Panthers QB Cam Newton attends NFL Honors, where he won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. (Todd Rosenberg/NFL)
NFL.com’s Marc Sessler was on the red carpet at Indianapolis’ Murat Theatre for NFL Honors, which aired Saturday night on NBC. Here are his live dispatches from the event:
5:39 p.m. ET: It’s winding down here on the red carpet, and our final big sighting is none other than NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who’s talking with NFL Network’s Melissa Stark. Quite a night for Goodell, who disappears behind a curtain just in time for NFL Honors to begin.
5:36 p.m. ET: Lenny Kravitz is here, and he’s certainly one of — DROP EVERYTHING: Tim Tebow showed up. Energy burst. Heads turning. People stepping on toes to get a peek. Tebow glides up to the NFL Network set for a chat with Rich Eisen.
5:28 p.m. ET: It’s quarterback time: Detroit’s Matthew Stafford and Carolina’s own Superman: Cam Newton.
5:22 p.m. ET: Jim Schwartz is here and doing a better jobs shaking hands with people in Jim Harbaugh‘s absence.
5:20 p.m. ET: Phil Simms and DeSean Jackson enter, proving that Eagles and Giants can get along, at least for a night such as this.
5:17 p.m. ET: They’re blowing by fast and furious: A.J. Green, Christian Ponder, and here comes Jon Hamm. We have grown women sweating, giggling, melting down as he walks by, totally sure of himself. Mad Men’s Don Draper just caused total havoc down here at the edge of the red carpet. Indy has morphed into a Los Angeles fever dream.
5:10 p.m. ET: Antonio Gates walks by as Jerry Rice re-emerges for a round of interviews.
5:05 p.m. ET: Troy Aikman walks by, looking like a man who still could suit up and wreck a defense.
5:02 p.m. ET: Two of the game’s finest runners — Matt Forte and Arian Foster — roll by in rapid-fire succession. Foster is wearing a killer fedora.
5 p.m. ET: Best suit of the night: Brandon Marshall in pink.
4:58 p.m. ET: Major stir as Joe Namath and Don Shula come walking through. Namath stops by to chat with these very lucky kids in front of me and flashes his Super Bowl ring. Now Brandon Marshall is chatting with these youngsters. Luckiest. Children. On. Earth.
4:54 p.m. ET: Matt Hasselbeck, Von Miller, Jason Witten — and Joe Montana, pulled away directly to the Crown Room, where an exclusive subgroup of NFL legends will gather before the show kicks off.
4:51 p.m. ET: One young female volunteer is assigned to guide Joe Montana through the entrance to the lobby. The male volunteer next to her is mildly jealous.
4:47 p.m. ET: Here’s comes Steven Jackson, and those who don’t recognize him are floored to find out he’s a running back. The man is a vast human who must have sown two sport coats together for this thing. LeSean McCoy: smaller.
4:43 p.m. ET: Local volunteers are most excited about the arrival of Colts center Jeff Saturday. They were less enthusiastic about Rex Ryan, who’s now holding court inside.
4:38 p.m. ET: It’s suddenly a swarm of giant men on the red carpet: Deion Sanders (hustling past), Vernon Davis and Patrick Willis, who tells Mark Shapiro‘s sons: “You guys dressed sharp tonight.”
4:34 p.m. ET: Jerry Rice finally escapes the crush of cameramen and photographers to walk by in a suit that costs more than a mid-tier used car.
4:32 p.m. ET: Major props to the volunteer staff. Most tell me they’ve never worked an event like this, but they’re flawless in their work and uncowed by the star power in the room.
4:31 p.m. ET: Matt Birk arrives, and Eliza wheels him away. It’s picking up now, and the more generous stars are stopping to take photos and speak with reporters. As this is being written, Jerry Rice rolls on by. Football fan heaven unleashed.
4:29 p.m. ET: Terrell Suggs hits the scene. Ball So Hard University graduate looks like a walking doorway.
4:26 p.m. ET: Just a few feet away, Mark Shapiro‘s young sons have been given a prime spot along the red carpet to watch the madness. They giggle and keep asking where Peyton Manning is. One even asks about Archie Manning. Guess they’re mini football historians.
4:24 p.m. ET: Jaguars owner Shad Khan is one of the first to arrive, waving to the cameras and strolling into the lobby minus too much hubbub.
4:23 p.m. ET: I speak to a local volunteer, one of many assigned to serve as guides for the stars tonight. This young woman, Eliza, is assigned to Matt Birk and tells me she’s been asked to keep tabs on him all night.
4:18 p.m. ET: Some of the press are mistaking well-dressed civilians for celebs. One young woman cruises through in heels and a high-octane dress (don’t ask me the designer). “Kate Mara,” someone whispers. It’s not Kate Mara. Not even close. But everyone’s pulling it off tonight.
4:07 p.m. ET: We’re stationed beside a fleet of bouncers who could double as NFL down linemen. Besides keeping tabs on an antsy press corps, one bends down to pick up a ballpoint pen off the floor. “Can’t have Cam Newton tripping over this,” one says under his breath. Another tells me that, at an event like this, the No. 1 thing you look for are uninvited guests trying to sneak in. “But this place is tight,” he promises.
4:01 p.m. ET: Without a game to prepare for Sunday, a handful of NFL coaches, including Rex Ryan and Sean Payton, are on the guest list. Dolphins legend Don Shula is scheduled to be here, too.
3:55 p.m. ET: Besides our gallant host, Alec Baldwin, other celebrities on tap to roll through: William Baldwin (nepotism is king), Jimmy Fallon, Jon Hamm (aka Don Draper), Taylor Lautner and Katy Perry (be on alert, Tim Tebow).
3:52 p.m. ET: Just some of the NFL stars scheduled to appear tonight include Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning, Clay Matthews, Jerry Rice, Aaron Rodgers, Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, Kurt Warner and Steve Young.
3:47 p.m. ET: The early discussion here along the red carpet: side bets about who will show up first. One photographer goes with Ray Lewis, but the talent list says the Ravens’ star linebacker will not be here tonight.
3:37 p.m. ET: We’ve just arrived. The lobby is buzzing, and the red carpet — shielded from the elements under a tent — is filling up with press. Not too much longer now before a steady stream of A-listers and NFL stars turn this place into a glorious carnival. NFL Honors is here.