CANTON, Ohio –- Walking into the press box here at Fawcett Stadium for Saturday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony takes me back. The first time I was here, actually, there was no press box.
My first visit to the Hall of Fame was for a Steelers-Browns preseason game in 1963. In those days, when there was no universal film exchange, we had to watch a lot of NFL games like these to scout players you might want to sign if they become available. It’s neat to play an NFL game at a high school stadium, but that does make for a few hardships. For starters, with no press box, we had to watch the game from the sidelines, with the extreme heat beating down on us. My next trip here was 1968, when the Dallas Cowboys played the Chicago Bears in the Hall of Fame Game. And we learned that the locker room was way to small to be an NFL locker room. We had to send our players in to get dressed for the game in shifts. We sent the rookies in first – so they’d have to be out in that hot sun longer, and then sent in the veterans.
While there is no game this year, suffice it to say Fawcett Stadium has received a major facelift since then. And it’s even got a world-class press box from where we will be covering tonight’s extravaganza.
Meanwhile, the fact that the Hall of Fame Game between the Bears and Rams was canceled has put a little damper on the festivities. In the three days I’ve been here, it looks like there are fewer people in attendance — but the people that are here have a lot more enthusiasm than I’ve ever seen in the past. There were more people here at the Hall of Fame grounds earlier in the day. And the excitement level appears to be at an all-time high.
I ran into former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Nate Newton this morning. Newton is here to support former Cowboys teammate Deion Sanders tonight, but he brought his wife and son to visit the Hall at 10 a.m. Back at the hotel, I bumped into Brigg Owens — a player we drafted with the Cowboys back in the mid-60s. But we weren’t smart enough to keep him, and he ended up playing 13 seasons with the Washington Redskins. He’s here, of course, to support Chris Hanburger.