August 11, 2004
A football trip during the dog days of summer
By TOM WILLIAMS
A football trip during the dog days of summer
CANTON, OHIO- When you are involved with all three seasons of high school sports, about the only time
you can really get away is during the summer. And, for someone who got great enjoyment from John
Elway’s exciting career with the Denver Broncos, watching the greatest quarterback in NFL history being
inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Sunday seemed a nice getaway.
But there were other stops along the way.
When you say South Bend, Indiana most people immediately think of Notre Dame University. In reality,
the university has its own town – called, appropriately, Notre Dame. South Bend is the next town over.
There are many area residents who regularly try to travel to see the Fighting Irish play football. Bob
Derbyshire, Tim O’Shea, Tim Kelly and Bruce Beaver come to mind. When they visit the campus on a
football weekend it is undoubtedly bustling with excitement.
Last week, Notre Dame was quiet and serene. The campus has a terrific mixture of the contemporary and
the traditional. Unfortunately, the football stadium was not available to tour because of renovations
(possibly an improved luxury suite for O’Shea’s group) and nobody was home at the Athletic and
Throughout lunch at the Notre Dame Legends restaurant on campus, one quote stares you in the face,
written in large letters on the wall - “Sometime when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating
the boys, tell them to go out there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper.”
After the Gipper lunch, it was down the road to South Bend, where the College Football Hall of Fame is
located. This is an interesting place, with use of audio and video to bring back the great moments of
NCAA football. There is the Stadium Theatre, with “surround video” that puts you right in the middle of
college football on a Saturday, from pre-game in the locker room to post game celebrations and
There are, of course, many great displays, including the changes in designs of helmets through the years
as well as the ball itself. There is even an area where visitors can evaluate their physical skills, much like a
college prospect might do. The displays are quite complete. There is even an Ursinus banner!
Needless to say, the elected members of the College Football Hall of Fame are the centerpiece of the
building. Each is honored with a plaster and marble plaque with his likeness, college and the length of
his career. Among local residents, a plaque for George Savitsky (University of Pennsylvania, 1944-47) is
there among a group that includes Doak Walker, Bobby Layne and Doc Blanchard. A little to the left is
Bob Pellegrini (University of Maryland, 1953-55) among Don Meredith, Mike Ditka and Fran Tarkenton.
Both Savitsky and Pellegrini have settled in the area and their sons were successful football players in the
There are also computerized booths that list the scholar-athletes selected each year by the South Jersey
Chapter of the Hall of Fame Foundation and other similar groups around the nation. Frank Fattori’s name is
there. So is Josh Eames, Scott Parker, Dino Hall, Jay Toscano, William Burch, Clarence Moore, Jon
Cakert and a bunch of others from the CAL – right there in the Hall of Fame.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton has many of the same qualities as its college counterpart – lots
of video, areas for physical skills, trivia and strategy games plus an area to play the Madden 2005 video
game. They have busts of the Hall of Famers, instead of plaques, but there are more similarities than
differences between the two halls.
There was a Philadelphia Eagles presence at Sunday’s induction. Not only was former Eagles’ first-round
draft choice Bob “Boomer” Brown, one of the four inductees, there but two great receivers – Tommy
McDonald and Pete Pihos – were also on hand. Pihos is one of the last players who was all-pro on both
offense and defense.
The induction took place at Fawcett Stadium, adjacent to the Hall of Fame building. There are many nice
football facilities in the CAL but this stadium, used by McKinley High School of Canton, is amazing. It
seats more than 20,000, has a three-level press box running from one 35 yard line to the other and a
Daktronics video scoreboard at both ends of the field. Daktronics also did the scoreboards at Lincoln Field
and Citizens Bank Park. There is also a separate JV and freshmen field that seats more than 1,500.
But the star of the 2004 induction was clearly Elway. You could get some idea what a home game might
have been like at Denver's Mile High Stadium. There were so many No. 7s walking around you could have
used them to wipe out most of the slot machines in Atlantic City. Veteran observers said it was easily the
biggest crowd in Hall of Fame history and certainly the biggest for one inductee. The Denver fans did,
however, cheer loudly for Brown, Carl Eller and Barry Sanders - the other inductees - as well.
Like South Bend, Canton is a great town with courteous people who are proud of their place in sports
history. One post-induction party could find you mingling with the four inductees plus guys like Gayle
Sayers, Jack Youngblood and Deacon Jones.
One other thing to remember about visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame is that you need to watch where
you walk. Canton has mounted police.
All in all, a trip to Middle America in August can be very interesting and rewarding for football fans, or just
plain sports fans. Of course, John Elway’s day has passed. But for a guy like Mainland’s Chuck Smith or
sports producer Bill Becker, both Miami Dolphins fans, next year the spotlight should fall on Dan Marino.
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