Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve Its History, Promote its Values & Celebrate Excellence Everywhere
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In a countdown to the NFL’s Centennial celebration on September 17, 2020, Pro Football Hall of Fame Archivist Jon Kendle shares unique and interesting stories starting from the league’s founding in downtown Canton to the present day. This series is featured in The Canton Repository, the Official Newspaper of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s important Mission is to “Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve its History, Promote its Values and Celebrates Excellence EVERYWHERE!”
The mission is at the center of everything we do and is evident in the Hall’s vast archives. The Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center houses over 40 million pages of documents, six million photographic images and 40,000 artifacts.
When we talk about “Honoring the Heroes of the Game,” we are not just referring to the 310 Pro Football Hall of Famers. We focus on ALL 27,000 men who have played the game at the professional level and the countless men and women who have coached, officiated and administered the game.
We “Honor” them by “Preserving” their legacies. Through our archives we protect a lifetime of work, dedication and sacrifice to the game. We are so passionate about this because we want to share the successes and the character of these individuals to inspire future generations of family, friends and fans.
By caring for the legacies of these men and women, we are “Preserving the History of the Game.” And by sharing their stories of commitment, integrity, courage, respect and excellence, we are promoting the values the game teaches.
When we disseminate these stories or listen to these legends speak during interviews we conduct, it becomes very clear, the character that made them great on the football field applies to life for everyone off it. This is how we “Celebrate Excellence Everywhere” at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And the excellence of each legend, on and off the field, is captured in their own personal legacy archive.
Every time a former player walks through the doors of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, whether they played one snap in an NFL regular season game or 18 seasons, they are thanked for all they have done for the game. They are brought to the Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center for a personal tour and a look at their own personal legacy archive. The players are provided the opportunity to thumb through photos, biographies, newspaper and magazine articles, scouting reports and anything and everything related to their careers. Following a trip down memory lane, we place them before a camera for an interview to capture the essence of what made them great. The emotion, sincerity and appreciation expressed during these interviews is magical. When they leave “The Most Inspiring Pace on Earth!” they walk away as family knowing they can always call Canton home.
On Oct. 21, 2016, a gentleman by the name of Jack Laraway walked into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with his son Michael. Jack was a former player with the Buffalo Bills during their inaugural season in 1960. He then won an American Football League championship with the 1961 Houston Oilers. His pro career ended after just two seasons, but the experience and the character he developed by playing football helped him throughout his entire life.
Jack and Michael walked into the Hall of Fame as football fans last year. Throughout the day, we made them friends and when they left, they were part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame family. Michael has kept in touch and continues to add files and photographs to his father’s legacy archive at the Hall. A few months after their visit, Jack was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 82. Just last week, with Jack’s health fading, the father and son returned to Canton to peruse Jack Laraway’s legacy archive once again. They shared memories, laughed, cried, and celebrated life for about three hours of which Michael described as, “some of the best he will ever spend with his dad.”