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What to know about Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Week

TIM RUDELL
/
WKSU

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton kicks off Enshrinement Week on Friday, culminating in six players and two executives entering the Hall next week. The celebration includes an assortment of community events as well, including the Balloon Classic.

2022 class

Almost all of this year’s class has been eligible for decades.

Linebacker Sam Mills signed with the Cleveland Browns in 1981, but he was released after the preseason. He spent a few years in the USFL before joining the New Orleans Saints in 1986. An anchor of the team’s formidable “Dome Patrol” defense, he retired in 1997 from the Carolina Panthers and passed away in 2005.

Wide receiver Cliff Branch spent his entire 14-season career with the Oakland and (later) Los Angeles Raiders, retiring in 1986. He won three Super Bowls with the organization and was voted to four Pro Bowls. He passed away in 2019.

Safety LeRoy Butler spent his 12 NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers, winning Super Bowl XXXI. He retired in 2002 after a shoulder blade injury. He’s credited as the first person to celebrate a touchdown by continuing past the end zone, up to the bleachers and into the arms of celebrating fans – known as the “Lambeau Leap” (named for the Packers’ stadium).

Tackle Tony Boselli was the first player ever drafted by the then-new Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995 – and he’ll be the first Jaguars player enshrined in the Hall. He was voted to five Pro Bowls in seven seasons before a shoulder injury ended his career. He retired in 2002 after spending a year on the injured reserve list with the Houston Texans.

Defensive End Bryant Young spent 14 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, retiring in 2007. Along with winning Super Bowl XXIX and being elected to four Pro Bowls, Bryant won the team’s Len Eshmont Award for “inspirational and courageous play” eight times – something no other member of the 49ers has done more than twice.

Tackle Richard Seymour won a Super Bowl in his first season with the New England Patriots – and followed it with two more before being traded to the Oakland Raiders in 2009. He says in the early 2000s, the public knew how important the team’s defense was to its success.

“Those first three Super Bowls, they were all defensive-led teams,” he said. “The shift really started to happen right after that – and that’s when [Tom] Brady really became [Tom] Brady.”

Dick Vermeil has been cited as "Coach of the Year" by numerous publications during a combined 15 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. He initially retired from the Eagles after the strike-affected 1982 season, citing burnout. He then spent 15 years as a network sports announcer before returning to coaching and winning Super Bowl XXXIV with the Rams.

Art McNally served as an NFL official (or “referee” to angry fans each Sunday) and administrator from 1959 until 2015. Dubbed the “Father of Instant Replay” for introducing the technology to pro football in 1986, he’s the first official to be elected to the Hall.

In 2014, the Pro Football Hall of Fame began installing "The Eleven" around Canton: works commissioned by ArtsInStark to commemorate the centennial of the NFL's formation -- which happened just across the street from the building picture above. Robb Hankins, then-head of ArtsInStark, said the entire project would cost about $2 million.
M.L. Schultze
/
WKSU
In 2014, the Pro Football Hall of Fame began installing "The Eleven" around Canton: works commissioned by ArtsInStark to commemorate the centennial of the NFL's formation -- which happened just across the street from the building picture above. Robb Hankins, then-head of ArtsInStark, said the entire project would cost about $2 million.

Why Canton?

In 1920, the first meeting to form the American Professional Football Conference (APFC) – predecessor of today's NFL – was held in Downtown Canton at what was then a Hupmobile dealership. Forty-two years later, the NFL put the Hall of Fame in the city. Two teenagers who would later be enshrined into the hall were among the large crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony. Larry Csonka was enshrined in 1987. Dan Dierdorf was honored as a player in 1996 and for his broadcasting work in 2008. And while Alan Page wasn’t at the groundbreaking, he did work on the hall’s construction crew. He was enshrined in 1988.

A week of events

The festivities begin Friday morning with the Balloon Classic, held annually since the mid-1980s. Dozens of hot air balloons will be launched and rides are available. On Friday night, the balloons will “dance” to music as part of “Night Glow” (weather permitting). The Balloon Classic runs through Sunday, with information available below.

CANTON REGIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
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On Thursday, August 4, the Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Las Vegas Raiders in the "Hall of Fame Game." It's been played since 1962, when ground was broken for the hall itself. From 1971 until 2010, the game usually included one AFC team and one NFC team. The 2011 matchup was canceled due to that year's lockout. Since 2012, the teams selected have at least one prominent alumnus being inducted into the hall of fame that year. They play at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium (formerly Fawcett Stadium). The field sits between the Hall of Fame and Canton McKinley High School, which uses the field for home games. In 2016, the game was controversially canceled at the last minute due to poor field conditions. In 2020, the game was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Throughout the week, there are autograph sessions, fun fests and fan experiences that are open to the public – including the Canton Repository Grand Parade on Saturday morning, August 6.

The full schedule of events:

FRIDAY, JULY 29

4 p.m.: Balloon Classic & Night Glow Presented by Aultman

SATURDAY, JULY 30

6:30 a.m.: Balloon Classic & Night Glow Presented by Aultman

8 a.m.: Up, Up & Away 5k & Free Kids Fun Run

4 p.m.: Balloon Classic & Fireworks Presented by Aultman

SUNDAY, JULY 31

6:30 a.m.: Balloon Classic Presented by Aultman

TUESDAY, AUGUST 2

6 p.m.: Play Football Skills Camp

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3

10 a.m.: Play Football First Play and Festival Presented by Panini

THURSDAY, AUGUST 4

Noon: HOF Fun Fest & Beer Fest

1 p.m.: Class of 2022 Autograph Session Presented by Panini

8 p.m.: Hall of Fame Game: Jacksonville Jaguars vs Las Vegas Raiders

FRIDAY, AUGUST 5

10:30 a.m.: Hall of Fame Photo Op - Centennial Plaza

11 a.m.: Fashion Show Luncheon

Noon: HOF Fun Fest & Beer Fest

5 p.m.: Enshrinees’ Gold Jacket Dinner

SATURDAY, AUGUST 6

8 a.m.: The Canton Repository Grand Parade

9 a.m.: HOF Fun Fest & Beer Fest

Noon: Class of 2022 Enshrinement Ceremony

4 p.m.: Returning Hall of Famers Autograph Session Presented by Panini

8 p.m.: Concert for Legends: Journey

SUNDAY, AUGUST 7

Noon: Enshrinees’ Roundtable
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Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. A graduate of Hudson High School, he received his Bachelor's from Kent State University. While a Kent student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.