors’ votes to earn election.

As I’ve said many times this week, it’s really not a case of “if” on any of these finalists rather more of a “when.”

I’ve made my way down to the main floor of the Super Bowl Media Center in the Ft. Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center. It’s a ghost town as media (other than our selectors) and NFL personnel are catching up on some much needed sleep or turning their focus to Sun Life Stadium and tomorrow’s game between the Colts and Saints. A once-bustling area called Radio Row is now being dismantled as I tap away and there are only four other individuals in a large media workroom that has been filled with hundreds of media members over the past week.

This is really the Hall of Fame’s day here in Ft. Lauderdale. Later this afternoon, the media will return to the Convention Center in large numbers for our Class of 2010 announcement. For the first time ever, the “envelope” will be opened during a special show on NFL Network that airs at 5:00 p.m. ET this afternoon. Be sure to watch and find out who will join the 253 immortals already enshrined in Canton.

The buzz in South Florida

Feb 04, 2010

Super Bowl week is in full force as we head toward a big weekend. I arrived in South Florida on Tuesday and have been running around getting the lay of the land of the Media Center as we prepare for the Class of 2010 announcement on Saturday afternoon.

It’s a great week for football – a who’s who of the NFL. It seems I can barely walk 10 feet without bumping into someone and striking up a conversation. Aside from the obvious, you know that game on Sunday between the Colts and Saints, much talk has focused on who will make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Every year during Super Bowl week, the attention really starts turning toward the Hall of Fame election that takes place Saturday morning. Especially starting today and more so tomorrow, there seems to be quite a buzz building for our big announcement.

In the past, I’ve always felt a certain momentum building for one candidate or another during the days leading up to the annual selection meeting. This year seems different so far. Two candidates appear to be locks, Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith. That means that there are only up to three more spots available for the remaining 13 modern-era finalists. The senior nominees, Dick LeBeau and Floyd Little, are voted on separately from the others.

As I talk with many members of the media, a number of whom serve on our Selection Committee, this is going be one tough year. The debate is more “when” than “if.” I think it just goes to show that our selection process works very well. The finalists that will be before our Selection Committee when they meet on Saturday are quite obviously among the best to have ever played and coached in the NFL.

As one of our Committee members told me, it’s hard to get into the Hall of Fame, and it ought to be!

In Canton, a player doesn’t pick under what team he enters Hall.

Jan 28, 2010

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY announced today the logo selections for the Hall of Fame plaques of its 2010 inductees. So baseball fans now know that Andre Dawson’s plaque will have him in a Montreal Expos hat.

Which brings me to the point of this blog that hopefully will answer most football fans commonly asked question of us, especially when someone like Kurt Warner or Brett Favre starts hinting at retirement.

How does the Pro Football Hall of Fame determine under which team someone is enshrined?

The answer is simple. We don’t!

An individual is elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player, coach, or contributor not as a member of a declared team. Also, it helps that our bronze busts don’t have helmets or coaching caps.

However, even though an enshrinee doesn’t choose a team, you will notice that we list enshrinees by team on our website, in our publications, and at the museum in Canton. We always list every team for which a person was associated. Our lists are broken down by noting whether an inductee spent a MAJOR or MINOR portion of his career with a team.

Assuming that Favre and Warner don’t come back next season, they’d be eligible for the Class of 2015. Further assuming that they get elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Favre’s name would show up under the Green Bay Packers but he’d also be noted as spending a “minor” portion of his career with the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings. Warner, on the other hand, would have his name listed under the St. Louis Rams and the Arizona Cardinals with a notation about him spending a brief or “minor part” of his career with the New York Giants.

Hope this clears up the issue!


Jan 13, 2010

About two weeks ago we added an element to that now allows visitors to post comments on many of the stories on that appear on our website.

Not at all surprising is the fact that the story with the most comments so far is the page about our 2010 finalists. Browsing the comments just reinforces how passionate NFL fans are about the sport, especially the teams and players, they love so much.

It also sheds a bit of light on just how difficult it is to serve on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee. Somehow this panel of 44 football experts needs to determine who from the 17 finalists will be elected to the Hall of Fame. I think one thing we can all agree on is that there are 17 deserving candidates under consideration. Yet, the Selection Committee can only pick up to seven. Our bylaws stipulate that no more than five modern-era candidates can be elected; and none, one or both of the seniors can be voted into the Hall.

We can all have some fun now by debating the merits of all of the finalists but it ultimately falls on our much respected Selection Committee to decide. They meet in South Florida on the morning before Super Bowl XLIV to discuss the merits of each candidate. The meeting will last for hours and hours but eventually we’ll find out who makes it to Canton this year. Tune in at 5 p.m. ET on Feb. 6, 2010 to find out who is in the Class of 2010.

In the meantime, go ahead and post your comments to this blog or join a debate on our Facebook page. Or, thanks to our friends at VanHeusen and JC Penney, you can voice your choice at

Pete’s picks?
I’m generally not much into predictions on NFL games as it is far easier to analyze the games AFTER they’ve been played. However, my fellow “teammate” here at the Hall, Steve Strawbridge has included some predictions in his “Straw’s Nest” blog during the past season. He went  0-4 in his Wild-Card game predictions last weekend.  I have to admit I’m not sure I would have done any better (although I’m liking the Cowboys momentum and may have picked them over the Eagles). With that stated, I’ll give it a shot for the Divisional Playoff round.

Here goes.

Saints 33, Cardinals 31
Colts 28, Ravens 17
Cowboys 30, Vikings 24
Chargers 35, Jets 17

No flex scheduling here

Dec 31, 2009

The National Football League adopted flex scheduling a few seasons ago so football fans could enjoy great matchups down the stretch. That’s why we’ll all be able to sit down and watch the Bengals and Jets battling on Sunday night as New York fights for a playoff spot.

While the NFL has utilized flex scheduling, you’ll notice that has not. If you’ve been a regular visitor to our site during the season, you probably know that each Thursday we profile a “Throwback Game of the Week.”

Our website staff sat down at the beginning of the season and charted out the programming schedule for the entire season. The goal was to include all, or nearly all, of the 32 NFL teams in the Throwback series during the season. That’s why our season finale is Indianapolis at Buffalo. Okay, maybe it’s not the most intriguing game in Week 17 as the Colts’ chance at going undefeated is out the door and the Bills have long been eliminated from the postseason. But, that doesn’t affect the fact that both of these teams have interesting histories and we’ve pulled those to the forefront in this feature.

A look back at our 2009 Throwback Series>>>>

That brings me to the bigger point of this blog today. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit institution. We are not owned by the NFL (but they sure are extremely supportive of all of our efforts). Our mission statement is very direct as to why we exist.

Our website allows us to “honor, preserve, educate, and promote” to a large audience of NFL and sports fans. We hope that you’ve taken time to dig deep into our site and you’ll notice there are thousands and thousands of pages of football history.

Last summer, we relaunched our website. That was part of an ongoing strategy to engage more with the football fans from around the world. We’ve continued to add features to our website and in fact just last week implemented the ability for readers to comment on stories on our site.

You can always join us on Twitter and Facebook. We thank all of our followers and fans who’ve joined us since we launched our presence on those sites earlier in the year.

But we also want you to join us at You can sign up for our free enewsletter and be the first to hear about breaking news, events, and even special deals in our Hall of Fame store.

We also want to make sure that we’re giving you what you want. Give us some feedback by commenting on this blog. What have you liked on our site this season? Do you read the Throwback Games of the Week? Have you seen our AFL online exhibit called 50 Years After that includes new features weekly? What about our guest blog as Hall of Famers have picked the games each week? Go ahead and let us know what you want to see on!

Playoffs? Playoffs?
Yes, playoffs!

I should also let you know that our research staff is combing through the world’s largest collection on football that resides at the museum in Canton. We’ll pull materials to bring you a unique perspective and extensive coverage on the postseason, past and present.

We’re also getting close to announcing the Class of 2010. The finalists will be named next Friday (Jan. 8) and the Class of 2010 will be selected on the day before Super Bowl XLIV.

Mixed in there, we’ll learn who our Selection Committee has named to the NFL’s All-Decade Teams of the 2000s. That’s coming Pro Bowl week. But, before we find out about that team, we’ll go back and profile the previous eight All-Decade Teams.

New Year’s Resolution
Football and more football is always our New Year’s Resolution. We hope we make it easy and entertaining for you to join us regularly on during the coming year.

In the meantime, from all of us at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, we wish you a Happy and Safe New Year!

Great moments keep coming

Dec 22, 2009

It never ceases to amaze me how exciting the National Football League can be week in and week out. Virtually every week, there’s some remarkable milestone that is established.

For instance, let’s look at Sunday. The Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefs really didn’t look all that appealing when you consider the slate of games in Week 15. Yet, it may very well have been the most exciting game of the weekend in the NFL.

For nearly a half century, the legendary Jim Brown held the Browns team record for yards rushing in a game with 237. That was until Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead. Running back Jerome Harrison, who had just one 100-yard game to his name and had a four-year total of 749 rushing yards suddenly became a household name around the NFL. He burned the Chiefs defense for 286 yards and scored three TDs in the Browns win. It marked the third highest single-game rushing total ever in the NFL.

Speaking of “ever in the NFL,” is it just me or do you feel it’s simply incredible that in 89 seasons of the NFL, not one player ever returned two kickoffs for 100 or more yards in the same game. Not Gale Sayers. Not Billy “White Shoes” Johnson. Not Carl Roaches. Not Mel Gray. Not Brian Mitchell. Not Devin Hester. Yet, in an eight-week span of the 2009 season, two players have accomplished the feat.

Ted Ginn did in Week 8 and Josh Cribbs matched it Sunday against the Chiefs when he returned a kickoff 100 yards in the first quarter followed by a 103-yard kickoff return in the second quarter. His first return made him the NFL’s all-time leader in kickoff returns for touchdowns

The great moments just keep coming and the records keep falling. It sure makes it fun to follow the NFL every week!

Holiday season in the NFL

Dec 12, 2009

It feels like Christmas! Well, it does in a football kind of way at least. For those of us who just can’t seem to get enough NFL action, there’s no better time of the year than now.

I mean, think about it. It’s seems like yesterday we were getting ready for the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans to kickoff the 2009 preseason in the Hall of Fame Game.

And now, we head into a weekend when we can talk about things like this.

The San Diego Chargers can clinch a playoff spot on Sunday if they beat Dallas and Baltimore loses or ties and Pittsburgh already lost and the Jets lose or tie and Miami loses or ties. But, if that doesn’t happen, then San Diego can still clinch a postseason appearance Sunday if they win and Baltimore loses or ties and Pittsburgh already lost and the Patriots lose to or tie Carolina.

Stay with me on this….if the two scenarios above don’t work to the Chargers liking then they still can clinch their playoff berth this weekend with a win AND losses by the Ravens, Steelers, Patriots and a Jaguars tie. If none of those happen, there’s one last way to clinch. They would make it to the playoffs with a tie against Cowboys combined with losses by Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Jets, and Dolphins.

If you’re like me, those last two paragraphs just made your head spin. But, really all that this means is that we’re talking playoffs. Go ahead give your best Jim Mora impersonation!.

There are few things in sports that compare to the final run to the playoffs in the NFL. It’ll be an exciting time as teams are fighting for their playoff lives (that is unless you’re the Colts and Saints). But there’s so many other intriguing storylines. Will Indy and New Orleans both go undefeated? Can Brett Favre lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl? Will Chris Johnson rush for 2,000 yards?

One thing is for sure, we’ll be wrapped up with what’s happening in the NFL during this holiday season.

History isn’t always that old

Nov 25, 2009
One of the great things about being a sports Hall of Fame is preserving the past of our sport, the NFL. Sometimes that past is just a couple of days old.

That was the case when the Detroit Lions shipped out a jersey and football from Matthew Stafford’s big day on Sunday. It arrived in Canton late this morning and now has a prominent spot on exhibit in our Pro Football Today Gallery.

It’s really gratifying to see the surprise on our visitors’ faces when they stop and realize that we have something on display from a moment that virtually just happened!

Well, Week 11 is history and now we're onto Thanksgiving weekend.

Related story: Stafford's jersey and football>>>

Road teams return to former homes

Nov 19, 2009

Today, I turned my focus from last weekend’s games to the upcoming schedule on tap in the NFL in Week 11. As I perused the schedule, three games in particular jumped out at me. That’s because the Colts, Cardinals, and Titans all play games on the road in the cities where they used to reside.

Indianapolis returns to Baltimore to take on the Ravens. The Colts were born in Baltimore in 1953 before relocating to the Hoosier state in 1984. This relocation draws, by far, the most passion from fans. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I attended the 39th Annual International Sports Heritage Association (ISHA) Conference in Baltimore. It was hosted by the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum/Sports Legends at Camden Yards. By the way, that’s a must see next time you’re in Baltimore. Sports Legends had a terrific exhibit about the Baltimore Colts. The city has so much pride and even though the Colts left town more than a quarter century again, it’s quite apparent the loss still stings today. I’m always amazed at the debate that still surrounds the Colts franchise and how so many in Baltimore agonize that the franchise left the city.

While the Ravens winning sure cures some of what ails the older football fan in Baltimore; the cities of St. Louis and Houston seem to have had a less traumatic recovery from losing its NFL team. Both cities seem fully entrenched in following the Rams and Texans respectively. I suspect a smaller percentage of fans sitting in Edward Jones Dome or Reliant Stadium will carry the same venom toward their opponent this weekend than those watching the Colts battle the Ravens at M&T Stadium.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.

Hall of Fame worthy?

Nov 10, 2009

You can hardly make it through a NFL game on television without having an announcer use the line, “he’s a future Hall of Famer” or “he’s on his way to Canton.”

Over the years of working at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I’ve had the privilege to be a part of many conversations with enshrinees of this hallowed hall. One thing that has always struck me is how humbled most are to have received their sport’s highest honor. It is because of this humility, rarely will an individual ever take for granted that they are worthy of being enshrined. Even those players or coaches you’d call a “lock” will fear jinxing the possibility by ever really talking about it before it actually happens.

{GALLERY}But, as fans, we relish the opportunity to share our thoughts on whether a player, coach or other individuals are worthy of a bust in Canton. Talk to any Broncos fan about Karl Mecklenburg or Terrell Davis. Go ahead and tell a Bears fan that Richard Dent shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. And, while you’re at it, why don’t you seek out a Raiders fan and tell him or her how happy you are that Ray Guy hasn’t been enshrined yet!

Okay, am I striking a nerve with you yet? Well, let me tell you that our 44-person Board of Selectors is in the final stages of evaluating all 131 preliminary nominees for the Class of 2010. On Thanksgiving Weekend, that group will trim the list to 25 semifinalists.

So, have been doing your homework? This season, for the first time ever, we are letting fans just like you debate the merits of our nominees. Thanks to our friends at JCPenny/Van Heusen, we are excited to give you a platform where you can not only voice your choice by engaging in the discussion but you can also cast your vote!

I ask all the Raiders fans, are you really satisfied that punter Ray Guy currently stands at No. 6 in the voting on the site. What about all the Cowboys fans who are often times claim that there is a bias against their team. Are you going to just watch Tony Romo and Austin Miles each week and ignore the fact that Ed “Too Tall” Jones ranks 18th in the fan voting?

Calling all Broncos fans….you know that Floyd Little will be part of the finalists this year since he’s one of the two senior nominees already selected. But, what about Terrell Davis? Have you finally succumbed and now agree with those critics who say his career was too short? Well, apparently you have, since he is No. 29 in the fan voting!

Enough of my “locker room” speech. Get out there and vote. Visit the Voice your Choice site now and cast your vote for your favorite nominees for the Class of 2010!  or


What a great idea!

Nov 03, 2009

If you’re among the nearly 5,000 who are fans of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Facebook then you already know what our page looks like. If you’re not, then go ahead and become a fan. You’ll find us at

{GALLERY}The page gives us a good pulse on what football fans want from us. A comment posted on our wall yesterday gave us a great idea for a story today on Many football fans heard on Sunday about how Ted Ginn made history by returning a pair of kickoffs for TDs. But, lost among the many highlights were the specific details around his amazing day against the Jets.

So, we thought we’d test our fans with a daily trivia question posted on our Facebook page. It asked who was the last player to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game. The answers from our fans varied. We posted the answer later in the afternoon. Then, one fan shared that he knew the answer but was wondering if Mel Gray or Eric Metcalf had ever done it.

It became quite evident that the rare accomplishment needed documented. So, if you go to today’s story, you’ll get the full details around the eight players in NFL history who’ve returned two touchdowns in the same game.

One simple posting on our Facebook page reminds us as well as you that the more engaged you become with us – whether through Facebook or on Twitter, or by commenting on my blog – the more we can give you what you want!

Fire those cannons

Oct 23, 2009

In early August just as I was preparing for our annual enshrinement ceremony, I read with great enjoyment that Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Lee Roy Selmon will be honored as the first member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers new Ring of Honor.

When the Buccaneers return from London, they get a week off and then return to Raymond James Stadium to face the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 8. It is at that game that they’ll honor the franchise’s first-ever draft pick and the first Buccaneer to earn a bust in Canton.

{GALLERY}I’ll get to Lee Roy in a moment. But first, let me talk about what the Bucs are doing. If you visit our section on the history of the NFL teams, you’ll notice a tab labeled “Team Greats” for each of the current 32 clubs. This is where we promote how the teams honor their individual greats. It’s here where you can find direct links to the Dolphins Honor Roll, the Packers Hall of Fame, the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame among the many other ways teams honor the best players, coaches, and others from their past.

If you click on the Buccaneers, you’d see a link to the history section of their website. In a couple of weeks, we’re changing that so our website will link directly to the Bucs’ Ring of Honor.

You see, all of us at the Hall of Fame come to work each and every day with one goal in mind. And that’s to uphold our mission statement (see it here).

If you just clicked on that link, you noticed that our mission statement starts with the line, “to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to professional football.”

The Pro Football Hall of Fame, including the recent six-man Class of 2009 – Bob Hayes, Randall McDaniel, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, Ralph Wilson, Jr., and Rod Woodson – has only 253 members. Of that group, 219 were players.
“Our” players represent the greatest 219 players from the 20,000-plus who’ve played in the National Football League since it started in Canton, Ohio in 1920.

That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been hundreds and hundreds of other great players who won’t make it to Canton but nevertheless had spectacular careers.

We applaud all of the teams who go to these great lengths to pay tribute to those individuals who’ve helped make the NFL the envy of all other sports leagues.

So, hats off (or should I say helmets off) to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the new Ring of Fame.

Lee Roy Selmon is the obvious choice to be the first honored in the team’s Ring of Fame. And that has nothing to do with the delicious menu at his restaurants in the Tampa area. I ate at his place during the Super Bowl last year and my dinner was outstanding. And, no Lee Roy didn’t pay me for that quick promo.

Selmon has always been the face of this franchise. When the expansion team started up in 1976, he was the first ever draft pick. He quickly established himself as one of the most dominating pass rushers of his era.

While many recall that the Bucs’ began by going 0-26, many forget to remember quite how quickly the franchise’s fortunes turned. Tampa went from 0-14 in ’76, 2-12 in ’77, and 5-11 in ’78 before winning the NFC Central Division with a 10-6 record in 1979 just its fourth season. Two years later, the team won another division title. Through it all, Selmon was the Bucs leader.

He amassed 78.5 sacks during his career and added nearly 400 more quarterback pressures. Seeing No. 63 coming was one of an NFL quarterback’s worst nightmares from 1976 through 1984. The six-time Pro Bowl lineman hung up his cleats after the ’84 season.

Eleven years later, he was standing on the front steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio being honored as the first member of the Buccaneers to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On November 8, he again enjoys the limelight as the team places him permanently into the Ring of Fame.

Congratulations to Lee Roy. And, congrats to the Buccaneers!


The season is flying

Oct 09, 2009

Yesterday I came across a tweet by @NFLprguy who shared the note that NFL games are averaging 17.4 million viewers, most since ’89 and up 14% from a year ago. I see these types of facts all the time but Thursday’s comment just drives home the fact that this country absolutely adores the NFL.

{GALLERY}Count me among them. Maybe that’s why I’ve already got that slightly melancholy feeling that the 2009 NFL season is going by way too fast. All the hype of the off-season and anticipation for the regular season to start gets us so pumped up for the season. Now, in a blink of the eye, we’re already at the quarter mark of the season. Next blink, we’ll be watching Super Bowl XLIV in South Florida.

Okay, maybe it’s not quite that fast. But it is already Week 5 and some moments that have moved from front-and-center of NFL highlights are now considered “history.” So, let me share my top favorite “historical” moments of the first four weeks of the ’09 season.

10. Mark Sanchez’s start to the NFL season. He became the first rookie QB to start and win the first three of his team’s games. The last player to do that was Greg Cook of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1969.

9.  Darren Sharper picking off a pass and racing 99 yards for a touchdown. He is the leading interceptor among active players in NFL today and already has five picks with his new team, the Saints. His TD return was his 10th interception returned for a score in his career. Only one player has more and that’s Class of 2009 enshrinee Rod Woodson.

8. Last Monday night’s Packers-Vikings game. I was skeptical that the game would live up to its billing. But, all the build-up just added to the incredible feeling that surrounded this game. It did not disappoint.

7. For only the second time ever, two rookie coaches won are 4-0. Congrats to Canton’s own Josh McDaniels in Denver and to Jim Caldwell in Indy. I can’t say I recall any football pundits calling this one before the season kicked off.

6. The Cowboys new stadium. What a building and what a great record crowd for its first regular season game.

5. Peyton Manning’s start to the season. Just days after we placed his 2008 MVP uniform on exhibit in Canton, he goes out and continues a pace that makes one think he may just become the first player to be named MVP for a fourth time.  He is just the third QB ever to start a season with four straight 300-yard passing games. He’s incredible to watch.

4.  How about five different teams – Denver, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New Orleans and the New York Giants – without a loss yet. Five teams at 4-0 has only happened twice before in the NFL (1968, 2003).

3. We always love when a “family member” does well. So, kudos are in order for Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary who has his San Francisco 49ers off to a great start.

2. Speaking of family members, it was an awesome scene in late September when more than 20 Hall of Famers returned “home” to Canton for our annual Golf Classic. The camaraderie, stories, and general fun had by all of these football legends is just great to witness. They also placed the Super Bowl XLIV trophy on exhibit in our Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery. It’s the first time we’ve had the actual season’s trophy on display for fans. Come and see it before we have to send it to South Florida in February.

1. Selection process. It’s a year-round process that gains more attention every year. Perusing our Facebook and Twitter pages, it’s apparent that fans have very strong feelings about who is worthy of a bronze bust. We were excited to launch the Voice Your Choice campaign presented by JCPenney/VanHeusen during Week 2. Fans now have a forum to share their knowledge and opinions. I can only imagine how much action the site will continue to get as we move toward the 25 semifinalists cut down in November. Visit>>>

Well, maybe four weeks have passed very quickly. But looking on the bright side, there’s still 13 weeks left in the regular season! I can hardly wait for Sunday and what game-changing event becomes “history” on Monday.

The NFL’s Most Prized Possession

Sep 29, 2009

Last night, I stood in an office chatting with Hall of Famer Jim Taylor. The former Green Bay Packers fullback was about to carry the Vince Lombardi Trophy for Super Bowl XLIV through a crowd of invited guests and more than 20 of his fellow Hall of Famers and place it on exhibit in our new Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery.

He was the only member from the Packers Super Bowl I championship team on hand for the event and as such was given the honor of placing the trophy, named after his former coach, on exhibit. This marks the first time ever that the actual trophy will be on exhibit at the Hall (we’ve had a replica trophy on display for many years). In fact, it’s the first time any fans can see the actual trophy before it’s unveiled in the Super Bowl host city.

What dawned on me in this brief conversation with Taylor is just how much the Super Bowl has grown. Any fan can absorb this fact by touring our new Super Bowl Gallery but this message was reinforced by watching Taylor as he took a look at this year’s trophy.

He glanced down as the shiny Super Bowl Trophy that will be awarded in February to the champions of Super Bowl XLIV and marveled at how quickly 44 years had passed.  There were a few of us from the Hall’s staff along with security guards from Brinks who had just delivered the trophy chatting about football. The conversation quickly turned to Taylor’s thoughts on the Super Bowl. Most striking was how Taylor just seemed to shake his head in disbelief at how great of a symbol that relatively small trophy has become.

We asked him if the Packers had passed the trophy around the locker room. And he nonchalantly said, “no, we were just happy the long season was over!”
Yet, he continued to reminisce about the Packers win and seemed like a proud grandfather on just how big of an icon the trophy has become. He grabbed a hold of the Super Bowl XLIV trophy and happily led the way to place it on exhibit.

It was a special moment. Now, it’s going to be fun to watch the reactions of the thousands of fans who will get a glimpse at the NFL’s most prized possession over the next several months as it resides as the centerpiece to our spectacular new Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery.

Where have all the receivers gone?

Sep 23, 2009

If you’re a regular to during the NFL season, you know that every Tuesday is the day that we update the Weekly Top 20. Over the years, we’ve thought about doing away with this feature and one time actually stopped publishing the lists, albeit briefly. The outcry from fans (and members of the media) demanded that we continue the feature.

The concept of the Top 20 began in the late 1960s as part of a fairly significant exhibit in the museum. With the debut of our presence on the web in the mid-1990s, the Top 20 lists co-existed electronically as well as in a display for visitors in Canton. Shortly thereafter the display was dismantled while the lists continue to live on through our website.

A quick perusal of the Top 20 career leaders in passing, receiving, rushing, and scoring shows a nice mix of Hall of Famers and past greats as well as a significant number of NFL stars active during the first two weekends of the 2009 season.

But, a closer look at the Top 20 lists, at least the receivers list, is a great illustration of just how the game has changed. If you look at the Top 20 rushers, you still see the names like Payton, Simpson, and Brown.

In stark contrast, the names of players like Raymond Berry, Don Hutson, Don Maynard, and others are noticeably missing from the career receiving leaders. In fact, just two of the 20 modern-era wide receivers enshrined in Canton still rank in the Top 20.

The passing game has clearly evolved over the years. This gives credence to my argument that I often state that simply states it’s difficult to compare players from different eras because the game has changed so much. How can you compare Jerry Rice to Don Hutson? You really can’t unless you go by something other than stats.

But, you can compare Rice to Cris Carter, Andre Reed, and Tim Brown among others. All four of these wideouts are preliminary nominees for the Class of 2010 that we announced last Saturday.

Thanks to our friends at JCPenney and Van Heusen, the fan now has a forum to share his/her opinions. You can join the debate at

Happy Birthday NFL!

Sep 17, 2009

8:05 a.m. ET

One of the key missions of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is to preserve professional football’s historic documents and artifacts.

In our vast collection housed in the archives in Canton are the original meeting minutes for the forming of the American Professional Football Association on Sept. 17, 1920 in Canton, Ohio. Several men, including the legendary George Halas, sat around on the running boards of automobiles in the Hupmobile showroom owned by Canton Bulldogs owner Ralph Hay.  By the end of the meeting, the first professional football league was formed. You know that league today by its current name (that it changed to in 1922) - the National Football League.

Ninety seasons later, I sit here writing about the most popular sports league in this country. Just one week removed from a thrilling Kickoff Weekend that included great performances by Drew Brees and Adrian Peterson and having witnessed the thrilling finishes by the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.

As Howie Long stated in his 2000 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement speech, “baseball may be this country’s pastime but football is its passion.”

There is no doubt that as the NFL celebrates its founding today, it remains the premiere professional sports league. Most people don’t realize just how long of a run that the NFL has had as being a fan favorite. In 1965, a Harris Poll determined that pro football was this country’s most popular sport. It has remained that way ever since.

So, take a moment today and wish the NFL a very Happy Birthday. Go ahead and leave your wishes as comments to this blog if you’d like. Then, tune in on Sunday and Monday and enjoy more memories provided by the excitement that this great league brings us every weekend.

Here's a piece on about the founding of the NFL. Enjoy.>>>

What a great day!

Sep 10, 2009

I woke up early this morning like every day. My first course of action is to gently wake up my high school freshman daughter and my sixth grade son for school. Normally, I give them a gentle nudge before following up with a more rigorous call to start the day a few minutes later.

Today, my household woke up to loud yell of “Happy Kickoff Day!!!” Fortunately my wife is used to my overzealous early rising personality.

What a great day it is today. It seems like years since the Steelers hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Tampa. Kickoff Weekend is just so great for us football fans. Tonight, millions will be glued to our televisions to watch the Steelers and Titans kick off the 2009 season. All the preseason banter and predictions go to the wayside and we’re into the real deal.

I just love the Thursday night kickoff. As someone who works in the industry, it’s rejuvenating to look forward to the possibilities of another exciting season that all starts tonight in Pittsburgh. So many new stories and twists unfold every year in the NFL. Kickoff Weekend reminds us of that.

Think back to last season’s opening weekend. Michael Turner made his debut with the Atlanta Falcons and rushed for a team-record 220 yards. That was the second highest rushing total in an opener ever. Rookie QB Matt Ryan connected on a 62-yard touchdown throw on his very first NFL pass.  The Eagles were flying as Donovan McNabb threw for 361 yards against the Rams. The Philly attack featured the rare occasion of having three 100-yard receivers in the same game (DeSean Jackson, Greg Lewis, and Hank Baskett). Kickoff Weekend also gave us a glimpse of what Drew Brees’ season was going to be. He racked up 343 yards through the air against the Bucs that began a season in which he threatened Dan Marino’s single-season passing mark. He narrowly missed that but did become just the second QB to pass for 5,000 yards in a season. But, last season’s history and we’re now ready for ’09.

Whether it’s a story on or a piece of memorabilia from record-breaking moment that gets added to our collection, we’re ready and waiting in Canton to help preserve and interpret the NFL’s story.
Enjoy tonight’s game.  And, enjoy the 2009 NFL Season!

Calling all Bears and Packers fans

Sep 04, 2009
11:00 a.m. ET

Just like you, all of us at the Pro Football Hall of Fame are big fans of the game. I can tell you that we are absolutely excited as can be for Kickoff Weekend.

We’re working away here in Canton planning our website programming for the 2009 NFL season.  As in years past, one of the weekly features will be a Throwback Game of the Week. This year we’ve decided to focus on just one historical game from a matchup coming up during each week’s action. So be on the lookout for Throwback Thursday!

It all starts on Kickoff Weekend as we’ll profile the Bears-Packers game. This is where you come in. Share your comments below and let us know if there’s one particular game from the NFL’s oldest rivalry that you want us to profile. Then, we’ll put our research team to work and have them pull from our resource of more than 18 million pages of documents in our Archives & Information Center to bring you great coverage of one famous Chicago-Green Bay battle from yesteryear.

Remembering Bob Carroll

Aug 26, 2009

12:55 p.m.

We announced the senior nominees for the Class of 2010 yesterday. Normally on such a day, my phone would ring shortly after the announcement. On the other end would be Bob Carroll who would share his thoughts and opinions on the selections.

That call never came yesterday. That’s because Bob died in his sleep early yesterday morning. My heartfelt sympathies go out to Bob’s family.

It was a rather strange feeling to read his obituary this morning.  Because for many, many years he sent the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s research staff hundreds of obits.

They were death notices and articles on the lives of NFL players. You see, Bob was one of the most knowledgeable pro football historians that ever lived. His devotion to researching the sport, while not known to the general public, was legendary in the circles of those of us who delve deep into the game’s past. Bob is responsible for much of the accurate information we now have on the NFL’s history especially the early years.

In 1997, one of the most comprehensive publications on the NFL’s history was published. It was called Total Football and it was edited by team led by Bob. Inside the 1,652-page book was a voluminous player register. It included details on more than 17,000 NFL players. Thanks to the work of Bob (and many others), it included for the first time full names, birthdates, places of birth, and death dates on players. Bob had spent years and years digging to uncover these facts on players. Making the task so monumental was that it was common in the early 1920s for NFL players to play under assumed names to avoid problems with college eligibility rules of the time. It was a painstaking process to find this personal data.

But for those of us who knew Bob, we were never shocked by the amount of time he devoted to researching the sport for which he had such a passion. Our research staff regularly corresponded with Bob for information.

In fact, just two weeks ago I sought Bob’s help for a project related to the oldest living NFL alumni. Ever since Total Football was published and revised a few years later as Total Football II, Bob continued to maintain the player records. He always sent us the latest obituaries so we could update our files in Canton.

But, there was lot more than just obits that Bob provided us. For nearly three decades, he unselfishly shared his labor of love with us. Our Archives & Information Center is filled with his compilations of accurate NFL history that he researched. Among his contributions were detailed feature articles on some of pro football’s most important moments, game accounts of early NFL games, and pick-by-pick lists of every NFL draft .

Bob, a retired school teacher, was also a talented artist. His drawings were featured in the Coffin Corner, the newsletter of the Pro Football Researchers Association (PFFA) among other publications. In the late 1970s, Bob was one of the founders of PFRA and oversaw the organization until his death. PFRA members have worked to continually tell the story of the NFL’s past in an accurate and thorough manner. It has been an incredibly valuable asset for the research team in Canton. 

Bob will certainly be missed by all of us at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It was always apparent that Bob cared a great deal about the sport and had a special fondness for what we do here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, his obit ended by stating that memorial contributions can be made in his name to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 2121 George Halas Drive, NW, Canton, Ohio, 44708.

While his funeral arrangements are private, emails have already begun to discuss a way to celebrate Bob’s life and work. Appropriately, the location being discussed for the rendezvous is Canton!


Aug 20, 2009

3:17 p.m. ET

Many friends, family, and even virtual strangers have told me that I have a really great job. Well, I can’t disagree because of one important aspect of my job. You see, when I stand around the coffee maker with co-workers and talk football, I’m working!

Such was the case earlier this week. I was talking with Matt Waechter, the man responsible for publishing and designing layouts for all of our content on, about how we’ll soon have Peyton Manning’s uniform on display here in Canton.

Tomorrow night Joe Horrigan, our VP-Communications/Exhibits, will be at Lucas Oil Field to accept the uniform from Peyton. The Indianapolis Colts quarterback wore it during last season when he was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. The uniform will promptly go on exhibit in our Pro Football Today Gallery next to the uniforms of the past couple MVPs – Tom Brady (2007) and LaDainian Tomlinson (2006).

We’re always developing layers of information around a story on That’s when Matt began studying the list of MVPs over the years to see if anything jumped out for an idea that we can build upon. He shared his observation with me. While I was acutely aware of the fact, it’s well worth expanding upon and now serves as the basis of today’s blog.

Since 1961 the Associated Press has awarded an annual NFL Most Valuable Player Award. Amazingly only three times in those 48 seasons the award has gone to a player other than a quarterback or running back. Three times. In other words, the same number of times that Manning has won the award. He, along with Packers, I mean Jets, umm, Vikings' QB Brett Favre are the only players ever to win the award three times.

The first time the AP gave the MVP to a player other than a QB or RB occurred was 1971 when Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Alan Page of the Minnesota Vikings earned the honor. He led the Minnesota defense that limited its opponents to a mere 139 points that season.  At the time, that was the second fewest amount of points allowed in a season since 1949. The Vikings, two years earlier, held opposing offenses to just 133 points and the Philadelphia Eagles led the NFL in 1949 with 134 points en route to winning the league title that season.

{GALLERY}After Page more QBs and RBs won the award until 1982 when the AP gave it to a kicker! Mark Moseley of the Washington Redskins, the NFL’s last straight-ahead placekicker, nailed his last three FGs in ’81 and then continued a successful string in 1982 that ran to a then-NFL record 23 straight field goals. Washington finished 8-1 in the strike-shortened season, rolled through the playoffs and capped the year with a Super Bowl XVII victory.

The NFL didn’t have to wait that long for another non passer or runner to win the MVP award. That came four seasons later when New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor amassed an incredible 20.5 sacks to help the Giants to a great season. Like Moseley in ‘82, Taylor and the Giants came away with a Super Bowl victory that year.

One of the best ways we can capture and record a memorable moment in NFL history is receive a game used item from the player. Such was the case in 1982 when Moseley donated his shoe and jersey he wore during that great record-setting ’82 season.

And now, we are so excited that we’ll be able to add to our collection the uniform worn by Peyton last season.
This time next year, we’ll be receiving memorabilia from the 2009 MVP. And who knows, that could even come from a player who doesn’t line up over center or in the backfield!

Well, it’s back to the coffee maker for some more ideas for my blog.

Top 10

Aug 11, 2009

1:30 p.m.

Here’s a look back on a memorable 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival. The festivities provided me with a number of lasting memories but for brevity sake, I’ve picked just ten to share here.

10. Sunshine. Amazingly, nearly a half century worth of enshrinements have escaped inclement weather. The week leading up to the enshrinement included a foreboding forecast. Despite some rain on Saturday, just as Rich Eisen stepped to the podium to get things underway the first bright sunshine of the day appeared.

9. Mort for 10. Chris Mortensen from ESPN watched the game from the Fawcett Stadium press box. In the fourth quarter his son Alex was inserted at QB for the Oilers (aka Titans). After a couple of handoffs, Alex fired a 10-yard completion for a first down. Chris let out a quick cheer and several members of the media on hand gave a polite clap. Who knows what Alex’s future in the NFL will be but he’ll always have that memory of making it to the NFL and completing his first pass.

8. Tweet. If you follow us on Twitter you would have learned one of the real cool observations from back stage during Saturday night’s enshrinement. As Randall McDaniel completed his speech and was walking to the side stage for photos, he was tapped on the shoulder by Joe Greene. The former Pittsburgh Steelers great simply stated, “you’re one of us now.”

7. Mr. Wilson holds court. At a Friday press conference in the McKinley Grand Hotel in downtown Canton, Ralph Wilson, Jr. was mobbed by media. The line of day came when he referenced the time limit for his speech he was going to deliver the next day. “I’ve given them 50 years, they give me 12 minutes” he joked.

6. Great weekend. Media coverage of the weekend was extraordinary. We had more than 130 different media outlets covering the enshrinement and game. Charean Williams, a NFL writer from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, President of the Pro Football Writers of America, and a member of our Board of Selectors, has experienced a number of Hall of Fame weekends. So, it was quite gratifying when she sent me a thank you email that stated, “Truly, it was one of the greatest weekends ever.”

5. Throwbacks. Kudos to the NFL for having the AFL’s 50th Anniversary Season kick off in Canton. Seeing the Bills, Oilers, and the officiating crew in the Throwback uniforms was special. The NFL had spent significant time in the Hall of Fame archives over the past several years making sure the uniforms were authentic.

4. Award winners. Congratulations to the award winners whose acceptance speeches didn’t make national television but nevertheless were filled with heartfelt appreciation. During Friday’s Enshrinees Dinner, Irv Cross (Pete Rozelle Radio-TV Award) and Peter King (McCann Award given by the Pro Football Writers of America) humbly accepted these prestigious honors. Cross reminisced about an elementary teacher’s impact on his life after losing his mother when he was in the fifth grade. King told the story of how soldiers, despite the dangers of being in battle in Afghanistan, set up camp and then immediately called home to get a score to the Giants-Cowboys game.

3. Randall’s second home. After returning from the press box after Sunday’s game I walked through a nearly empty Hall of Fame at around 12:30 in the morning. I bumped into Randall McDaniel and his family as they toured the closed museum. I congratulated him once again and told him I hoped he had a great weekend. His trademarked smile grew even larger after I said, “I hope you like your new home!”

2. Football’s back.
Now, we know that the Hall of Fame Game isn’t the most exciting game of the year, but what a spectacular play to get the season rolling. A.J. Trapasso’s fake punt that resulted in a 40-yard touchdown for the opening score reminds us just how much we missed watching the NFL since February.

1. Bronzed. Seeing up close and personal the impact of what it means to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame shows me just how great of an honor it is to be a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Throughout the weekend, I observed countless times just how overwhelmed members of the Derrick Thomas and Bob Hayes families were about the honor bestowed upon their late family members. So many times from Thursday when they arrived in town to the Sunday night when it was all over, the humbleness shown by Randall McDaniel, Bruce Smith, Ralph Wilson, Jr. and Rod Woodson put everything into perspective.

Getting closer

Aug 04, 2009

7:45 a.m.

The place is coming alive. Everywhere you turn, you see someone working. There are people laying floors down over the parking lots and grassy areas, another crew hoisting the framework for a giant tent that will serve as the venue for some great parties this weekend. You see construction workers cutting sheets of plywood. Then there’s the army of security people who help direct visitors.

{GALLERY}If you learn nothing else from this blog, here’s the tip of the week. If you’re visiting us anytime during the week, note that there is no parking on the grounds. Follow signage to LOT A and then grab the free shuttle that takes you to the front door.

For those thousands of visitors coming to football’s “mecca” this weekend, bookmark our ENSHRINEMENT CENTRAL page. It’s got the lowdown on everything happening during the weekend.

If you’re witnessing the events from afar, be sure to visit We’ll be covering the weekend from a number of angles that includes directing you to great coverage from the editorial team from Gil Brandt, Vic Carucci, Thomas George and countless others arrive in town in two days and will give you the complete lowdown of Canton ’09.

If you haven’t been surfing, then start right now. We’ve posted all sorts of content related to the six legends who will be enshrined on Saturday – Bob Hayes, Randall McDaniel, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, Ralph Wilson, Jr., and Rod Woodson. A sampling includes our stories on every one of Bruce Smith’s sacks or Rod Woodson’s interceptions. We’ve also rolled out some great Notes & Quotes on the six newest members. Here’s the one on Ralph Wilson, Jr. You can also watch some video highlights courtesy of our friends at

And, of course, there’s no better way to get inside the events that are happening this weekend than following us on Twitter. We’ll be everywhere to bring you up close and personal to what is happening around Canton this weekend. Follow us at


Aug 01, 2009

8:17 a.m.

I drove to work this morning along the same route that I’ve taken each and every day for the past six weeks. You see, preparing for the 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival doesn’t allow for much time off in the summer for our staff. I haven’t enjoyed a full day of summer fun (away from the Hall of Fame) in nearly six weeks. Common, especially down the stretch, have been long 80-, 90-, and 100-plus hour work weeks as we get set to welcome the football world to Canton.

While the coffee is usually ready and waiting for me in the mornings, today was a day that I might not just need it. That’s because as I drove to work I received a huge reminder why we all do this each summer. The sky was blanketed by more than 50 hot air balloons.

What do hot air balloons have to do with football? Well, starting around Thursday of this coming week, thousands will flock to Canton, Ohio to celebrate one of the greatest events in all of sports – the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival. But, the local community has already started. The annual balloon classic is just one of many, many events that surround the Enshrinement ceremony.

Making this all possible are hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who join to help the staffs of the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well as the local Chamber of Commerce to pull off all these events. If you haven’t experienced it before, I invite you to Canton to take in an incredibly special celebration.

Now, for the real perspective of what today’s blog is about. One week from today, six new legends will be added to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s honor roll. At 7 p.m. ET on a grand stage across the street in Fawcett Stadium, more than 80 members of the Hall of Fame will flank this year’s enshrinees and welcome them to the most select of fraternities.

Bob Hayes and Derrick Thomas will be honored posthumously and represented by their sons. Randall McDaniel, Bruce
Smith, Ralph Wilson, Jr., and Rod Woodson will step to the podium and finally have it really hit them what is being bestowed upon them.

We mention it a lot around here whether it’s putting it into a story on, or saying it during an interview with the media. But, I can’t repeat it enough, so here it is:

Since the National Football League began in downtown Canton in 1920, more than 20,000 players have played in a regular season game. Thousands and thousands of others tried but didn’t quite make it onto a NFL roster.

Including the six-man class who will be formally enshrined next weekend, there are only 253 members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That number is comprised of 219 players, 22 coaches, and 18 contributors. The number doesn’t equal 253 because six members – Guy Chamberlin, Jimmy Conzelman, Ray Flaherty, George Halas, Curly Lamebeau, and Steve Owen – are counted in more than one category.

Two-hundred-fifty-three of the very best of the best comprise those who have a bronze bust in the Hall of Fame Gallery.

And, that’s why we celebrate the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival each summer!

Super Bowl (minus) II

Jul 24, 2009

10:05 a.m. ET

Our fan poll on the home page has certainly drawn some attention.

The question asks who would have won the Super Bowl had it existed in 1964.

In the NFL that season Cleveland finished 10-3-1 to capture the Eastern Conference title. The Browns earned a showdown against the Western Conference Baltimore Colts (12-2-0). Cleveland crushed the Colts 27-0 to win the NFL title.

Meanwhile, in the “other league,” the Bills posted the best record at 12-2-0 to win the AFL’s Eastern Division. Buffalo hosted the Western Division champion San Diego Chargers (8-5-1). The Bills took care of business with a convincing 20-7 win over the Chargers.

So, who would have won in the Super Bowl if it existed? So far, fans in our poll have overwhelmingly picked the Cleveland Browns from the NFL over the AFL’s Buffalo Bills.

One our Board of Selectors members, Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News wrote about our poll question on Thursday. He shared: 

"We would have won, hands down," Bills cornerback Booker Edgerson told me a few years ago.

Said Bills HOFer Billy Shaw: "I've said it many times before - of the AFL champions prior to the Super Bowl, that was probably the team that could have really played with NFL champions. We matched up really good with them. I’d have loved to have had that opportunity."

Mark’s comments prompted me to call his counterpart in Cleveland, Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer for his perspective.

{GALLERY}“The Browns would have trounced the 1964 Bills,” the veteran writer shared with me this morning. “I say that as evidenced by how the Browns dominated what was thought to be the NFL’s best team that year, the Colts.

“That ’64 championship game produced probably one of the best games in franchise history. As such, no question the Browns would have dominated had one more game been played that season.”

Regardless of who would have won, I think that would have been a classic Super Bowl featuring a showdown between each league’s leading rushers that season. The game would have focused on two great runners who had similar styles – the legendary Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown vs. one of the AFL’s most punishing runners at the time, fullback Cookie Gilchrist of the Bills. Incidentally, leading the way for both runners would have been a Hall of Fame guard -- Gene Hickerson for Cleveland and Billy Shaw for Buffalo.


Legends of the game

Jul 14, 2009

8:35 a.m. ET

If you have NFL Network running outside your office like I do, you’d hear a constant reminder of how close we’re getting to the Class of 2009 enshrinement. In just under a month, six new football legends will be formally enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

First some perspective on just how special of an honor this is for Bob Hayes, Randall McDaniel, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, Ralph Wilson, Jr., and Rod Woodson. Since the NFL was founded in Canton, Ohio on September 17, 1920, more than 20,000 players have played in an NFL regular season game. Thousands and thousands of others have tried. Hundreds of men have coached in the league and countless others have contributed in other ways.

A mere 253, including this year’s class, have earned election to the Hall of Fame.

This is the ultimate team. The team where now Bob Hayes is a teammate of Don Hutson and Bruce Smith with Deacon Jones. The offensive line features perennial All-Pros Randall McDaniel and Jim Parker. How about this for leadership, Art Rooney and Ralph Wilson, Jr. This team’s secondary has a couple of guys by the name of Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson, and a linebacking corps of Derrick Thomas and Lawrence Taylor.

Making the August 8th enshrinement ceremony so very special is the fact that so many of these “teammates” return to Canton to welcome the new class. It’s a tradition really unlike any other in sports. The most recent count lists more than 70 members of the Hall of Fame who will be on stage at Fawcett Stadium for the ceremony in four Saturdays.

For us at the Hall of Fame, we consider these football legends as family members. What a family reunion it’s going to be. There’s little in sports that is more chilling than hearing introduction after introduction of these greats as they walk on stage just before the start of the enshrinement ceremony.

A recent visitor to our new website by the name of John left a comment that he didn’t recognize all of the Hall of Famers shown in the photo from last year’s induction that we have on our home page. He asked why not include identification of who’s in the shot. 

That’s an excellent idea which I’ll get to in just one moment.

But first, how about these numbers. Collectively those shown in the photo below represent 610 NFL seasons, 7,953 games played, 300 Pro Bowls, 20-plus years of coaching and more than 325 coaching wins. 

Bottom Row: Larry Little, Bill Dudley, Charley Trippi, Fred Dean, Emmitt Thomas, Gary Zimmerman, Andre Tippett, Art Monk, Darrell Green, Deacon Jones, Tommy McDonald, Dan Dierdorf, Dante Lavelli.
Second Row: Willie Lanier, Rayfield Wright, Larry Wilson, Elvin Bethea, Bobby Bell, Lem Barney, Ken Houston, Yale Lary, Carl Eller, Joe Perry, Lenny Moore, Dick Butkus
Third Row: Joe Gibbs, Thurman Thomas, Fred Biletnikoff, Roger Wehrli, Billy Shaw, Don Maynard, Dave Wilcox, Bobby Mitchell, Jan Stenerud, Gale Sayers, Mel Renfro, Raymond Berry, Warren Moon
Top Row: John Madden, Bob St. Clair, Leroy Kelly, Tony Dorsett, Ted Hendricks, Charlie Sanders, Kellen Winslow, Bob Griese, Charley Taylor, Terry Bradshaw, Joe DeLamielleure, John Hannah

I’d be remiss not to mention there’s still time for you to join us at Fawcett Stadium on August 8th. Get your tickets to the enshrinement right now.

One vote for the 1970s

Jul 09, 2009

11:22 a.m. ET

First of all, I’d like to welcome you all to the NEW Those of you who’ve been regular visitors probably already know the depth of the site. If you’re new to us, take some time to dig deep and we’re sure you’ll like what you find. Either way, I think you’re going to love our new look.

One of the new elements we’ve incorporated into is the ability for you to engage with us. Because, we’re all in the same boat in that we love the NFL! So, please be sure to share your thoughts whether it’s here on, or if you want to contribute to our football following on Facebook or Twitter.

You may have noticed our most recent fan poll on the home page. It asks which was the NFL’s best decade. Now, as a student of the game and having spent more than 20 years in the Hall’s archives reading up on the NFL’s past and present, I could make a sound argument for any one of them.

But, what really draws us to this great game is our own personal connections. I often believe, perhaps because unless you’re me and get to spend every day around football, these connections are probably the strongest in our youth. Without the clutter of everyday life, most of us could take the time to fully digest our favorite team, players, and moments.

{GALLERY}That’s what is so cool about the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Many times as I wander through the exhibit space I’ll overhear a father or mother talking with his/her child. They’ll be recounting a memory from so many years ago that has been spurned by seeing a memento on display and an accompanying video that brings it to life. Even our own Steve Young recounted once how his dad brought him to Canton on a family vacation. Steve's dad, who years later presented his son for induction into the Hall, marveled at the bust of Otto Graham. He shared with Steve just how great of a quarterback Otto was for the Browns. Decades later, on the day following his enshrinement, Steve relived the moment by posing with his wife and children on the Hall's front steps!

So, as a representative of the 40-somethings, I’m casting my vote for the ‘70s as the greatest decade in NFL history. Despite the fact I grew up in Western New York as a Bills fan and only saw them make the playoffs once, I still feel most emotionally connected to that era.

Think about it. The decade featured such great dominant teams – the Dolphins, Raiders, Cowboys, and Steelers. It all started with Miami’s amazing two-year run in the early ‘70s in which they lost just twice. Then the Steelers winning back-to-back Super Bowls with Bradshaw, Swann, Harris, Stallworth, “Mean Joe” Greene, and linebackers Jack Lambert and Jack Ham. And, how about Mel Blount – they didn’t come any better than him. Those Cowboys-Steelers Super Bowl matchups were so memorable and remain vivid today. That could, of course be, that’s because I just watched hours and hours of Super Bowl highlights as part of research for our new Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery that opens next month.

How about the Cowboys? Staubach, Dorsett, Drew Pearson, Robert Newhouse, “Too Tall” Jones and Jethro Pugh all led by the stoic Tom Landry. Then, more Steelers Super Bowls. The Raiders - with not only Hall of Famers like Biletnikoff, Shell, Upshaw, Hendricks and company but others like QB Kenny “The Snake” Stabler, hard-running backs Mark van Eeghen and Pete Banaszak, and receiver Cliff Branch.
It was a day before FieldTurf. Grass fields from Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium produced dirty uniforms for Bert Jones, Lydell Mitchell, Joe Washington, and Roger Carr.

The ‘70s also brought us the Buccaneers and the Seahawks.

And, most of all, in the day before Madden Football, NFL Network, and the Internet, there were Howard Cosell’s halftime highlights on Monday Night Football.  I can still hear his voice and remember the anticipation of those brief couple minutes every Monday.

Well, enough from me right now. Let the debate begin! It’s your turn so go ahead and add your comments right now.